Amin Taha on stone
10.11.21. Architect’s studio, London
Amin Taha has been described as ‘London’s most controversial architect’. This is largely due to 15 Clerkenwell Close, a development that is defined by a single material, stone.
The building (which houses his collective practice, Groupwork, and where he also happens to live) was shortlisted for this year’s Stirling Prize, the UK’s most prestigious architecture award, despite that fact it was finished in 2017.
And it’s fair to say the nomination came as a surprise. This wasn’t simply to do with the timing nor the building itself – which is a smart, witty, and, it transpires, sustainable piece of work that subtly references the area’s history. But rather because it was issued with a demolition order by Islington Council for non-conformity with the submitted plans three years ago.
Happily, Taha won his appeal and has taken the thinking behind the building – which uses limestone as a structural frame, rather than as a facade for steel and concrete – to investigate how we might build carbon negative towers in the future.
As architecture writer, Tim Abrahams, has pointed out what sets Taha’s practice apart is his ‘fundamental rejection of style as an orientating device in favour of structure’. In other words, this is an architect for whom materials really matter.
In this episode we talk about: the controversy around 15 Clerkenwell Close; being shortlisted for the Stirling Prize; learning to build in stone; why it’s a sustainable material; the nation’s planning system; beauty; being born behind the Iron Curtain; growing up in Southend-on-Sea; studying under Isi Metzstein and working for Zaha Hadid; designing 30-storey stone towers; and how the construction industry could become carbon negative.
(Profile image by Sven Arnstein)
Find out more about Amin Taha and Groupwork
Groupwork’s first experiments with stone happened with this staircase at a residential project in London called Caroline Place.
The extraordinary exterior of 15 Clerkenwell Close has three finishes of limestone which are dictated by the quarry’s cutting processes.
The building has trees on the roof to soak up rain water. There are also beehives and bat boxes.
A group shot of Groupwork. Everyone who stays at the practice for 18 months automatically becomes an equal partner. (All images by Timothy Soar)