alma-nac are a London-based architecture practice known for the level of inventiveness, colour and care they bring to every project. Selected projects include the 'Photography Workshop', a beautiful pre-fab timber house named 'House in the Woods' in Hampshire and the 'London Animal Hospital', a round-the-clock emergency hospital for pets.
We met up with Chris Bryant, one third of alma-nac's founding team at alma-nac’s studio in Waterloo.
Chris: White coffee
How did alma-nac begin?
Caspar and Tristan were in the year above me and we ended up in the same unit in the Bartlett. After leaving, the 3 of us stayed in touch even though we were in different practices and countries.
Eventually, we did some competitions together and decided to start the practice together. It’s now been 8 years since we began.
Tell me about an ideal day for you.
Chris: I do enjoy getting up early even though I’m not very good at it and certainly not a natural ‘morning person’. Design discussions around the table with the rest of the studio is something I always look forward too as is the opportunity to meet people and learn about something new.
I enjoy a game of football so that would be in there too.
Lastly, dinner in Mangal 2, a famous Turkish restaurant in Dalston, followed by some good music would be a grand finish.
What do you like to listen to while working?
Chris: We have a box in the office where everyone submits 3 albums every so often and they are drawn out at random.
There’s Wu-tang Clan, Nas, Radiohead and some new punk in there.
Otherwise, we default to something like ‘Late Night Tales’.
What tool, digital or analogue, can you not live without?
Chris: Obviously I use the pen a lot but my answer would be caffeine in the studio and alcohol for when we go to the pub as an office.
With caffeine, you get that boost of clarity.
With alcohol, the mind is a little more fluid and ideas become less restrained. There is a heightened sense of positivity, camaraderie and fearlessness.
If you could invite anyone to dinner, whether dead or alive, who would it be?
Chris: I would go for writers and comedians over architects.
Perhaps, Mark Twain the author and Victoria Wood the comedian.
They have the added advantage of being from different eras.
3 people doesn't seem enough, so I'll invite Oliver Sacks too.
What are you currently reading?
Chris: I just finished ‘Pigs Have Wings’ by P.G. Wodehouse and I’m reading ‘The Order of Time’ by Carlo Rovelli at the moment. It's a dissection of time as we know it including the idea that there is no such thing as future or past. I'm still trying to get my head around the idea that time is granular rather than continuous.
You have the homepage of Dezeen for the day. What would you do with it?
Chris: As an experiment, I might make it unavailable for the day and redirect it to a tasteful ‘404’ page.
Maybe even turning the internet off for the day. That would be bold.
My backup option would be to replace the Dezeen homepage with the following quote from Goethe for the day:
‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.’ It was on a postcard my mom sent me on the day we started the practice.
Imagine it’s a late night and you have deadline. What’s the takeaway craving? (We are not promoting working late.)
Chris: Turkish food. Without a doubt. If I had to pick a dish, it would be a lamb shish with quality Turkish bread.
Any advice for a younger self or for someone entering the field?
Chris: Taking risks is really important. We agreed as a trio when we started the practice in the recession that if it didn’t work out, we could always go back to working for someone else.
You shouldn’t think of risks as a win/lose situation as such. You are having a new experience and going through that is a positive in itself.
Do you have a favourite city in Europe?
Chris: Often when I travel somewhere new, I can picture myself living there. My mind goes to Berlin instinctively but it is a really special place. It has a very positive and distinctive ‘looseness’ to its urban atmosphere.
Paris would be a close second.
Quickfire round! Pick 1 of the 2 choices that comes to your mind.
Hip hop or Jazz? Jazz
Red or Blue? Blue
Kahn or Aalto? Kahn
Kitchen or Living Room? Kitchen
Brick or concrete? Concrete
Spicy or Non-spicy? Spicy
Summer or Winter? Winter
Museum or Library? Library
Serif or Sans-serif? Serif