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MODERN MAN

Felix von Bechtolsheim - ColladoCollins Architects

22nd Jan 2014

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Since its formation in 2004, ColladoCollins Architects has embraced the challenges of complex mixed-use design to create successful buildings and urban environments. It has secured planning permissions through openness, sensitivity and tenacity to produce commercial schemes that are deliverable. The practice operates across several sectors and through every stage of the design process, combining a strong design ethos with sound technical strength. Unlike many firms that specialise in one particular area, its unique approach ensures that its early designs are properly informed by their delivery experience. We catch up with Felix Von Bechtolsheim, the firm’s associate director…

 

What does being an architect mean to you?
I grew up in London but studied in Liverpool, so the urban area has been around me my whole life. I wanted to be an architect because architecture is so much more than problem-solving. When you’re dealing with people’s lives, their homes, workplaces, buildings that they visit in their free time, all of that has a profound impact on their attitude and well-being. This aspect of what an architect does is fascinating and drove me to want to build better buildings that would be aesthetically pleasing but also enjoyed by the people who use them.


You are a director at Collado Collins. Does the practice’s multidisciplinary approach satisfy the hunger to better the built environment?

Absolutely. Every new project brings its challenges and at ColladoCollins we have some really exciting projects in play just now. I’m currently working on a new hotel for Kensington Olympia as part of a regeneration scheme for the area. Olympia is an iconic building, so it’s a privilege to help to continue its legacy and redefine the area. On the residential side we are working on two extraordinary penthouses in Bloomsbury that have captured sky space to elevate their potential, and, at ground level, a completely new housing scheme in Fulham, an area that is already fairly dense. The approach with residential property is completely different to commercial but no less satisfying.


Domus Nova is currently selling a personal residential project of yours. Can you tell us about this?

I bought the flat on Sutherland Avenue in 2010 after an extensive search. I wanted a property with a double mansard that would allow me to raise the roof and fill in the void to increase floor space. The flat had been a rabbit warren of small rooms with three bedrooms included. I doubled the space and made it into a very high-end, two-bedroom property that emulated the industrial look of the canal warehouses close by. The flat was a family project and my sister who is an interior designer (Valerie von Bechtolsheim of Rolf Sachs Studio) worked alongside me to create the completed look. Predictably, now that it’s finished, I’d like to repeat the whole process – the next project is already lined up.


London or country?

Both! I love the opportunities that having a foot in both camps can offer. London has an energy that is impossible to replicate elsewhere. That said, the country offers much wider possibilities in architecture. I’m looking at a fairly remote property at the moment that will be completely off grid. This project will give me a chance to try out new technologies and sustainable features that will hopefully combine to make an interesting and unique family home.
 

Give us a snapshot of ‘your’ London and what you love about the capital
I grew up in Wimbledon which is a great part of south London and a good place to combine a city life with semi-rural surroundings. Wimbledon Common is wonderful – at its centre it’s hard to believe you are in the middle of a busy city. Overall, London is amazing. It’s constantly reinventing itself with regeneration, refurbishment and restoration. We have some of the greatest buildings in the world and we are continuing to build some of the best new architecture around. What’s added to the creative mix recently is the legacy of the Olympics, the pop-up shops and restaurants and cafés. It means our high street is changing all the time.


What do you see as the future for London?

Unlike so many other big cities around the world, London works. Its location, infrastructure and facilities all function so well. This means that we can get away from having to focus only on projects that serve a need and have scope to create things that are beautiful and indulgent. The most exciting thing now is the possibilities of the river. Thomas Heatherwick’s new garden bridge will be so wonderful because it will have no other use than to provide a space for solace and relaxation. The idea of creating small islands along the eastern reaches of the Thames will continue the drive to connect Greater London with the centre of the capital and give its residents additional options for escapism.
 


Sutherland A
venue is currently for sale through Domus Nova


Felix von Bechtolsheim - ColladoCollins Architects, 17 - 19 Foley Street, London W1W;
colladocollins.com

Discover more about ColladoCollins Architects and other firms on the Domus Nova Architect Guide

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