2019 marked the 25th year of Sarah Wigglesworth Architects and to celebrate we hosted a series of curated events taking place across the year. The events were reflective, looking at our progress to consider the future not only of the practice, but of the wider architectural realm.

The SWA25 programme kicked off on 1st March 2019, with the commencement of our artist residency. Selected from over 150 applications, Becky Shaw visited our studio multiple times across a period of 3-6 months and developed a body of work based on her time in the practice. During London Festival of Architecture 2019 we held an open studio at our office where visitors could meet Becky Shaw and the SWA team, and aspiring architects can attend a portfolio surgery, as well as a cycle tour where we visited a handful of our buildings and shared the story behind them. Our programme was planned to culminate in an exhibition at the Anise Gallery, due to open on 26th March 2020, showcasing our resident artist’s final outcome and a series of building studies undertaken by SWA staff during the 25th year. Unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, we took the decision to cancel our SWA25 exhibition. The works that were due to be exhibited were later on show at our office at 10 Stock Orchard Street during an Open House event in 2022.

We were delighted to host such a varied programme which celebrated not only our work but our core values, in particular creative collaboration and support for emerging artists and practitioners.

Key dates

1 March: Artist-in-Residence commences work

10 April: Education Roundtable

8 June: Practice Shared

30 June: Cycle Tour

27 March – 4 April 2020: Exhibition (Cancelled)

17 September 2022: Open Studio showcasing Exhibition works

'How Deep is your Love?' © Becky Shaw

British artist and academic Becky Shaw was selected from over 150 applicants to become our new artist-in-residence. Becky worked from the office at Stock Orchard Street for several months, working towards a final outcome which was showcased with our SWA25 exhibition works.

Becky makes time-based works that critically explore the relationship between the individual and the social, and that attempt to capture the scale and complexity of social and material relationships. Current or recent works include ‘How Deep is your Love?’ a commission for the City of Calgary, Alberta, exploring Calgarian’s emotional attachment to their water infrastructure. This included commissioning the City to make a child-size version of an industrial leak location tool. ‘Hiding in Plain Sight’ was commissioned by the Cultural Institute/Kings College London. Becky worked with nursing and midwifery researchers, playing hide-and-seek in a simulated learning environment as a way to understand how we construct, and are constructed by, our surroundings. Both these works build on previous works at Grizedale Arts, ICIA University of Bath, New Art Gallery Walsall, Kunstprijs Amstelveen, Age Concern, In Certain Places and Sculpture Space Utica.

On her appointment, Becky said “I am delighted to be given the opportunity to be artist in residence at SWA and am keen to explore how the practice and the people within it work to produce types of social, emotional, and physical warmth and comfort, whist negotiating complex social, material and political terrains.” She went on to develop a series of speculative works that seek to maintain a sensation of liveness and open-endedness within the exhibition. Sarah Wigglesworth explains “We were immediately impressed with Becky’s poetic approach to what is traditionally considered as the purely practical. For example we loved her recent work exploring the emotional attachment of the citizens of Calgary to their water infrastructure which included a child-size version of an industrial leak location tool.

We are excited to be hosting Becky in our office over the coming three months and fascinated to see the results.”

In addition to working for the three months at the practice, Becky was also working on an interdisciplinary project exploring the construction of ‘oddness’ and difference in school. She completed a practice-based PhD in 1998, working with Marie Curie Cancer Care and is Reader in Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University.

Becky wrote a monthly blog entry on our Journal. Her first blog can be read here

'Hiding in Plain Sight' © Becky Shaw
Education Roundtable

On Wednesday 10 April we welcomed a curated panel of guests for a roundtable discussion around the theme of education. Seated around Sarah’s dining table, a well-documented space used both as a conference table and as a dining table for Sarah’s home, the panel explored debates around the question ‘What is the Role of Physical and Sensory Learning in an Age of Digitisation?’.

A write-up of the key themes of this discussion can be found here.

The panel

Siobhan Davies, Artistic Director at Siobhan Davies Dance

Fiona MacDonald, Co-founder at Matt + Fiona

Richard Roberts, Managing + Design Director at Jason Bruges Studio

Neil Pinder, Founder at Celebrating Architecture and teacher at Graveney School

Ben Clay, Pedagogy Manager at London Early Years Foundation (LEYF)

Eleanor Young, Journalist at RIBA

Sarah Wigglesworth + Eleanor Brough, Director + Associate at Sarah Wigglesworth Architects

Photography © Rachel E Joy Stanley

Practice Shared

During June 2019, during London Festival of Architecture, we celebrated SWA’s work in micro and macro, showcasing the daily life of the office in Practice Shared and exploring our creative approach through a guided cycle tour of our London projects.

For Practice Shared, the doors to our Islington studio were wide open, providing a rare opportunity to access the office at 9/10 Stock Orchard Street, Sarah’s seminal project which featured in the first series of Grand Designs. Visitors were able to meet with our team, access guided tours of the space, explore mini-exhibitions highlighting our projects and their wider contexts, and attend portfolio review sessions. The studio space of our artist-in-residence Becky Shaw was on show and Shaw was on hand to discuss her progress. The afternoon was a chance to meet with the individuals who make up SWA in a relaxed, informal setting.

Photography © Rachel E Joy Stanley

We strongly believe in nurturing future talent, so we held a portfolio ‘surgery’ — a chance for aspiring architects to meet on a one-to-one basis with a practicing architect and access advice and feedback. Through bookable slots, members of our team were on hand to offer on university or job applications and portfolios and answer any questions about the world of architecture.

Crossing Borough Boundaries: SWA Cycle Tour
Bermondsey Cycle Station © Mark Hadden

For SWA’s cycle tour, the team stepped out of the office and onto the streets to explore some of our most-loved London projects. Starting at art studio space Deborah House in Hackney, the journey headed south to a cluster of Southwark-based schemes, including Bermondsey Cycle Station, Wardroper House and Siobhan Davies Dance Studios (where we stopped off for refreshments and a look around the building). The route then went west along the riverside, where it concluded at Cremorne Riverside Centre in Chelsea.

At each stop-off, tour leader Sarah highlighted key aspects of the physical building and discussed the project’s background, brief and specification. The tour covered a wide range of building types including housing, arts, transport infrastructure, and sport / leisure — reflective of SWA’s diverse portfolio.

The funds raised from ticket sales was donated to Wheels for Wellbeing.

Photography © Rachel E Joy Stanley

Watch: Cycle Tour Footage