Perhaps the best-known of MBA’s projects is the London Eye, which has established itself as a world-famous London landmark, giving 1% of its ticket sales revenue to the local community every year.
MBA has established its reputation as a highly innovative architectural practice delivering designs that have a positive impact on society, that evoke pride and elicit joy. In October 2016, MBA had people ‘walking on air’ with the opening of its iconic British Airways i360 in Brighton, a vertical pier with observation pods rising to a height of 138m to give a unique perspective on the British seaside town. 2017 sees the practice shortlisted for Education Architect of the Year Award in recognition of its work designing the University of Cambridge Primary School, which opened in 2016, and the Michael Tippett School in Lambeth for children with profound and multiple learning disabilities.
In 2004 we worked with Marks Barfield Architects to design our trademark Segment System, combining our knowledge of plywood engineering with their architectural expertise to create a product that went on to win a FIRA Innovation award.
What made you choose to become an architect?
At school I was interested in art but didn’t think I would make the cut as an artist. I enjoyed technical studies and structures. Architecture
held out the opportunity of combining my interests in arts and science.
What would you have done if architecture hadn’t worked out?
I am a fairly determined sort of person so the question never arose.
Marks Barfield has been enduringly successful for 25 years, what’s the key to your success?
In a word: Teamwork.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your projects?
Nature, geometry, art, science, Julia.
What is your favourite building and why?
No-one seeing the Palm House in the Royal Botanic Gardens for the first time can fail to be amazed and wonder how, with so little apparent structure, and no diagonal bracing, it manages to stand up. It is so light, so restrained, and so unlike anything else happening at that time, when everyone else was doing ornamental Neo-Classical design. Decimus Burton was a prolific and inspired architect, but for me the Palm House was his moment of genius. It’s gentle, graceful and gossamer, a natural form with the delicacy and feel of a spider’s web in the morning dew. Like a soap bubble, its surface structure is thin compared with the volume it’s enclosing. There is an extraordinary lightness to it. It almost looks like it would float away if it weren’t anchored to the ground.
At Spaceoasis® we work with commercial clients and education. What would your key piece of advice be for someone designing: a. An office and b. A school?
Try to think beyond the brief. Think beyond design and architecture. Be innovative and entrepreneurial.
In this issue of Create we’re looking at how public sector organisations can make their space more efficient to mitigate the effects of cuts in public spending, what would your advice be?
Consider the advice ‘Long life, loose fit’.
How do you feel about the London skyline with all its tall buildings?
I feel it is a pity that so many of these tall buildings are dark masses on the skyline. They ought to be light, reflecting, and continuing London’s finest architectural tradition.
Large scale writable walls are increasingly popular with companies in all types of sectors, is this something you’ve come across and why do think this is?
We have had a large writable wall in our main meeting space for over 25 years. It means you can literally think on your feet.
People are increasingly using coffee shops as work spaces, do you ever work in a coffee shop and what do you think is their appeal?
Work is an increasingly social activity so it is quite natural that social environments become work environments.