British architect Piers Taylor is the founder of two architectural practices, Invisible Studio and Mitchell Taylor Workshop (now Mitchell Eley Gould) prior to that. A former design fellow at the University of Cambridge and a studio master at London's Architectural Association, Taylor has also established a number of educational programs, including the annual Studio in the Woods. On top of all that, he also appears as the co-host of the BBC Two’s The World's Most Extraordinary Homes series available on Netflix.
Taylor's projects push boundaries in terms of cost, technique, and process—but he doesn't consider his work avant-garde. "In many ways, I don’t see our work as unconventional—it does what people have done for thousands of years, in that it takes the materials, available resources, and skills from any given context and uses them to make buildings," Taylor tells us. "Often, the contexts that we work in have limited resources and few conventional building skills, so our buildings might appear to be fairly raw or frugal. It’s only in recent years that design has become synonymous with a kind of grotesque, applied luxury. We have no interest in that world of design, and our work in some ways offers an alternative, lower-impact model of architecture to many practices today."
Keep scrolling to take a look at 10 of our favorite projects by Taylor.
Taylor's own home is a renovation of an old gamekeeper's cottage four miles outside of the city of Bath, which he dramatically modernized for his family in 2008. The transformation earned him an AJ Small Project Award in 2009.
A direct response to its gritty, urban context, Room 13 in Bristol is a community art studio where resident artists work alongside excluded children. Nicholas Serota, former director of London's Tate Gallery, called this "the most important model for art education we have today." A perfect example that low-grade, everyday materials can be beautiful, the studio is heated and cooled by a ground source heat pump, and the "snouts" act as ventilation and light shafts. Room 13 won a RIBA Award in 2007 as well as a regional sustainability award.
Trailer (Equivalent #2)
Built by Invisible Studio in the woods near Bath, Trailer (Equivalent #2) is a fiberglass- and steel-clad cabin first conceived as a prototype for an economical, self-built, mobile home. The dwelling, suitable as a permanent or temporary accommodation, can be legally transported on a public highway like a trailer. A removable, wheeled "bogey" slides out from under the steel chassis when the building is not in motion. The total cost of construction was kept to £20,000 by using second-hand materials and waste from other construction sites. The aim of the project was to provide a super low-cost, versatile, usable space that could act as a kit of parts for any self-builder to improvise around or easily adapt.
Built by Invisible Studio with the help of neighbors and friends—none of whom had ever constructed a building before—Visible Studio uses untreated and unseasoned timber grown in the surrounding woodland. The project was an exercise in establishing a system of building that could be constructed by unskilled labor with minimal drawings. The "mistakes" of the unskilled team remain evident in the building, with no attempt to conceal them. The total cost of the project, including materials and labor, was £15,000 (about $21,343.20).
Shop the Look
A no-impact, composting toilet made by Invisible Studio to serve the Visible Studio, Longdrop was designed and made entirely from scavenged material left over from other projects, cost nothing to build, and boasts a modern profile. Longdrop was shortlisted for the AJ Small Projects Award.
The renovations for this farmhouse in St. Catherine's Valley, Gloucestershire, used materials from demolished barns, with cladding designed to conceal the proportions of an existing extension and reveal key views into the landscape.
This "overspill" studio in Essex accommodates a home office and a potting room and was designed with a continuous, clerestory window that wraps around its upper portion. The "folded" roof allows daylight to continuously penetrate into the space.
For the Caretaker’s House at Hooke Park, Invisible Studio was commissioned by the Architectural Association to develop a student schematic design into a low-cost timber prototype, using only timber that had been grown and felled on-site and in its green state.
Westonbirt Mess Building
For the Westonbirt National Arboretum Tree Management Center in Gloucestershire, Invisible Studio designed a series of buildings that used timber intelligently and could act as prototypes for rural buildings elsewhere. Their work consists of a large span workshop building, a new mess and educational facility, and a yard for the tree team. The mess building was the second one they constructed, and it was made entirely using Westonbirt’s own timber, which was grown and milled on-site with minimal processing. The building was constructed by skilled timber framers Nick Perchard and James Symon, who worked with unskilled volunteers throughout the project. It received a National RIBA Award in addition to three Regional RIBA Awards.
Westonbirt Machinery Store
Another structure from Westonbirt that takes full advantage of the site's available timber, the award-winning machinery store offers a big-span timber alternative to the steel- or concrete-framed, "at-cost" rural barns. The big-span workshop uses 65.6-foot-long Corsican pine in continuous lengths that were then hewn by hand into structural sections.
Starfall Farm and Room 13 were designed while Piers Taylor was a director of Mitchell Taylor Workshop prior to founding Invisible Studio.