Partner Helen Logan describes 2017 as ‘surprisingly strong’, with masterplanning transforming Allies and Morrison’s increasingly international portfolio. Completion of the first phases of the 35-acre Msheireb masterplan for Doha’s historic core has built on the practice’s recognised track record on projects such as the Olympic Park and the regeneration of London’s King’s Cross district.
An active focus on North American work has borne fruit with two competition wins in Toronto for mixed use masterplanning schemes. The firm has also been shortlisted for major projects in Singapore and New York City. With masterplanning already comprising about a quarter of the practice’s workload, similar enquiries have come from Korea, Malaysia and India.
‘With the completion of Msheireb, we can speak more confidently about masterplanning overseas. In the UK we tend to talk ourselves down, when in fact we are easily 10 years ahead of North America,’ says Logan.
Fellow partner Alfredo Caraballo notes that King’s Cross is now a benchmark for North American cities keen to ‘recover the city’ as millennials shun car ownership and opt for urban living. Mixed use proposals at both Olympicopolis and Elephant and Castle, however, have faced planning challenges.
In-house research on design codes informs this work. Caraballo notes that façades belong to the public realm with respect to their proportions and typology, as well as performative aspects such as how buildings shade each other. ‘What’s really exciting is embedding forgotten lessons from vernacular architecture into design codes, so that they form part of the ongoing governance of a project,’ he says. The practice’s highly topical London’s Local Character and Density study, commissioned by Historic England, garnered an RIBA President’s Award for Research last year. Collaboration with staff from other practices co-located in the office is a way of working which continues to enrich Allies and Morrison’s approach. As well as a third project with OMA following collaborations on London’s Design Museum and the Rothschild Bank HQ, the practice is working with O’Donnell + Tuomey at Stratford Waterfront, with Purcell at Clandon Park, and with Gort Scott in Harrow. ‘We do lots of it and get lots out of it, whether leading a team or contributing to projects led by others,’ says partner Simon Fraser.
With the succession issue behind them after the practice’s transition to a limited liability partnership in 2016, and management responsibilities mostly delegated, the founding partners spend the majority of their time on design reviews, giving a free hand to younger partners.
Addressing a recent group from the London Society (the practice regularly hosts events in its Southwark office), Bob Allies observed: ‘We were trained in the ’70s as Classical architects when Modernism was “it”. ’ Nowadays the attitude with respect to place-making is constant but the aesthetics are a bit freer. This is evident in schemes such as Key Bridge House in Vauxhall, currently on site. With more than 80 per cent repeat clients this year, the practice continues to perform at the top of its game.