Matthew Ollier, partner and architect at Hawkins\Brown, believes that interaction, collaboration and exchange are things that are encouraged by one of the best buildings that have existed.He also shares that his team’s approach towards architecture is to promote community engagement and build upon social values. He mentions the reason for choosing architecture as a profession turned out from a process of elimination. There were plenty of subjects that did not entirely appeal to him, so he chose a profession that had a tangible result; that one can touch and experience.
His firm Hawkins\Brown centres their designs on sustainability. When asked about what their core guiding values and personal approach is towards the projects, he stated that “Social value underpins how we approach design across every sector and every scale of project. Ultimately, the social value must be seen as a responsibility across every stage of a building’s life, from design and construction through to occupation and demolition.” The firm strives to engage the local community as a valued stakeholder ensuring community activities and involvement for a project’s success. Another aspect of focus is buildings that engage with the users outward-looking providing improvements to the public realm that support community engagement. Architect Matthew Ollier believes that architecture should facilitate social needs and fulfilment.
Upon being asked about the kind of projects the firm will be taking up after expanding it to the North American market, the response was to focus on sector-based and specialisation based work. In terms of sector-based work, the firm will focus on higher-education, workplace and multi-family residential projects building on their existing European portfolio. The specialisation based work will look into sustainability and methods of construction as well as research-led design initiatives bringing a unique perspective to the market.
The firm has recently published a joint paper with JLL titled ‘Industrial Rehab’ investigating the value in re-purposing ex-industrial buildings to transform them into creative workplaces. They were successful in renovating the broadcast centre on the London 2012 Olympic site into a new creative campus and are looking forward to working along similar lines in Los Angeles.
The current projects that have been completed recently are a 50,000 sq ft TI project in Playa Vista for an international company which the firm considers as a milestone. There are also two large-scale mixed-use commercial projects in Hollywood, combining retail, workspace, and hospitality which is undergoing. They have also been working as Specialty Prefabrication Design Consultants on a new 1,300-bed student housing project for UC San Diego, in which they are showcasing their strengths and experience in creating a focus on a component-based approach for design and construction through industrialised methods of construction.
With respect to climate change, technology and construction, Matthew Ollier believes that architects have a great responsibility to be at the forefront for these major advancements in the industry. He says that technology offers incredible opportunities for anyone in the construction industry to work in a close-knit environment in an efficient and integrated way of driving innovation. At his firm HB, he says that they are all invested to explore new initiatives addressing sustainability and construction improvements. He gave an example of a recently released open-source Carbon Reduction tool kit (HBERT) that links directly to BIM software, enabling designers to make better and informed decisions around the selection of materials to improve the embodied carbon footprint of each project. Because of this initiative, the firm has won AJ100 Best Use of Technology Award 2020 in the UK.
Matthew Ollier believes that advancement in construction is long overdue and with modern methods of construction available now, architects must push the boundaries of what is just possible. He is focused on destroying myths about terms like prefabrication that brings negative association about design quality.
Changes due to COVID-19 have been swift. When asked about how the pandemic will shape design further he says that it has given a much-needed shakeup in terms of how we work and how our workplaces are designed and operated. He says that there is likely to be a shift in emphasis on what the workplace will be used for and how it will be designed now. For many industries, it will become a showcase of the brand, identity and culture of the organisation but may not support all activities. He adds that it is becoming quite evident that office spaces might not be the most productive for certain activities. Individual tasks should be done at home and collaborative work in the office space which will inevitably affect the design. He believes that rigidity in design will get eliminated and more free and flexible spaces will emerge that attracts a greater level of interaction. Footfall in the office space will reduce and designers will be challenged with creating spaces that support fluidity of functions in a single space. Aspects like daylight and connections to the outdoors supporting healthier lifestyle and productive environments will become a focal point.
When asked about looking towards the future and what ideas architects and designers have to keep in mind from now onwards, he replies that it is their responsibility to help reduce the impact of climate change. Buildings are large contributors to overall carbon emissions, so it is imperative to adopt a sensible design approach and solutions. He emphasises on a robust and diverse public infrastructure coupled with a sense of urban placemaking leading to a positive change.