...for Surface Architects

We’re in a real East End Victorian pub, all wooden floor boards, a jar of pickled eggs on the counter and brash young cosmopolitans.

“I used to live above the office,” says Richard about the practice’s converted Victorian shop around the corner. “But now we’ve sold the flat and bought a house in Kent. So after nights out like this, I sleep in the office basement.” Curled up, that is, with all the bikes belonging to office staff.

“And I kip on the company sofa, as far away from Richard as possible,” chips in Andy, who lives in the Weald.

“You don’t actually need a physical office any more,” muses Sam. “Just a web address.” Then he turns even more philosophical: “Transience is pertinent to me.”

“That’s because he’s homeless,” says Richard.

“Yeah, I have a landlord who hasn’t been paying the mortgage. I was up in court to try to get the eviction date put back.”

Sam’s architectural career is equally transient. “I took my part one degree at Cambridge University, and then on my year out, they closed the part two course. Actually that was a good thing, because otherwise I wouldn’t have landed up with Surface Architects.”

“When Sam came here, he wasn’t sure what architecture was all about,” says Andy.

“We like ambiguity,” says Richard, mysteriously.

“He’s been converted now,” adds Andy.

As for Carlo from Milan, Richard says: “He’s very assimilated. He even cycles to work.”

“I used to be a rugby player in Milan,” chips in the Italian anglophile.

Even so, Carlo doesn’t always catch on to the rollicking architectural in-talk of his English colleagues. “Sometimes he hasn’t quite understood our explanations of projects,” says Richard. “But this has given us several moments of serendipity. He’s asked some basic questions that have given us completely new ideas. That’s happened two or three times.”

Richard then turns cultural. “I’ve just seen the new Anthony Minghella film, Breaking and Entering, and it’s wonderful. But its depiction of architects is bollocks. And there was an earlier American film called Indecent Proposal that gave a classical romantic image of an architect.”

Andy and Richard then slip in a few thinly veiled plugs for the architectural awards that their angular Lock-keepers cottage in London Docklands nearly won. “We were at the RIBA conference in Venice and we’re going to MIPIM next year,” adds Richard.

Just like Broadway Malyan, I wonder aloud.

Quick as a flash, Richard retorts: “Surface Architects are not the new Broadway Malyan.”

Chosen watering hole: The Griffin off Old Street, east London 
Ambience: East End rub-a-dub 
Topics: Finding a home, the strengths of ambiguity, architects in films 
Drinks: Five rounds of London Pride, Guinness, Kronenbourg and San Miguel

Richard Scott director
Andy MacFee director
Carlo Venegoni architectural assistant
Sam McElhinney architectural assistant
Martin Spring Building magazine