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Theo Otten - Otten + Partners Architects

27th Aug 2014

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Theo Otten is the South African putting his architectural stamp on London, and we couldn't be more excited about it. Associate director of prolific South African architectural firm Otten and Partners Architects, Otten is now based in London as an architectural designer working on various residential projects.

One of the projects being Hewer Street currently marketed by Domus Nova. The incredible North Kensington warehouse conversion is spectacular having been designed by Theo, not once but twice. The result today is an inspiring two-bedroom space that's minimalist at heart, all the while with an overwhelming sense of energy.

We grabbed an exclusive chance to chat with the man himself to find out more...


Theo, what inspired you to work as an architect?
I always wanted to be an architect. My father was a civil engineer and so I grew up with construction, but he was opposed to my becoming an architect, thinking them impractical at best. Law or accountancy being proper professions. So I spent a year in an architect's office, prior to any thought of studies, to bring me to my senses. It was working in a small practice for a marvellous architect, Danie Hauman, who really encouraged and inspired me.

Where did you learn your skills?
At the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Town University in South Africa, and working during holidays for the architects Revel Fox & Partners and Douglas Roberts and then completing my studies at the Architectural Association in London.

Which architect influenced you to start such a career?
Revel Fox. He's an amazing architect based in Cape Town and who I went to talk to when I was trying to plot just how to persuade my father to allow me to study architecture. He's also who I worked for during University holidays.

As a South African, what made you move to London?
My parents and family are originally from The Netherlands and so I have always loved European art, architecture and history from a young age. During my studies at University I worked every holiday, saving every cent to travel to London and Europe, which I did almost every year. Then, in my fourth year, the year when students are encouraged to spend a year travelling and gaining work experience, I set out for London again and ended up never leaving, gaining a place at the Architectural Association.

Do you find architecture potential in London or South Africa more exciting?
With my work being solely residential architecture, I find both challenging in different ways while equally stimulating and rewarding. In London, I love the idea of altering existing houses and flats, teasing new spaces within the confines of the existing envelope and working with the bones of wonderful buildings, creating surprising new spaces. In South Africa I generally create new houses and so have a completely carte blanche which is equally exciting.

Who makes up your team in London?
I am an associate partner of our office in Cape Town, but in London I work alone with the help of a freelance assistant. However, with the aid of technology, all drawings are done on computer in Cape Town and emailed to me here. It is amazingly seamless.

What has been your biggest career highlight?
I have to say it was the conversion of The Old Dairy in Hewer Street into the phenomenal house that it now is. The client and I are good friends and so working with any great client is always a career highlight.

What architectural trends can you foresee?
A less sharp-edged, almost vernacular contemporary style. I can also see an interesting meld of technology with natural materials, blending steel and glass with wood and stone.

What building or structure do you wish you had designed?
Palladio’s Villa di Maser.

What are you currently working on?
Alterations and extensions to a house in Fulham, alterations and refurbishment to a flat in Chiswick and another in Little Venice.

How did you spend your summer?

What is Theo Otten’s USP?
A sharp eye for detail and absolute personal attention. I am very bad at delegating!


View Otten + Partners Architects on the Domus Nova International Guide

Otten + Partners Architects London, 6 Coleherne Road, London SW10;