James Hills studied architecture at London Metropolitan University, completing his training with Adam Khan Architects in London in 2018. In 2017 he was awarded the ADAM Architecture Travel Scholarship to explore the connections between the villa suburbana, the landscape and the city. Having spent a year of his Diploma exploring British housing and its densification, James asks why the optimistic post-war housing schemes, integrating dwelling and landscape, have given way to the predictable typologies of terraced house, perimeter block and tower. The potential of apartment buildings in a landscape setting, such a key part of Swiss, Italian and Scandinavian urbanism, is rarely explored in the UK today. In a quest to discover how suburban architecture has developed and changed over the years in Italy, James travelled to Florence, Siena and Rome, to visit and draw villas and gardens by – among others – Leon Battista Alberti, Baldassarre Peruzzi and Giulio Romano. He has long been drawn to the expressive power and spirit of Renaissance villas, and chose to look in particular detail at six relatively little-known villas by Peruzzi in rural Siena. Using the architect’s work as an example, he traces the remarkable evolution of the villa suburbana.
In 2020 James set up his own practice, Drawnwork, and is currently working on the design and construction of a garden building within the grounds of a Grade II listed 16th century country house, that builds upon his research into ‘The Villa Suburbana and Dense Suburbs’.