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Rising Star: Charlie Butterwick

The founder of ArchitectureUnknown is committed to delivering sustainable, cost-effective solutions that his clients can participate in constructing.

RIBAJ Rising Star: Charlie Butterwick
RIBAJ Rising Star: Charlie Butterwick

Charlie Butterwick’s clients are effusive in their praise. His practice is a rare find, they write, a company that ‘mixes close personal connection, future-led design, environmental ethics and social conscience in equal measure’. Architecture Unknown, the practice Butterwick co-founded, has this vision: to make the public and residents partners in design; to promote shared values and identity; and to design buildings that inspire clients and champion their values. ‘By changing how we engage clients, people and communities, life could be better for everyone,’ states Butterwick.

What drives his practice is a commitment to delivering his clients a sustainable, cost-effective solution they can participate in constructing, thereby promoting dialogue and community cohesion. (In one case, an entire Scout troop chipped in and £20,000 was saved.) Butterwick’s willingness to embrace new technologies, such as digitally manufactured building systems and open-source technology such as WikiHouse, signals an attitude to design and construction that is inclusive and open-minded (with ‘a touch of DIY SOS’, observed judge Steve Smith).

Butterwick’s generous, ambitious and straightforward approach pleased the judges. Yasmin Al-Ani Spence said: ‘He is doing a community project [and in so doing] is changing the structure of how these are done. It is a nice, simple, honest representation of someone who works hard and has a good, solid idea’ – noble aspirations coupled with the confidence to innovate.

  • New home for 2nd Whalley Range Scouts using Wikihouse technology being assembled.
    New home for 2nd Whalley Range Scouts using Wikihouse technology being assembled.
  • New home for 2nd Whalley Range Scouts using Wikihouse technology almost completed.
    New home for 2nd Whalley Range Scouts using Wikihouse technology almost completed.
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What existing building, place and problem would you most like to tackle?
Community construction has the potential to be a new frontier in modular building that democratises our built environment and brings people together through a new, holistic, hopeful form of architecture. Working on public buildings in deprived communities generates the greatest benefits, enabling regeneration and offering opportunities for upskilling to those who are rarely invested in. We want to inspire young architects and engineers, as well as offer opportunities to the next generation of joiners, prefab specialists and sustainable tech advocates.

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