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Rodrigo Moreno Masey - moreno:masey architecturestudio

23rd Oct 2014

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It’s rare to see restoration and reinvention on the same page, yet moreno:masey Architecture Studio has managed to skilfully combine the two over the past seven years. Nowhere is this more evident than in its reinterpretation of Clarendon Works, a former brickmaking factory in the heart of Notting Hill.

An industrial site densely surrounded by quiet residential streets, the final chapter in Clarendon Works’ transformation from commercial space to family house was always going to happen. The question was how, and to what effect?

With a background in residential development but a more recent involvement in the creation and realisation of some of the capital’s best-known restaurants, practice director Rodrigo Moreno Masey brought a wealth of knowledge of commercial spaces and their capabilities to Clarendon Works. The history of the property is beautifully conveyed through the use of raw materials such as heavy metal, wood and stone, which combine in an elegant and complete way.

A thoughtful yet engaging character, Moreno Masey is quick to point out that a greater part of the success of Clarendon Works was down to a client who had a knowledge and interest in architecture. Take a minute as we did with one of London's leading architects...

Rodrigo, properties like Clarendon Works are special and rare. How did you become involved?
The client bought this property with planning permission and we were asked to take a look and see how we could push the boundaries of what had been proposed even further. This wasn’t the first property the client had tackled and he had clear ideas as to how the space might work. We were able to work effectively alongside each other to translate his brief into something real.

What was most challenging and most enjoyable about Clarendon Works?
One of the biggest challenges was defining spaces for living in a building with no previous residential history. The staircase was an interesting problem as it was located at the heart of the building and needed to be functional and somewhat anonymous, yet continue the vein of strong detailing that was apparent elsewhere. The top floor and roof space was also very thought-provoking. The pitch of the roof is incredibly high and here we created one large master bedroom suite with a bespoke shower falling straight from the roofline. We also created bespoke pieces for the bathroom to suit the angles of the space and managed to fit a discreet private terrace into the suite. One of the most enjoyable elements was seeing our architecture as the backdrop for the client’s incredible collection of black-and-white photography and beautiful furniture.

How do you create a family home amid such iconic architecture?
In every family house you need areas that are defined by their purpose. There needed to be one stunning floor for the grown-ups, and so the first floor was commandeered as entertaining space. Like the rest of the building it has a total east/west aspect and so it made sense to open it up into one huge area to maximise the space. The second and third floors were zoned as places to sleep, while the basement was set aside for the kids as a place to play, relax and learn. This separation helped to put some harmony into the way the clients live in this house.

How does what you’ve achieved at Clarendon Works reflect on the practice’s capabilities?
For me as an architect, the love of the job is strongly tied to the idea of solving the problems that every project throws up. Every building has capabilities beyond what is initially apparent, and when you fully unlock the potential, only then do you get an end result that is really fantastic. The best way to design these spaces is to look at what it could be at its absolute best. This might be way beyond the budget allowed, but if you start from that point and then work backwards, you manage to define what’s really important.

Tell us more about moreno:masey Architecture Studio...
I started out at Michaelis Boyd Associates before establishing my own practice in 2007 as a team of five, in response to our appointment to work on the development of Trafalgar One. Since then we have divided our time between residential and commercial projects. Our commercial work is generally about fast and faultless delivery and has really given us the drive to get every detail right within a condensed timescale. When we carry this knowledge and expertise across to our residential projects, we have great success in producing detailed layout improvement and internal area optimisation to create the best possible developments. We are often part of the pre-acquisition team, appraising new sites and advising on planning matters.

What has been your most important project?
Definitely the development of Trafalgar One. The client on that job took a huge leap of faith using an unknown practice to manage its delivery. Every single detail was individually considered and so much of what was specified was created specifically for the project. It was the most intense yet incredible opportunity and we are still so pleased to have been involved. The project also won two awards for us: Best New Apartment in the Evening Standard New Homes Awards, and Best Apartment in the 2013 International Design and Architecture Awards.

What are you working on at the moment?
We are working on large-scale private refurbishments in Holland Park, Chelsea and Covent Garden. We are also working on several restaurant projects in central London.

How important are issues of sustainability and environmental consideration in your work?
Sustainability and environmental design are a huge consideration in our residential projects. We work with the clients to ensure that each building works to the best of its ability. I strongly believe that the biggest waste in the industry is poor design, leading to periodic, seemingly compulsory refurbishment by new owners. Good design in itself can ensure that buildings are fit for purpose for more than one single occupation.

You are based in Chiswick. What do you like about that area?
It’s a lovely place to work, and it’s close to home. There is a diversity of architecture in Chiswick that you don’t get in many other areas. There are historic Norman Shaw houses in Bedford Park, classic Victorian houses in the toast rack of streets along the High Road, 1950s and 1960s houses in Grove Park and some of the finest historic houses in London along the river. Every local project that presents itself is completely different, and that’s continually challenging.

Is there a dream project still waiting to happen for moreno:masey architecturestudio?
Like any architectural practice we would like to develop our own new-build model. So much of our work in London is refurbishment as sites for new-build properties are few and far between. The refurbishment element has developed to the point where houses are now all but rebuilt, but that final part of the jigsaw – being able to create a bespoke shell – would complete the picture for us.

Away from work, how do you like to spend your time?
I have young children, so I don’t have that much free time, but when I do, travelling with my family is my greatest indulgence.

What has been your greatest life achievement to date?
I am a family man and my greatest achievement is just that. Professionally, however, it would be to establish and grow a practice that is busy and producing work that I am proud of every day.

View Clarendon Works currently for sale through Domus Nova

View moreno:masey Architecture Studio on the Domus Nova Architecture Guide

moreno:masey Architecture Studio, The Barley Mow Centre, 10 Barley Mow Passage, London W4;