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Max & Claire De Rosee - De Rosee Sa Architects

9th Sep 2014

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Established in 2007, De Rosee Sa is an architectural practice based in London, whose work consists predominantly of contemporary inventions in sensitive settings, usually converting existing buildings for contemporary uses. With projects in Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Westminster, the firm have an extensive experience of the planning process. De Rosee Sa's main interests lie in creating atmosphere and character, to give meaning to their projects. The core of their philosophy is the belief that high quality architecture adds value, which inspires them and in turn drives their creativity. 

What does architecture mean to you?

Max: It is the ‘stuff’ that literally surrounds us, especially in an urban setting. It is both a façade that you walk past on a street, or a room you are working in. Although we think a lot about architecture, for us, architecture is ‘real buildings and real spaces’ - what is it made from, how do we build it, what does it feel like, how does the light fall, and most importantly, how will you use the space? We enjoy ideas about architecture, but we prefer real buildings.

Define the concept behind De Rosee Sa?

Max: There is no sophisticated concept as such to the practice. Firstly, we believe that architecture is there to serve the people who use it and who look at it. We think successful architecture is about creating an emotional link between these people and the materials that form the space. The people who use the spaces are our clients and so throughout the process, we spend a lot of time with them to design and deliver the space that will satisfy them. Secondly, we want to make the design process enjoyable for our clients and ourselves, so we work hard to take the stress out of building works.

How did you both start working together?

Max: We both studied at Edinburgh University and the Architectural Association. We started working together in 2007, having worked for other practices.

Did any particular architect inspire you to start a career in architecture?

Max: Not really, although I was always had a general interest in buildings. As a child, I played a lot with Lego, which I think helped to develop my spatial awareness.
Claire: I decided to study architecture about a month before starting university. I applied to the faculty of Social Sciences to change from Psychology and Business Studies to Architecture, so it wasn't really something that I had always wanted to do. I do remember as a child spending a lot of time drawing houses, and so it probably stems from there!

Though the practice is based in London you have both worked abroad; notably the US. What do you find so inspiring about architecture and design in London?

Max: London is very eclectic, which inevitably influences a person. London also forces you to engage with an incredible heritage, whether you like it or not. Most of our work in London is about renovating and reinventing existing buildings. Having the parameters of existing historic buildings forces creativity; the strict parameters in London we find informs our design process and actually makes it easier to design.

What other cities could you live in, in terms of inspiring design?
Max: Any city with a sense of atmosphere is inspiring. Usually it is due to the heritage, of a great past and stories in the surrounding fabric. We're curious but not necessarily inspired by the accelerated cities that are springing up in such places as Dubai and China.

What defines De Rosee Sa’s approach to architecture?

Max: In two words - creating atmosphere. As a result, interiors are an important aspect of our work.

Max, tell us about your role for the Earl's Court and West Kensington Opportunity Areas review panels...

The role of the design review panels is to assist the local authority planning officers in making a judgement on the design quality of schemes. Planning officers are usually not trained designers, and they have to deal with many different elements when considering a proposed scheme. We are there to help them with the design considerations, and we can hopefully make a case for better design quality. At the moment, I am involved in the Design Review Panel for London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham [LBHF], and the Architect's Advisory Panel for Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea [RBKC]. I was previously on the Design Review Panel for the Earl's Court and West Kensington Opportunity Area, helping the local authority review the developers' proposals, which were approved by RBKC and LBHF recently.

Which building or architecture do you wish you had designed?
John Soane's House and Museum on Lincoln's Inn Fields, for its interior sequence of spaces and Louis Kahn's Kimbell Art Museum, for its elegant arched section. Both have a very interesting control of natural light.

What’s been your greatest career accomplishment?
Claire: Setting up a practice of eleven people and having clients that enjoy our work.

What has been your biggest career challenge?

Max: Managing resources as we get more enquiries and larger projects. Offering a high level of service is an important aspect of our business and we work hard to maintain that.

What’s been the most interesting project you have worked on?

Max: The Pavilion in Brook Green, which we are currently designing. It has been fascinating and challenging to engage with the local community; particularly as we live there.

Residential/commercial projects – which do you prefer to work on?

Max: We love understanding how people live and being able to consider a subject for a long time, and so it's essentially this sector that we particularly enjoy. Of course, every now and then it is fun to mix things up and do a different type of project, like The Pavilion in Brook Green, which isn't necessarily a commercial projct, but more a community project.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

Max: Currently, we are working on a new-build dining hall and after-school club for Prestwood Infant School in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire; a house in Kensington Park Mews, complete with a vertical window that straddles the three floors of the building; a mansion house project called Hale House and The Narrow House, our first new-build residential project.

What projects have you recently finished?

Claire: Our project at Bassett Road illustrates our use of bespoke joinery. We installed a permeable, panelled feature in the windowless lobby to fill the centre of the apartment with light. We have also just finished our biggest project to date at Wilton Place – a five-storey Knightsbridge townhouse with its very own basement spa.

Do you enjoy working on more city-based projects or in the country?

Max: Nearly all of our projects are located in the city, however we have a strong interest in natural textures and materials. We are working on a few environmental projects with RBKC that will see the regeneration of disused local areas into natural open spaces for the community to enjoy.

What future projects do you have in store?

Max: A furniture collection based on specific materials. We’re also becoming more involved with community action projects that engage local residents to take ownership of public spaces, a low-cost housing development and Max's latest interest: a recycled boat powered by solar energy.

What architectural trends can you foresee?
Glazed metal doors, a renewed interest in craftsmanship and raw, unprocessed materials.

You’ve also been involved in furniture design, has that been a recent exploration or have you always had an interest?

Max: We've always been interested in generally making things, but recently we have been asked to make some furniture. We enjoy the immediacy of furniture and that you can make prototypes until you are happy with the result!

Whereabouts do you live in London?

Max: In a Victorian house in Brook Green.

What does ‘home’ mean to you?

Max: A place that you have an emotional attachment to, because events in your life have happened there.

Describe your own home in three words

Max: Bright, simple, practical.

What did you do over the summer?

Max: We have been busy working on a variety of residential refurbishments and an education project. We are also designing a new-build house.

Bassett Road and Hurlingham Road © Guy Archard
Hillcrest © Jack Hobhouse and Domus Nova

View Lancaster Road by De Rosee Sa, sold by Domus Nova.

View Westbourne Park Road by De Rosee Sa, sold by Domus Nova.

View Bathurst Street by De Rosee Sa and SUSD, previously marketed by Domus Nova.

Watch a collection of De Rosee Sa videos on Vimeo and YouTube.

View De Rosee Sa Architects on the Domus Nova Architecture Guide

De Rosee Sa, Unit 21 Pall Mall Deposit, 124-128 Barlby Road, London W10;