Modern Masters: architect Sandy Rendel on setting up his own studio and bridging the gap between town and country

In our ‘Modern Masters’ series, we’re meeting with some of our favourite architects, designers and makers to profile their practice and get their unique insights on architecture, interiors and design inspiration.

This week we caught up with Sandy Rendel, founder of the award-winning young practice Sandy Rendel Architects, to discuss the path to creating his own studio and his fascination with domestic design.

“The practice was formed from a desire to get back to a more direct engagement with architecture and, put simply, the basic nitty gritty of constructing buildings. I spent the 12 years beforehand working with some fantastic designers on a wide range of projects, both in the UK and abroad, but what was missing was a real involvement in every aspect of a project – from the very first conversation through to the moment of handover.

“As a practice we want to design buildings that make a difference, whatever their scale, use or context. We’re interested in the way people live, how communities change and thrive and the way that our work can influence that.

“I find it fascinating how domestic projects contribute to their setting, whether that’s rural or urban, and how they can change your relationship to a place. Residential architecture has always influenced the character of our streets and landscapes so I want to make buildings that go a step further; buildings that respond to the particularities of their setting.

“We’re unusual for a small London practice, in that we have an equal amount of work in both urban and rural locations. There’s an interesting duality in designing for these different contexts, and they very much inform each other. For instance, thinking about a new parkland villa brings a different, often refreshing, way of thinking to a constrained urban infill project that we might be working on at the same time, and vice versa.

“One of our recent projects – a house in Lewes which is currently for sale with The Modern House – combines a spectacular rural setting with a site attached to a strong industrial past. The house sits at a bend in the river on the edge of the town with a panoramic view across the town and nature reserve. The site was formerly used as a wharf for the old quarry works, behind which formed the dramatic and imposing backdrop of the chalk cliffs.

“In the design we’ve tried to reflect, but also abstract, the traditional vernacular of the area. The choice of materials, most evidently the Cor-Ten steel façade, alludes to the industrial genealogy of the site and surrounds.

“At the moment I’m also keenly following the new models of development and home ownership which are emerging. Whether it’s initiatives from local authorities, like Croydon’s Brick by Brick scheme or individual Co-Housing Groups working on projects like Henley Halebrown Rorrison’s Copper Lane project.

“I think these approaches can challenge the monopoly of the large scale housebuilders, and unlock smaller development opportunities where designs can be tailored to particular clients. It’s taken a long time to pick up the mantle from the successes of Walter Segal’s community self-build projects in Lewisham, but it finally feels like we’re on the way!”

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