I Need to Live

December 2023

Juergen Teller's retrospective I Need to Live, designed by 6a is open at the Grand Palais Ephémère in Paris until 9 January. 

In his most extensive solo-exhibition to date, Juergen Teller is staging a retrospective at the Grand Palais Éphémère in Paris. With its over 10,000 square meters of space for display. Teller collaborated with 6a, having designed the artist’s studio in London, completed in 2016.

Two walls intersecting in a cross, 100m long, divide the space into four sectors echoing the floor plan of the Grand Palais Éphémère. Slightly offset from the building grid to frame the Eiffel Tower, each sector offers a chapter in Juergen Teller’s work, which is arranged in the form of a continuous narrative. A selection of his famous images as well as new bodies of works, is installed together with videos, adding up to a total of over 800 exhibits.

The exhibition design facilitates different viewing experiences, allowing close-up and comparative studies as well as extended overviews.

The exhibition is made of European beech plywood on softwood structure. The entire installation is designed using unfinished full sheets of ply to ensure complete reuse after the show. Two video projections and a slide show will be presented within separate pavilions wrapped in French linen.

A selection of artist’s books and related artworks are presented in fifty vitrines on trestles, specially made by long time 6a collaborator Jones Neville Studio – who also made furniture for Teller’s studio.

A catalogue published by Steidl accompanies the exhibition including an essay by Tom Emerson.

After Paris the exhibition will move to the Milan Triennale.

Curated by Thomas Weski, Juergen Teller and Dovile Drizyte

Exhibition designed by 6a architects

Vritines by Jones Neville Studio

Holborn House Shortlisted for riba Reinvention Award 2023

August 2023

Following a regional and national riba award, Holborn House community centre including Great Things Lie Ahead 2020 by artist Caragh Thuring has been shorlisted for the inaugural riba Reinvention Award 2023.

The Reinvention Award is a brand new accolade from the Royal Institute of British Architects that recognises achievement in the creative reuse of existing buildings through transformative projects that improve environmental, social, or economic sustainability. 

Championed by riba President Simon Allford, the Reinvention Award shines a light on the importance of retrofitting and its contribution towards achieving net zero. The four shortlisted buildings are all commended as exceptional examples of creative reuse, but the judges also note that each project demonstrates how innovative architecture can help to address wider societal issues.

The shortlisted schemes were selected from the 138 winners of the 2023 riba regional awards by a panel that included riba president Simon Allford, Studio pdp partner Marion Baeli, and former bbc energy and environment analyst Roger Harrabin.

The inaugural winner of the Reinvention Award 2023 will be announced at the riba Stirling Prize ceremony for the UK’s best new building on Thursday 19 October 2023 at Victoria Warehouse in Manchester.

Heinrich Tessenow Gold Medal

July 2023

The Heinrich Tessenow Society awarded the 2023 Heinrich Tessenow Medal to 6a architects at a ceremony held at Holborn House community centre designed by the practice with artist Caragh Thuring.

Previous winners of the Heinrich Tessenow Medal include Grafton, Lacaton Vassal and Peter Zumthor.

Heinrich Tessenow’s work is characterized by modesty and reticence, and although his buildings span the early decades of the twentieth century, during the early years of Modernism, the work is hard to pin down or pigeonhole. The same could be said of 6a. As the architectural critic and historian Irénée Scalbert has written, in the book Never Modern (2014) produced with 6a, ‘[They] show a feeling for time and for the vicissitudes it contributes to the life of things. Buildings are coincidences, the results of a succession of fortuitous collisions and near-misses. 6a come to them with the curiosity of anthropologists and the patience of detectives, searching for the sign that will unlock a particular situation and allow them to make the most of an occasion.

If 6a’s work resonates with Tessenow’s underlying sensitivity to place, understated order and engagement with the Garden City movement in the early decades of modernism, the issues facing the architects today could not be more different. A century ago, re-use was a minor subset of the Modernist project. For 6a, re-use is the new reality. They design new constructions but in the knowledge that every piece of land has been occupied even if it isn’t by human. There are no vacant sites. Climate change, diminishing resources and loss of biodiversity focus the architectural imagination on revealing and repairing habitat. 

Their work has evolved from deep within London’s historic fabric re-using, refurbishing and extending irregular fragments of city. Stories of the city and its inhabitants embedded in its messy materiality have been transformed into new cultural spaces at Raven Row Contemporary Arts Center (2009), South London Gallery (2010-18) and Great Things Lie Ahead, with Caragh Thuring for Holborn Community Association (2022). Excavation and forensic detective work have given the architects the materials, tools and stories to form new spaces for new uses.  

