James O’Brien
Co-Founder and Director

Alongside Joseph, James is responsible for the creative and practical direction of the studio, its leadership and is closely involved in the development of all projects from conception to completion and client liaison. James is also responsible for the development of the studio in Mexico City.

James is particularly interested in the sustainable social development of the city, in the relationship between society and the individual, and the role of architecture and urbanism in mediating between the two. Through projects and research he explores themes of housing and the domestic in the city, urbanity and density and how architecture, and particularly housing, might play a prominent role in more diverse, vibrant and sustainable neighbourhoods.

James is currently carrying out research on various topics in relation to urban collective housing and small-scale urbanism and resource equality.

Graduating from The CASS School of Architecture in 2014 James gained professional experience in London and Mexico City before establishing O’Brien Van der Steen Workshops with Joseph in 2015. He has previously taught in Moscow as Programme Director (Interior Architecture & Design) at The British Higher School of Art & Design (2015-2018) and as 5th Year Masters Studio leader at the Moscow School of Architecture (2017-2018).

James is also co-founder and editor of Eje, a quarterly review of contemporary architecture, urbanism and culture published in Mexico City.

Joseph Van der Steen
Co-Founder and Director

Alongside James, Joseph is responsible for the creative and practical direction of O’Brien Van der Steen Workshops and is closely involved in all aspects of studios design work, project development and client liaison. Joseph lives and works in Devon where the studio specialises in carrying out work within Dartmoor National Park and the south west region more broadly.

Joseph previously worked for Studio Mumbai Architects in India where his keen interest in the craft of making was fostered and is particularly interested in the relationship between building and landscape, an approach that forms the basis of much of the studios work in the sensitive and protected context of the Dartmoor National Park.

Graduating from the CASS School of Architecture with distinction in 2014 Joseph gained professional experience in Mumbai, London and Moscow before establishing O’Brien Van der Steen Workshops in 2015.  He has previously taught in Moscow as Programme Director (Interior Architecture & Design) at The British Higher School of Art & Design and as a Masters Studio leader at the Moscow School of Architecture.

Sophie Ledgard
Chartered Surveyor

Sophie qualified as a Chartered Surveyor in 1991, and has since gained RICS Conservation Accreditation. Sophie has worked with Hunter + Partners in London; Park Lees Architects, Launceston; Van der Steen Hall Architects, Chagford; and benjamin+beauchamp architects, Wedmore. At benjamin+beauchamp Sophie worked on Voysey’s Winsford Cottage Hospital for the Landmark Trust which gained both RIBA South West Regional and National awards including the RIBA national award for conservation 2022. Sophie has a strong interest in the extension, adaptation, and refurbishment and conservation of existing buildings, and the use of breathable materials which are environmentally friendly. Sophie joined O’BVdS in 2022 and is currently working on a number of residential and ecclesiastical projects on listed buildings.

Georgette Mckinlay
Georgette joined O’Brien Van der Steen Workshops in 2021 and is responsible for the running of a number of projects within Dartmoor National Park. Graduating from The University of Dundee in 2015 with distinction, Georgette has gained professional experience in London, Melbourne and the Greek Island of Spetses. Prior to joining O’BVdS, she spent five years in a small London studio gaining extensive experience working on historic buildings in complex urban contexts across all design stages. She has been ARB registered since 2018.
Georgette currently works part-time as an Associate Lecturer at the University of Plymouth and has been a guest critic and lecturer at Falmouth University and the University of Central Lancashire. Georgette is a founding member of Terrain Talks, a Dartmoor-based forum for the discussion of regional and rural architecture that is supported by O’BVdS and RIBA South West.
Georgette is based in the Devon studio.
Jorge Zaldivar Ramírez

Jorge gradutated as an architect from the Autonomous University of Yucatan in Merida, Mexico. Having moved to Mexico City, Jorge worked for a variety of practices including Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos alongside running his own rendering and image making studio and doing small independant projects. Jorge works freelance for us as our principle image maker, helping with all projects in the office at all stages and in both our Mexico and UK studios.

Jorge is based in our shared Mexico City studio with Taller de Arquiectura sbh, Atelier O’BVdS + SBH.

Gabrielle Mouchard
Architectural Assistant

Gabrielle graduated in June 2021 from the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture in Bordeaux, France. In 2019, she went on exchange to Rosario, Argentina, and took advantage of this experience to develop her vision of architecture, to discover know-how, materials and methodologies. Gabrielle has also taken part in several voluntary projects to learn construction methods and also to grasp and assimilate the links between individuals and their environment in order to be as close as possible to their history. Moreover, she has been the assistant of the artist Arnaud Théval as part of a course entitled “Art and Architecture: Monument and Intimacy, the missing city”.

Gabrielle joined O’BVdS Workshops in 2022 and is based in our shared Mexico City studio with Taller de Arquiectura sbh, Atelier O’BVdS + SBH.


Iryna Zhyvova
Office Administrator

Iryna Zhyvova is the office administrator at O’Brien Van der Steen Workshops in Chagford, Devon. Originally from Ukraine, Iryna has been an integral part of the team for one year and is responsible for keeping the office running smoothly. Iryna is responsible for general office administration and  financial administration, ensuring that everything runs efficiently and effectively. Graduating from Horlivka Pedagogical Institute of Foreign languages (Ukraine) with honours, having obtained master’s degree in teaching English, German and Spanish as a second language (2003)she got a degree in Economics and Management (2009) from Donetsk State University of Management (Ukraine). Iryna is fluent in multiple languages, including English, Russian and Ukrainian.

Allen Van der Steen

Van der Steen Hall, Allen’s practice carried out numerous projects throughout Devon, Cornwall and Somerset and has extensive experience in the design of new buildings in sensitive areas and on sites of special interest, and in historic building development and the conservation, repair. Allen’s practice was been awarded numerous National and Regional design and conservation awards. Allen works as a consultant to O’Brien Van der Steen Workshops, and is closely involved in our work with historic buildings and within Dartmoor National Park.

Allen was a registered architect with the Architects Registration Board and a member of the RIBA, as well as being a member of the  Architects Accredited in Building Conservation (AABC) register.

Past employees
Mariana Brito Guadarrama
Luke Carnaby
Ellie Cullen
Daniel de León Languré
Nikolaus Klahre
Evgeniia Khashimova
Polina Muravinskaya
Lizeth Ríos
Sandy Vile
Ilya Votalik