The London Community Architect: Carl Turner

It may surprise you that, although the London-based architect Carl Turner is decorated by many achievements and successes, he had to sell his property to pursue his dream and, even nowadays, earns only as much to cover his comfortable lifestyle. A man who gives back to people and supports their development, an artist involved in numerous projects all with the same purpose: the environmental protection and the giving back to the community. During his talk at our university, Carl Turner explained what is his Sculptural Way of Looking and how got to where he is today.

Carl received an MA in Architecture and Urban Design at the Royal College of Art (RCA) where he adopted his hands-on approach and a passion for designing. Inspired by the works of Damien Hirst, Carl’s interest in crafts developed into skills which he applied to building his own house and various renovation projects. He describes the period he spent at university as the only moment when he had time to realize what he enjoys doing and to identify his passions, before focusing on how to establish his career and how to keep his practice going on an everyday basis.

During his talk, Carl focused on the importance of collaborations, which he experienced with RCA tutors, graffiti artists, illustrators and others. His team has tripled in size over the last year and would have grown much more if only they had the space. How absurd, you may think, for people who design houses for living, not to have enough space to work in. Well, this is London for you, my dear! However, Carl Turner Architects do not seem to be struggling with innovative ideas, so surely even this challenge will soon be overcome.

Carl’s approach is very patient and focused on long-term goals, such as building a reputation or awakening talents across Europe. Carl’s practice won a competition for a low-budget installation in Lisbon (MUDE) which was dealing with (teeny-tiny) housing spaces and literally slicing up buildings and furniture into easily-transportable blocks and pieces. His aim is to provoke a conversation and to receive feedback he can build onto.

Through his great passion, the social architecture, he has been able not only to address crucial issues (housing, environment, sustainability), but also helped promote growth in remote areas. Carl’s mindfulness is reflected by the limited number of hours he spends working and the emphasis he puts on the long-term impact of his projects (public gardens, sites for farmers’ markets, dance studios, workshops etc.).

Understanding context and participating locally are the top two priorities when it comes to planning and facilitating a project. Over the years, CT-Architects has not only designed some of the most beloved meeting spots in London, but also taken part in many competitions with the aim of discussing some unique ideas from different perspectives.

The trademark of the CT-Architects could be the containers. Similar to the ones used at this year’s Lisbon Triennale Pavilion (more on:, see bibliography). First installed by volunteers at the Hackney City Farm and then installed as the main building material of the PopBrixton, they fit perfectly into the image of the sustainable production. At Hackney Farm Carl experienced for the first time the real hands-off approach which so many people often (wrongly) associate with their profession. The practice, however, usually does the exact opposite and gets involved as much as money and time allow.

Following his instincts and fighting for a good cause has been Carl’s bread and butter. Thus, he bought and converted an abandoned barn and converted it into a guesthouse, using his signature ecological processes and creating various zones there. He believes that “if you wish to innovate, you have to be different” and must carry on when others tell you to stop. Such was the scenario with Brixton where Carl could spot the area’s potential and develop it long before the first hipsters started arriving.

It all, however, began with the Slip House which reminds of three different blocks piled up on top of each other like bricks. The sections allow a clear separation between individual parts of the house as well as the purposes they are used for. Yet it creates a beautifully compact space which satisfies the needs of both, family as well as work.

Today, more than ever, the need to innovate and address wider issues which they do. Many minds have been blown away by the transferability of PopBrixton and there is so much more to come as people become more aware of their actions and pursue more conscious lifestyles. Carl Turner got us thinking about how can we, ourselves, contribute to the community we live in, and his talk only resonated the well-known fact that if you try hard enough, anything is possible.




Mairs, J., 2016. Architects question authorship with Lisbon Triennale pavilion [Online]. Poole: Dezeen. Available from: [Accessed: 10/11/2016]



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s