Studio Aki, UK: Wallpaper* Architects' Directory 2021

Sarah Akigbogun's London architecture practice, Studio Aki, joins the Wallpaper* Architects Directory 2021 and introduces us to Green House, a home with a distinctive copper-clad extension

copper cladding on extension in London
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One of two UK entries to the Wallpaper* Architects Directory 2021, Sarah Akigbogun's Studio Aki is an architecture studio with a twist. Akigbogun's work is intensely varied and cross-disciplinary, merging design practice with art, engineering, theatre, film and architecture activism. Her rich portfolio is growing fast and her first residential project, London's Green House, has just completed.

Who: Studio Aki

London architect Sarah Akigbogun founded Studio Aki in 2015, bringing together a range of interests and disciplines – her work spans architecture, art, engineering, theatre and film. ‘The uniting elements are the human story and social purpose,' she explains. ‘The studio sees architecture as the container for our lives and stories, and is interested in understanding and giving a home to those stories in public and private space. As a small studio, collaboration and partnerships are key and the studio operates as part of a growing network of small practices and collectives.'

Akigbogun's background as a trained architect and structural engineer is merged with her experience as an actor, filmmaker and educator. As a result, her output is rich and varied. Studio Aki's current portfolio includes residential (such as the raw and colourful architecture of the newly completed Green House – see below), community, theatre and performance work. Her designs are clean and pragmatic, enriched by a playfulness and unexpected twists. 

The architect also runs Appropri8, a sister practice to Studio Aki. It is ‘a testbed for bringing some of the things learnt from time in theatre to the world of architecture and intervetions in public space,’ she explains. ‘Theatre, particularly at the budget end, is the practice of making scare resources go far. It can be created rapidly and respond quickly to social issues, because it is not constrained by the regulations and process that necessarily frame architectural production.'

In addition to this work, Akigbogun is also currently vice chair of Women In Architecture, founder of group XXAOC Project (Female Architects of Colour), and a newly elected rep on RIBA Council.

round skylight in Green House extension in London

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What: Green House

The refresh and extension to a fairly typical London Victorian terrace, Green House is Studio Aki's first completed residential work. In a bold move, Akigbogun uses bright, pre-patinated copper cladding to forge a rear addition to the property, which becomes ‘at once part of the garden and a splash of colour against the mute brick terrace'.

Openings, in the form of floor-to-ceiling glass panels, skylights and a variety of internal windows transform the space inside. ‘Our clients were keen to bring light into this formerly dark space and we’ve used a number of devices – punctured holes in the ceiling and walls, brick lattices and stained glass-like clerestory windows – to playfully introduce moments of light, which filter through to the internal living spaces,' says the architect.

The extension seems dramatic but it was designed with an extremely light touch. Akigbogun was keen to alter the existing building as little as possible, so the entire new structure was simply added by removing an exisiting window and making a hole in the wall. Playful elements inside, such as a round internal opening on an exposed brick wall that allows views of the architectural garden from the living spaces inside, transform the living experience. Architectural structure and existing features, such as ceiling beams and brick walls, are celebrated inside, in a clean and uncluttered composition of honest and tactile materials.

green copper tiles clad this London house extension

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Why: Wallpaper* Architects’ Directory 2021

Conceived in 2000 as our index of emerging architectural talent, the Wallpaper* Architects’ Directory is our magazine’s annual listing of promising practices from across the globe. The project has, over the years, spanned styles and continents, while always championing the best and most exciting young studios and showcasing inspiring work with an emphasis on the residential realm. Now including more than 500 alumni and counting, the Architects’ Directory is back for its 21st edition. Join us as we launch this year’s survey – 20 young studios, from Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, the USA, and the UK, with plenty of promise, ideas and exciting architecture.

raw interior with exposed beams

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Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).