A London Shed

Basil Spence, BDP, Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios; there is a long history of architectural firms established in regional bases deciding that they have to be in London to crack the city, writes Eleanor Young.

In June, Liverpool-based Shedkm followed the same route and set up an office in London’s Regent’s Street, sharing with engineers Expedition. ‘We had quite a good portfolio of clients in London but we needed a presence to give people confidence to take things over the line,’ explains director Hazel Rounding.

Since then the team has announced major wins in Croydon and Brighton. In Croydon Stanhope has selected Shedkm for a £20m new build office on the Foster’s masterplan. ‘Stanhope said our location didn’t matter, but it helps not to have to set up a London office specifically for the job,’ explains Rounding.

For the Cathedral Group’s Brighton project the sense that it was just a short trip out of London, rather than a schlep all the way from Liverpool and then south, was more persuasive. Here an extensive and creative competition process saw Shedkm up against Make, AHMM and Feilden Clegg Bradley Studio. Having grown up with Urban Splash, sharing a director and working on many of its projects, gives Shedkm a certain sympathy of approach with Cathedral. Meanwhile uses, creativity and design are all on the agenda as well as partnerships with the public sector. The £100m mixed use project includes teaching and learning space for the University of Brighton, a dance studio, flats, offices and student rooms.

Away from the South East Shedkm has also landed some notable projects. The landmark art deco Littlewoods building in Liverpool will be adapted and refurbished while in Salford Shedkm is also working on the 400,000 sq Soapworks office for the Carlyle Group. Rounding is planning to keep the London office closely in the Shedkm  fold: ‘It has to be part of the office, not a breakaway office.’

It is an exciting time for Rounding. She joined Shedkm in 1998 when the practice was just a year old and is now commuting from Liverpool three days a week to head up the six person office. She still remembers careers advice age 13 about how architects needing the skills to convince and give confidence to clients to move project forwards. ‘To me architecture is about all the phases to delivery, not just about paper communication,’ she says. The commercial clients Shedkm is securing seem to be buying into not just Rounding’s open style but also the practice’s long experience of playing with existing buildings. ‘The interesting thing about the recession is the developers who have a portfolio of sites,’ says Rounding. ‘They were looking at new build but are now thinking more creatively about reuse of existing buildings. That is what we have been doing for years.’