David Leech Architects came to our attention with the incredible project, 81 Hollybrook Grove in Dublin (see below). It’s a stunning and inventive use of a constrained plot to create a house full of inspiring ideas.
What’s on the horizon for the practice?
David: It’s quite coincidental that we have started with residential projects.
At the moment, a private developer has contacted us to design 6 houses for a plot in Ireland with a strong sense of shared space between the units. The great thing about it is that it ties in with research we’ve been doing called “Richly Economical”.
The research questions how we can create architecture with ambition for all kinds of projects and clients ranging from volume house builders to families living in the suburbs. Essentially, to make rich, experiential spaces with affordable means.
We are also working on a couple of other private housing projects in London at the moment.
As the office develops, we would love to be working on public projects. Also after my experience in previous practice working with the Tate on both the extension to the Tate Modern and refurbishment of Tate Britain I would love again to revisit this typology and work on gallery design.
What is a typical day for you?
David: My typical work day is framed by school and nursery runs in the morning and evening which makes my day quite concentrated.
Generally, I try to get into the office for before 8 am. A typical day can vary when you are setting up a practice because you have to be involved across many tasks, from the administrative to the design and production to teaching and lecturing.
How do you like to work with drawing and modelling?
David: I would not say I have a preference for modelling over drawing. In fact, the models are often used as a means to only make a 2d perspective image, which in a way is a form of drawing.
However what I am most interested in pursuing in the office is that we use specific drawings at specific times to describe certain aspects of a design. There is a lovely image of tools from a Hans Hollein book that is related to this below.
Whether it’s experiential, analytical or constructional, I think that different drawings offer different values - from how one feels in a space, to how one then builds that space, to then the conceives of the space.
These drawings need to exist at the same time and influence each other. Every drawing will obviously have a certain level of abstraction from the final built result and understanding what this abstraction is, is really important.
For instance, do we remove shadow to talk about colour tones, or include shadow to talk about relief?
Is it a line drawing which talks about rhythm and composition? Is the drawing scaleless? - allowing one to concentrate on form and whether it is a piece of furniture or a building is unimportant.
When making experiential drawings we never distort viewing angles but when making analytical drawings we often make them from views that will never be experienced but can be possibly understood, a birds eye axonometric that will describe or analyse a sequence of rooms/spaces for example.
"Outside of Europe, my favourite city would be Los Angeles."
Do you have a favourite building?
David: This is very difficult to answer because I try as much as possible to vary my influences. From pre-modern to contemporary, I like maintaining the widest spectrum of inspirations.
However, if I had to recommend something, it would be more of a pair of buildings to see together.
I would suggest seeing the Bagsværd Church by Jorn Utzon and its slightly lesser known neighbour, a nursing home by Hans Christian Hansen together.
They contrast each other nicely in terms of their form and use of light.
"... I do have lots of art and architecture books, over 1,000 in total when I last counted 5 years ago! "
Is there a particular myth you see in your field?
David: I think there needs to be more intention and thought on the part of students before they commit to a certain style of drawings and models. Often times, there are trends in drawing, which students and architects can sometimes follow blindly without asking themselves why they want to represent an architectural idea in a particular way.
Also, I would advise people to always be sceptical of the zeitgeist. Sometimes being in a library can be more refreshing than going online.
What do you like to listen to while working?
David: I listen to a really very broad range. I’m revisiting some of the music my father used to listen like Roxy Music, Peter Gabriel, Dire Straits and Billy Joel. Perhaps this reflects my architectural taste too.
If I’m trying to really concentrate, I would put on something more ambient like Max Richter, so yes quite varied.
"Whether it’s experiential, analytical or constructional, I think that different drawings offer different values - from how one feels in a space, to how one then builds that space, to then the conceives of the space."
What are you currently reading?
David: I don’t read as much as I would like to. At the moment, I’m getting through the Roald Dahl box set with my children!
Although I do have lots of art and architecture books, over 1,000 in total when I last counted 5 years ago! Mainly monographs or thematic books but not so many on theory.
I’m not able to pick my favourite book. Personally, I like having them around so I can reference them or revisit when I get lost in a project or I am seeking inspiration.
Do you have a favourite city in Europe?
David: London for sure.
Outside of Europe, my favourite city would be Los Angeles.
I love it for its artifice and collage-like quality. The equal weighting it gives to the special and to the ordinary gives it a compelling ambiguity. A lot of my favourite artists worked here, Robert Irwin, Lewis Baltz, David Hockney, and Ed Ruscha and I think they respected this beauty in high and low culture. There is also less burden of history and place than in Europe but still an obsession with it. It references across all influences. Architecturally I love the early Frank Gehry and the late Frank Lloyd Wright that is there. Gehry, when he was collaging all these elements of the domestic in a beach bum fashion, almost like beachcombing pieces of driftwood - his own house, the Indiana Ave houses and the Norton house all have this chance optimism that you feel in Venice. And then Wright making his cement block houses with an almost mystic quality of space and materiality. Really intense and emotional buildings. I think these two Franks, this variety, could only exist in Los Angeles.
Currently, contemporary media is pushing a resurgence of interest in postmodern architecture but more from an ironic or maximalist perspective. Gehry, and I think similarly Charles Moore and Matthew Turnbull, they just wanted to express architecture in a genuinely optimistic manner and not for wittiness or irony. I really like this positivity.