"It's funny to think of the works we've done as being the story of an office," laughs Lettice Drake of Practice Architecture somewhat incredulously. "It didn't resemble anything like an architecture firm at the beginning," she adds. We are stepping over the wooden framework of what will soon be the fourth Frank's Cafe, the temporary summer Campari Bar on the roof of a Peckham car park that has been making a name for the studio with the past three editions.
Drake and her partner Paloma Gormley began their collaboration as undergraduate students at Cambridge, organising economically questionable but otherwise triumphant parties for the architecture department. While Gormley was still in her final year, she received a call from Hannah Barry, the curator and future patron of the studio, asking her to help make a temporary cafe for Bold Tendencies, her sculpture gallery in a Peckham car park. "I said I'd love to," smiles Gormley, "and then I begged Lettice to help me!"
The cafe was built by the students. Gormley explains it didn't occur to them to built it any other way: "We both helped out on EXYZT's Southwark Lido project and we didn't see contractors — that whole world seemed so remote. There was never a question that we'd get anyone else to do it. It was just assumed and we thought it would be fun."
"Since we've been building the Frank's Cafes, we've been worried about how the project sits in Peckham," explains Drake, alluding to the cooler-than- thou art crowd that the restaurant and bar attracts despite the area's destitution.
Practice's approach to architecture is certainly influenced by EXYZT's chaotic self-build, make-do, create, dismantle and make again attitude