What can be gained by not tying a design up too tightly?

Haworth Tompkins’ work demonstrates a deep understanding of the effect of materials and how they are put together, but also a playfulness in the way that they are used. Budget, time and construction skills were very real issues that informed the design. For the Young Vic the contract was to finish the building to within about 95 per cent of the completion in conventional terms and then for the contract to stop, which would mean that the theatre production team could move in, having fitted out the carpentry workshop. You’ve just got to understand the material you’re dealing with and make the detailing appropriate to that. A detailed photographic survey was pinned up in the office to enable discussion on how the space should be treated prior to implementing final design decisions on site. Cross section

Unfolding Hamlet by Joseph Brown. The design project

Project: The London Library Location: St James’s Square, London, UK
Architect: Haworth Tompkins Date: 2010

The design project

above:
During the construction phase of the London Library project an existing courtyard lightwell was exposed. Where skills are shared, opportunities are taken to blur the boundaries between their roles. A full-scale prototype was constructed to test the design and this improved understanding of material tolerances and buildability. Dialogue with the client is carefully developed from the outset to improve the architects’ understanding of the way that the building must be designed to fit the way that it will be occupied. ‘Why do they want to commission a building and work with us? You can’t duck that as an architect so you have to claim the authorship of it, but along the way you can enlist other voices and be self-confident enough to listen as well as lead. This cross-section drawing of an actor’s house designed to unfold and open out into a stage set shows the building occupied by the actor and his party guests. Sectional perspective
Outdoor theatre for Romeo and Juliet by Rodolfo Acevedo Rodriguez. So we cover the walls of these rooms with one-to-one details and we sit and sweat over them for an afternoon. Most of our projects have a warehouse somewhere with big things in them six months before they’re needed. The design project Provision had been made before renovation began, to assess its qualities during construction. It not only means that the finished building is interesting and perhaps more humane but also that it can carry on moving, albeit in slow motion, throughout its life. Models, mock-ups and prototypes were used to explore tangible qualities such as materials and structure. The drawings represented the function, activity, experience and occupation of each proposal as well as the human and urban scale of the building in context. The architect, the client and artist-collaborators are given opportunities to contribute to the building, making informed and intelligent connections between design, construction and occupation. Graham Haworth
The areas we do leave open to change are really carefully controlled. The brief was for a demountable, lightweight booth in which to display and hand out information and to sell tickets. So often you find that they just get the drawings and they build it and they don’t really know why the drawings are the way they are. Steve Tompkins
In the end, we have to be creative leaders on the project and we have to acquire a strong voice that inspires confidence in everybody else. Experiential sectional perspective of cinema, showing occupation and mirrored reflections. Construction
With the commission to design and build an information booth for the theatre company, the whole design process began again, from client brief and site visit to initial ideas and design development. This time the students were designing as a group, using ideas workshops to generate and test multiple design ideas before agreeing on the ones to develop. We knew that those strips would move so we detailed it to expect it to twist and move, and for the roof cladding to curl and move around. The design of buildings that are able to cope with change, both daily and over the lifetime of the building, fits particularly well with many of their clients, who are in the business of art production: visual, theatrical and musical. This section follows the progress of a group of architecture students as they reach the end of a 12-week design studio project to design an outdoor theatre. A childish delight, really. At the final review students presented process work, orthographic drawings in two and three dimensions and detailed models of their resolved proposals. It’s brilliant when the job is maybe a month from completion and, if you’re lucky, you’re just getting the sense that it’s maybe going to work out and there’s that real palpable sense of excitement that somebody has taken your idea seriously enough to build it. We knew that we had the technical capabilities on site within the client body to make that perfectly possible and as a deliberate by-product of that, it meant that the building was owned and absorbed into the creative organisation and they weren’t frightened of changes. Construction work enabled better access to this part of the building than had been possible beforehand, due to the tightness of the site. It’s always a brilliant surprise that never goes away. Graham Haworth
At the beginning of the work on site we make a presentation to the builder and talk to him about the design. The theatre company then commissioned the students to design and build an information booth as a live project. Graham Haworth
You need to know what you’re getting before you get on site, so the Young Vic panels for example [hand-painted by artist – collaborator Clem Crosby] were mocked up in the studio at first. The job we’ve just done in Oxford, the North Wall [Arts Centre] was clad in green oak in shakes and strips.

Updated: 31.10.2014 — 11:19