Get to know Piercy&Company, a multi-award-winning architecture studio, with a reputation for bold ideas, strong forms and carefully crafted buildings.
Martello Tower Y designed by Piercy&Company (photo by Edmund Sumner)
Piercy&Company was founded in 2001 and now has become one of the British leading architectural practices. Their studio in London is filled with all scale projects from furniture commissions and private homes to collaborations with international businesses and fashion brands. The practice balances modernist ideals of pure space and light and a more sensible architecture approach to texture, historic fabric, and place. We have interviewed Stuart Piercy, founder and director of the practice, to share his thoughts and ethos of the company.
Stuart Piercy - founder and director of the company
What made you want to become an architect? Was architecture a relevant topic in your childhood home? Did your upbringing influence your creative approach?
I am from a family of makers, so growing up, I remember my father and grandfather always tinkering and fixing things in their workshops. This was during the 1970s, an era of make-do and mend, so making was very much the zeitgeist. My interest in building stemmed from my uncle's role as a builder in renovating many of Yorkshire's industrial buildings like Salts Mill, an old textile mill originally built in the 1850s, now home to a fantastic David Hockney collection. I'd often spend my weekends on-site, a kind of informal apprenticeship.
How do you describe Piercy&Company's work and the philosophy behind it? What's studio's drive in architecture?
I think there's an interesting duality in architecture in the sense that it can be both pragmatic and poetic. As architects, we ensure that a building achieves what the client wants, thinking and working around many variables like timelines, budgets, planning regulations, site specificities, sustainability, and construction methods. Yet, at the same time, we're also interested in ensuring our buildings feel good for the people who experience them and, at a city scale, contribute to their local contexts in a more poetic way. Our approach reflects this duality by combining digital and physical design processes to explore new possibilities in tackling both aspects and making places that improve the human experience.
Kew House designed by Piercy&Company (photos by Jack Hobhouse)
Can you provide some examples of how you apply your approach in your projects?
Code-Bothy is a recent self-initiated project that demonstrates this approach. We worked closely with The Bartlett's Material Architecture Lab to build a bothy (a traditional rural shelter) that utilised a hybrid environment where physical and digital objects could be visualised together and interact with one another in real-time. We used parametric modelling tools to generate a complex brick structure which was then hand-built using an AR headset. The resulting design was a lesson in realising the potential offered by digital design and fabrication technologies with hand-crafted qualities not found in brickwork laid by robots.
Exploring the potential of new technologies and material techniques is something that we often do on our projects. For Kew House, we developed a unique approach to working with Corten steel. More recently, on a new headquarters in Fitzrovia, we collaborated with Matter of Stuff to manufacture a bespoke ceramic tile simply because we couldn't identify an existing tile with the proportion and profile we wanted.
Code-Bothy constructed by Piercy&Company, Material Architecture Lab (MAL), The Bartlett and UCL (photo by Naaro)
How does your creative approach vary for different customers, project types and locations?
Our approach is consistent across all projects, sectors, typologies and scales, from working with a recognised global brand like Chanel to the Presbyterian church and designing everything from masterplans to a door handle. The approach we use - the convergence of digital/manual processes and the level of detail invested is consistent. However, the outcomes vary because we design to the specificity of our sites and ranging client needs.
The International Presbyterian Church designed by Piercy&Company (photo by Simone Bossi)
Your practice is widely recognised for office projects with many already complete, like 25 Savile Row, and some currently under construction. What are the design principles that make a good office?
As mentioned, our approach doesn't change according to typology. We're interested in improving the human experience of buildings, so we focus on this, understanding the powerful way buildings can impact how people feel and behave.
Prior to the pandemic, office buildings and workspace already required being resilient, agile and adaptable. Covid-19 really heightened this need, however. Traditionally office design was about creating the home of a company, a physical space that embodied the values of that company. Now, it's more about creating a space in which the people that make up that company can thrive, one that considers their wellbeing through strategies including daylight quality, natural ventilation, green spaces and amenities which bring comfort.
25 Savile Row is the office of the developer Derwent London. It is an example of a purpose-built project very much tailored to the client's needs. We had to fundamentally understand Derwent London's ethos, business needs and people. We have been fortunate to work closely with the company on several projects: they share our values and interest in craft, detailing and making elegant human-centred spaces with enduring quality.
25 Savile Row office project designed by Piercy&Company (photos by Hufton + Crow, Jack Hobhouse)
How does materiality and craft come to play in your design?
Making, materiality and craft are all central to the studio, lending themselves to the poetic part of what we do. Our space in Camden has been designed to accommodate the process of creating through making with an extensive materials library and model-making workshop with materials, models and maquettes on display throughout.
Piercy&Company architecture studio (photo by Jack Hobhouse)
What is the material you use the most in your project and why?
We like to use natural materials such as wood and stone that have a natural character and depth, materials that you can cut into to reveal an inner grain. There’s an honesty to these materials which mean they lend themselves well to creating places that speak to people. But materials don't have to be costly; I remember vividly reading about Kengo Kuma’s snakeskin imprinted paper towels. It illustrated that you could take a simple innate quotidian material and revitalise it with a mark or imprint.
The television centre penthouse designed by Piercy&Company (photo by Simone Bossi)