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PODCAST: Material explorers, Eric Parry Architects

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Since its early days, Eric Parry Architects has been experimenting with materials. In this podcast, Eleanor Young talks final finish as structure and deep materials research with founder Eric Parry, director Lee Higson and project architect Emily Posey

Before we pressed record on this podcast exploring materials with Eric Parry Architects (EPA), I asked founder Eric Parry and director Lee Higson for their dream materials. ‘Graphene,’ answered Higson, for its strength and lightness and all its possibilities; and the potential for super-long spans.

 

Parry alighted on another lightweight solution, one that could also be temporary, packed up and gone as the activity moved on: the fabric seen in Bedouin encampments. ‘Frugality,’ Parry explained – that was what he was attracted by.

To hear more, including from project architect Emily Posey, click below for the second in this series of RIBAJ Meets, supported by Vandersanden. Listen here or search for RIBAJ Meets on your podcast app.

Left to right: founder Eric Parry, project architect Emily Posey and director Lee Higson of Eric Parry Architects. Grant Smith
Left to right: founder Eric Parry, project architect Emily Posey and director Lee Higson of Eric Parry Architects. Grant Smith

Don’t expect to see either material on one of their towers anytime soon, or at Salisbury Square, the new courts and police headquarters the practice is designing in the City of London. But the interest in final finish as structure is ingrained in EPA studio culture. Parry doesn’t subscribe to running fingers over materials; he raps his knuckles, listening for the resonance of depth and solidity.

The podcast starts beneath the huge girdle of weathering steel of Number 4 Pancras Square. Here the structure takes over the facade. Wherever materials are used Higson sees an obligation to use them well, talking of the elements of earth, and the moment a citizen gets to experience that in a new form. Architecture can avoid being just pattern-making he says. ‘If done right it does have an authenticity.’

  • Fen Court with its stone lobby and many toilets.
    Fen Court with its stone lobby and many toilets. Credit: Dirk Lindner
  • The remarkable faience of One Eagle Place, Piccadilly, London, designed by Eric Parry Architects working with Richard Deacon.
    The remarkable faience of One Eagle Place, Piccadilly, London, designed by Eric Parry Architects working with Richard Deacon. Credit: Dirk Lindner
  • Eric Parry Architects’ design taking on the greens of trees and gardens in the faience at the Holbourne Museum in Bath.
    Eric Parry Architects’ design taking on the greens of trees and gardens in the faience at the Holbourne Museum in Bath. Credit: Hélène Binet
  • The new courts and police headquarters at Salisbury Square, now in design development.
    The new courts and police headquarters at Salisbury Square, now in design development. Credit: Eric Parry Architects
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From the early days of 30 Finsbury Square, where EPA rivalled Edwin Lutyens for stone gumption with Portland stone stacked on Portland stone in an offset grid, to aluminium in the City of London, to brick in Cambridge, the practice has been experimenting with facade materials, perhaps most notably its exploration of faience. We take a look at how those explorations progress from project to project. And we also go inside one of the most ebullient of offices, Fen Court, with Posey to see how the process translates to internal materials.

As for the answer to whether this is driven by a certain boredom with the office typology, you will have to listen to hear Parry’s rather brilliant riposte. 


RIBAJ Meets series 2 is produced with the support of  Vandersanden

Hear more at RIBAJ Meets online or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Presented and produced by Eleanor Young. Sound edit Richard Coleby, upload co-ordinator Charlotte Collins, music Steffen Addington.

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