In a recent interview, Harry Thomson discussed Studioshaw’s distinctive design approach, highlighting their commitment to sustainable practices. An illustrative example was the recent use of HONEXT® Board in the refurbishment project of the Soho Townhouses, showcasing how the studio seamlessly integrates innovative solutions into their initiatives.
Harry Thomson, is Studioshaw Director since 2019, he joined the architectural practice in 2016. The ethos at Studioshaw centers on a ‘lean’ construction approach, emphasizing careful material use—whether restoring existing elements or streamlining new builds. Sustainability is a core tenet, seen in their preference for sustainable materials, reducing project carbon footprints, and fostering innovative aesthetics.
The practice is into the final stages of becoming B-corp certified, formalising their commitment to both people and planet. Their distinctive design methodology is coined ‘RE:LOW’.
HONEXT: What specific properties of HONEXT® distinguish it from conventional building materials, and how do these properties influence the design process?
Harry Thomson – HONEXT® stands out as a material made from 100% waste, boasting a carbon-negative footprint while also exhibiting aesthetic beauty. The board is flame-retardant class B-s1,d0 without the use of any toxic additives. Supplied by Lathams, a well-known distributor in the UK—ideal for contractors and lead times! The boards can be easily worked on-site and do not require any special tools to cut, rout, or fix. We appreciate the subtle texture of Honext.
HONEXT: How do you approach balancing aesthetic design preferences with sustainable considerations when using HONEXT® Board?
Harry Thomson – It’s an exciting time to be specifying new materials as the industry reacts to the climate crisis. These materials are not only vital in our mission to make more sustainable buildings but they also give opportunities for texture, colour and form that open the door to a new type of aesthetic. In a recent project we used Honext to create a contemporary version of Georgian wall paneling within a Grade II listed townhouse. The boards were finished with a natural coating that both hardened and coloured with material whilst preserving its distinctive texture. The boards are hung using a split batten system that allows for easy replacement of panels, providing a practical solution to potential concerns.
HONEXT: Clients can be apprehensive about adopting new materials. How do you navigate this challenge?
Harry Thomson – The path of least resistance will always be materials like plasterboard or MDF. They are so well known to clients and contractors are comfortable procuring and installing them. Proposing a new material involves extensive effort, including rigorous development, testing and creating mock-ups. Its a bit of a cliche, but good clients make good projects and an informed and ambitious one does make the process a lot easier. We hope that projects like Berwick Street show that Honext can be used in this more commercial environment, and we would be more than happy to discuss our ‘lessons learned’ with anyone thinking of specifying it on their projects.
HONEXT: How do you envision the collaboration between architects, contractors, and joineries shaping the future of sustainable design?
Harry Thomson – The standard way of building in the UK needs to be radically challenged if we are to have any chance of hitting our sustainability targets. This relies on true collaboration and clear communication between architect, the wider design team, contractors and clients.
When working with new materials, architects need to actively engage with the fabrication process, rigorously testing and prototyping in order to understand the materials potential and limitations. It is important that the knowledge gained during this process is shared with the rest of the industry, increasing the chances of mass adoption at scale.
A close collaboration between architect and contractor is important during both the design and construction process, using their knowledge and expertise to build efficiently, advise on building techniques and reduce waste on site. This collective effort is instrumental in shaping a more sustainable and innovative future for design and construction.
Studioshaw is an architecture practice known for its big ideas and delivering complex projects. Their mission is to be engaging, energetic and environmentally sensitive architects by being knowledgeable, researched and visionary partners for progressive organizations. To learn more about their practice we invite you to visit their website: Studioshaw
Architectural Dialogues is a new series of conversations by Honext, spotlighting practices aligned with our dedication to sustainable construction. Subscribe to our newsletter to join the conversation and stay informed about the latest dialogues.