Alison Brooks – Episode 11

On the programme this week is the architect Alison Brooks.

Alison was born in Canada and studied architecture at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. As part of Canada’s co-op system, during her studies she alternated between university and practice, gaining experience with many of Canada’s top architecture firms.

After university Alison left Canada and moved to London, initially on a working holiday visa. Her big break came when she found a job with Israeli designer Ron Arad, first on the competition – and later the delivery – for the Tel Aviv Opera House. Ron had previously made a name for himself with his design and production company One-Off, and later the One-Off Showroom in Covent Garden.

Alison went on to become a partner in the practice, Ron Arad Associates, where she stayed for seven years. But in 1996 she left to start her own firm, Alison Brooks Architects, which quickly earned a reputation for delivering award-winning housing schemes.

Alison shot to prominence in 2008 for her work on Accordia, a housing scheme in Cambridge, with Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and Maccreanor Lavington. The project went on to jointly win them the RIBA Stirling Prize that year.

She was shortlisted again for Stirling in 2013, for Newhall Be, a housing development in Harlow in Essex. The practice has also won the two other big RIBA architecture prizes, the Manser Medal for Salt House and the Stephen Lawrence prize for Wrap House.

In this week’s episode we talk about drawing the straight lines for petrol station canopies and, perhaps more rewardingly, the complex non-orthogonal curves for the Tel Aviv Opera House. We talk about Alison’s early experience measuring every detail of her childhood house and detailing every measure of a project by hand.

We talk about Canadian education and British housing. And we consider the benefits of winning work through competitions.

We joined Alison in her bustling office early one evening