Wright & Wright’s story begins in Glasgow, at the ‘Mac’, the city’s Mackintosh School of Architecture, where founding partners Clare and Sandy first met. During their formative student years, the guiding intelligence of teachers and practitioners Isi Metzstein and Andy MacMillan was crucial in shaping their design skills and critical thinking, as well as inculcating a powerful sense of how architecture should serve society.
After graduating, Sandy joined Gillespie, Kidd & Coia, working on Robinson College, Cambridge, and Clare joined Howell, Killick, Partidge & Amis. Both were leading practices of their time, producing distinctive modern buildings.
After moving to London and setting up Wright & Wright in 1994, Sandy and Clare’s early commissions involved remodelling the library at the Royal College of Art, and designing a new Women’s Library in east London.
Two fascinating library projects in contrasting locales, at opposite ends of the city, established a trajectory of working for major London institutions, as well as a love of archives and Special Collections, and the creation of spaces in which to explore and preserve them.
Investigating issues of permanence, craft and sustainability, a strikingly lucid and tactile quality of architecture is revealed in these early projects, setting a high standard for those that were to follow.
Articulating a formal architectural language anchored by a conceptual narrative is at the heart of Wright & Wright’s work. An early college library for Corpus Christi Cambridge embodies another core practice tenet of new into old, decisively rethinking and reimagining a listed, historic setting and bringing contemporary elements into resonant dialogue with original structures.
At the same time, projects for the National Gallery and V&A consolidated the experience of working with nationally significant cultural institutions, while exploring a more unorthodox ‘found space’ warehouse aesthetic for Hull Truck Theatre.
Bringing valuable new perspectives, Stephen Smith joined Wright & Wright during this time, having spent time studying at Cambridge, MIT and Harvard.
Reflecting the practice’s growing reputation, a trio of seminal projects came next: the Museum of the Home, St John’s College, Oxford and Lambeth Palace Library. Diverse in their settings and programmes, each had the aim of reshaping the identity of a leading institution through an ambitious capital project, marking a key moment of transition in building and planning for the future. Each also had a common goal of shaping a brief collaboratively and establishing a compelling sequence of spaces within their respective historically sensitive settings.
Naila Yousuf joined the practice, imparting energy and new ideas to an increasingly confident and resourceful group of designers.
In response to the growing climate emergency, issues of sustainability have come into sharper and more urgent focus. It is said that ‘the greenest building is the one which already exists’, and in this respect, Wright & Wright can draw on its considerable experience of retrofit and reuse to creatively exploit the potential of sites and buildings. Reinforcing this approach, skills in designing to rigorous PassivHaus standards and achieving Zero Carbon targets underscore a current portfolio that is helping to implement a long term vision of genuine sustainability for the British Museum, the British Academy, Lambeth Palace and several Oxbridge colleges.
As a collaborative of diverse and radical thinkers and designers, Wright & Wright draws on the deep roots and principals of its founders, while innovating constantly to bring positive change to the built environment.