Those concepts run throughout their work and heavily influence the design for their own workspace, located in a railway arch on Great Suffolk Street in London.
Tom Lewith, Doug Hodgson and Owen Jones set up the firm ten years ago after working on a commission by global design and architecture magazine Wallpaper*, which saw the friends collaborate on a project to design a contemporary dolls house. Their winning design was based on a vertical lattice structure which they later adapted for a real-life build.
As their practice has grown, TDO has increasingly focused on mixed used developments, combining homes and apartments with commercial spaces, but they’ve also worked on one-off residential projects. At Old Church Street, which is thought to be the oldest road in Chelsea, they paired brick and bronze to transform a Victorian terraced house into a contemporary home, whilst their Fab House project, delivered in partnership with TV presenter George Clark, created a modern terrace of prefabricated houses on a former shipyard in North Shields, Tyneside.
Their own space, in the arch in Southwark, is simple, light and airy. Tom said: “We moved from Hackney in 2012 as we started to expand the business. We liked the idea of using an inside-out space – not a building or something someone had designed, but something that has another purpose. It’s a C-shaped, tall space that’s really unusual and shows that you don’t need to have the maximum amount of space to have the best development opportunity. The space has become about our practice. We haven’t had to worry about designing our own building to reflect the practice’s work.”
Having relocated, TDO has also benefitted from being part of Southwark’s business community. Relationships that they’ve built with other organisations in the area have brought in new work for them, including their latest project to deliver a new phase of the Low Line Project. Tom said: “We know Better Bankside, who are leading the initiative, through being based within their area so we were approached as part of a selected list of practices and then were part of a competitive pitch process with three or four other firms. Our understanding of the arches, experience with adaptive uses and ability to take existing spaces and give them new functions gave us a real advantage in the pitch. We know the process that needs to be undertaken, having fitted-out our own arch, and we’ve established an excellent reputation as a young, innovative practice with new ideas, who deliver interesting projects.”
The Low Line is a walking destination that runs along the length of the railway viaducts spanning Bankside, London Bridge and Bermondsey, and linking existing and new creative and industrial hubs. The project is led by Better Bankside, with partners The Arch Company, Southwark Council, Team London Bridge, Blue Bermondsey and Borough Market. TDO has been commissioned to adapt four vacant arches across three sites along the Low Line. Tom said: “It’s an interesting brief that is firmly focused on improving the local area by providing new hubs for sustainable business and by enhancing the appearance of the arches themselves. The four arches will need to meet a range of uses; the first site will be a bike hub for a cycle superhighway and a green logistics centre for local businesses to arrange bulk delivery by electric bike; the second is a mixed-use theatre, gallery and lecture space; and the third is a work space and centre for small businesses. Our aim is for the design solutions we offer to retain and celebrate the historic character of the arches, while providing a benchmark for the regeneration of the spaces around them.
“We’re at tender stage with contractors for two of the sites at the moment, with the aim to complete the work in the first few months of 2021. To maintain the character of the spaces, we’re keen to retain the ability to see as much of the brickwork as possible to keep the sense of sitting in an arch. They are fascinating and powerful spaces and we’re looking into using Nissen Sheds (the galvanised building developed in World War One) to help follow the language of the arches and provide a lining solution. They should interact well with the shape of the arch and create a really interesting space; a hybrid of brick arch and industrial shed.”
80 Great Suffolk St, London, SE1