MultiPly is one of the Landmark projects from the London Design Festival 2018, which ended yesterday. It was designed by Waugh Thistleton Architects who specialise in sustainable buildings across London, in both the commercial and residential sectors.
I knew them since I noticed one of their new developments in the Finsbury Park area, which is called Woodberry Down. I was secretly hoping to rent a flat there, but someone made an offer before I could even contact the agency!
Then I discovered that Waugh Thistleton was in charge of one of the Landmark projects for the London Design Festival. This year the LDF was busier than ever and it spread around more areas of the city. I couldn't visit many exhibitions but nevertheless I saw some that were really interesting. Certainly, MultiPly is one of them and it became more special since I had the pleasure to interview one of their founders. And this was honestly the most inspiring moment of the entire festival for me.
Read below the little chat I had with Andrew Waugh!
M. Let’s talk about MultiPly, your Landmark project for LDF18. Where does the inspiration come from?
A. For the last 15 years, we’ve been designing buildings in timber and we’ve built all sorts of them from tower blocks to office buildings, cinemas, and synagogues. A lot of our practice is about researching different types of timber, panels, beams, columns, and different types of wood. And so what we’ve done here is to work with an American hardwood, this tulipwood, which is a low-grade fast-growing hardwood from the East of United States, and to press it into engineered panels, in a way to improve the strength and the durability of the material and how easy it is to work with.
Also at the same time, a lot of our work recently has been around prefabricated houses, so the industrialised processes of construction, rather than building. You know the way we build buildings now really is the same as it was a hundred years ago. Every other industry, every other design profession has embraced industrialisation and digital technology. So the idea behind this is about the opportunities of industrialisation to create great design and architecture. Also about using natural materials, surrounding issues around climate change, and carbon capture. And also about 'Biophilia', you know the understanding that being surrounded by natural materials is good for you, makes you happier, makes you healthier, less stressed, etcetera.
M. Do you manage to apply those principles in every building you design? For example, I’m thinking about Woodberry Down, the building near Finsbury Park. Did you design that right?
A. Yes, of course.
M. Well, I really love it. I live nearby and noticed it. And to be honest, I think you cannot tell is made of wood, this is coming today as a surprise for me.
A. Yes, it is made of wood. I think for a lot of architects that are interested in the sustainable practise of construction, and we’ve always been really focused on making it mainstream. So we work for big developers, for big housebuilders and we work with them on how to produce more sustainable, environmentally aware construction processes.
M. You do interiors as well…
A. Yes, we do everything we can get.
M. How do you bring sustainability into interior design?
A. Well, we look at every material that we use. And we look at it in terms of the amount of energy that’s gone into it to recycle, how easy it is to reuse, how it is produced, etc. As a practice, I think if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem, in terms of climate change.
© David Parry
And as architects and designers we are supposed to take on board the responsibility of our industry, to be design leaders. Most architects do not engage with issues of sustainability at all. It’s about maybe some more insulation or a solar panel on the roof, but it’s a bit more serious than that.
M. Do you have a dream project? I mean, if you could design anything, what would that be?
A. You know, I have built some really fabulous buildings, I have been really lucky. I have built my own house.
I think we would really like to be involved in a well-founded dynamic partnership with somebody who was making modular housing. That’s really what my fascination is. As in tall modular housing, so no single-family housing but an actual solution to have on a housing prices. So that’s what we are looking for.
M. Any advice for young designers who are about to set up their own company in London?
A. Do what you believe in.
Cover image courtesy of David Parry.
Unless otherwise specified, images © A Designer At Heart Ltd