40 years after the practice was founded, Peter Clegg reflects on the practice, ethos and culture of FCBStudios
When we set up the practice we intended to do nothing less than change the face of the profession, making architecture more public, more responsive and more collaborative.
For FCBStudios, architecture has always been more than the design of buildings. As a practice we are interested in the wider implications of what we do, engaging for instance, in the debate about the future of the education sector - which provides us with about a third of our work. We are fascinated by the history of our built environment and the use of historic buildings as the basis for new development. And we are more and more engaged in the wider scale of creating urban communities and the positive spaces between our buildings.
From the beginning, the word Community was at the centre of our vision: the word Sustainability had not yet been invented - we simply called it low-energy design. Forty years later we now have four architecture shops, in London and Bath, Belfast and Manchester and besides sharing those strong social and environmental principles they all have shop windows onto the street and have shared lunches that have always formed part of our office culture.
We also believed in the art of building as an integral part of professional architecture. We ran our own building and development company in the early days and though those initiatives were curtailed in the 1991 recession the interest in the overall process has stayed with us as has a commitment to the craft of making and a fascination with the materiality of our buildings.
It is no coincidence that when Keith joined us in 1985 we started to win awards, a habit that has stayed with us over the years so that we now have accumulated more UK RIBA awards than any other practice, amongst them the Stirling Prize for Accordia. Those projects represent the output of a wide range of partner architects, across a wide range of typologies.
As a practice, we embrace pluralism. We share design authorship as well as ownership of the practice widely, but the common commitment to social and environmental principles as well as a passion for the making of architecture is ingrained in our work
We are also passionate about creating a practice culture that extends our personal and collective abilities. The future of the practice will come from the present generation of young graduates who are pursuing their own interests under the wider practice umbrella: through competitions, research or projects sponsored by the practice or charitable projects with the Richard Feilden Foundation in Africa and around the world.
Practice has always been a process: change is a constant, but culture is deeply ingrained.