6a is an architectural practice and an address. It was founded in 2001 by Stephanie Macdonald and Tom Emerson in a former workshop in the backs of a patchwork neighbourhood of Georgian, Victorian and post-war architecture. Over the years, the practice has grown to a team of 35 people led by the founders and directors Owen Watson, Karolina Sznajder, John Ross, Louise King and Jonathan Wong. Today 6a is working in Melbourne, Athens and Liverpool and have recently completed a housing project in Hamburg’s Hafencity and a contemporary art space in New York. As their work has expanded outwards across the world, contemporary urgencies have strengthened their commitment to prioritising what already exists whether it be a building, a landscape, a community, an event or an ideal. In Milton Keynes, the unfinished and unbuilt utopian vision of the original city was renewed for the 21st century in MK Gallery (2019) while a New York playing card factory has been hollowed out to create a porous Center for Art, Research and Alliances (CARA) (2022) for new narrative in contemporary culture to take root. And like Tessenow, landscape and ecology are central to their work with houses, student housing and artists’ studios built around new ecologies and wild gardens.

Scalbert also described the work of 6a as a form of bricolage, working with what is to hand, turning the debris of previous events[1] into the setting for future growth by unpeeling, excavating and reusing sites literally and conceptually. Excavating and revealing buried material fabric provided the materials and spatial structure for Raven Row and South London Gallery. At the studio complex for Juergen Teller, House on the Park and HouseGarden, sealed ground was opened to the elements from which gardens grow like rooms under sky. At Churchill College in Cambridge, a forest grows at the centre of the new court wrapped in rooms made of reclaimed oak boards more Brutalist than the original college built in 1960s.

In 2025, Tate Liverpool will reopen, reconnecting the great Victorian warehouse with the docks, river and city. The new spatial transparency is matched by a new openness to addressing the city’s traumatic colonial history. An architect cannot solve climate change or undo the injustices of the past, but through material actions, making, transforming, can create spaces for all species to grow together. For the past 20 years, 6a and their collaborators and clients have attempted to care for what already exists, make best use of what is at hand to open up the possibilities for what has yet to come.

[1] Levi Strauss, The Science of the Concrete, The Savage Mind (1966), quoted by Scalbert.

Royal Academy

June 2023

The Royal Academy in London has elected Tom Emerson and Stephanie Macdonald Royal Academicians alongside painter Hurvin Anderson. The founding directors join fifteen architect academicians amongst a total of 100 leading painters, sculptors and print makers.

At the recent Meeting of Council, Hurvin Anderson ra Elect and Tom Emerson and Stephanie Macdonald ra Elect joined Members of Council to sign the Roll of Obligation and be presented with their ra medals.

Habitat: Limhamn

February 2023

6a in collaboration with Stockholm-based Nilsson Rahm Arkitekter and Johan Dehlin Arkitektkontor have won an international competition for the redevelopment of Limhamn cement works in Malmö, Sweden

We are delighted to be selected as architects for the regeneration of Limhamn cement silos in Malmö, Sweden. The project reimagines the former industrial site on Malmö’s waterfront cement works as a new ecology of homes and public spaces bringing together new communities with the local community of Limhamn and epic industrial heritage.

Our proposal aims to pioneer an integrated approach to urban nature and habitat using low carbon timber construction and re-use of existing industrial fabric to create homes for people, plants and all the wildlife that sustains life in Limhamn. 

The proposal Habitat: Limhamn combines a fine interpretation of the place's industrial history with a unique and beautifully designed architecture which has the potential to become a landmark for the whole of Limhamn. The elegant towers offer attractive housing and the architecture is situated in an ecologically led green landscape repurposing silos as circular fragments to form a new habitat for residents and visitors, rich in flora and fauna and with a preserved tall silo as a verdant focal point.

 Competition jury 

Our team is anchored in a long-standing Sweden/UK, collaboration and friendship between Nilsson Rahm Arkitekter, Johan Dehlin Arkitektkontor & 6a architects working alongside our structural engineer DIFK Florian Kosche and Ugo Ribeiro, with environmental engineer Richie + Daffin, and landscape architect Nigel Dunnett and marine biologist Amy Pryor.

Habitat is a proposal that elevates Limhamn's architecture to international standards while at the same time being anchored in the area's unique sense of place.

Finn Williams, city architect Malmö city Stadsbyggnadkontoret.

We look forward to developing proposals with the City of Malmö, Trianon and Lernacken Fastigheter, who are breaking the mould in a collaborative alliance with the city, the community and the environment.