Nicholas Lobo Brennan (Apparata) opened his lecture quietly declaring the Cass as ‘a global centre for good architecture for the past 20 to 30 years’. During times of change it's easy to be nervous about the future of a school, and good to be reminded of the virtues of confidence.
To reinforce these ideas, Apparata treat their work as something which is in discussion with the history of architecture. However it is clear that crucial to Apparata’s practice is a determination to avoid generic readings of history; instead through researching architectural elements they find interest in unconventional hybrids which offer alternative interpretations of the era in which they were built. Invention, Lobo says, is simply hybridising the past.
This determination to critique convention is continued through to the running of the studio which often takes on the role of main contractor in smaller projects to maintain greater control of the built result. This brings an autonomy to their practice and an ability to retain some level of resilience against exterior forces. Although it remains to be seen how this approach might be maintained as the size of their projects grow.
Likewise, Apparata’s architecture exhibits an internal resilience through its approach to context and the contingencies of everyday life. Instead of enforcing a new logic, Apparata take places at face value and work humbly within them. The joinery of their Old Manor Park Library insertion has a precious quality that echos the ambition of the existing building alongside pragmatic and prudent moves. Their project for cohousing in Barking, for example, avoids planning-friendly cliches of the ‘new London vernacular’, instead opting to borrow from many different successful typologies of British housing.
This lecture formed a picture of a confident young practice that is clear in its ambition, but it is Apparata’s critical standpoint that sets them apart. Through it, they inspire an optimistic view of the future of British architecture, that maintains a high level of self critique through its plurality and grounding in the real world.
George Mathers is a Part II Architecture Student at The Cass.