We’d like to take the opportunity to introduce you to the Green prize winners of our “RE-Stock London Housing” competition – Pol Gallagher and Andreas Schmid from the United Kingdom!

Pol Gallagher from ZAP Architecture

ZAP Architecture was founded by Pol Gallagher after winning an International Design competition to design Dublin City University. Pol has worked at the prestigious Grimshaw Architects and Hopkins Architects in London before going it alone. ZAP formed in 2013 with an ambition to disrupt the typical London architecture office culture (which ZAP felt was very white, middle class and pandering to the financial pressures of greedy developers). This caused ZAP to write their own briefs for empty parcels of land around London – and approach the landowners with concepts and pitch packs. This has led to some of London’s best visited outdoor venues and pop-ups, as well as multi-unit residential housing schemes. ZAP Architecture is a high end design collaborative blurring the boundaries between art and architecture. Currently ZAP employs 5 talented ‘designers’; with an overriding philosophy of ignoring the hierarchical levels of part 1, part 2 or part 3 within the studio. The part 1 has as much ability and right to show off their concepts as the part 3 RIBA accredited architect. This encourages confidence and vitality in young designers.

Brief information about the projects that you/your company have been involved with. For instance, what scale have you focused on/preferred, any significant projects where the company/individuals have been involved?

ZAP spearheaded the design of some of London’s most talked-about outdoor public realm offerings from 2016 for the INCIPIO group. ZAP’s projects often involve the ZAP team designing and project managing the strategy team and build team from inception through to practical completion, with an overarching knowledge of budgets, approvals and work streams.

ZAP has been named as the Architects’ Journal ‘young ones to watch’ in 2015. Since then ZAP has enjoyed over 35 built projects and feasibility studies. ZAP is unique within design circles, having a vested interest in some of their built creations’ ongoing success. ZAP owns 50% of ‘ZAPspace’ indoor trampoline park and ‘PITCH’ Stratford outdoor piazza. ZAP sits on the board for both these ventures and has a notable understanding of commerciality and operational efficiency.

The main ambition of ZAP’s work is to blur the boundaries between art and architecture by creating beautiful, thought-provoking and design-led outcomes. This has led to ZAP working with many high end clients such as Harrods, Vogue, Bluewater, Diarmuid Gavin Gardens, Dublin City University, The Design Museum, The Natural History Museum, Thames Water, Waltham Forest Council, and Newham Council.

What does architecture mean to you and what is the role of an architect in your society?

The ZAP studio is about creating fun and poetry – fun in design, fun in construction and fun in the end-user experience. The poetry in ZAP’s work is evident years after the project is built. We believe this concentrated effort to get into the end-users shoes allows us to fulfil an unknown curiosity within our audience; we offer them imagination and cultural escapism when it wasn’t obviously on the table. Our studio is fun. Our clients have fun working with us. Our passion is contagious and bleeds right throughout all parties to the project. It is ZAP’s mission to offer the visitor a poetic experience within the built environment, in a fun and endearing way.

Pol Gallagher from ZAP Architecture

Why do you participate in architecture vision competitions?

We feel the need to prove ourselves as a young office. This is more difficult than it sounds and so we need to be recognised as young and energetic, but with design prowess capable of matching more conservative and established practices. If any discipline is judged on hours dedicated to your craft, we feel the ambitious designers within ZAP have accrued more than the fabled 10,000 hours. We also don’t always like to be pushed around by greedy developers looking for their pound of flesh. ZAP recognises that design is a valuable skill set and should be respected and paid for. ZAP actively discourages free internships or discriminating against graduates who cannot afford to live in London. ZAP promotes remote working from cheaper locales. Almost all of ZAP staff have had part-time jobs in university, bucking the trend of architecture being a rich kids’ sport for young people who can afford to not get paid much, live in London and suffer for their art. ZAP wants more diversity – in ethnicity and economic background in architecture. How can one design for a demographic whom they have no understanding of?

What advice would you give to individuals who struggle to decide whether it would be beneficial for them to participate in architecture vision competitions?

Competitions showcase your talent, your ideas, your skills, and your imagination. They are outside the parameters of reputation of ‘revenue’ which many professional competitions desire. You can prove yourself and your abilities to a wide audience and garner respect amongst your peers. This is difficult otherwise on low finances, no family connections, no wealth and no resources as a young architect. ZAP exists because of winning one international competition. We fully intend to win more, and this acknowledgement has validated our efforts. Thank you!

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