The interview: Andrew Whiting of Architects Hut
HÛT is a London-based architectural practice with a reputation for designing buildings that have the ability to excite and engage. Having been recognised as one of the UK’s top young practices, HÛT has gone on to become a mature, established practice that has won numerous awards and delivered a broad portfolio of work, with particular expertise in commercial and residential sectors.
Andrew Whiting is director at HÛT having established the practice over 10 years ago. Adelto caught up with Andrew Whiting earlier in the year and here is what he had to say.
The names of architectural practices are often acronyms or take the directors names. Why did you call your studio HÛT?
I have found that architects and designers often have the tendency to over-elaborate. The name HÛT highlights our belief that simple forms of architecture – which are robust, carefully considered and beautifully detailed – often provide the best solutions to complex design problems and create buildings that have lasting quality.
Luxury means different things to different people. What’s your interpretation of the word in terms of design?
Luxury is often associated with expensive or lavish materials. At HÛT we believe that luxury is as much a product of space, form and light, as the use of luxurious materials. When designing private residences, we focus on creating architecture that is tailored to a client’s lifestyle, from small details to mapping out every aspect of how a client lives and reflecting this in the building’s design. Our architecture is as bespoke to its client as a pair of handmade shoes.
Could you expand more on this link between architecture and tailoring?
The creation of a tailored suit or a pair of hand-made shoes involves a relationship between client and maker. Architects, particularly in high-end residential design, often work in a similar way.
You also expect a tailored garment to last, even improve with use. And I think this could be said for good architecture. Too often you see buildings that have been completed cheaply or quickly, already looking tired. Our aim is to make buildings that age gracefully.
Could you talk us through some of your recently completed projects?
We have just completed a beautifully crafted new holiday home and rental property on the desirable peninsula of Sandbanks, Dorset. This project is a good example of how we design buildings that have longevity.
The design is based on a simple yet robust beach hut. The project is a house on the sand, a place to shelter from the weather, and to meet and entertain family and friends. The untreated larch cladding is typical of the durable palette of materials selected for the building, making the structure resilient enough to withstand the corrosive sea winds.
These materials and overall design also help embed the building within its coastal setting and allow it to age gracefully over time. This feeling of honesty and solidity is found throughout our work but is particularly important with this project.
We have also just completed the transformation of a formerly derelict building on Pentonville Road, opposite King’s Cross Station in London. The building occupied a prominent site but lacked any kind of street presence. We gave it a much stronger identity by adding a glazed, reflective rooftop pavilion to the rooftop.
Particularly in your commercial work, the projects you have designed involve working with existing buildings. Is this a hindrance to creativity?
In many cases, it’s quite the opposite. Working with existing buildings often includes not only refurbishing the existing fabric and spaces, but involves totally rethinking the building’s future use, which demands a very high level of creativity.
There has been an upsurge in refurbishment projects in the past few years – the most successful involve a fusion of that existing with contemporary design. This “re-branding” of buildings gives them a new identity, and a new use more in touch with what people want from their home or workplace.
Your work spans commercial and high-end residential. Do you use design ideas across different sectors?
There is a crossover, yes. The modern workplace is no longer designed around traditional office working, but must support different ways of working. A creative workplace can often share the qualities of domestic spaces, designed to stimulate and relax, and for the exchange of ideas.
The exchange can sometimes go the other way too; we are currently working on a beautiful family house in London that is also going to be used as a film set and photo shoot location. This uses some of the same materials and products from our commercial projects, stone wall finishes, solid timber flooring and seamless metal cladding to the exterior.
How has the recession affected your business?
The economic downturn has affected the whole architecture and construction industry in some way. We are very fortunate to have loyal clients that understand the value we bring to projects – this has made us more resilient than most to the recession.
It’s been a huge achievement to not only survive the recession but also flourish when times have been tough throughout the industry. We are celebrating 10 years in practice, and looking forward to the next 10!
What’s your idea of the dream property?
I like spaces that transform with changing daylight; homes that take on a completely different character depending on the season or what time of day it is.
As discussed before, I love properties and artefacts that have the qualities of ageing gracefully – I think it is use that brings things and buildings to life. Materials used in making should be durable and honest, and age beautifully. Perhaps my ideal property would be a waterfront residence with ever-changing views, constructed from materials able to weather the elements and yet gracefully reveal the signs of its occupation and surroundings.
HÛT, 3rd Floor, 35-39 Old Street, London, EC1V 9HX, hutarchitecture.com
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