The Gantry at Here East, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford, Londonrory gardiner jack hobhouse
The past six years have seen Hawkins\Brown recast itself through steady growth into one of the UK’s undisputed heavyweight design practices. Now in its second year in the AJ100 top 10, the practice employed 140 UK architects last year, up six on the previous year and three times as many since its upwards trajectory began in 2013.
However, architectural fee income dipped from £26.5 million to £24.7 million in 2018 and since submitting its figures for the AJ100, the practice has shed 19 staff from its London office. After such a dramatic rise it is perhaps no surprise to see the practice pause and take stock.
Looking ahead, the company is adopting a strategy that combines its award-winning project experience with detailed research. One outcome of that research has been the publication of Industrial Rehab, which sets out the firm’s approach to re-use projects such as the Here East conversion of the former 2012 Olympics International Broadcast Centre and the practice’s proposed repurposing of the former Daily Mail printworks at Canada Water in London’s Docklands.
Demonstrating to clients both financial viability and sustainability, the research also looks set to be a work-winner for Hawkins\Brown’s newly opened Scotland and LA studios. ‘There’s been excitement about Here East all around the world,’ said chief operating officer Alastair Roberts, who described ‘strong interest in Scotland and in the USA, where there is industrial stock that is no longer used.’
Another research initiative is H\B:ERT, a free-to-use Revit-based tool that allows early comparison of embodied carbon values across all life cycle stages. Developed by the practice with University College London, it is designed to facilitate more advanced discussions at the earliest stage of a project around retention, refurbishment and creative re-use.
According to partner and architect Hazel York, the H\B:ERT software launch has not only coincided with much-needed ‘real public momentum’ around sustainability but also new pressures on clients.
She says: ‘People are looking at their estates differently, particularly universities, which will have less money and so have to look at the value of their existing assets.’
The practice has already secured a major spatial audit for National Galleries of Scotland and is optimistic that other big institutional clients will follow suit. ‘This tool – and Industrial Rehab – are positioning us for that market,’ says York.
Beyond technology and sustainability, Hawkins\Brown shows great enthusiasm for what Roberts describes as the excitement of ‘creating amazing spaces’.
We will have to wait a little longer for the big public reveal of the practice’s new Crossrail stations at Tottenham Court Road, Bond Street and Liverpool Street, but another major London commission is on the books. While it may not have the prestige of the practice’s proposed Parliament Square overhaul – scrapped by Boris Johnson in 2008 – it is certainly high-profile. The project is for a series of waterfront parks and public spaces at bore sites along the £5 billion Thames Tideway Tunnel ‘super-sewer’ – including major new environments neighbouring Blackfriars Bridge and Christopher Wren’s Royal Hospital Chelsea.