Scarlet Hessian is an architectural designer. Her work includes the recently opened Gasoline Grill, Copenhagen, a flat in Haggerston, London, a country house in Surrey and an extension and refurb of a Victorian terraced house in Brixton. Her architectural work in England and Denmark is fueled by her life in Copenhagen. Scarlett took her own masters at KADK The
Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, in Copenhagen a few years ago, which bought her to
the city. And she now also teaches Spatial Design part-time there.
Scarlett decided to stay on in Copenhagen, freelancing, after her studies but found most of her work was back in London: ‘I was finding it difficult to get work here when I graduated. But then I started teaching and that opened up many more contacts for me, started interesting conversations and collaborations.’ On her masters course they take a mix of students - half architects and half design students who haven’t studied architecture: ‘The idea is that they help one another, teach one another. I feel my role as a tutor is to try and guide these students who aren’t following tradition and are trying to make their own rules. Which is completely fine with me, that’s the point.’
Scarlett likes to question the status quo, in her own practice and in her teaching: ‘I went to a university where they were really critical and it made me a better designer. Although I’m not a mean and critical tutor, I think I make people question things differently.’ Her own studio practice focuses on ‘users, materiality and contexts’. Architecture, she believes (and teaches) is about inclusion and creating communities and places for people to engage with.
‘Architecture is about inclusion and creating communities and places for people to engage with.’
Scarlett Hessian, 2019
The students at KADK chose their tutors at the start of the year, and most of those who chose Scarlett are design students, something she finds fascinating: ‘That is where the more interesting architecture happens – where design is the more prominent factor, and then architecture is what follows.’ Kicking back against tradition and asking questions comes naturally to Scarlett, and it was ingrained in her through her English studies.
When I ask her what is the most interesting thing she has learnt from her design studies and life in Copenhagen, she tells me it is an appreciation for modesty. Not a term you often associate with architecture, which is better known for words like ego and size: ‘You don’t have to redesign an entire building for it to work, it’s about being a bit more modest. How could you change it with no money, or very little - even the smallest change can make the biggest impact.’