Interview: Sybarite Architects

Monday 08 Dec 2014

Torquil McIntosh and Simon Mitchell open the doors of Sybarite Architects

Despite executing more than 800 projects in 100 cities around the world, London-based Sybarite Architects are yet to complete a design project in the UK. Their work straddles a plethora of industry sectors, from product design to tall towers to retail outlets, but never on their home turf.

Practice founders Simon Mitchell and Torquil McIntosh met while working at Future Systems and peeled off to create Sybarite (pronounced sib-uh-rahyt), a twelve-year-old firm with a focus on luxury design.

The company operates a ‘no-ego’ policy and Simon and Torquil go as far as sharing a piece of paper to sketch simultaneously given that Simon is left-handed and Torquil right-handed. The duo opened up to WAN in the following interview: 

Inside the Sybarite workspace

Our office is very ‘Sybarite’ with lots of curves and quirky elements. It is covered in sketches, prototypes and even has our ‘GANT man’ hanging from the ceiling. This is from when we were selected to take part in the Regent Street RIBA Window Competition. We were paired with GANT and sought to create a window dressing which captured both their nautical heritage and all our architectural elements. 

One interesting fact is we always have lunch as an office in our meeting room. We have a kitchen and everyone takes it in turn to cook for the rest of the team. It is a great time to catch up with each other’s news and take a moment to enjoy each other’s company away from work. Having said that when we’re busy we do have a tendency to revert back work talk!

We do have one office pet which is a Chihuahua called Simba. He mostly hangs around the kitchen looking for scraps!

Our desks are relatively clear. Torquil has a light box which he uses for sketches. We’re a great proponent of sketches as they’re much more tangible than a render. Also, it is wonderful to be able to sketch with a client, it gives them a real sense of involvement in the concept and we can edit or play around with the design together as much as required.    

On the announcement of SelgasCano as the 2015 Serpentine Pavilion architect

We welcome the idea that the Serpentine is designed not just by British architects and that there is a ‘world’ outlook taken. What we would say though is that we would be delighted to be shortlisted for a future pavilion as we have yet to build an architectural project in the UK despite extensive construction abroad. The opportunity to build our first ‘piece’ in the UK under the patronage of the Serpentine would certainly be amazing.

Looking East…

We are busier than ever! We also seem to be moving further afield with an increased amount in work in the Far East. We recently completed a project in Beijing for a company called 1436. Their parent company Erdos Group is the world’s biggest cashmere producer and supply all the top fashion houses.  However, in 2006 they began 1436 which they save only the super finest cashmere for their own products. 

They represent the absolute height of luxury. We created a concept which put the relationship between the customer and the product at its heart. This was achieved through interactive lighting, interchangeable fixtures and creating a sense of movement with the aid of wind simulation.      

In the future, I see us continuing to work internationally, perhaps more in the Middle East. I’d love to see the Aperion being built somewhere in the Gulf. In addition, I see us doing a lot more shopping malls. 

‘Architect of the Future’

For me (Simon) my fate was sealed when I won a competition to design a building of tomorrow. The next day my picture was in the local paper with the headline ‘Architect of the Future’. I proceeded to spend the rest of my time working to achieve this and I’m so glad I did. The profession has been far beyond my expectations and I’ve had the opportunity to work with both of my heroes, Jan Kaplicky and Antti Lovag, which was truly rewarding. 

I favour architecture where form and function work beautifully together in harmony - like the Guggenheim in New York by Frank Gehry or the Lord’s Media Centre at the Marylebone Cricket Club in London by Future Systems (which I was lucky enough to work on for 2 years). They are two classic examples of taking a brief and thinking completely differently (but somehow logically) about how the form and function play together - the result is remarkable.

What does ‘good design’ mean to you?

Good design to me is not fashion led. It takes inspiration from its surroundings and then seeks to enhance it. I truly believe good architecture isn’t inspired by other buildings but instead by organic forms or everyday objects which considers a holistic approach in its design. With retail architecture, no successful concept can be achieved without having an in-depth understanding of the brand in question. Understanding their heritage and product is imperative.     

Work with Sybarite Architects

Sybarite Architects are currently looking for two creative individuals. It is not essential to be an architect or architectural graduate and we welcome applications from various fields of experience such as Animation, Product Design, Industrial Design, Engineering or Graphics.  3D Rhino, Flamingo nXt rendering plug-in and Autocad skills are required and an understanding of Chinese Mandarin is very desirable. We offer an attractive employment package with benefits and salary is dependent on experience. Please send a covering letter, C.V and portfolio selection to: Kelsey Douglas, Practice Manager -

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