The pop-up buildings that leave a legacy

Carmody Groarke's Filling Station and Frieze pavilions have confirmed its reputation as one of the country's leading architects, says Tim Walker.

At this month's Frieze Art Fair in Regent's Park, the pavilions were almost as striking as the artwork: light-filled timber structures, encompassing not only the now-epic event, but also the park's native trees. For the second year running, they were designed by one of London's most exciting young architecture firms, Carmody Groarke, which has made a virtue of taking on temporary projects and turning them into thrilling, unforgettable buildings.

One of 2012's most talked-about restaurant openings, for example, was Shrimpy's, part of The Filling Station: a ribbed, semi-opaque fibreglass shell, wrapped around the site of a former service station in King's Cross. Instead of looking out onto the grotty main road, as the service station forecourt once did, the 50-cover restaurant – housed in its former kiosk – now looks out over the calm waters of the Regent's Canal.

"Because of the heavy traffic, we needed to close the space," explains Kevin Carmody. "However, the road is on the south side of the site, which is where most of the light into the space comes from. So we needed material that brought the light, but not the view. The fibreglass is used for railway sidings; it's low-cost and robust and we constructed it with rented scaffolding, so it will return to the market sustainably afterwards."

The Filling Station's structure is intended to survive only two years before the site passes to property developers. Though Shrimpy's calls itself a pop-up, its projected lifespan is the same as that of an average new restaurant, and somewhat longer than many of Carmody Groarke's other projects. Studio East Dining, a restaurant on the roof of a then half-finished Westfield Stratford, was made using materials from the construction site, and overlooked the nearby Olympic Park for a mere three weeks in 2010. The Double Club, a nightclub concept in collaboration with the artist Carsten Höller, was split into Western and Congolese-themed spaces; its lifespan, in a warehouse in Islington, was six months.

Carmody Groarke also created the "Blind Light" installation for Antony Gormley's 2007 exhibition of the same name at the Hayward Gallery. Among its other exhibition designs was the acclaimed Bauhaus show at the Barbican earlier this year. A 160-metre long "Skywalk" in Bloomsbury, made for the 2008 London Festival of Architecture, attracted 25,000 visitors during its three-day existence.

Kevin Carmody is 38, his partner Andy Groarke, 40. The recession has forced many aspiring young restaurateurs to prove their worth with pop-ups; similarly, Carmody Groarke has gone after building projects with brief lives, allowing it to create large, high-profile public structures when other architects of similar age are still designing domestic houses in relative obscurity. "They have a professionalism for architects of that age which it normally takes a long time to establish," says Ellis Woodman, executive editor of Building Design. "I can't think of another British practice which is further ahead in its career."

The partners insist their temporary buildings are no less significant to their practice than the permanent ones. Indeed, they resist the term "temporary" altogether. "Calling something 'temporary' is loaded," says Groarke. "When things are being built for a short period of time, they have just as many design questions as things that are there 'forever'. We don't see these as embryonic rehearsals; they're serious building projects in their own right. We're very fortunate to have built a lot of things."

Carmody was born and brought up in Canberra, Australia's capital. Andy Groarke, by contrast, is from the Manchester suburbs. The partners met and became friends as employees of leading London firm David Chipperfield Architects, where Carmody impressed the boss sufficiently to work on designs for Chipperfield's own apartment. The pair were involved in projects together including Gormley's studio in King's Cross, and when they won a competition to create The Parachute Pavilion at Coney Island, New York, they decided to strike out on their own. Their first Carmody Groarke project was an interior on the west coast of Ireland. From a staff of two in 2006, the firm has now grown to 20, in a notably calm office above a music shop on noise-filled Denmark Street.

Its projects are varied, but its work carries a signature. Many of its commissions have been constructed using singular materials: the fibreglass cladding of The Filling Station; engineered timber for the pavilions at Frieze; a single vast block of granite for the tsunami memorial at the Natural History Museum. This entrepreneurial approach to any and every commission is another trademark; at Frieze, for instance, its innovations created 8,000 extra square feet of covered space between the trees of Regent's Park than any previous pavilion designer had achieved – or tried to.

At the end of 2011, Carmody was announced as the winner of a competition to build its most ambitious permanent project to date: the new Windermere Steamboat Museum in the Lake District.

The firm does build houses, too – but not just any houses. It designed a home for the artist Julian Opie, and are presently at work on Gormley's. "These clients are not dissimilar to our other clients," Carmody insists. "They want a place to live. Having said that, there is a sensibility to light and space, and an understanding of language, which helps artists to articulate and to engage with us as clients."

Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)

comedy

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own