Practice Profile: Stephen Kavanagh Architects

Interpreted Identities features ten installations from architects and artists. For each, designers chose to interpret the identity of an extraordinary woman through architectural means. 

We spoke to London studio, Stephen Kavanagh Architects, who has interpreted the identity of Fanny Wilkinson (find out more about her here), to find out more about the firm and the reason why it chose Fanny Wilkinson. 

Why did you choose your extraordinary woman?
Fanny Wilkinson was one of the main people who worked with Octavia Hill and worked on projects close to Bankside Open Spaces Trust (BOST). We were intrigued by the fact that she was the first female landscape architect in the UK.

Stephen Kavanagh Architects' folly is a tribute to the character of Fanny Rollo Wilkinson, the UK's first female landscape architect. Fanny graduated, after notable resistance, from the Crystal Palace School of Landscape Gardening, before embarking on a successful career that included the Red Cross Garden in Bankside.

The black cage represents the social constraints of the late 19th Century, inside which creativity is stifled and life subdued.  A single tree rises up to escape these constraints by cutting through the glass ceiling, not in a reckless manner but with determined and deliberate intent. 

Once free, it has room to explore its full potential.

What is your practice best known for?
Stephen Kavanagh Architects is best known for crafted conscientious architecture. Many people see contemporary architecture as being a bit soulless, and we would often agree, so our focus on craft seeks to instil life and tactility into new buildings. And coming from a background in sustainability, being a certified Passivhaus designer, we inherently default to high performing, well-built details. It has to be something more than just a pretty picture for a glossy magazine.

What is on the drawing board?
Hackney terrace renovation: An extension couldn’t be added due to council restriction, so here some internal gymnastics were required to make the project work.
Renovation and extension in Dartford: This project is in a semi-detached family house, for a client who has repurchased her childhood home.
Hackney basement. Located in a conservation area, this project is all about throwing light into a sunken basement.

What is your favourite project of Stephen Kavanagh Architects?
Copeland Grove. It’s my family home in Dublin and where my parents live. I’ve been designing it in my head since I was 15 years old!

How does your folly reflect the approach of Stephen Kavanagh Architects?
We came at it like we would with any project, with no preconceptions as to what we would be doing. We looked at the life of Fanny Wilkinson and the events that occurred in it, and thought about representing those in the most elemental and simple way to celebrate her achievements.


Stephen Kavanagh Architects is a conscientious design practice with a particular interest in the role of craft and tactility and the joy they bring in the modern age of mass production. From homes to offices to retail, we make spaces that people want to be in.

With experience designing Passivhaus projects, a commitment to sustainability runs through everything the practice does - we believe sustainable architecture can be more joyous, more comfortable, more beautiful and ultimately better value.  

As a full service architecture and design practice, having applied our skills to residential, commercial and cultural projects, we look forward to working with interested and engaged clients to create well-crafted buildings, unique to each client's needs.  



Stephen Kavanagh Architects
6-8 Cole Street
London SE1 4YH

Tel: 07855 258 629



To find out more about the Interpreted Identities design challenge, click here.

Olivia Mudie