Jennifer O’Donnell, director of Glasgow-based practice O'DonnellBrown, won the Architect Pitch in 2020 impressing the panel with a series of self-initiated projects. Here she explains what happened next.
Why did you enter?
The practice was at an interesting turning point when the Archiboo Pitch was advertised. Having set up our studio in Glasgow in 2016 we had established a great team and were gaining confidence. We’d had the opportunity to test out ideas on small-scale grassroots community projects and some larger scale residential commissions and we felt equipped to respond to the brief for post pandemic life enhancing housing in a meaningful way.
How much did you prepare and what tips do you have?
We took it very seriously, agreeing our key points, writing a script for the presentation and then rehearsing the presentation with colleagues. We knew we needed to convey a lot very succinctly in a short time frame and that there wouldn’t be allowance for run-over. We made a point of reminding ourselves of the brief and specifically what the jury were looking for so that we framed our presentation in response to this.
Why do you think you won?
It was quite a strange time as we were still in lockdown. Everyone’s horizons had reduced, our work life was on Zoom and life patterns were hyper local and then suddenly we were on a train down to London for a formal presentation. It was energising to meet the other practices presenting and personally I felt quite privileged to have the ear of the jury panel to present our learnings from the pandemic and our thoughts about how to design housing which will sustain us and allow us to flourish.
What’s happened since winning?
The presentation put us on HUB’s radar and they were very keen to stay in touch and keep us in mind until the right project presented itself. The win also felt like an important accolade, a high profile endorsement of our approach and design thinking that we have been able to take forward in live projects such as Gap Homes, a new typology of housing for care leavers developed with charity Barnardo’s in several locations across the UK. The practice is growing and becoming more ambitious in its plans: we’ve just promoted our associate Michael Dougall to director level.
We have now been officially appointed by HUB and we are in the early stages of the design for a housing development in the Canonmills area of Edinburgh. We have also recently completed a feasibility study for HUB to explore turning an existing warehouse building in Leith into an 'aparthotel'.
O'DonnellBrown team portrait. Credit: Timothy Soar