Tea-time with… The English architect Roger Zogolovitch

Copyright: Mark Cocksedge

Roger Zogolovitch is Chairman and Creative Director of Solidspace, based in London. Recognized as a progressive thinker within the architectural field, he’s been known to push boundaries to improve cities. With more than 40 years of experience, he was previously Director of the Development and Infrastructure course at London School of Economics, focused on regeneration policy throughout the UK.
He also served as President of the Association of Architecture.

Read on to learn about Roger’s vision of British architecture, emerging trends and to get a glimpse of his personal architectural masterpiece.

Tea or Coffee?

Tea and cake -please

How would you define your work ? Who and what are your influences?

My work is as a small scale independent architect and developer. The work is collaborative working with architects and other professionals including contractor and public officials all needing leadership and understanding of the finished vision. I am influenced by the opportunity of using example in our industry to experiment and to show through projects what can be possible. I remain experimental in all my work and constantly push at boundaries.

You are seen as a progressive thinker in the architecture industry. After 40 years in design and development, do you feel any new trends coming up?

I have practised as an architect and developer which has allowed me to take control over the building projects I undertake. I believe that as architects become more marginalised by clients they too should consider undertaking their own developments. I think this new area of work is exciting and rewarding. I am pleased to see that other architects are beginning to take a similar path.

We have seen the use of wood in many projects the last couple of years. Is there any new sustainable component you see emerging?

For me the key to sustainability is to create environments that are long life and loose fit. Internal heights must be generous, materials should have good thermal capacity. I like to use concrete in our projects. It is stable, has good thermal capacity, is incombustible and has good sound insulating properties. Using cement replacement strategies in the mix reduces its carbon content. Working with precast construction eliminates waste. Concrete wins for me.

You have designed major projects throughout the UK… How would you describe “Britishness” today in few words?

Building in the UK is working within a tradition of the simple or artisan construction. The pattern of the terrace house set in traditional streets and simply divided into plots with shared, ‘party’ walls. This fine grid encourages an imaginative design approach to the art of ‘gap site’ infilling. The townscape is so strong and well established in the urban landscape that this infilling supports a fresh design approach. The best of ‘Britishness’ is the way in which these new buildings present an intelligent counterpoint with their adjacent cousins. The late Sir Hugh Casson always referred to this idea as the test of the library shelves: do you want matched leather covers at the same height or the variety of book jacket colour and different heights and thicknesses ? I certainly prefer variety in my bookshelves and my city streets.

Let’s travel in France. How would you describe French Architecture nowadays compared to the British one ? What are the main characteristics of each country in this field ?

French architecture especially in cities is modelled on the apartment block, the Hotel Particulier and in Paris the Haussman block. This is a large scale building that houses the special qualities of the apartments within. Rooms inside these apartments are arranged around the access stair and recently with evermore ingenious new lift insertions, They are all essentially apartments and provide a very characteristic experience of living on one level. In contrast London and British urban buildings are mostly modelled around the terrace house from Georgian and then Victorian periods. Although a majority of these houses have now been converted internally to apartments, they remain fundamentally the terraced house with a garden. Somehow these two traditions continue to leave their mark on the architectural culture of the two capitals connected across the English Channel, each stamping their unique and pervasive character on Paris and London.

A place that inspires you the most in London or more widely in the UK ? Where do you go to recharge?

We are fortunate in having another family home located on Poole Harbour, 110miles south west of London which with views across the harbour and to the Isle of Purbeck beyond. As I awake down on the coast my perspective of the world widens with the light on the water and the expanse of hills and landscape beyond. I have a beach studio where I make quick and simple monoprints as a hobby. I make these in a day or two,  which is a great contrast to the years it takes to make my development projects.

Let’s be crazy…A great project that you would dream to achieve ?

I dream of being able to make a difference to housing in the UK. I am convinced that we could somehow rediscover the lost art of artisan building of homes in the UK. We need to make an English version of an apartment block that is simple to build and yet has an identity and character that makes it a joyful experience to inhabit. I want housebuilding to be about ‘making’ not ‘speculating’

Your own House, the Houseboat located in Poole Harbour in Dorset is a masterpiece. What is the recipe of a successful architectural  project according to you?

For me good architecture is the combination of a clear concept and rigorous attention to detail. With the Houseboat there was a happy marriage of ideas the upturned hulls sitting on the sea wall and our Solidspace formula of volumetric interiors interlocking spaces in section. The expression of materials is all explicit and each one is presented clearly and obviously. The materials include concrete with its exposed aggregate texture, solid douglas fir beams and timber linings with American walnut floors. The introduction of quirky touches using railings, vintage glass panels all adds humanity. Thinking through the performance of the house, using a neoprene liner to the underside of the roof to soften the acoustics and with natural air ventilation, enhance the sense of well being inside the home. I suggest we should design for the building to age. In the Houseboat I have used floors that bleach in the sun, copper that patinates as it oxidises and develops verdigris. Enjoying the design process and taking time to experiment and to change your mind. Enthusing your team of designers and makers and encouraging  them to make their own contribution to the wider endeavour.

You want to visit his home in Dorset ? Discover the Houseboat here.

Interviewed in June 2018 by Hélène Bouche, accompanied by Elisa Olenik.
To read it in French, click here.
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