EBBA Architects, formerly estudio b, was established by Benni Allan.
They have worked inventively across a spectrum of scales and with a diverse range of clients including Erdem, Hypebeast, Topman and Bold Tendencies, in places such as Tate Modern and the National Portrait Gallery.
The practice is currently working on a series of installations and the experience design for St John at Hackney in collaboration with John Pawson.
What’s on the horizon for EBBA?
Benni: The studio is still very much in its infancy and we are enjoying finding our feet. The newly emerged name of the practice is us maturing, and a consideration of the type of work we want to focus on moving forward. estudio b has been around for nearly 10 years, when I completed the first design for a family friend in Spain and has served us as a place for more experimental projects.
The studio is still fascinated by temporary and ephemeral work, but we are keen to find ways of addressing issues in contemporary architecture at a more social level; which are quite difficult to realise through installation type projects. We want to bring the experience we have in the small-scale and our understanding of finding ways to deliver unique buildings with the minimum of means to help advance cultural, community and civic projects.
We truly value collaboration and working with clients who are as excited about projects as we are. Looking forward is always a bit daunting but with it brings opportunities to consider how you want the practice to develop and what sort of projects you would like to be involved with. Ultimately, our aim is to make thoughtful work that impacts people and places in a positive way.
What is an ideal way for you to start your day?
Benni: For me, I’m an early bird. I think exercise is the best way for me to start the day.
It would either be a visit to the gym or a cycle through Victoria Park.
Going to the gym is where I go to ‘switch off’ and unwind.
Finally, stopping at Broadway Market for a coffee before coming in would complete the morning for me.
Do you have a favourite building?
Benni: There are so many!
One that immediately comes to mind is Grundtvig’s Church in Copenhagen for its scale, and at the same time the sense of it being a truly crafted building.
Secondly would be Siza’s Boa Nova Tea House in Porto. We travelled there earlier this year with a group of students. There are not many buildings that can offer so many important lessons to someone studying architecture. Even for me it was the moment I really understood why Siza is so highly regarded in the profession. It is something that you have to experience to really understand.
Another, and quite different, would be the naturally lit Monet Room in Naoshima. The art island was redeveloped by Tadao Ando, who made large insertions into the ground which are barely visible. To experience the room, you have to take your shoes off before walking onto this amazing tiled floor. In my opinion, it’s best experienced on your own when you are the only person in the room looking at a 10m wide Monet painting of his Water Lilies.
"Another book I finished recently is ‘Species of Spaces’ by Georges Perec... It’s such an eloquent description of the everyday. His observations are simple and remarkably architectural in nature."
What do you like to listen to while working?
Benni: If I’m detailing, I tend to listen to electronic or techno.
I do listen to more relaxing electronic music like Sampha for leisure.
What are you currently reading?
Benni: I just finished ‘Homo Deus', the follow-up book to Yuval Noah Harari’s ‘Sapiens’.
It talks about the challenges humans might face with the development of technology in the future.
Another book I finished recently is ‘Species of Spaces’ by Georges Perec. I actually read it once in university and now re-reading it while in practice has given me a new perspective on its content.
It’s such an eloquent description of the everyday. His observations are simple and remarkably architectural in nature.
"One that immediately comes to mind is Grundtvig’s Church in Copenhagen for its scale, and at the same time the sense of it being a truly crafted building."
Imagine it’s a late night and you have a deadline. What’s the takeaway craving? (We are not promoting working late.)
Benni: To be honest, I’m not a takeaway person. However, if pushed, I would go to the Japanese Canteen nearby and get some rice with katsu curry.
Is there someone you’re inspired by on Instagram?
Benni: I really like Anne Holtrop's feed @studioanneholtrop
There is a unique level of care they take to showcasing their process and projects that I enjoy.
"Learning to appreciate time in the work you do is invaluable and lends itself to developing work that is very personal and rewarding."
Any advice for a younger self or for someone entering the field?
Benni: I would advise finding your own approach that allows you to be different. If you have the conviction to pursue something out of the ordinary, you’ll learn so much more and discover things you never even knew you were interested in.
This is something I wasn’t told explicitly by someone. It has been more of a journey of personal discovery which has evolved through various experiences both in practice and through travel. If I could say anything it would be to go travel.
I’m also quite inspired by the processes of practices like Flores & Prats and De Vylder Vinck Taillieu and how they take time to develop their projects. Learning to appreciate time in the work you do is invaluable and lends itself to developing work that is very personal and rewarding.
Do you have a favourite city in Europe?
Benni: It continually changes.
I was really impressed with Amsterdam on my second visit.
Copenhagen and Berlin would also be on my list. Every time I visit these places, I get inspired.
Quickfire round! Pick 1 of the 2 choices that comes to your mind.
Hiphop or Jazz? Hip hop
Red or Blue? Red
Kahn or Aalto? Kahn
Kitchen or Living Room? Kitchen
Brick or concrete? Concrete
Summer or Winter? Summer
Serif or Sans-serif? Sans-serif
Museum or Library? Museum