The use of materials within the architecture profession is tricky. Regulations, structural issues and an increasingly design-aware public often lead to compromises in material choices, leaving architects feeling creatively stumped. A practice that consistently delivers award-winning buildings with inherently ‘human’ touches is London, Berlin and Melbourne- based ACME.
ACME’s philosophy revolves around picking up a space’s visual identity. “We work a lot with place. We spot what is interesting in each country; this is sometimes materials, typologies or form – you never quite know until you get there,” says Friedrich Ludewig, director of ACME, who believes each location has something different to offer.
After being briefed to design the new headquarters, ACME’s focus on making the bank a public space clinched their first prize and also won the MIPIM/ The Architectural Review’s Future Project Awards 2017.
“Most federal banks are versions of Greek or Roman temples which have been embedded in people’s minds as a way to explain solidarity and stability,” Ludewig continues.
“Rather than having a veneer of a temple stuck in front, we went back to the initial idea of having a forest of columns,” – these concrete columns will support an overarching roof, making clearings for green spaces within the area.
When asked about the difficulties in designing public spaces, Ludewig explains that you have to populate space so people don’t feel lonely: “If the public space is empty it looks like you’ve made a mistake.”
He then discusses another project: the stair at One New Change, London. Opened in 2010, architect Jean Nouvel used red- tinged fritted glass that held a distinct materiality. When ACME were approached and asked to add a staircase, they created a faded frit which blended from mirror to 100% transparent.
“We wanted the staircase to be an event but we didn’t want people to notice that it came three years later. The staircase couldn’t look like an obstacle and it had to have a conversation with Jean Nouvel’s former language,” Ludewig explains.
ACME’s work combines both interior design and architecture and Ludewig believes the two disciplines should complement each other. “Concentrate on a few materials and work on making architectural surfaces part of the experience, not just something that sits on top of the structure and has to be covered by interior design.”
Words by Bryony Hancock.
ACME’s director Friedrich Ludewig expresses the importance of achieving a personalised visual identity through honest materials