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Steve McCloy and Bongani Muchemwa

Steve McCloy and Bongani Muchemwa, founders of design and architecture studio McCloy + Muchemwa.

With their roots in Africa and now London-based, the studio was recently named in the Architects’ Journal 40 Under 40, and they are committed to making affordable, understandable and evocative work, as well as being passionate about big-ideas and experimenting.

The pair complement their emerging studio with commercial practice, teaching, mentoring, industrial design and writing. As keen collaborators, Steve and Bongani enjoy the opportunities for teaming-up with other organisations to tackle all manner of public projects… and preconceptions!


If we’re honest, and despite challenges, we can say that becoming slight recluses during the pandemic has often been enjoyable and beneficial, we are also of the view that ‘Freedom Day’ must be taken with a generous pinch of salt! Any minute you might get a ‘ping’ from the test and trace, or might have isolate from Covid Symptoms… Seeing loved ones is really important, and yes, working with colleagues in an architecture studio is enormously beneficial, as ours is a creative discipline that prioritises people and inhabitation above all else (at least we think so). So, in compiling our thoughts for the August London Architecture Diary edit, we have had to consult some of our friends who have been much better than us at championing culture and finding new, powerful ways of disseminating it over the last year and a half.


Let’s begin with the virtual realm. Whether you are excited or sceptical about the future of virtual spaces then the AORA gallery will offer some food for thought as its calmness and curated atmosphere are challenging the medium, the current exhibition ‘Urbanism’ runs until 15th August.

Two more virtual exhibitions are close to our hearts – they are the summer exhibitions of the University of Westminster and The Bartlett, the first of which represents Bongani’s teaching post, and the second we had the honour of being the official show openers, along with friends and fellow alumni in the new AJ 40 Under 40 cohort. There’s still time to see these online exhibitions and they’ve hardly ever seemed more relevant, as we can now agree that the way of living in the future is absolutely up for experimentation and reimagining!


Next is the old-fashioned physical exhibition. A good starting point for re-joining ‘real life’ is the Serpentine Pavilion – that’s the one we started with! In the same area, get a little kick of the virtual with the incredible AR exhibition ‘Tomás Saraceno: Webs of Life’ – with giant virtual spiders shifting perceptions in the artist’s expanded notion of ‘Arachnophilia’ until 17th October.

Back to friends, many of us have had projects delayed and cancelled and some have had a weird situation where something has opened yet nobody visiting – to some extent this has been the case with Studio MUTT’s extraordinary design for ‘Bags: Inside Out’ at the V&A, which luckily will run until January, but nevertheless perhaps could’ve been overlooked with all the emphasis on staying-at-home. And if you’re happy and feeling safe to go to indoor events and galleries, don’t miss ‘Charlotte Perriand: The Modern Life‘ at the Design Museum; it’s there until 5th September!

We’re also curious about the new participatory installation in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. Ei Arakawa’s ‘Mega Please Draw Freely‘ will be on until 29th August, and promises to stand in stark contrast to the environment of isolation that the pandemic has brought.


Finally buildings. Some of us have taken the lockdown opportunity to get to know one specific area of the city very well, and to give a bit more notice to our local architecture highlights. But there has been a lot going on over the last few years, with construction often racing ahead despite the pandemic. We are going to be going out and looking at stuff, a fun way to do this is by finding something temporary and fun as an accompaniment and excuse to visit something else.

Eleanor Hill’s artwork and underpass lighting near Wood Street Station, Walthamstow is worth a look if you’re about for example.

Adam Nathaniel Furman has an installation ‘Proud Little Pyramid’ at Granary Square in Kings Cross, but for us the thing to see is Moxon Architect’s new footbridge just a few metres away!

Yinka Ilori has installed ‘Dodge’ at Somerset House until 22nd August, a fun day-out sure, but also excuse to check-in on Grafton Architects Marshall Building for the LSE, and ‘Promise Me Memories and I Will Let You In‘ in the public realm in North Greenwich until 19th September, but again the temptation is to spy on the soon to be completed Design District and surrounding area, including a striking centre-piece from Selgascano, an installation by Studio Weave, and if you’re curious to explore a little further to the south a couple of pieces from FleaFolly Architects.


August Recommended Reads:


  • Starting strong and something we can all do, either from home or out and about, do is get your hands on a copy of ‘Now You Know‘ edited by Pooja Agrawal and Joseph Henry of Sound Advice. The book draws together tons of contributors from architecture and urbanism that challenge spatial and racial inequality – if you follow them on social media, you know that it’ll smash your coffee table and more!
  • A second book is Steve’s new project with CJ Lim, The Bartlett Professor Architecture and Urbanism, ‘Once Upon A China’ experiments with the conception and conceptualisation of design and re-appraises important aspects of urban futures – the comic style representation of project isn’t a neutral exercise, instead it embeds politics, satire and enhanced spatial imagination into the fundamental thinking. The book would make great summer reading for the curious and students alike.
  • The third book is something of a new type, an architectural novel written by an architect; ‘The Masterplan’ by OMA’s Reinier de Graaf chronicles the trajectory of an architect craving recognition, with the central protagonist tasked with designing the capital of a young African republic. Like all great novels, a larger story is revealed; here about national struggle, post-colonialism, Chinese influence in Africa and forces of global capitalism.

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