allows us to produce accurate models in a fraction of the time it used to. We’ve recently used it to build a large model of part of the Midland Metropolitan Hospital in intricate detail [pictured left], which was recently on show in the RA Summer Exhibition’s Architecture room, together with a smaller model of a circular library in Lithuania. Nothing, though, can replace the traditional lead pencil and paper for the thinking process!

All images © Edward Williams Architects

WHAT’S YOUR CURRENT FAVOURITE MATERIAL FOR USE IN DESIGNS? We carefully select the right materials for each project and detail them meticulously to produce something unique, long-lasting and sustainable. I love materials and spend a lot of time exploring and trying to get the best out each in a traditional or a new way. Timber has always been one of our favourite materials to work with and we are now pushing it further in order to get fast, dry and quiet construction using it as a structural material too. Our next project onsite is a CLT construction. The last project we completed was a modern timber refurbishment in an old brick mews which we transformed into a beautiful office. For many years, I have researched colour. I am convinced that colour choices for the built environment cannot be arbitrary or a matter of taste. For the end result to be a balanced and meaningful composition that enhances its context, colours have to be decided by the same rigorous process as other design and material choices. The embedded colour of natural materials needs to be controlled together with the applied colours. So I became kind of an expert in creating balanced colour interior and external spaces.

DO YOU STRUGGLE TO TAKE TIME OFF – HOW DO YOU RELAX? When you have your own studio, it is always difficult to cut off completely. We tend to take short frequent breaks but we stay connected while we are relaxing! We have recently completed a refurbishment in our


family home in Genova, my home town in Italy. It was a challenging project in a historic building [see image on previous page] and it has now become our perfect place to retreat and entertain friends and family.

DO YOU SEE GENDER BALANCE IN UK ARCHITECTURE AS AN IMPROVING SITUATION? I hope so. I am not sure how much the construction industry as a whole is actually changing its attitude but we are certainly doing as much as we can to mentor women in the office so they can grow in the profession and have the skills to get respected by peers in order to enable them to make the most of their capacity. Too often women have to spend too much time and effort to get recognised, and this is a terrible waste of resources. So far, our experience and strength are the only things that can overcome this problem.

HOW BIG AN EMPHASIS DO YOU PUT ON USING TECHNOLOGY WHEN DESIGNING BUILDINGS? We have been investing in sophisticated software since we started the studio. Our projects being developed in Revit allows us to quickly produce sketch models and images for interactive review with stakeholders – and it supports the design development process. The effect of all of this re-engineering is that we are now two to three times as efficient as a traditional architecture office.

Our most recent innovation is our in-house 3D printing and modelling, which

ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT BREXIT IN TERMS OF ITS EFFECT ON YOU AND YOUR PRACTICE? Of course! Where do I start?! Whichever side you stand, everyone is worried. The uncertainty makes the client more conservative, either just sitting and waiting or in the best case, taking much less risk. This has a devastating knock-on effect in the construction world. The economic impact when Brexit is actually implemented will be very detrimental across the board. We will not have access to the European procurement system which will restrict our choice of projects. Hiring people will be much more difficult as there simply are not enough UK students/architects. Needing visas for European staff, too, will increase our costs considerably. Even as architects, we are considering stockpiling! A disaster all-round, and hard times to come.


I am involved in the ULI (Urban Land Institute) Healthcare and Life Sciences Council in the US, so I travel twice a year for the meetings. The UK ULI is trying to develop a similar council and I hope I can contribute significantly to this goal, bridging US and UK experiences. I also want to get more involved in higher education, both working with universities and going back to guest lecturing and teaching. Whenever I do so I get a buzz from the students’ enthusiasm and curiosity and it stimulates me to do more research. I have one particular research exercise in my back pocket which I hope will result in a very interesting breakthrough in the use of materials. Personally, I would love also to spend more time following contemporary art, a passion I have had for years. I have been focusing recently on Italian galleries to discover new Italian talents.

Laura Carrara-Cagni is a director of Edward Williams Architects


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