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What mattered most in the design of Morris+Company’s new studio

Words:
Joe Morris

Circularity was a critical part our new studio fit-out, says Joe Morris, which has improved facilities, an onsite café, more space and a public-facing ‘shopfront’

A shop window puts architecture – and circular thinking – on display.
A shop window puts architecture – and circular thinking – on display. Credit: Jack Hobhouse

Designing a new studio is a chance to take stock. After 10 years in our office, the lease had expired and rent was rising. At the same time, we were thinking about the ambitions of our 65-strong practice, and changes in post-pandemic working habits. Many workshop sessions established a shared sense of what’s important, given a limited budget. 

One key ambition was to have a ground-floor ‘shopfront’. Making the day-to-day work of architecture visible helps to remove some of the mystique, and communicating in that way fits our social agenda. We found the right place in Hackney: 9000ft² over a basement, ground and first floors. Twice the space for the same rent. From the pavement people look into our ‘town hall’, with meeting rooms and space for events, exhibitions and design reviews.

All our IT moved to the cloud and every desk upstairs is unallocated, though they can be booked. We don’t feel it’s important to seat project teams together, and people learn more from overhearing what others are up to. 

A key ambition was to have a ground-floor “shopfront”. Making the day-to-day work of architecture visible helps to remove some of the mystique

Circularity was central to the fit-out. We reconstructed our existing storage dividers, and adapted glazed partitions found in the space to make meeting rooms. Old furniture was rehashed as wall linings. It’s an honest patchwork of stuff that has had a previous life. It would have been cheaper and easier to start from scratch, but reuse was an enriching process that sends a message to clients and helps to foster a culture. New installations like the stairs are demountable, and we’ve stored materials that were removed. 

During the fit-out we were offered a 3000ft² f&b unit in the building. My wife Elly runs vegan restaurants and we thought it would be good to have one here; it feeds the team and is closely allied to the themes of circularity and openness. Similarly, we lease desk space to several small businesses, which include other practices and an architectural charity. Mingling with them changes the dynamic of the office in ways that are subtle but significant. We have improved facilities ranging from showers to space for model-making, but more than amenities or aesthetic preferences the design of the studio reflects the ethos of the practice. 

 

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