Meet the JAJAs: Stephen

Stephen has been a JAJA for more than seven years! He heads up our design and competition projects where he is responsible for design and idea development. Lately he has been involved in projects such as the Vltava Philharmonic and Nypappen. To get to know him better, we have asked him a series of questions. 

How are you and what are you working on at the moment?

I’m great, thanks for asking! Right now I’m working on a transformation of a former paper factory in Norway (Nypappen), mixing the existing industrial halls with new housing, office, and workshops.

Normally my involvement is in the early development of a project, so it’s exciting to be designing in a detailed regulation phase.

We’re also about to start a super exciting project developing one of the last remaining sites of the Oslo Fjord, Grønlikaia – Can’t wait to get stuck in.

You’re born and raised in England, so how did you end up in Copenhagen?

It wasn’t a direct flight.

After finishing my bachelors in Nottingham, I took some time out to travel and gain experience, hopping via the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and finally Denmark. I was lucky enough to land internships with some fantastic studios and meet phenomenally talented people along the way. I have loved living abroad and meeting new people with different backgrounds has shaped my own thoughts and approaches towards architecture and design.

In the end, my Master’s beckoned and the KADK came onto my radar. One degree, two children and a career later, my roots have firmly planted themselves in Denmark– the rest is history.

What interests you the most about your job?

Copenhagen is a very special place to be. There’s such a high concentration of designers across multiple disciplines and a strong focus on sustainable, user-centric architecture. This makes it a super-rich environment to learn and develop as an architect. JAJA embodies this.

For me, JAJA still feels like such a young, curious, and playful office, with so many inspiring and energized colleagues. There is a collective spirit of learning and an eagerness to challenge our way of designing. To build greener, rethink how we navigate our cities and design buildings that don’t just inhabit their urban environment but engage and give back to it in lively and surprising ways.

I find it motivating knowing that we’re contributing to changing these conversations in architecture and having fun en route. It’s a pleasure to whistle on your ride to work every day, isn’t it?

Which JAJA project has been the most exciting to work on?

As long as there’s something new and innovative to learn in the process, it’s always exciting! For an office of our size, the range of scale and typology we tackle really stands out so there’s invariably a challenge and knowledge to be gained in the process. The variety keeps it fresh.

Most recently we got a mad opportunity to propose a new Philharmonic Hall in Prague, with an amazing team of engineers and collaborating designers – it was a pretty steep but super enriching learning curve.

But for me, one of the most exciting aspects of architecture is designing from conception to completion. From the initial sketch to crossing the threshold.

So to realise projects like Sola Church and the Wooden Pavilion has been really rewarding.

When you’re not at JAJA – what do you like to do?

Since becoming a father, most of my kid’s hobbies have become mine. That’s really just an excuse for me to build kilometres of BRIO train tracks and batmobiles from Lego. But there is also something incredibly cathartic about sitting in front of a blank piece of paper, pen in hand, and a child’s anticipation of what will appear.

As they grow older, I’m on the cusp of reviving some old hobbies. Going to live music, cultural tours of the city, maybe even mountain biking, if only I could find a mountain close by. Though generally, I love to cycle. It’s super liberating to jump on a bike and ride as far as your legs can take you. It’s another reason why I love Copenhagen so much.

Favourite meal and movie on a Sunday?

That would have to be a proper roast dinner with all the trimmings, on a long table with a bunch of friends. You can take the Brit out of Britain…

And I’m a sci-fi kinda guy, so give me any of the classic Star Wars Trilogy or The Matrix and I’m happy. Just don’t mention the sequels.

Date: 20 May 2022
Links: Vltava Philharmonic Hall project page