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
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture