A band of young architects gathered together around a kitchen table in Tufnell Park in 1986 to configure the most appropriate balance between modernism and minimalism. The architects – who became Guard Tillman Pollock (GTP) in 2002 – discovered a theoretical and typology-driven approach to architecture that proved adaptable and resilient across decades of economic fluctuation in London.
Published by Artifice, a new book titled Walls and Boxes recalls 25 residential projects across 25 years (1990-2015) by the architects, and demonstrates the remarkable consistency of their founding methodology. Illustrating their uncompromising approach to modernity, photographs of the projects are presented alongside plans and axonomic drawings, with short descriptions and material break downs, all designed succinctly, with clarity and flow, by designer Tim George.
Loft 5, Soho, London, designed by Tillman in 2003. The linear kitchen responds to the strong horizontal forms of the existing ceiling beams, while a separate transformable study/guest bedroom can be made en suite to the cloakroom/shower room or be turned into a free-standing box. Photography: David Grandorge
Each project shows a strict awareness of the physical demands of residential environments. Interiors are stripped back to pure function and finished in hard-wearing materials such as timber, stone and concrete, with white plastered walls. Full height doors, seamless storage and the straight-forward omission of the skirting board surpass complication, and prioritise the raw act of living above everything else.
A foreword to the book is written by Edward Jones, architect and senior tutor at the RCA, which explores the genesis of the practice, beginning with Mark Guard, who founded Mark Guard architects, in 1990 with associates Steven Pollock, Keith Tillman and Charles Barclay (who later began a solo enterprise).
Jones met Guard when he was a student at the University of Toronto – the former was a visiting professor. Guard would later follow Jones to the RCA to continue his architectural studies, a move that equipped Guard with a strong typological approach in addition to his ‘anti-architecture’ education at Toronto. Jones writes that the examination of the practice ‘comes as a timely rebuke to the negative tendencies of specialism and a reminder that quality only results with more inclusive design.’ Hear, hear.
This spread shows Apartment 7 in Maida Vale, London, designed by Tillman in 2013
Wallpaper* editor Jonathan Bell writes an introduction that places the practice within the context of London in the lead up to the millennium. He paints that picture of the architects sitting around the kitchen table in north London, where they began work before moving to an office on Whitfield Street in Fitzrovia.
Bell notes that Mark Guard and his cohort constructed their experimental solution to living at a time when the word ‘lifestyle’ moved into common usage. It was becoming clear that space needed to be open to new and ever-evolving ways of living. Responding to this brief, GTP pioneered what later would be coined ‘transformable architecture’.
Jones reveals that Guard, obsessed with gadgetry, initially looked to pursue a career in automotive design. Examples of this include GTP’s interest in ‘deleting the door’. Across projects we see experimentation with concealed sliding door panels and the emergence of boxes within spaces that would open up the multiple possibilities of sub-division.
This combination of designing for the versatility of modern life, while working within a tough theoretical framework is visualized with such discipline throughout the book, that by project 25, one has a strong grip on understanding the premise, consistency and timeless nature of GTP’s language.