Last Sunday we were reminded that autumn was upon us with torrential rain and a seasonably chilly start to our Open House London open studio event. What a shame, we thought - how many people would venture out in this kind of weather, just to visit our office? 250 it turns out.
On entering our studio from the Regents Canal towpath, visitors found a 1:40 scale installation of one of our current projects in the heart of the National Forest; a walkway through the treetops connecting the two sites of the Conkers family visitor attraction, currently separated by a live railway line. Guests were able to explore the project in further detail using gaming technology to ‘virtually’ walk along what will be the longest aerial walkway in Britain at 400m.
Looking across from the Conkers installation your eye was drawn to a ‘tree’ of our work; an exhibition exploring how our projects are helping to improve people’s wellbeing and health through designing with nature. Projects such as the Community Cluster at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital where a multi-sensory experience allows full engagement with the integrated landscape, and Spring at Stonebridge Park, an urban housing development where a canal has been redirected to run through its heart to create a wildlife haven and attractive focal point.
We often take where we work for granted, so it is always uplifting to see how impressed people are by our conversion a Victorian canal-side warehouse into our low-energy studio - named the Foundry in a nod to its original use. Tours of our three-storey building began on the lower ground floor – canal level - with a short introduction by Johnny Winter, who, after seeing the project through from conception to completion, knows the building inside out, quite literally. Smaller groups were then escorted to the upper floors by other members of the studio who shared their own stories of what it is like to work in our collaborative practice. The tours concluded on the first floor, where the original oak roof trusses create an attractive canopy over a bright, open-plan but self-contained studio, currently leased to fellow creative consultants, Maynard.
Having worked in both our old studio next door, where I knew the canal was there but had no connection to it, and in our current studio where double height windows let me enjoy the changing light of the day and seasons, where reflections off the water dance playfully on the walls and ceilings, and where views of the active towpath remind me we are not designing objects, but places for people... I can say with confidence that working in the Foundry is a constant pleasure.
As the sun eventually found its way through the clouds in the early afternoon, our towpath garden – beaming from its recent 2018 Islington in Bloom Silver Gilt award – came into its own and visitors were able to appreciate this little green oasis we have lovingly created for ourselves and our community.
Thank you to all our visitors for making our Open House event so rewarding, and for the donations for cakes, which we have sent up the road to local charity, Islington Giving.
Hope to see you again next year.