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Fostering Community

Alison Brooks Architects

Fostering Community
By Michael Webb -

Alison Brooks is Canada’s gift to the UK. She honed her skills working for several leading firms in her native Ontario, moved to London in 1988 “to spread my wings” and established her practice there in 1996. As the office expanded in size and scope, embracing a diversity of projects, Brooks infused the work with a mix of rigor and playfulness, idealism and practicality. In her love of craft and curvilinear forms she may have been inspired by Alvar Aalto. Houses have served as laboratories in which to test new ideas and these have been applied on a large scale in public housing, educational and cultural institutions.

Brooks is constantly pushing the boundaries of form and materials, challenging the status quo and pushing back against the conservatism of planning officers and staid authorities. But she welcomes constraints as a stimulus to creativity, and her buildings have won over sceptics. Her firm has received 80 design awards and is the only UK studio to win three of the most prestigious: the RIBA Stirling Prize, the Manser Medal and the Stephen Lawrence Prize.

“I designed Windward House as a narrative and a journey from traditional to contemporary”, says Brooks. The commission came from a couple who own a late Georgian house located on a high point in the West of England overlooking an area of outstanding natural beauty. They needed more space for living and to display their collection of Indian and African tribal art. Brooks designed a new west wing and pool house with gently sloping green roofs that respond to the undulating meadows. It is lower than the historic house and set back, and employs locally sourced stone and dark gray cement boards to contrast with its sibling’s brickwork. It respects all the rules for such additions, but its originality shocked the local planning officer. Permission was denied but that rejection was overturned on appeal and the completed house won awards and has...

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