Practice name Studio Become
Based June 2021
Main people Rory Harmer, Founding Director
Where are you from?
Rory was associated for 12 years with Tate Harmer, where he led the refurbishment of the Grade II* listed Belsize Fire Station, the award-winning Kintyre Passivhaus and the development of the new York St John’s University Creative Centre.
What work do you have and what type of projects are you looking for?
At the heart of our practice, we focus on three things: people, place and planet. People is about creating healthy spaces and places that are better for people. Place is all about connecting to the project location and working with the context. The planet is synonymous with sustainability.
We have a real range of projects, from treehouses and off-grid holiday cottages to refurbishment of listed buildings in Covent Garden and Bloomsbury. We are working on a travel center building for Urban and Civic, a Passivhaus housing development in Kent, a new series of sustainable outdoor furniture and a large-scale office-to-residential refurbishment project. It’s a mix of large and small scale projects that have a variety of challenges that give us all the opportunity to address issues of people, place and planet.
In terms of new projects, we look at competitions, existing clients and we try to build new relationships with people to create opportunities. This means three things: partnering with other practices like Holt Architecture and Studio 8Fold; collaborate to create new ventures that focus on specific opportunities (watch this space); and engage with the community where we are based (Bloomsbury) to develop projects where we live and work.
Because the “planet” is so essential to who we are, we would like more renovations. We believe in reusing as many existing resources as possible before building anything new, and we love the challenge of doing so. However, we also recognize that reusing an existing structure is not always possible and therefore want to explore the use of natural materials alongside new technologies to see how these can be used in new and exciting ways.
What are your ambitions?
We would like to be known for projects that are healthy for people, sensitive to place and positive for the planet. To do this requires collaboration. It is therefore less about a target firm size and more about creating and exploring new ways of working suitable for a prosperous, sustainable and net zero world. Our ambition is to use architecture to make a difference and for our families to be proud of what we offer to the world.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a start-up and the profession in general?
There are so many challenges for a new practice right now. We have in mind the disconnect between what is best for planning departments and what is best for our planet. As we mentioned, the most sustainable thing is to reuse a building or structure.
However, the planning system does not always facilitate this, especially when dealing with listed buildings. So it would be great to have a planning system more aligned with the planetary system.
Running an architecture firm is like sailing a boat
On a more day-to-day level, the biggest challenge facing our profession and our practice comes from within – how do we build a practice that can respond to the fluctuations and detours of project workflows? We believe this requires new ways of working, flexible and adaptable, bringing together the right talent on a project-by-project basis.
Finally, when founding Tate Harmer, Chris Nash once said that running an architecture firm is like sailing; you need someone who can steer the ship in the right direction, you need people to operate the ship to keep it on course, and you need wind to keep the ship moving. As a small, growing firm, you need to be the person in charge, the person who keeps things on track and on the wind.
Which project, carried out over the past five years, has inspired you the most? :
The Roskilde Festival Folk High School campus in Roskilde, Denmark, by Cobe and MVRDV. It is a great example of a renovation project, creating a unique school campus where people can relax and get creative. He is flexible, adaptable and responsive.
Most of the projects Cobe has completed recently are excellent, and this one has often served as my precedent. It really shows how renovation can be a catalyst for an entire area to become an “urban living room,” as they explain. As our name suggests, at Studio Becoming we love the idea of spaces in between, spaces to come and go, spaces that evolve and change as they are experienced. This project really demonstrates that the spaces around our buildings don’t have to be boring, but can be exciting areas for creative exchange and development.
How do you market yourself?
We are planning a full company launch, along with our new website, later this year.
Website address: www.studiobecoming.com (website coming soon). Instagram link – @studio_becoming