Tell us about the early design brief
Our brief was to work with the lead architects, Glenn Howells Architects, to develop a façade design, befitting both Games and legacy mode, for the East Wing of Block N15.
What inspired your design concept?
Eadweard Muybridge’s photographic investigations into human movement formed the inspiration for our façade patterning. We started by tracing the core lines of movement across Muybridge’s “Running Man” series, condensing and superimposing them so that we were left with an abstracted linear pattern, strongly expressive of movement.
We then created variations of the pattern which we cast into Portland concrete and picked out in contrasting glazed brick tiles over the upper levels of the building.
What design challenges did you face along the way?
A key design challenge was to express the two different housing typologies of Block N15 – townhouses and apartments – in the façade design. We identified the townhouses on the first two floors through a traditional townhouse fenestration arrangement and a human scale application of the façade pattern in cast Portland concrete. Over the upper stories, an enlarged version of the façade pattern in contrasting glazed brick marks the transition to an apartment typology.
Technically, the reproduction of the pattern in the Portland concrete required significant prototyping, testing and refinement. The precision and fidelity of the patterning was achieved through a close collaboration with the contractor Thorp Precast.
How did it feel to be involved in such an important British project?
We were the youngest architectural practice to be involved in the design of the Athletes’ Village. As such we felt honoured to be recognised in the company of some of Britain’s leading designers. It gives us a sense of pride to look back on the success of London 2012 and know that we played a small part in it.
What would you highlight as the lasting features of your work?
We hope the subtle shifts of materials and variations of textures will prove enduring and timeless. The abstracted “Running Man” pattern in bass relief marks the occasion of the Games in a subtle way.
What are you most proud of regarding your design work for London 2012?
The quality of the materials across the façade. We feel that the conversion of the athletes’ accommodation into apartments will be a lasting legacy for London, particularly the new housing typology of townhouses with apartments above set within generous public and semi-public spaces.