Profile: Carl Turner Architects

Carl Turner Architects was awarded the 2013 RIBA Manser Medal for its striking Slip House.

By Sarah Brownlee

Carl Turner crop 2Carl Turner Architects’ award-winning Slip House in south London is about to get a new neighbour. Work has already started on site for ‘Ribbon House,’ so called in reference to the glass ribbon that separates the two houses. It will be a low-energy white brick house and is the next step forward in realising Turner’s ultimate ambition to create a terrace of differing ‘exemplar low-energy town houses’. The practice has two further houses emerging through planning – a partially-buried house, cast in concrete with a grass roof in north London and a holiday home in Woolacombe, Devon with views of the coast, that company founder Carl Turner describes as ‘a sweet chestnut-clad timber box’.

‘I enjoy using concrete internally due to it’s solidity, casting opportunities and the instant patina that it brings to a project’
Carl Turner

Carl Turner crop 1The success of Slip House, which this year won the RIBA Manser Medal for ‘best new house in the UK’, has done much to boost CTA’s profile. It also happens to be Turner’s home, with the studio in there too, but first and foremost it is a prime example of progressive architecture mixing admirable sustainable qualities with beautiful living and work spaces. The plot the house was built on, essentially a gap in a Brixton terrace, required some clever thinking to get around planning constraints. ‘We are increasingly being asked to look at sites where planning is complex and challenging as I guess we have become known for gaining planning for very modern buildings in built-up, often traditional context areas,’ says Turner, who describes himself not in fact as an architect but as a ‘maker’. Although, he did study architecture – firstly at Southbank University then at the RCA and worked for Foster + Partners and Penoyre & Prasad, among other architects, before setting up his own studio in 2006.

Carl Turner crop 3Largely due to Slip House, Turner has become known as an exponent of ‘high-impact low- cost architecture’ but there is no signature style, as such, to be spotted in the work. ‘We really start from first principles each time, depending on context, client desires, structural drivers and so forth. I enjoy using concrete internally due to it’s solidity, casting opportunities and the instant patina that it brings to a project,’ Turner explains. ‘Externally we are looking forward to our white brick house emerging and would like to experiment further with brick. Glass has clearly been a material we have pushed to the limit on projects and particularly Slip House has exploited it’s translucent and transformative properties.’ OSB (oriented strand board) and black-stained timber were the favoured materials for Stealth Barn, a guest house-cum-studio situated on the Cambridgeshire fens.

Carl Turner crop 4With CTA shortlisted for another RIBA competition, this time with the challenge to design housing specifically for private rental, and other schemes ongoing, there is much more to come from Turner and the team. And his ambition to turn Slip House into ‘Slip Street’ could yet become a reality.


Photography credit for all images: Tim Crocker

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