Every office wants to feel like Soho House

9 August, 2021

Mike Stiff co-founded London-based practice Stiff + Trevillion in the early 1980s. He is a judge for the Best Consultants category.

Why don’t architects give more credit to the consultants who work alongside them?

It’s a good point. We get so cross when they don’t credit us, especially since sustainability became an issue and the work we do with engineers has become much more integrated than it was five or 10 years ago. They now come in right at the beginning of the conversation so I think we should be more generous.

The list of consultants on projects is becoming longer and longer. Is this eroding the architect’s role?

If you take a typical planning app in Central London you usually end up with 15 different consultants that are needed to make an application on a decent sized project. But clients still expect us to be the only people to speak at the committee, to front all the meetings and talk to the planners so I think that’s still our strength as architects, up until planning. When it goes beyond that, our role diminishes – we see it a lot. The client  promises the world in terms of sustainability but after planning all the good stuff goes out on cost grounds. Our post planning role is defending the architecture rather than developing it.

Have you spent more of your life online since the pandemic?

I’ve never ordered a Deliveroo and I don’t like shopping. I didn’t even know what Zoom was in March last year but within a week we were all up to our neck in it.

How important is social media?

It’s super important. Instagram is the one we focus on most. Twitter I don’t like. We post on LinkedIn and it’s surprising how many notes we get back. It keeps you in people’s’ mind – ‘oh gosh you’re really busy’ they say.

What’s been the biggest impact of Covid?

Travel. I just haven’t been anywhere.

How is the office market holding up?

Around 80% of what we’re doing is offices, if not more. The reason for that is two-fold. Any new office building  has to be of the highest quality but if the client has a secondary market building they’re not going to be able to let it unless they refurbish it first. There’s a hell of a lot of refurbishment work out there which is beneficial from a carbon perspective but developers are also realising they now have to sell to the occupants not the board.

How does that change the architecture?

All the things we’d have been laughed out of court for five years ago, like public realm and roof gardens and greening – that’s the first tick box . Every office wants to feel like Soho House – you  come into the office to socialise rather than work.

Do you have a favourite website?

One I think is very good is the River Café. It looks pretty and they have video tutorials on how to cook. Ruth (Rogers) writes this weekly newsletter and throughout the lockdowns it made me think  ‘when it’s going to open’. I think they’ve been very canny.

The Best Consultants category is open to engineers, landscape architects, lighting designers, environmental designers and others who work alongside architects.