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The table is large and square. As Andy Groarke intently talks through projects and ideas, Kevin Carmody ranges around, bringing this model, that sample, things we are discussing and things we haven’t yet got to. Both give the task their full attention, serious and engaged but often with a little, conspiratorial smile as they compose an answer.
I was a little apprehensive at meeting Carmody Groarke. In mind were the cold clean lines of the pair’s work, and one rather severe personal portrait. But seeing them in their little Soho studio in Denmark Street is quite different. There was a time when Carmody Groarke was rarely out of the news, entering this, winning that, designing a flat for one artist, a bar with another, Olympic Park dining with Bistrotheque. When the RIBA engaged the firm to design a new gallery at 66 Portland Place it seemed hard to discern, from the outside, who was patron to who. After all, art was in Carmody Groarke’s DNA, having met working on sculptor Antony Gormley’s studio for David Chipperfield Architects. Now the practice is less in the news but its studio of 25 is working through a series of bigger jobs from Windemere’s Steamboat Museum to a 45ha park in West London.
The studio is within earshot of Crossrail piledriving at Tottenham Court Road. Part of Soho and the antiquarian bookshop district of Charing Cross Road, the practice’s little street is populated with music shops, saxophones hanging glittering in small windows. ‘Friday afternoon is when we hear the tunes drifting up,’ says Carmody. There is no sense of anticipation in the office about the new transport hub next door, just a resignation that it will ultimately mean moving out of the much loved studios as they get turned into an arcade. ‘I know as architects we should look forward to new buildings,’ he says. ‘But…’