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Enjoy our selection of newer practices to watch

Hugh Pearman

Have a look at the selection of smaller, non-London practices we tip as future winners – and cheer up

Let’s be hopeful. Let’s have fun. The news is almost unrelentingly awful, ominous or infuriating, surveys of architects’ future work prospects are wobbly at best, who knows which way the economy will head in the next few months and years, good buildings are being demolished and bad ones being built BUT we’ve been this way before. All things must pass, to quote the simultaneously gloomiest and most optimistic Beatle when just 27. 

It’s in this spirit that we present our ‘future winners’: an antidote to the usual plethora of annual awards in which with unashamed subjectivity we select a clutch of smaller practices, none of them from London, go to see them, and tell you why we rate them. To read about them, follow the links at the bottom of this article.

There’s something about this lot that commends them to us and, we hope, to you

The set-up here is that they may or may not have already started winning awards – most have – but we reckon they are all winners already. Obviously we could have chosen any number of others and our internal debate on this was lively. But there’s something about this lot, their backgrounds and the places they have chosen to locate, that commends them to us and, we hope, to you.   

For an example of where such beginnings can lead, read our interview with Glenn Howells, founder of what was once a small London practice moved to Birmingham and now, much-garlanded, has a studio in the capital again as well, working on a national scale. Glenn has always combined a finely-honed architectural sense with a grasp of the business essentials that any practice needs to grow and flourish, and he shares his personally written firm’s manifesto along with his working tips. 

It’s not necessary to grow, mind, if that’s not your aim. There’s enormous grace and social usefulness, not to mention personal satisfaction, in being a small market-town or rural practice, say, serving the needs of a local community, doing good work and leaving it at that. Any attempt to stick at the supposedly ideal number of people for a firm of architects (two? eight? 24? 48? Increasing multiples of those? Opinions vary) is doomed to fail. As a business architecture is generally just too lumpy to allow you that planning luxury though we all know small firms that seem to come close to equilibrium. 

The traditional pattern of growth will always be with us – I’m surprised by how quickly some firms scale up – but in the end it’s collaboration, clusters of like-minded architects joining forces when necessary, that perhaps offers the liveliest alternative future for the profession. Agility and low overheads will be key. Oh, and damn fine architecture. 

RIBAJ future winners

Gagarin Studio
Konishi Gaffney
Intervention Architecture
Kate Darby Architects
Rural Office for Architecture