Published: January 9, 2022 | Updated: January 9, 2022

Yes we can: Troy’s niche studio brings Obama Foundation plans for presidential centre to life

Former US President Barack Obama studies the image by Dorset-based Darcstudio. Picture: Obama Foundation.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

He’s still one of the most famous people on the planet, instantly recognisable – even from behind.

Former US President Barack Obama is pictured looking intently at the work of Westbourne-based Darcstudio.

Troy Hodgson could hardly have imagined that the niche business he created eight years ago would one day be working for the Obama Foundation, founded by Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle.

Or, indeed, that the architectural imagery by Troy’s Darcstudio of the planned Obama Presidential Center in Chicago, USA, would be used as the official picture for the Obama’s 2020 Christmas card.

But when New York-based Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects were looking for a studio to bring the projected $830 million project celebrating the Obama legacy to life, including its distinctive centrepiece, then it was to Darcstudio they turned.

Troy, 38, said: “We’ve been involved in some impressive projects around the world but nothing as high-profile as this.

“We’re only a small team but we feel very proud.

“To see our work used widely by the Obama Foundation, and even on the Obama’s official Christmas card, has been just amazing.”

Troy, pictured with a signed and framed copy of the card, developed an interest in design and architecture while growing up in Yorkshire.

He said: “I love football and was always fascinated by the design of football stadiums.

“I studied architecture at the University of Huddersfield, before working for various practices in London and then moving to the South Coast.

“But I’ve always been more interested in drawing and the communication of architecture rather than the process of design.

Barack and Michelle Obama embrace in front of an image created by Darcstudio at the official groundbreaking ceremony.

“I’ve been very lucky in working closely with some very well-regarded architects who were also fantastic illustrators.

“Very early on I saw the powerful role that imagery and communication has in the realisation of architecture.

“It was this that eventually led me to set up Darcstudio in 2014.”

Originally based at his home, the business had its first office in Christchurch Road, Boscombe, followed by The Old Brewery in Southcote Road, Bournemouth.

In 2020, Darcstudio moved to its current 2,148 sq ft office on the first floor of the former Westbourne Methodist Church in Poole Road.

Complete with original stained glass windows, it was previously occupied by the Plates & Co restaurant.

Now employing 13 full-time artists, architects and photographers, and with an annual turnover of around £750,000, Darcstudio also has an office in New York.

Troy, pictured left, who is married to Faye and has two children aged seven and five, said: “We craft atmospheric impressions of unbuilt architecture.

“We don’t strive for realism or attempt to fool anyone into thinking our images are photographs.

“Our role is simply to try to understand that emotional response which the experience of architecture can trigger, and craft images which can begin to fire the imagination towards it.

“It’s an incredibly niche business but we’re very fortunate in that we’ve never had to look for clients.”

Troy has just under 26,000 Instagram followers while the official Darcstudio account has 8,850.

He said: “Instagram is the perfect platform for us and brings in a lot of work.

“Our clients are right across the world, from the USA and Japan to Europe.

“In terms of the future, we have an amazing team but I feel we’re probably at just the right size.

“Quality is at the centre of everything we do and I feel that could be affected if we grow too big.”

Troy, who has been personally involved with the Obama Foundation project from the beginning, said that while the pandemic had changed working patterns it had not affected business.

“We continue to be very busy and for that I feel very thankful,” he said.