Stephenson Studio rebrands as founder retires

Roger Stephenson, who set up his eponymous architectural practice in 1979, is handing over the reins to Keith Hamilton and Justin Risley, while continuing to serve as a creative consultant to the business.

Associate director and partner respectively, Hamilton and Risley step into director positions under the changes and the practice has rebranded to Stephenson Hamilton Risley STUDIO to mark the shift in leadership. The changes have immediate effect.

Stephenson told Place North West that, after four decades heading the studio, and its predecessor Stephenson Bell Architects with Jeffrey Bell that wound up in 2013, stepping back and taking on a reduced amount of responsibility for its administrative functions “is what I want I right now.

“But I don’t want to stop being involved in architecture and will continue working for Stephenson Hamilton Risley Studio as a consultant.” His position will see him work “at least two days a week” for the practice, he added.

Hamilton and Risley have each worked for the studio for almost 30 years and between them have designed and delivered many of the practice’s recent projects in Manchester, including Chetham’s School of Music, Capital & Centric’s under-development Leonardo Hotel and the Hallé St. Peters in Ancoats, as well as Exchange Square in Birmingham and Carlton House in London.

In a statement today, Stephenson Hamilton Risley Studio said the practice “has made a name for itself for its award-winning work on projects including concert halls, hotels, residential buildings, private houses, and masterplans that have contributed to the architectural heritage of Manchester, Birmingham, and London.”

Stephenson told Place North West the rebranded studio would aim to grow its pipeline of office design work, to add to the mix of residential, hotel and leisure schemes it has focussed on in recent years. The studio has in the past designed more than 50 office projects for Manchester-based developer Bruntwood, ranging from reception improvements to whole buildings.

The newly appointed directors also intend to expand the studio’s business outside of Manchester.

Halle St Peters

Halle St Peter’s extension in Ancoats

Said Hamilton: “I know I speak for Justin and myself when I say that it’s an honour to be steering the ship as we look to grow the practice and further diversify our brilliant portfolio of projects.

“The architectural ethos and modus operandi of the practice will remain the same as that originally established by the founding partner, Roger Stephenson OBE, so we can ensure the continued output of consistently high-quality designs.

“However, we’ll be taking some steps towards a more client-focussed approach to design. Too often, architects are seen as introverted and self-referential, with clients feeling unconsidered. We would like to pursue active engagement and creative dialogue with our clients to help engender a trusting partnership in creating buildings.

“We would like to grow the practice to work beyond Manchester and the region, expanding our horizons and taking our creative team with us on the journey.”

Risley added: “Working within this phenomenal team for so many years has been a real privilege. Having the opportunity to now lead it is a hugely exciting prospect for Keith and me. We’ll be taking care to preserve our vibrant studio atmosphere, which helps us attract the fantastic, creative client base that we do.

“Working with developer brands like Urban Splash, Capital & Centric, Property Alliance Group, and Nikal has energised the practice. Architecture is a collaborative process, and when like-minded clients and architects go on the design journey together, it ultimately enriches [cities] and produces great architecture.

“Working on projects with such a diverse range of scale, use and clients forces us to constantly re-evaluate our output and design responses. We are keen to develop and grow the practice with our dedicated and creative team.”

Reflecting on his career, Stephenson said the three projects of which he was most proud were Chetham’s School of Music, Hallé St Peter’s, and the Quay Bar in Castlefield – which was demolished in 2007 (the site sits opposite Renaker’s Deansgate Square and Crown Street residential schemes). Both this and Chetham’s were shortlisted for the prestigious Stirling Prize.

Stephenson said in the statement: “The practice and its people have been a huge part of my life over many years. During that time, I have been enormously privileged to have worked on a significant range of landmark projects with many talented architects, not least of whom are Keith and Justin who have been by my side for 30 years.

“It’s always difficult to let go but I genuinely couldn’t wish for anyone better than Keith and Justin to lead the practice going forward. I’m very much looking forward to the next chapter of my life and delighted that I will have an ongoing part-time role with Stephenson Hamilton Risley Studio.”

Stephenson Hamilton Risley Directors Pics 2021

From left: Stephenson, Hamilton and Risley; Capital & Centric’s Leonardo ‘Jenga’ Hotel; Chetham’s School of Music and Halle St. Peters

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Good to see you’re still standing Roger (me old acquaintance !) Best Wishes John T

By John Townsend

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