A brilliant example of how influential graduates can be
RISING STARS 2016 COHORT
Architectural assistant, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Part 2 completed 2013
It is hard to imagine a more glowing reference than the one Peter Clegg gave Charlotte Knight. He says: ‘In 38 years I cannot remember any graduate who has brought more enthusiasm and initiative to the practice. Charlotte’s contributions to every project have been really positive whether working on detailing of complex buildings, dealing with difficult budget-challenged commercial schemes or on competitions. But it is her work on “self-generated” projects where she stands out. She has led two highly successful teams to design and build projects which have had a huge impact on architecture and the public. She has set a brilliant example of how influential students can be in their practice and in the profession.’
It is easy to see why. Knight decided to study architecture because she has a ‘strong social and environmental agenda’. She wanted to improve the places in which people live and saw it as a way of combining her interest in building and art. She studied for her undergraduate degree at Oxford Brookes and then completed part 2 at the Bartlett. During her part 1 year out she went to work for FCBS, conscious that it was the practice that led environmental design in the 1990s. She returned after part 2 and has now been there for three years. In that time she has worked on a library, mixed-use projects and housing for the office, but what stands out are the two projects she has taken on in her free time, The Observatory and Pea Soup House.
The former, which began in 2014, was a competition project for a mobile artist studio for SPUD (Spaces, Placemaking and Urban Design) that could tour the south coast of England. Knight was made aware of the competition by her former art school teacher. Inspired, she gathered and led a team of four architecture graduates and one artist (Ross Galtress, Mina Gospavic, Lauren Shevills and Edward Crumpton). They began by expanding the brief to create not one but two rotating structures. Knight worked closely with the contractors to produce a high quality, crafted design. She donated her own time for site visits, design team meetings and a material research project – supported and funded by FCBS – into charred timber as a cladding material. She did her own testing to find the optimal level of charring, type and thickness of timber to see whether it could be used as an organic way to preserve wood. The Observatory is now a test case and, as it continues to tour the south coast, the team has stayed involved with material workshops for the public, as well as lectures and visits.
The Pea Soup House project was inspired by Knight’s interest in improving air quality. At a Christmas event last year she found out about the Fitzrovia Partnership’s green bus stop initiative, which led her to see if anyone else in the FCBS office shared her interest. She compiled a team and they started looking for competitions and projects to work on. Pea Soup House is the outcome of a collaboration with the RIBA, King’s College, Expedition, Clarke’s Kitchen, the RIBA Young People’s Forum and FCBS to create an installation for the RIBA exhibition Constructing Communities. It raises awareness of air pollution using colour-coded soup, ranging from 1 (green) clean to 10 (red) for polluted. The project came together as a temporary installation at RIBA HQ serving soup coloured according to air quality on the day.
Overall, the judges were impressed by Knight’s ability to garner a crack team, the impressive network of people she maintains and collaborates with, including academics, charities, professional organisations and businesses, and her confidence in applying the skills and knowledge she acquires from these extracurricular projects to the FCBS office and her everyday work. It is fair to say that Knight’s extracurricular work has been helped by the supportive nature of FCBS as a practice. It has encouraged her to take on outside work, allowing her team to take calls and answer emails during work hours and even funding grants for research and time off. While not every practice affords this kind of opportunity, it is a Rising Star that sees the potential and uses it to better their careers and the practices they work for.
What would you most like to improve about the industry?
I would like to improve cross-collaboration and opportunities to integrate self-build projects with education and practice.
Who would you most like to work with?
It is a particular type of person that I enjoy working with.
Passionate, inspiring, enthusiastic are key attributes. I always enjoy working with artists and craftsmen. Although a harsh social critic, Grayson Perry is an artist I would most like to work with.