Tim Sanderson is a 31 year-old architect who works for London-based practice MSMR architects. He is a long-time Ad Hoc Guardian and currently lives in Hoxton. Originally from Herne Bay, Kent, he is also involved in a scheme to regenerate the town’s pier and also finds time to dabble in screen printing as well. He chats to us about his connection to Shoreditch and the importance of getting stuck in.
You are an architect, what kind of projects are you involved with?
I’ve worked for MSMR architects for eight years now, they’re based in Waterloo in a converted Victorian school near the Southbank. Over the years I’ve worked on a penthouse near Buckingham Palace, affordable housing in Southwark and a warehouse style regeneration scheme at Ransome’s Wharf near Battersea. Currently I’m working on a large mews house on the Grosvenor estate in Belgravia. It’s great to go down to the building site and see the house gutted, full of diggers, dirt and wet concrete, knowing how great it will look when it’s finished. This property will have a large atrium in the middle topped with a skylight, a glass lift, green wall, gym and cinema. We’re a very sociable office, we play in the architects softball league in Regents park in the summer, go on office trips and have an office summer picnic.
You’re also a screen printer – what draws you to that particular art form?
Last year I did a screen printing workshop at the Print Club in Dalston. I screen printed a little sketch of the Southbank I did on my iPad and loved how quickly you could create something. To go from a scribble to a little set of six screen-prints in an afternoon was incredibly satisfying, unlike architecture which can take years with so many considerations to make and problems to solve. Being quick and creative was a revelation.
You’ve produced a print focusing on Shoreditch, what is it about the area that you wanted to capture?
I used to work in the Tea Building in Shoreditch for Archer Architects. I met Stephen Archer when I was 16 at his office in Clerkenwell and once I’d finished my architecture degree I got in touch to see if I could work with him for my year out. Clerkenwell had become very expensive so Stephen set up his new office in Shoreditch. The Tea Building was a very cool place to work with its exposed brickwork, surface mounted strip lights and distressed industrial chic, it really set the stylistic tone for what has now become ubiquitous in Shoreditch.
The recession encouraged the start of the ‘pop up’ phenomenon; short term leases in vacant shops meant budding entrepreneurs could have a go and try something a bit edgy. This along with the prolific graffiti and the grotty edges made Shoreditch a very attractive and exciting place for creative people. The last project I worked on at Archer Architects was the rusty corten steel hotel on the corner of the Tea Building at Shoreditch house. I made loads of little cardboard models with different folding profiles for the Corten steel. This was a great project to work on and really is a gem of a building. Ironically once the high end brands like Shoreditch house arrived, this encouraged accelerated gentrification, of increasing rents for homes and offices, meaning Archer Architects moved back to Clarkenwell in a cheaper pre-renovated office building and I moved to Peckham with Ad Hoc. I chose my first print to feature Shoreditch because it’s a special place for me, my next one will be of the Southbank near where I work now.
Do you find a link between your work as an architect and your screen printing?
MSMR have become specialists at delivering high-end developments in the super prime London housing market. It’s great to have the opportunity to design apartments and buildings that will be sold for tens of millions of pounds but there is a lot of responsibility when working on these sorts of projects and a lot of time is spent on detail design and coordinating information from structural engineers and other consultants.
I loved art at school and was most content when I was covered in blobs of paint. I really got into Lucian Freud when I was doing my A-levels and my paintings got more rapid and satisfyingly messy. I went into architecture because it is an artistic profession but I found drawing straight lines to scale quite frustrating. It wasn’t until I started 3D modelling in CAD that I could start designing spaces. After eight years I was qualified and working full time in practice but found having learnt to draw straight lines I struggled to be spontaneously creative, I had developed ‘the fear!’. Like writers block but instead I couldn’t pick up a paintbrush or finish anything I started. It had been such an epic journey getting my architectural qualifications but I found that I really wanted to get back to that loose creative frame of mind. The screen printing is an opportunity to be covered in paint again. My artwork is still architectural and linear but a bit of playful cheekiness has been allowed to creep in. My Shoreditch print features a guy dressed as a hot dog and someone making his own street pizza, keep your eyes peeled for those two.
