Every project starts with a question—What if?
What if the places in which we live and work could make us healthier and happier?—Improving lives through better design. What if we could create beautiful buildings that work for the environment as well as for us?—Cleaning the air we breathe and generating more energy than they use. What if we could make spaces that everyone could enjoy?—Creating diverse and inclusive environments. What if we designed our cities for people to cherish and develop the places in which they live?—Building a better future for generations to come.
What if we worked to achieve all of this?—We do.
We’re idealists. We came together as three young architects to set up IF_DO in 2014, and we saw no end to the possibilities. We chose our name because it said something about the power we have, as architects, to do things differently.
Since then, we’ve worked closely with clients and communities who share our aspirations. We’ve forged positive relationships across the industry, and we’ve been rewarded with responsibility and trust. And, with projects like the Dulwich Pavilion and St Teresa’s School, we’ve shown how imaginative architecture can begin to shape people’s lives.
It’s not just the three of us around the table now, and our stage is bigger. We have a team of carefully chosen and like-minded colleagues. We’ve built up an impressive track record. We’ve won competitions and awards to show we can compete amongst the best. And with our clients and collaborators, we’ve begun changing the world, project by project.
We’re quick to get down to detailed analysis and research. We question, test, explore and imagine. We sketch and make models. We’re happiest developing our ideas alongside ambitious clients, and we work collaboratively and openly. We listen to communities to make sure we understand what they need and what will work best for them. We make everyone a part of the process.
It’s a pragmatic and pro-active way of working which sits well with our idealism; we’re improving people’s lives through better design. We’ve lost none of the hope and determination we had at the start, and our conversations – with each other and with our clients – are as full of energy as they were on that first day. We know, more than ever, that buildings can do so much.
We call this ‘the ripple effect’, and it’s at the heart of our approach. Thomas’s TEDx talk back in 2017 put this into words we all stand behind: ‘Buildings have ripple effects. Buildings affect the communities around them, they affect the economy, and they impact the environment.’ In short, we take our responsibilities as architects seriously.
People often ask us about our name, and we enjoy telling the story of how it came about. Those two short words express our hopes for the future and our purpose. They’re a reminder of how we began and where we’re headed. What if? We do.
Al combines the perfect balance of imagination and pragmatism, and he’s fascinated by the path from one to the other, or – in more architectural terms – from initial sketch to finished building. For him, the craft and ‘buildability’ of architecture is crucial, and he led the delivery of the Dulwich Pavilion, the project that has perhaps done the most to show what we are capable of when we bring conceptual thought and technical ability together. But for Al the real success of the project lies in the impact it’s had on everyone who’s visited, and the positive contribution it’s made to the community.
Al is committed to increasing the socio-economic diversity of our profession. He is an RIBA mentor to architecture students and is involved with the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust and the Social Mobility Foundation, helping create more opportunities for young people from all backgrounds.
Sarah is a firm believer in collaboration – amongst colleagues, with clients, with stakeholders, and with the people who will be enjoying our buildings for years to come. She’s brilliant at finding a way through competing interests to come up with a design that works for everyone, and this kind of determined diplomacy was one of the key ingredients in the transformation of a dilapidated structure near Waterloo Station into a vibrant community hub.
Sarah feels strongly about sharing our knowledge and experience beyond the practice, and she has taught at both the University of Brighton and the London School of Architecture. She is a chapter leader for Urbanistas, a women-led network devoted to supporting and encouraging women working in the built environment, and is passionate about the need to make architecture a more diverse and equal profession.
Thomas is a big-picture thinker and masterplanner by nature. He has a wide-angle view on every element of our work and sees connections that might not be immediately obvious. He’s also a great communicator – both in person and on the page – and his TEDx Talk on ‘Architecture’s Ripple Effect’ is the perfect introduction to how we think and work.
This interest in the wider repercussions of architecture goes hand in hand with an interest in sustainability and creating healthy environments. He’s drawn to working on projects where IF_DO can make a positive and far-reaching impact. He was the driving force in making our work at St Teresa’s School so rewarding, both for us and for the school, by involving the students in reshaping their school for the better, and inspiring them with what architecture can do.
Civic Trust Pro-Tem Award 2018, Winner
American Institute of Architects UK, Young Architect Award 2018, Winner
FX International Design Awards 2018, Breakthrough Talent, Shortlist (Winner not yet announced)
D&AD Awards 2018, Spatial Design/Installation Design, Wood Pencil
Architizer A+ Awards 2018, Pavilions, Shortlist
Architectural Review Emerging Architecture Award 2017, Shortlist
AJ Architecture Awards 2017, Budget Project of the Year, Highly Commended
Blueprint Awards 2017, Best Small Project, Winner
American Architecture Prize 2017, Small Architecture, Winner
American Architecture Prize 2017, Installations and Structures (Landscape Architecture), Winner
Wallpaper* Architects Directory 2017: the world's top 20 emerging practices
Evening Standard, The Progress 1000: London’s most influential people 2017
Archiboo Website Awards 2017, Best Use of Digital Imagery, Winner