Established in 2013, Dubai and London-based architecture, interiors and design practice ANARCHITECT has already proved an intrepid explorer of contemporary modernism across the globe. Over the past five years, Founder, Jonathan Ashmore and Head of Creative Development, Militza Ashmore, have led their award-winning team to astonishing notoriety. In growing their accomplished and varied residential and commercial portfolio, the practice has secured numerous accolades, including very recently, one of the first RIBA certifications outside of the UK. Quite the force of architectural disrupt, (though perhaps the clue was in the name) ANARCHITECT has gained a reputation for eschewing traditional practises in favour of their signature contemporary fearlessness. We leapt at the chance to ask some burning questions about their approach and were delighted to hear back from Jonathan, the architect himself.
For such a young practice, ANARCHITECT has generated an astounding whirlwind of success in just a few years. What sets you apart from other practices?
That’s very kind of you to say, thank you. The past 12 months have been particularly amazing for us in terms of effectively communicating our contextual approach to architecture and design, as well as our strong focus on materiality and craft throughout every project. Since launching the practice five years ago, we’ve been very focused on delivering the highest quality of residential, hospitality and wellness spaces. Always conscientious in our approach, we not only apply architectural theory to the architecture, but also translate it across interiors and design. I think we thrive working on private residences where the owners both understand and appreciate our obsession with detail, textures and materials. We love making every detail count and using modern interventions to do so.
What kind of projects are you generally drawn to?
Boutique, unique projects with a strong modern narrative and context. Residentially, we have worked on many private homes and villas that require clever space planning. It’s particularly satisfying to work in tight urban conditions, where maximising the space as well as establishing a unique architectural language will enhance the property’s value. We enjoy resourcing natural materials and light in new, surprising ways – whether that’s using local wood for cladding, creating ‘woven’ stone and concrete surfaces, or somehow introducing natural light into the deepest depths of an interior.
On the commercial side, we’ve designed and built some luxury hotels as well as several boutique wellness projects, including private gyms, hair salons and barbershops. It’s great to be part of the growing trend to take a more design-led approach to spaces like these, creating aesthetically stimulating environments as well as maximising on functionality.
Are there any core principles you try to abide by?
Yes, there are four key aspects to our approach at ANARCHITECT. The first is contextual modernism. We start every project by tracing context, narrative and human behaviour to create spaces and experiences individual to each location, client and their lifestyle. Our second custom is to maintain tactile modernity. As we manifest architecture across diverse scales of design, it is of greatest importance to us to always do so with superlative craft, detail, and materiality. Thirdly, we apply architectural discourse in equal measure to each of these disciplines – architecture, interiors and design – in order to create highly resolved buildings, spaces, and objects beautifully balanced in form and function. Finally, we’re all about modern aesthetics, whose boundaries we continually push in order to achieve the perfect nexus of global contemporary design, high fashion and understated luxury.
Indeed, your design aesthetic seems to a take a resolutely contemporary approach. How do you manage to execute
cutting-edge, modern looks without losing sight of fundamental architectural principles?
We feel that good architecture is about being relevant and contextual rather than just contemporary at all costs.
At ANARCHITECT, whilst our approach is that of contextual modernism, we are still an internationally RIBA chartered
practice, following a rigorous professional process and have all been trained in the fundamental methods of architectural thinking. We certainly don’t follow the rules though. I believe that’s the key to what we do as well – it is going against the obvious and truly researching each location, vernacular, getting to know the client and their ideas. Incidentally, that often leads us to work with local heritage sites – whether working with pre-existing 20th-century buildings and delivering contemporary interventions around them or learning from the site’s history to inform the context of the building.
You’re based in Dubai and London. What parts do cities like these have to play in the future of architecture, interiors and design?
Cities such as Dubai and London are without doubt the hubs for where the architectural and design talent is, where
the conversations and business are happening and – with the wealth of design weeks, fairs and talks – where the intellectual discourse is moving forward, too. As a practice, we’re very conscious of our work contributing to the fabric of these cities. However, we’ve found it’s the more rural spaces or undeveloped parts of land that often provide the perfect launchpad for our most progressive architectural and design interventions.
What does 2019 have in store for ANARCHITECT?
2019 is going to be a very exciting year for ANARCHITECT. It starts with the official opening of our boutique lodge and spa in the Middle Eastern desert. We’ll also be busy getting fully established in our new London office in King’s Cross. Oh, and 2019 marks the launch of our first furniture collection. It will be designed the same way we design every building and space – with fundamental architectural thinking applied to each piece. We’re also working on several high-end private residences in both urban and rural contexts and will continue our work on the Harding Boutique Hotel in southern Sri Lanka, inspired by the local tropical modernism movement. And that’s just the start of the year!