You’re also working on scheme to regenerate Herne Bay pier. What is your personal connection to Herne Bay?
I was born and raised in Herne Bay, I grew up in a house on Pier Avenue. All my family are from the town and I’d spend most weekends walking around visiting my grandparents, aunty and cousins. We’d spend the summers on the beach at our beach hut. When I was 11 I decided to canoe out to the old pier head without a life jacket on, it’s three quarters of a mile to paddle there, I was in a lot of trouble with my poor Mum who’d been ‘going spare’ watching from the beach. Herne Bay pier was the second longest in Britain until the connecting pier burnt down, leaving the pavilion head out to sea with the remaining, considerably shorter pier connected to the land. I left when I was 18 to study architecture in London. I was desperate to move away from my hometown, to leave behind the familiar and embrace a new and exciting city. I used to go roller-skating on the pier when I was younger but it wasn’t economically viable to keep it open anymore so they demolished it a few years ago. Since then I’ve been doing little designs at the weekends but never came up with anything suitable. It wasn’t until the Pier Trust started putting little white huts on the pier for little pop up shops that really inspired me and lead to me developing my pier scheme. Eastborne pier caught fire last year so piers were in the news, then Janet Street Porter wrote an article exclaiming “save our seaside”.
She was quoted as saying, “Herne Bay, just down the coast needs the same treatment – the truncated pier looks sad, and the seafront could be fabulous.”
I saw on Facebook that there was to be a meeting on the pier with the pier trust and the local press about the future of the pier. I knew I had to get my ideas to that meeting, so I pulled an all-nighter and emailed my presentation to the pier trust and the local journalists. It was front page news of the Herne Bay Gazette with a double page spread. Since then I’ve been working directly with the pier trust and developing the scheme in my spare time.
What are you aiming to achieve with the scheme?
The pier is an extremely important and visible landmark in the town and local people are very protective and sensitive towards it. My approach is to try to retain and enhance it’s sense of local identity from the materials used to, it’s sense of fun. Not only have the pier trust built a series of white beach hut shops on the pier they’ve also been organising a series of events, including a pop up cinema, Santa’s grotto and reindeer at Christmas and lambs for the kids at Easter. This is great to activate the site and involve the locals but being so exposed out to sea these activities are subject to the weather, which is often rainy, cold and very windy. My scheme uses these huts as a starting point but lined up along the neck of the pier and pulled out to create a café at the entrance to create a piazza at the entrance, adjacent to an existing fish restaurant – Le Petit Poisson and at the other end an events space and outdoor eating area opening out onto a landscaped garden out on the pier. This could help make it an iconic pier for the community but also attract tourists to the town too.
Who or what are you inspired by?
People who get stuck in. Everyone at the Pier Trust are volunteers and have worked extremely hard to create something new. They have plenty of critics and have no formal training in generating new businesses and running a pier but they got together, fought for the lease from the council and continue to organise new events to involve the community. No one was commissioned or given a massive grant, they just had a go. I’ve learnt that having an idea is the easy bit but finishing is the hard bit.
You’ve been a guardian for six years now. What about the scheme works so well for you?
Six years ago I was living in an expensive small bedroom in Shoreditch, then the recession hit. A few people at work were made redundant and the rest of us had a pay cut. I couldn’t afford to stay living where I was and a friend suggested I join the Ad Hoc Guardian scheme. I took the first property I was offered which was a grand brick townhouse with a large basement and garden in Peckham. It had been used as a council office building and was now being sold off, presumably also as a result of the recession. My bedroom was the former meeting room which was very large, dual aspect, generous floor to ceiling heights, double doors onto the garden and I had a dressing room adjacent that used to be the photocopy room.