• Emily Walsh

OSA Review: If Do, OxArch Reconstruction Lecture


Three beginnings / four projects

If Do were the first practice to talk for the OXArch lecture series, Reconstruction. If Do is a firm which starts every project with the question What if?

The lecture described four projects which illustrated the practice’s ethics, making buildings which positively impact their wider surroundings. Buildings have a huge impact on the environment producing a third of CO2 and consuming 25% of global water. If Do aim to produce buildings which are aware of their environmental impact are able to become part of communities. Historically, buildings have had this power; barn raisings brought together communities to create something for themselves, giving the greater significance to the project.

‘What if the places in which we live and work could make us healthier and happier?’

The first project discussed was a workshop for the furniture artist Joseph Walsh. The project aimed to blend with its historical surroundings whilst maximising the efficiency of the workshop. The building used local materials to emulate a cottage which had become the focal point of the site. This was the first project of If Do and set out the strong morality the firm has.

‘What if we could create beautiful buildings that work for the environment as well as for us?’

The second project was in conjunction with a charity to repopulate spaces which are waiting to be developed. The site in Lower Marsh, London was an empty shop and the brief was to turn it into a coworking space for small businesses. The tight budget led to creative uses of materials, mainly OSB and paint. However, the final design created a branding for the building and became a catalyst to influence more projects in the courtyard area behind.

‘What if we could make spaces that everyone could enjoy?’

The third project was St Teresa’s school, a new sixth form centre in a woodland site. The school had lost its connection to its surroundings and through views and courtyard areas, this project aimed to remedy this. The project used modular construction to reduce costs and create a sustainable building showing it can be cost effective to make better buildings.

‘What if we designed our cities for people to cherish and develop the places in which they live?’

The final project is the practice’s best-known project. The Dulwich pavilion was a temporary structure designed to become a multifunctional space which housed a bar, performances and other events. The goal of the pavilion was to boost publicity for the gallery and the ‘instagram-able’ nature of If Do’s design enabled this. The pavilion was built with mirrors, reflecting both the gardens onto the gallery and the gallery onto the gardens, blurring the line between the two. The main challenge If Do encountered with this project was that temporary buildings have a very high carbon footprint due to their short life span. This was overcome by giving the pavilion a second life as it has been moved to a local primary school to extend its life.

‘What if we worked to achieve all of this? - We do.’

Overall, If Do were an inspiring young practice, they have shown that you can have strong morals and use them to build a unique practice. All projects are a challenge and If Do are trying to create a better architecture by rising to each challenge.

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