Isaac Simpson: Wallpaper* Next Generation 2021

Our Next Generation 2021 showcase shines a light on 21 outstanding graduates from around the globe, Wallpaper’s pick of the best new talent in seven creative fields. Here, we profile Bartlett School of Architecture graduate Isaac Simpson.

A photo of two people working on a pasture. A wooden cart carrying hay is turned on its side. Animals are walking around freely.
(Image credit: press)

Isaac Simpson’s master’s graduation project and thesis explore important ideas of race, power and identity. His inspiration? ‘I watched the satire documentary The Black Safari, by Horace Ové,’ he recalls. ‘It basically takes the traditional white exploration of the “dark continent” and reverses it. With both playful imagination and serious resolution, it really called to question the British narratives of “us” and “them” and “white” and “Black”.’

In a similar way, Simpson’s work looks at the British landscape through the African gaze by designing a ‘vessel’ that travels across the Scottish Highlands, sparking conversations and challenging ideas around land ownership. His project scooped the Bartlett Architecture Medal for 2020. Now, the graduate is in Bordeaux collaborating with an artisan on a commission for a large ‘painting-cum-sculpture kind of piece’ and exploring the edges of architecture.

A portrait of Isaac Simpson.

Isaac Simpson. Dream collaborators: Grace Wales Bonner; Asif Khan; James Baldwin.

(Image credit: press)

He does look forward to returning to London though, which he feels is essential for him ‘to grow.’ Fashion designer Grace Wales Bonner is one of Simpson’s dream collaborators. ‘Grace’s work is important to me because of her exploration of the Black(ish) identity as disobedient to the conventional binaries of white and Black, masculine and feminine,’ he explains.

Architecture’s ability to construct cross-cultural dialogues is a key source of inspiration for Simpson. ‘I would love to work with other creatives who are experimenting with the British(ish) and/or Black(ish) identity within form – from architects like Asif Khan to fashion designers like Wales Bonner or Samuel Ross, or a musician like FKA Twigs.’

A photo of sheep walking around next to the huge loom that is combing the wool from them.

(Image credit: press)

A sketch of a machine producing fabric.

(Image credit: press)

A close-up look at the machine that is manufacturing products from wool.

(Image credit: press)

A close-up look at the machine that is manufacturing products from wool. We see two giant iron wheels with a piece of wool.

(Image credit: press)


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).