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Rising Star: Oliver Beetschen

Words:
Pamela Buxton

Agile designer with a passion for prefabrication and experience in theatre design, railway footbridges and Elizabeth Line stations

Architect – theatre designer, Charcoal Blue   Part 1: 2014 Part 2: 2016

Judges praised the breadth of Oliver Beetschen’s creativity, which includes designing infrastructure, theatres and – in his spare time – working as a freelance sound engineer and set designer. After delivering Elizabeth Line stations for Hawkins\Brown, he now works as a theatre designer for Charcoalblue.

He particularly impressed with his commitment to harnessing design for manufacture and assembly (DfMA). This included his role as project architect on a project to disrupt conventional approaches to the design and delivery of railway infrastructure, funded by Innovate UK, Network Rail and the Department for Transport. The outcome was a footbridge built using a standardised kit of parts. Manufactured and assembled off-site, these can be adapted to site-specific conditions. 

‘Oli clearly has an agile, cross-discipline mind,’ said judge Eva MacNamara. ‘He has demonstrated originality of thought in DfMA, a challenging area in which to build something beautiful and timeless.’

‘He’s championing lots of DfMA technologies and processes and applying them in a number of different ways on a range of building types,’ added judge Nick Hayhurst.

Beetschen is enthusiastic about the potential for industrialisation in infrastructure to benefit civic architecture. ‘By embracing lessons from diverse industries and cross-discipline collaboration, and allowing architects to diversify, I believe we push the boundaries of what is possible,’ he says.

It is particularly important, he believes, to foster creative growth in early-career architects.

His referee, Expedition senior director and founder Chris Wise praised his very clear knowledge of lean materiality and sustainable detailing.

  • Design session developing a DfMA footbridge for Network Rail.
    Design session developing a DfMA footbridge for Network Rail.
  • A DfMA footbridge for Network Rail.
    A DfMA footbridge for Network Rail.
  • Visualisation of Network Rail footbridge.
    Visualisation of Network Rail footbridge.
  • Sequencing of footbridge construction.
    Sequencing of footbridge construction.
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What existing building, place and problem would you most like to tackle?
I would love to radically tackle the sustainable regeneration and refurbishment of our ageing civic building stock – particularly theatres, schools, libraries and even railways! I’m passionate about creating well-designed spaces in our communities that bring people together regardless of who they are. I trust and hope that the architectural industry is changing for the better, and feel passionately that we can create better spaces, be more sustainable and more inclusive by learning from other diverse industries and communities. 

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