Doone Silver Kerr, established just six years ago, is still a young practice with all the enthusiasm, freshness of approach, and eagerness to explore and innovate that description implies. But it is hardly an “emerging” practice, given the scale and diversity of its portfolio of projects, completed and in progress. Its team is, indeed, conspicuously youthful, but Doone Silver Kerr benefits from experienced leadership – it is the combination that makes the practice a potent presence on the London architectural scene.
London – an office in Shoreditch – may be the base from which Doone Silver Kerr operates, but its largest project to date is located in the centre of Birmingham. The projects on which the three partners have worked extend across Europe and the Middle and Far East. It is the synergy between Richard Doone, John Silver and Ross Kerr that drives the operation. Their talents are complementary. Doone joined Conran Roche soon after graduating from London’s Bartlett School in 1984. He spent more than 25 years with successive Conran practices, eventually becoming managing director of an office more than 90 strong, with projects extending across the hotel, residential, restaurant and retail sectors from Brompton Cross to Japan’s Roppongi Hills. John Silver, Doone’s contemporary at the Bartlett, joined the office of Norman Foster, where he became a director in 1994, seeing the practice expand into a global operation. Cutting his teeth on the terminal building at Stansted Airport in the 1980s, he worked on projects ranging from the Sackler Galleries at London’s Royal Academy to the Frankfurt Commerzbank tower and a school in the Cote d’Azur. Moving on (after nearly 20 years with Foster) to Hamilton Architects (subsequently BFLS) Silver met Ross Kerr, whose past experience with EPR Architects included major commercial projects. At BFLS Kerr ran the £150 million fit-out of the One Hyde Park apartment development - he joined Doone and Silver in 2013.
Doone Silver Kerr's three partners brought to the new practice not only a wealth of experience and expertise but also excellent client contacts. Over the last six years, Doone Silver Kerr has acquired new clients who value the opportunity to work closely with the partners and the “personal touch” which the practice offers. Content to see their work broadly categorized as “late modernist”, Doone, Silver and Kerr stress that their practice has no “house style” – there is no attempt to create a brand. Indeed, the opposite: every project generates its own response as a result of an extended dialogue with the client. The New Fetter Lane development, recently completed, slotted 15 storeys of new office space into a tight triangular site, adjoining a conservation area, behind Fleet Street. In contrast, a development for Great Portland Estates in Regent Street created state of the art office floors behind a listed façade – both projects are, in different ways, exercises in contextualism and both reflect a belief that “resolving the floorplate” is the key issue in any office project. Doone Silver Kerr’s philosophy of design is rooted in a commitment to rational building, eschewing extravagance but focusing on precise detailing and the thoughtful use of materials. The core of the practice’s work is commercial – with the 200,000 sq.ft. Colmore Row office project seen as “a beacon for Birmingham”, a demonstration of Doone Silver Kerr’s expertise in the design of tall buildings. But residential projects feature strongly in the workload of the office. Again, there is a firm rejection of any preconceived approach – many recent London developments are characterized by an automatic recourse to brick cladding combined with a standardized plan. Doone Silver’s apartments at Compton Street, Clerkenwell, in contrast, embody a radical spatial strategy that bucks the trend. Schemes like this reflect the benefits of the practice’s fruitful collaboration with clients seeking quality in a competitive market.
Doone Silver Kerr is a dynamic and growing practice. But the partners, having experience of mega-practices, are determined to maintain a hands-on approach to design as the practice expands. The pursuit of excellent design in tune with the aspirations of clients is the core agenda, now and for the future. The combination of experience with the energy and enthusiasm of a young team makes for a heady brew – this is a unique operation making a potent impact on the current architectural scene.
Kenneth Powell July 2016