The director of Conrad Koslowsky Architects is on a mission to create children’s homes that don’t feel institutional
Architect, Design Fellow, Conrad Koslowsky Architects
Part 1: 2010 Part 2: 2013
There are many laudable small practices that mix teaching with designing homes and back extensions. Conrad Koslowsky impressed with his work on one particular project over and above these: the Lighthouse, a new sort of children’s home.
Koslowsky saw the advertisement for a project manager and was able to offer services from straightforward project management to architecture and interiors. In the search for a property, he was able to see the design possibilities. He also takes on financial reporting and keeping the project on track.
For his client and referee, Emmanuel Akpan-Inwang, founder and director of Lighthouse Children’s Homes, it was Koslowsky’s ability to translate ideas into practice that has made for an outstanding collaboration. ‘I have been continuously impressed with his willingness to go above and beyond to understand the philosophical perspective of our organisation and realise this in the design of our first home,’ he says.
The Lighthouse focuses on being a home, rather than a ‘children’s home’, trying to do away with institutionalism. ‘There are so many micro design decisions,’ says Koslowsky. ‘You need to know to challenge the regulatory process and find other ways. It has become a process of understanding the problems of a sector.’ For future homes, Koslowsky has drawn up a visual brief – an evocative reminder of the importance of niches, the soundscape and renewal that will deliver the wider aspiration.
Koslowsky’s Lighthouse work is set against the pandemic, which lost him four projects and three staff as well as felling him with Covid before the first lockdown. He has since been suffering from long Covid, affecting his breathing and strength. But his two years in practice have left him optimistic.
‘I have renewed faith in the social reach of design and am empowered in my teaching to instil a sense of purpose in the next generation of architects,’ he says.
Judge Steve Smith applauded Koslowsky’s work, saying: ‘I know that a lot of the care homes are terrible. Any opportunity to improve kids’ lives should be rewarded.’
Judge Yasmin Al-Ani Spence was equally appreciative. ‘This is what Rising Stars is about,’ she said. ‘He has got a good reason for doing what he does; he is doing something he feels is right. It has focus.’
What existing building, place and problem would you most like to tackle?
I visited several elderly care homes during the property search for Lighthouse and was appalled at the institutionalised, cramped, and deleterious houses that many vulnerable adults are subjected to. If children’s homes can be designed to be inviting, nurturing, safe and comfortable while also being economically viable, the same must be true for elderly care homes. Our population is ageing at a significant rate and I would love to have the opportunity to work with a client who shared the belief that people should have the chance to spend their last years in well-designed and wonderful homes.