Virtual Design Festival

Invisible Studio "started as a voyage of self-build discovery" says Piers Taylor in film for VDF

In the second part of our VDF collaboration with film-makers Laura Mark and Jim Stephenson, we screen the first episode of the duo's Practice series, in which architect Piers Taylor of Invisible Studio explains why he built his own house in the woods.

Mark and Stephenson's documentary series Practice focuses on the process of making architecture, and is made through engaging with the architects featured in their practice, on site and in their homes.

Practice's first episode takes place at Taylor's woodland plot in Bath

"We felt that so many films and documentaries on architecture look at the finished building, and rather than focusing on what the architects have done, we wanted our series of films to investigate how they have done it and the work that goes on behind the scenes to create architecture," Mark told Dezeen.

"Piers himself is already a public figure but we wanted to challenge this and look at what really drives him and his work."

Piers Taylor of Invisible Studio
The film shows Taylor and coworkers in the process of making a new cabin

For the first episode, the film-makers joined Taylor in his studio and woods near Bath, where he has built his and his family's home on a half-acre slot of woodland.

"I realised that I could have the life that I wanted," Taylor said. "I could live on a bit of bushland, it was close to a city and yet felt like it was in total wilderness. I could live and work in a way that made sense to me."

The architect created a number of buildings in the woodlands near Bath

The family constructed the house themselves.

"We built a house having to carry every single component down the track by hand," Taylor explained. "We built it ourselves as a sort of way of understanding how buildings went together."

Since then, Taylor has added a number of buildings, including a workshop on stilts and a mobile micro-home.

Invisible Studio started to take shape in 2010 when Taylor realised he wanted a change in the way he worked after visiting Australia, where he had studied, and receiving a corporate Christmas card sent by his practice.

"I felt physically sick that this vision I had had for practice suddenly had morphed into this organisation that was sending out corporate Christmas cards," he said.

"So I very physically extracted myself from my old practice. You know, when I came back from Sydney, it was like my stuff was on the road outside the office."

Invisible Studio's work "straddles a thin line between something a farmer might have built or something an architect might have done"

Taylor then set up Invisible Studio with a vision of friends coming together and making things.

Practice shows the architect and a group of friends and co-workers creating a small cabin on the woodland, and hears from his friends and family who are helping to make the building.

"In a way, my work isn't about a building," Taylor explained. "It's about a journey that started as a kind of voyage of self-build discovery in this world of making, timber and rural bodging. And they straddle a fine line between something a farmer might have built or something an architect might have done, and I think they kind of morph between those things. I really like that unselfconscious ambiguity."

The film-makers wanted to look at what drove Taylor and his work

Among Invisible Studio's recent projects are a gymnasium with a giant window for a Somerset hotel and an event space pavilion built together with students from the University of Reading.

Mark and Stephenson are working on the next episode of Practice, which will focus on Sam Jacob and the work he has been doing during the lockdown period in the UK.

Virtual Design Festival, the world's first digital design festival, runs from 15 April to 30 June 2020 and is sponsored by bathroom and kitchen manufacturer Grohe.

About Laura Mark

Laura Mark is an award-winning architecture critic, curator and designer based in London. She is the Keeper of Walmer Yard and runs the Baylight Foundation, where she curates a number of cultural programmes and projects. She teaches at the Bartlett School of Architecture and the University of Greenwich and was previously a Visiting Lecturer in the BArch programme at the Birmingham School of Architecture and Design.

She has directed a number of films including the documentary Zaha: An Architecture Legacy (2017) which has been shown at festivals in London, Milan, New York and Miami.

About Jim Stephenson

Jim Stephenson is a photographer and film-maker concerned with the documentation of architecture, interiors and the built environment. Trained as an architectural technologist, on graduation Jim worked in the industry for almost ten years on both sides of the Atlantic. During this time he began to take photographs for architectural practices, eventually setting down his pen to document buildings full time.

He has been commissioned to photograph and produces films on projects by a wide range of architects and designers, including BIG; Herzog & de Meuron; Assemble; Zaha Hadid Architects; dRMM; Studio in the Woods / Invisible Studio; and Foster & Partners.