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OSA REVIEW: Cullinan Studio, OxArch Resilience Lecture

In the latest OxArch lecture, Roddy Langmuir from Cullinan Studio spoke about collaboration as a design methodology and their work on the National Automotive Innovation Centre.

Credit: Cullinan Studio

Cullinan Studio pride themselves in their holistic approach to design and their active interest in embracing and incorporating innovation into their work. In the words of Roddy Langmuir, their methodology is an iterative process of going backwards, forwards and sideways in order to establish a direction, a narrative, unique to each of their projects.

During the presentation, it became evident that the practice’s strive towards embracing innovation is a key element not only of the architecture they produce but also of their very methodology of design. Illustrative of that was their work for Jaguar Land Rover on the National Automotive Innovation Centre in Coventry.


“I think it is a great time to be an architect. The construction industry is heading

towards a more collaborative approach.”


The NAIC is located within the University of Warwick and is envisioned to bring academia, engineering and automotive design together within a single campus. This brief served as a central concept for the development of Cullinan Studio’s design. It sparked the idea of the architecture of the building acting as a facilitator of collaboration - a system that brings together disciplines that are usually set apart and that encourages their interaction and joint work.

In that sense, one of the project’s greatest challenges was persuading the many sides involved of physically co-inhabiting the space. Not used to the idea of sharing key spaces between them, stakeholders needed to be convinced in the value of collaboration and cohabitation.

Credit: Cullinan Studio

Cullinan Studio carried this concept of fellowship over to the physical design of the building itself where a large timber roof covers a vast open space, a social hub, that symbolises togetherness. The design of the Centre successfully mediates between public and private facilities in order to create the sense of a community that strives towards innovation together.


“A building that celebrates its connection to the ground,

a building that celebrates its connection to the sky.”


The project meets a highly demanding brief - one that corresponds both to the needs of the users and the brand of the clients. It conveys ideas of fluidity of movement and connectivity through a precise design language. Architectural details, from the external cladding to the smooth oval edges of the interior, give a visual, physical representation of key concepts of the design.

The arrangement of the internal and external spaces furthers those ideas more subtly. Locating key circulation spaces along major routes and opening the building up towards the university campus as to not cut it off completely from its surroundings were important elements of Cullinan Studio’s strategy of uninterrupted and smooth flow through the Centre.

Concept sketches of NAIC.

Credit: Cullinan Studio

Another challenge unique to this project was working with a tech-savvy client. Expectations towards the design development were high and they quickly made evident how much the construction industry is lagging behind other disciplines.

A crucial element of this was the use of 3D modelling software. The clients’ demand of the quick production of 3D images at early stages of design development initially disrupted the traditional creative process in architecture where CGI’s are usually produced near its end. However, always open to innovation, Cullinan Studio quickly saw the advantage of early 3D modelling and the value it added to the project.


“It can’t be a bad thing that the client knows what he is going to get.”


Within the development of NAIC, BIM became a key component of the communication between client and designer. Presenting the clients with access to a computer model that they could pick up and change themselves allowed collaborative exploration of the design.

The opportunity to articulate ideas visually in a quick and precise manner and to receive and act on feedback promptly has created an architecture that belongs not only to its architects but also to its users. The final product is one that is nearly identical to its virtual representation and responds directly to its users’ needs in terms of scale, environment and atmosphere.

Credit: Cullinan Studio

During the follow up Q&A sessions, Roddy Langmuir once again highlighted how influential this project has been as a learning process - about realising the place of the construction industry within the innovation technology race, about the importance and benefits of collaboration, about the future of the architectural profession.

The idea that we, as an industry, are lagging behind all other design and build disciplines and how beneficial it would be to learn from each other came through Roddy’s talk as an important message about the future of architecture. It seems like Cullinan studio are one step ahead, embracing innovation and collaboration as part of their design methodology.

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