What inspired you to become an architect? My grandparents had a big impact on me –I’m still discovering my grandfather’s architectural books and slides, while my grandmother was responsible for designing several rural buildings. I studied social anthropology at university, which has been vital in learning to observe how people use buildings and spaces.
How can architects bring value to residential design? They make decisions that affect light, space and the atmosphere in a home, the qualities of which form the backdrop to our lives and have an enormous effect on the potential of the community and our quality of life. I believe this value should be in the background; ill-considered or lazy architecture is tragic to witness and a wasteful deployment of resources.
Do you have a preferred room to design? An area with no specific function, but with a very strong character. At the moment, I’m designing an attic that is surrounded by a beautiful roof structure with sweeping views over the landscape. It is accessed via timber stairs that descend from the ceiling, lending the room a treehouse atmosphere.
And your favourite project to date? It is always the current one; every project is like a relationship: when you are in the middle of it, it’s difficult to imagine anything else.Right now, it’s a ruined farmhouse in Piedmont in Italy. We are piecing it together and renewing it, but I know that in a few weeks’ time I will fall in love with something else.
Explain your working process... It takes time to get under the skin of a project. Our progress is slow and involves listening and research. To test ideas, we create models and sketches, and have many conversations.
How would you describe your aesthetic? Our look is often perceived as ‘old and new’ but it is a style that always collaborates with the existing building, which means that our aesthetic changes depending on the project we’re working on.
What’s on the drawing board? A broad range of properties, including a mixed-use development for Woodstock Studios; the restoration and expansion of a fisherman’s house in north Cornwall; a sky platform inside a west London mews; the refurbishment of a 19th-century building near Regent’s Park; a newly built urban barn in Hammersmith; and two stone buildings in the French Alps and Piedmont.
Is there a building you wish you had designed? The alterations to Castelvecchio in Verona, carried out by Italian architect Carlo Scarpa between 1950–70. They have inspired a generation of designers interested in renovating historic buildings and have influenced me throughout my career.
You recently completed the Michelberger Hotel (top) in Berlin. What were you hoping to achieve? To provide spaces with a domestic luxury feel within the heroic industrial building. The timber frames we used, which echo the city’s surrounding infrastructure, act like giant furniture pieces, while the bespoke objects we created tame the large, open-plan spaces and frame views through the private and communal areas. It retains a sense of permanence that is very important when dealing with an architectural legacy of a building such as the Michelberger.
If you weren’t an architect, what would you be? I’ve always loved English gardens, so working in them as a landscape architect would be a delight. jonathantuckey.com
This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration October 2019
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