Conversations in Design: Hosted by Elle Deco (with Adjaye Associates and Ben Spriggs)

Focus/20 ‘Conversations in Design’ saw Editor of Elle Decoration, Ben Spriggs and Lucy Tilley, Director of award-winning architecture and design firm, Adjaye Associates discuss projects from the last 25 years, the impact of architectural design on society and how it is more than just an aesthetic creation, but instead, a drive for change.

The conversation kicked off by discussing the ethos of Adjaye Associates, and what drives the studio. Lucy explained that human interaction is at the centre of everything they do. Before embarking on a new project, the team spends a great deal of time researching. From visiting potential locations to speaking to locals and reading, it is clear that the design firm is very aware of how society is ever changing and with it, the attitude towards architectural design.

‘Lunch’ was one of the first projects that were discussed. Created over two decades ago in 1997, the project concentrated on city workers and fast-paced nature of London. Lucy explained that they had taken an old East End building and lowered the floor to below street level to provide a calming space for people to sit and enjoy their lunch break. An activity that is often lost amongst the hectic pace of city centres, having a restful lunch was focused on to highlight the significance of taking time for yourself.

The 2007 ‘Sunken House’ was the first of its kind for Adjaye Associates due to it being a modern prefabricated home. The house which was manufactured off-site was resurrected in four days and required a fresh new way of thinking. Lucy mentioned having to picture herself as a member of a young family to understand how they would behave and interact with the space. The building was composed of three floors, and the lowest floor was originally very dark, so to open it up and bring light in, they decided to partially submerge the floor to create a unique sunken kitchen.

From past to present, Adjaye Associates has just started a project in Abu Dhabi called the ‘Abrahamic Family House’. The first in the world, the project is a multi-faith place of worship that sees a church, mosque and synagogue come together in one landscape. Lucy explained that this idea intends to encourage peaceful coexistence and acceptance in the United Emirates’ capital city. It was clear that the hope for this special project is to show how architecture can transform and enrich the world by encouraging people to share knowledge and show respect for one another.