Shepheard Epstein Hunter PRACTICE PROFILE

Shepheard Epstein Hunter may have garnered a strong reputation in its long history, from an initial focus on high quality public housing, but the practice hasn’t been resting on its laurels. James Parker spoke to two of its directors

21st century. Its continued achievement in sectors including housing, as well as schools and universities has been validated in around 60 award schemes since the turn of the millennium. The genesis of Shepheard Epstein Hunter had a very different initial guise – in this case the partnership of architects Derek Bridgewater and Edward Mitchell, formed in 1936. Peter Shepheard became a partner in 1948, and finally Gabriel Epstein in 1955, as Bridgewater, Shepheard and Epstein, the former retiring in the 60s to see Peter Hunter appointed. Peter Shepheard trained at the Liverpool School of Architecture, when the school’s ethos, says director Ann Lakshmanan, was unusual in “encouraging aspiring architects to devote their skills and energy to public sector housing.” The firm’s initial driving ethos was “practical, simple and robust architecture,” says Lakshmanan, and this was a useful adjunct to the post-war national reconstruction effort, naturally providing opportunities in social housing as well as educational establishments. She adds that the approach was “interested in the relationship between natural and built environments, and always people-focused.” When it came to growing the firm to meet demands, the maxim applied was “big enough to do major projects, small enough for the partners and directors to stay close to the work,” says director Charles Dokk-Olsen. He continues: “The biggest we have been is around 60 people, but we generally stay smaller than that, and we are able to compete effectively with much bigger practices.” While the firm has grown over the years, it remains important for it to be a “close-knit group of people who all know each other and feel like one team, despite working on many different projects at different stages,” says Dokk-Olsen. The office has instigated practical measures to help ensure this happens, for example the whole office (which is in Clerkenwell) gets together once a week to have lunch.


In terms of landmark projects, Ann Lakshmanan picks out the University of Lancaster campus as one which “clearly shows the principles that are important to the practice,” and which “perhaps fostered our interest in masterplanning and landscape on a big scale.”


volving, as the firm itself says, from its founders’ spirit of “post-war optimistic regeneration,” Shepheard Epstein Hunter has maintained the bar at a high level into the

The greenfield project had an early concept of a “scheme of human scale buildings and courtyards growing from the centre of the site, with a clear circulation pattern of a north-south spine separating vehicles and pedestrians, and canopies and buildings offering shelter.” The mixed use programme has a generally mixed layout creating a “lively and active campus,” with residential on upper floors, teaching in the middle floors, and ground floors “given over to social and communal uses.” She adds that the spine “has allowed the university to grow outwards without losing coherence, and with minimal disruption.”

Working practices

The studio takes a flexible approach to deploying staff on projects. Depending on the size and complexity, a director, associate or lead architect is assigned, and each will be hands-on. However, as it’s a relatively small team, all staff are required to be flexible, potentially working on a variety of projects, which may be at different stages.


Phase One of Space Park Leicester is a £20m building for research as well as collaboration in ‘space-enabled’ technologies


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