Life After the LSA: PIVOT Studio
Since graduating in 2017 as part of LSA’s first cohort, Ian Campbell and Jack Idle have gone on to start PIVOT Studio, an architectural design company, and PIVOT Cities, a student mentoring platform. Jason Sayer spoke to them both to see how life after the LSA was going and what was on the horizon.
What was your final year project?
Ian: I was interested in how new ways of working had made the discrete office building no longer a relevant unit in the city. My project Fieldwork envisioned five buildings around Soho Square to develop together into a highly interdependent working campus. By pooling spatial resources around public amenity, Soho could continue to foster an internationally competitive creative ecology in spite of spiralling land values.
Jack: My project was called City Making Hall. It imagined a new institution for integrating the processes that build the city around us, breaking down the silos between planner, developer, architect and the public. With new modes of discussing the design and development of London, we could create more positive and fascinating pieces of city.
What made you set up PIVOT Studio?
I&J: We are particularly interested in working on the strategy, feasibility and early design stages of residential projects, whether in collaboration with developers such as Supported Living Homes, or architect developers like CarsonSall.
J: We both really enjoyed James Soane’s and Peter Buchanan’s lectures which discussed the critical factors which shape a project – not just taking it at surface value but picking apart the brief, and often the architect’s role. These fuelled a hunger to build a practice that integrates our understanding of the built environment’s pivotal role in long-term sustainability into the start of projects.
I: We position ourselves at the intersection between property development and architecture. PIVOT Studio is part of a wider practice that engages creatively with both finance and design to deliver more elegant and sustainable solutions.
J: Exploring the financial intricacies of a project, as boring as that may sound to some, brings a fluency with which design decisions are viable and where value can be added. In addition to our interest in a project’s wider impact, we’re also keen to hone our skills with negotiating and adhering to design guidelines and regulations.
What is PIVOT Studio currently working on?
I: A project in Northampton for Supported Living Homes, which will develop an underused office building into 14 flats, all designed to be adaptable for people with learning difficulties or physical disabilities.
What is PIVOT Cities?
I&J: Since leaving the LSA we’ve both enjoyed a continuing involvement with the school, and have worked with some of the Second Year students and their projects. PIVOT Cities takes this support forwards as a mentoring platform for architecture students which offers a supplementary process for personal development outside the scrutiny of academic programmes. We enjoy helping to build the personal confidence and self-awareness necessary for a coherent and effective student proposition. Our wider ambition is to explore strategies for more sustainable cities through expanding architectural discourse into an intersection with the dynamics of real estate development and emerging energy infrastructures.
J: With PIVOT Cities, the forum for dialogue is slightly more open and informal which allows ideas to be sketched out and improved upon.
What else are you working on?
I&J: TURF, a positive development startup. We are fascinated by the opportunities in unlocking the business case for more sustainable urban architecture. TURF is starting out with the mission to champion positive development in cities as a sustainability solution, unlocking new value through enhancing and restoring the natural environment. Our strategy is driven by a desire to develop and operate extraordinary homes that offer residents a rich experience of sustainability which has a tangible positive impact.
J: With TURF, we want to take forward the client side of things. This, again, stems from our time at the LSA, through the critical practice module and thesis projects, discovering the dominant role of clients and their financing structures in the sustainable development of the built environment.
What else have you taken from your time at the LSA into practice?
I&J: An interest in anti-disciplinary practice, breaking down silos in order to maximise positive impact in the face of the complex issues and accelerating state of change in cities.
I&J: The humanity and planet lecture series by Peter Buchanan. This lecture series really inspired our guiding vision that cities enhance people’s connectedness with each other, with place and with the planet.
I&A: In the past year since graduating, we both worked for Clive Sall Architecture. Working for Clive, [who is Director of Proto-Practice at the LSA] we developed a professional skill set which grew out of the principles taught at the LSA. Clive has given us invaluable continued support and has always been helpful and accommodating with our new venture.
How do you work together?
I: We’re not joined at the hip, but our different approaches work really well together. I’d say Jack is better at pushing ideas forward quickly, whereas I am more in the detail side of the things addressing the specifics which creates an interesting dialogue.