These four architects from a tiny 15-strong practice in sleepy Twickenham on the fringe of west London are as multinational as any turbo-charged celeb practice in the centre.
Luis is Portuguese and has worked in Angola, Grahame is South African, Craig is from Jersey. The only mainland Brit is Tony from Liverpool, but he has worked in South Africa and the Seychelles.
“The Seychelles are boring,” says Tony. “The resorts are paradise. But everything comes in by boat, and all the meat is frozen. I got a job designing holiday homes, but I gave up after four months.”
Luis’ southern hemisphere experience beats that. “Luanda in Angola is the worst place in the world. It’s the second most dangerous city in the world. And the traffic congestion is much worse than in London: it takes five hours to travel 12km.”
Craig’s rites of passage entailed a completely different profession. “In the seventies, I dropped out for seven years and played in a five-piece rock band. We even made it on to one of John Peel’s live sessions.”
Even so, Craig’s musical career wasn’t short of the odd foreign thrill. It took him to Portugal, where he was rescued by the army. “We were playing in a big sports hall in Coimbra. This was in 1971 at the time of the revolution against the dictatorship, and there was a big demonstration going on. When I opened the doors to let people out of the sports hall, crowds were pushing to come in. Eventually the army came in with machine guns and cleared everyone out.”
Craig sees parallels between music and architecture. “The hardest thing in the world is to reach the top 20 – in buildings as well as in music. It’s the simple buildings that really sing out – like Gehry’s Guggenheim in Bilbao.”
Then Craig expands his argument from music and architecture to cover sailing and aviation. “A good quality classical guitar has a rosewood base that resonates, a softer cedar top that vibrates and an ebony neck and fingerboard that doesn’t bend. It produces fantastic sound. Yachts and aircraft are also simple objects that perform well. There’s no bullshit in an aircraft. Architecture should be like that.”
The others pick up the theme of superficiality in architecture. “Today, glamour is everything,” says Tony. And Luis adds: “Twenty-first century architecture doesn’t relate to economics. It’s 99.9% related to image. Your building has to have a good image or you’re bullshit.”
So for those eager to see the pure no-nonsense design principles of guitars, yachts and aircraft applied to architecture, perhaps they should head for the western fringe of London.
Chosen watering hole: The William Webb-Ellis, Twickenham
Ambience: glitzy Wetherspoon makeover of high-street bank
Topics: overseas thrills & spills, guitars, yachts and aeroplanes
Drinks drunk: five rounds of London Pride and Oranjeboom
Craig Anders partner
Grahame Cruickshanks project architect
Tony Nuttall project architect
Luis Gaspar architectural assistant
Martin Spring Building magazine