London: quirky homes and cutting edge offices

KIN Director, Leah Gallagher’s summary of the London leg of the Dulux Study Tour Prize

The study tour presents an amazing opportunity to enter the offices of world-renowned architects, visit their projects and tour the city with local architects. The architecture offices we visited in London were an astonishing collection of workplaces. Architects working at AL_A walked around barefoot on plush, pink carpet. Zaha Hadid Architects’ office entry was a sculptural art gallery, with a sweat-shop of architects beavering away on the floors above.  A chess set designed by Zaha can be purchased from the gallery for $18,000AUD - so you can have Zaha’s style at home (for a price)!

Zaha’s office continues her legacy, where the focus is on sculptural towers and futuristic thinking for our cities. It was fascinating (and alarming) to hear how the office envisages future housing where you will be profile matched to enjoy the company of your neighbour, kitchen and living areas will be communal and you can return to your cell for sleeping. 

The office of Pritzker Prize Laureate, Sir Norman Foster functions almost like a university campus with libraries, workshops, and material testing facilities. There are specialized teams, even including a department of musicians who compose music for videos of 3D renders.


Back to exploring London. Our city tour guide was David Garrard who is an academic and architectural conservation specialist. David has a great ability (possibly it’s just being English) to provide a polite critique of London and the mixture of buildings it houses. 

We started our tour west of the city centre in Shepard’s Bush to visit the Tin House by Henning Stummel Architects – which was a delight to see. From the street, the house is hidden and we were presented with a double height brick arch, which was entered through a mini barn door. It’s a playful way to enter into a home – an idea which continues as you move through the site. 

Arranged as a series of individual pavilions, the home allows the living areas to connect around a courtyard pool. The home feels quiet and comfortable; the rooms are akin to small galleries with skylights adding a sense of volume. Henning also showed us custom furniture he has made, which is simple and rich in texture – much like the rest of the home. 


We visited the family home and studio of distinguished artist Richard Woods, The WoodBlock house by dRMM. The house is entirely constructed out of glass and prefabricated timber panels (CLT cross laminated timber). Richard Woods is famous for his painted plywood works and he collaborated with the architects on the cladding and staircase. The home is split over 4 levels and there are surprise pockets of space around every corner that feel ad-hoc, relaxed and creative.

We also talked to David more about his work and interest in conservation. We all had local examples of controversial heritage projects and discussed with David what he thinks the future of conservation is – what is worthy of being kept in a modern city and will politics change in the future to favour more commercial outcomes? 

I’ve been thinking about this conversation further since I’ve been home. Brisbane has a style responding to our ‘timber and tin’ tradition and the Brisbane City Council character overlays. I think it might be holding us back and possibly creating a local style that is not as innovative as it could be. 

Only one stop out of three and I was full of ideas!

Picture credits: Joseph O'Meara, Alex de Rijke and Jim Stephenson.