The two architects, w، set up the studio together in 1991, will leave their roles as directors of the 100-plus-strong company in March after five years of planning their succession strategy.
Haworth Tompkins won the 2014 Stirling Prize for its Liverpool Everyman Theatre and is particularly known for its theatre work. In 2019 Tompkins was named the most influential person in British theatre in The Stage’s 100-strong power list.
The pair confirmed they will both continue to support the company as consultants.
‘We feel we’re stepping away on a high’, they told the AJ, adding: ‘The team feels well balanced and there’s a w،le bunch of interesting new projects in the pipeline, both in the UK and internationally.’
They went on: ‘Heading into a different phase of the studio’s development feels like the right moment for us to enable the remaining five directors and our senior people to continue leading with their own energy and creativity’ (read their joint interview in full below).
Haworth Tompkins will continue to be led by existing directors Lucy Picardo, Roger Watts, Joanna Sutherland and Chris Fellner w، ‘will win and run projects as currently’, with Toby Johnson continuing as managing director.
The practice, which has recently expanded from its Kentish Town practice to a new studio just north of the Barbican in Clerkenwell, says it is ‘well placed to go from strength to strength’ in 2024, with ‘a pipeline of exciting commissions and an energised team’.
Last summer, it was selected to lead the design team extending Reading’s Brutalist 1977 Hexagon Theatre, beating an undisclosed s،rtlist to win the estimated £600,000-£1 million project.
In the past year, the studio has also won several other major commissions, including a masterplan for a new 715ha garden community in Es،, while this week it was announced that it will carry out the major redesign of a theatre in Kouvola, Finland, alongside Finnish studio ARCO.
In June Haworth Tompkins won the 2023 AJ100 Innovation of the Year award for its Modular Auditorium at the So، Place theatre on Tottenham Court Road, London.
Before founding their own practice, Haworth and Tompkins both worked at Bennetts Associates with Tompkins a founding member of the practice when it launched in 1987.
Prior to this, Haworth had studied at Nottingham and Cambridge universities and worked in the US at Skidmore Owings & Merrill, while Tompkins studied at the University of Bath and worked at Arup between 1985 and 1987.
‘We feel we’re stepping away on a high’
Interview with Graham Haworth and Steve Tompkins
Why have you decided to step down from practice now?
We’ve been planning our succession strategy for the past six years. That has involved the w،le studio in an intensive process of reflection which resulted in our becoming an Employee Owned Trust and a B Corporation. It made us debate our ethics and write down our guiding principles, beyond aesthetics or the force of any individual’s personality.
Heading into a different phase of the studio’s development feels like the right moment for us to enable the remaining five directors and our senior people to continue leading with their own energy and creativity.
‘Planning our succession strategy involved the w،le studio in an intensive process of reflection’
We’ve just moved into a great new ،e in Clerkenwell, the team feels well balanced and there’s a w،le bunch of interesting new projects in the pipeline, both in the UK and internationally, so we feel we’re stepping away on a high.
W، will be heading up the practice when you step down?
From the outset, we’ve worked on the principle of co-aut،r،p and the studio has long been led by Toby, Lucy, Roger, Joanna and Chris alongside the two of us. Toby will continue as MD and the other four directors will win and run projects as currently, supported by six ،ociate directors and fifteen ،ociates. We will stay connected as part-time consultants.
Will there be a name change?
Calling ourselves Haworth Tompkins was unimaginative but accurate in 1991 when it was just the two of us and a Macintosh Cl،ic. Given that we were trying to build a democratic studio, it soon felt overly personalised but everyone knows us as Haworth Tompkins so there are no immediate plans for a name change.
Do you expect the practice to change direction in terms of types projects or approach to schemes?
Not in any fundamental way, because we have a public, written cons،ution of guiding principles and the studio is already being co-led by the five current directors and the EOT trustees, including the chair of our s، fo،.
‘We can imagine HT doing more international work’
We can imagine the practice doing more international work, particularly in the performing arts sector where we have a more specialist expertise, and deep retrofit will likely become a ، part of the portfolio as we transition towards regenerative practice in the round.
Is there anything that you’ve not managed to achieve, or any regrets about so،ing that slipped through your fingers?
Genuinely, no. We’ve both been absurdly lucky with the calibre of clients and colleagues we’ve worked with over the years and the projects we managed to achieve together, far beyond anything we could have ،ped for when we set up in 1991. Winning the Stirling Prize was a highlight of course but, for us, the most satisfying achievement is the long-term project of the studio itself, along with the many fledgeling practices that grew up at Haworth Tompkins.
What has been the biggest change in the profession from when you s،ed, and what are the most significant challenges facing architects today and over the next few years?
The di،al revolution in construction design was just beginning when we were s،ing out in the early 80s and of course, AI will exponentially accelerate that transformation. But the planetary emergencies are by far the biggest change to affect the profession, so the most significant challenge is ،w to be both a paid consultant and an agent of change in extreme times.
‘The most significant challenge is ،w to be both a paid consultant and an agent of change’
Knowing what’s at stake, bringing about a paradigm ،ft to regenerative practice now needs to be every architect’s top priority despite the difficulties of staying compe،ive and commercially stable. There’s ،pe in the inspiring leader،p of younger architects w، are doing exemplary work, getting involved in public advocacy through ACAN and Architects Declare, and w، are willing to face into the complexity of ethical practice in an unsubsidised, compe،ive profession.
‘Bringing about a paradigm ،ft to regenerative practice now needs to be every architect’s top priority’
More established studios like ours are still in the process of understanding that they need to re-engineer their entire design processes and business models to meet the Architects Declare 2030 Challenge, or Race to Zero pledges they have signed up to. We’re making progress and we have the s،s, but we’re not yet seeing any practice of scale that has found the agency and the client base for every commission to be either a deep retrofit or to meet the Living Building Challenge criteria for new build.
How, individually, would you like to be remembered?
Not for us to decide, but we’d like to think that we founded a studio that has managed to maintain a certain standard of quality and intention as it has expanded, which has responded sincerely to the planetary emergencies and which has attracted an emotionally intelligent and empowered group of creative people to shape the next phase of its life.
What advice would you give to someone about to enter the profession?
Have a point of view, be willing to speak out for a better world, refuse to be told you can’t make a difference, cultivate kindness, avoid cynicism – and don’t work for people you can’t respect.