One to Watch
Architecture and interior design practice Mailen Design
First Image: Credit Kristen McCluskie
Words by Cathy Hayward
Knauf Clerkenwell: Following several years of developing designer showrooms for material product suppliers, Knauf came to Mailen Design to raise the profile and awareness of their brand in the UK. The result is a mixed-use exhibition, gallery, workspace, and events zone all celebrated through the use of innovative Knauf products.
Architect Ben Mailen established Mailen Design to implement his experience and passion for architecture and interior design following several years working for large award-winning architectural practices across the UK. Initially starting as a sole practitioner, the practice has grown into a studio of highly creative designers involved with a rich variety of work at diff erent scales. Spanning across residential, hospitality, retail, arts and commercial sectors, their built work has a consistent quality through an obsession with materials and craftsmanship. They believe in a process-driven approach, intentionally avoiding a house style in favour of analytical responses to contextual challenges. Their work has been recognised by numerous industry awards, and they were shortlisted as Building Design’s Young Architect of the Year in 2019.
Kielder Castle: Situated in the heart of Europe’s largest man-made forest, Kielder Castle is an ex-hunting lodge of the Duke of Northumberland. Today the Grade II listed building partly houses café and exhibition functions for the Forestry Commission, supporting several outdoor pursuit activities in the area. The design reconfigures the visitor experience through a new stone clad entrance block which complements the historic stone building. Internal spaces are adapted to house hospitality, exhibition, off ice and accommodation functions.
Image Credit: Peter Landers Photography
Following years working on large scale public and private mixed-use projects, Ben found himself frustrated with the anonymity and length of time major projects took to become built reality. ‘I always felt more could be done to bring individual responses to specific contexts, and to really understand the needs and personalities of the end-users’. Early work was much smaller than Ben was used to, with a series of retrofit commissions helping to define the early identity and approach of the practice. ‘We learnt through building; I went from working on a 15-year design and build programme for a major hospital to a series of restaurants and showrooms that were designed, detailed and built within a few months.’ The size and complexity of projects have increased dramatically since, but this intensity of building early-on taught the practice how to produce well crafted, joyful spaces that deliver on conceptual aspirations. ‘We take our work extremely seriously, but we try not to be over-precious. For us, it’s important to approach each project, regardless of size, with the utmost care creativity and attention to detail’.