Jade Tilley speaks to Simon Mitchell, one half of the Sybarite dynamic duo, about being a diverse architect, relocating to London and hopes of rockstardom
Sybarite Architects is an architectural and design practice bringing timeless style and luxury through our work. Founders Simong Mitchell and Torquil McIntosh met at Future Systems where the experience they gained working on award-winning projects such as the Lords Media Centre and Selfridges in Birmingham, as well as prestigious competitions such as Musee de Quai Branly stood them in good stead when forming their own practice in 2002. Since then Sybarite Architects has grown year on year, supported by a diverse and talented team of architects and technicians.
Torquil studied at the University of Edinburgh and the Beaux-Arts in Paris, gaining fluency in French and graduating in 1998. His practice experience includes Denis Laming Architectes in Paris and Future Systems in London. Torquil??s key previous projects include Futuroscope, Poitiers, World Classrooms and Selfridges, Birmingham.
Simon studied at the University of Greenwich in London, gaining his RIBA Part III qualification in 1998. He has a range of practice experience, most notably with Terry Farrell & Partners and Future Systems, where he was Associate Director for several years. His key Future Systems projects include Lords Media Centre, a private house at Druidston Haven, Wales, Commes des Garcons, Tokyo and New York and Selfridges, Birmingham. Simon has a collaborative working style and brings a hands-on practicality to projects.
True to the Sybarite signature, Simong and Torquil bring their own sense of style and informality to the practice. Torquil loves nothing more than good food, good wine and great company. He currently resides in London with his wife and three children. When not designing, Simon??s secret pleasure is fly fishing in crystal clear waters.
Here, Jade learns a little more about Simon??s architectural background and his escape from Exeter to set up their architectural empire.
Is your earliest memory of architecture having an impact on you?
When I was aged nine I won a competition to design a building. It wasn??t so much the winning, but the headline in the local paper the next day, which read ?architect of the future?? and in my mind my fate was sealed.
Where did you study architecture?
University of Greenwich. I escaped to London as soon as I possibly could from my hometown Exeter and haven??t looked back.
What kind of architect did you aspire to be? Has it worked out that way?
The initial inspiration for my competition entry came from Pierre Cardin??s house by Antti Lovag. Throughout my career he has remained a beacon of talent I am always drawn back to. Also, working across scales, from a teaspoon to a skyscraper, has been an integral part of my working as an architect. Having being able to work holistically across product design, graphics, interiors and architecture has been more than I could have hoped for.
Who are your design inspirations?
Antti Lovag, who I have already mentioned, and Jan Kaplický. I have been exceptionally fortunate in my career to work with both. They shaped my work and honed my talents. I feel incredibly lucky to have learnt from such great talents.
What does Sybarite represent as a firm?
At Sybarite Architects we are pursuers of luxury and pleasure. Spaces must be enjoyable and have an emotional connection with people; if we succeed at this we have achieved our aim. The curves and fluidity achieved in our Marni stores perhaps represent this best.
We have created a recognisable visual ribbon, which looks fitting and beautiful whatever part of the world it is in.
Where is the majority of your work based?
We are very international and have been lucky to work all over the world from Barcelona to Beijing.
Have you ever worked or lived anywhere else? If so, how has this helped to shape and influence your ideas on design?
I have always been based in England but coming from Exeter to London certainly shaped me. Working for Future System remains a huge moment in my career. Firstly, I got to work with Jan but that also meant I had to work with his eccentricities. In the office we had to take our shoes off and work very quietly and methodically. It was a massive culture shock but I loved how even the space around him consumed every inch of him and had to be just right.
What has been your biggest design commission to date?
We are doing a refurbishment of a 125,000 sqm department store at the moment. We have already been working on it for nearly two years and still have another four to go. To work on such large scale projects has been a really fantastic learning curve. This is definitely where I see the future of
What dos the face of architecture look like to you in 10 years time?
People are becoming more and more conscious of space they inhabit and they are far more receptive to spaces, views, light and sound. This is in part due to the internet revolution which has exposed people to many more ideas so clients know exactly what they want more than ever. Therefore architecture will become far more consumer led.
If you hadn??t become architects what would you be doing?
I think I would have to be a musician. I play the guitar and it is the best way to unwind after a long day in the office. That and what young boy or grown man for that matter doesn??t want to be a rockstar!
Sybarite architecture awards include; £60,000.00 London Evening Standard House Design for the Plectrum House; Winner of the Mail on Sunday??s British Home Award 2007 for the Dice House; Home for the Future 2007 Award for the Dice House; Architects Journal 40 under 40 for the Treehouse; Shortlisted for Building Design??s 2008 Young Architect of the Year Award; Shortlisted for World Architecture Festival 2009 for Alberta Ferretti, Los Angeles; Winner of Glass Slipper Award at Platform Trade Show for Most Innovative Booth Interior for FitFlop display and Winner of best exhibit space at Euroshop 2011 for Megaman.