Day 3: Orbital Power Late last night, I stumbled upon the Time Out’s list of ‘Worst Architecture in London’, a kind of bullet pointed hierarchy of images accompanied by a short sentence or two of brief negativity. The very first building on that list was the collaboration between artist Anish Kapoor and engineer Cecil Balmond, the ArcelorMittal Orbit (aptly named after its metal providing sponsor). As I delved deeper into the story and the different socio-political and economical currents around The Orbit I assumed that I would find very little in the form of positive appreciation for the structure and perhaps even share the same sentiment myself. When the 2012 Olympic games were awarded to London in 2005, Boris Johnson decided to commission a sculpture that would embody London and act as ‘a vertical invitation to the games’, and this would be the catalyst for a huge design competition. Not surprisingly, Arcelor Mittal hoped that the sculpture (even prior to the decision of the winning design), would eventually represent a magnificently lit beacon not only for London, but also to showcase the wondrous versatility of steel. The overriding purpose of the structure was not to create a static artistic landmark only for the games, but one that would remain relevant and interactive with its visitors for years to come. The Orbit greets the visitor at ground level with an enormous steel horn hanging overhead, a recurring element in much of Anish Kapoor’s work. There are two different viewing platforms as well as two separate routes from top to bottom; the slow route comprises of a 455 step spiral staircase, exposing the visitor to the wind and elements and a dazzling sense of instability, simultaneously revealing the splendid views of the Olympic village. On the upper observation floor, the visitor is confronted with a large space, flanked by two huge curved mirrors (another Kapoor trademark) which have a disorientating effect before disclosing an extraordinary view of the skyline stretching approximately 20miles, British weather permitting obviously. The contortions of steel seem to actually move and wrap against each other as you walk around it, making the complicated tangle of metal feels monstrous and yet surprisingly organic. It is this complexity and intricate ferrous materiality that act as a gateway for frequent comparison between The Orbit and the Eiffel Tower. Anish Kapoor himself stated that; “the only comparison is the Eiffel Tower”. Whilst James Tarmy from Bloomberg added that looking at The Orbit is like “looking at the Eiffel Tower on acid”. Boris Johnson commented that it “[is] not an obvious structure, it’s more complicated that the Eiffel Tower, I don’t want to be chauvinistic, but its definitively more interesting to look at than the Eiffel tower and certainly more complicated than the Shard, which is just a child’s drawing of a spike.” Through all of these references I cant help but align some significant comparison between The Orbit and Talin’s Tower. Although never erected, it was intended as the ultimate challenge to the Eiffel Tower as the foremost symbol of modernity- a monument ‘made of steel, glass and revolution’. Whilst The Orbit’s role is perhaps not one originally intended to hold up the torch of revolution, due to our current climate and many decades of exposure to a postmodern saturation of ‘radical’ design, I still find that there are striking similarities between the two. Comparable features can, not only be drawn from their aesthetic appearance and materiality; spiraling skywards from a geometric base supported by an exposed skeleton of industrial steel, but also in their role as challengers, to the originally temporary, then-turned utterly iconic structure in Paris. This iconographic expectation and political weight has affected The Orbit, but not to the (negative) extent I would have imagined prior to this investigation. It seems as thought the ludicrously exaggerated features of the sculpture are stretched to a point past, revolutionary, past political stance and veer more towards a theme park experience. The design duo was really interested in geometry and the way that form and geometry give rise to structure. What Kapoor has done is tried to rethink the tower as something that does not mutually support, where the whole of the structure is in a twist, always off kilter, never quite vertical. It refuses to be an emblem. The colossal structure made light and accessible by its whimsical looping form and shiny red painted skin. The final result is a celebration of steel, chosen for its strength and modular structure, sourced from every continent in the world (a nod to the global spirit of the Olympic games) which also boasts some eco credentials; almost 70% of the steel came from scrapped cars and washing machines. In both the literal and the critical sense, the sculpture appears to almost be entirely based upon the deconstruction of previous engineering feats, whose fragments have in turn been blown up and amplified into a postmodern entity, the refusal of a singular image. Kapoor described the
structure as; “an object that cannot be perceived as having a singular image, from any one perspective. You need to journey round the object…it requires real participation from the public”. The Orbit has been described as a vast multitude of things; a bright red mass of criss-crossing metal beams, a mechanical serpent, a rollercoaster, a cheesegrater, a catastrophic collision of two cranes, a contorted mass of entrails, a helter skelter, a Meccano set, a helicopter landing pad and the tallest piece of art in London to name a few. On the Anish Kapoor website there is a lovely page showing the drawings that visitors were asked to do from memory of the structure of the sculpture and the one cohesive running thread between them appears to be their striking difference. It is because the building is constantly malleable in your eye, because the form is in always in flux, warping and altering your perception of it relentlessly, that the viewer is able to see what he wants to see; almost though their experience of the building itself. The Orbit may not be a revolutionary masterpiece or an unmistakable political statement, or an iconic emblem of London itself for that matter, but after all, nobody did like the Eiffel Tower for 50 years- The Orbit has not reached its second birthday yet, the red contorted monster lies and waits. -M.Audisio
Questions sparked for further research: • The orbit suffered economic difficulties at its inception – overcame these due to the nature of the situation ahead – Olympics. How has this affected the design? • The orbit is now open to the public and the cost of a visit (£15 a head) has been criticized as too expensive and not accessible to all. • It would also be really interesting to delve deeper into the role of the BBC at the time of the Olympics and their experience of the orbit. I would have to find some more footage of the summer of 2012 for this. • To take this further I would need to go and experience the site in person and ask visitors what they thoughts on it were and where they were from originally? Had they come specifically for the orbit? Or maybe it was as unknown to them as Stratford’s industrial history and they’d just happened to stumble along to a green space on a sunny day. • It would be really interesting to also ask them to repeat the Kapoor exercise of asking visitors to quickly sketch out what they remember the form of the Orbit to be. There is very little published work on the Orbit as it is so recent but there is a large amount of press clippings and articles available on line etc.
Caitlin Daly Day 3: Community Crossroads
Rebuilding a city is no simple task. There is a matter of materials, supplies, and all those other physical objects that formulate the City. But, what about the people? After the WWII, the London County Council faced the immense task of rebuilding the character of its bombarded city. Drafting a scheme to acquire, and develop the land between Waterloo and Hungerford Bridges on the South Bank, the LCC was going to transform the area into the new mixed commercial, and art center of London. Location is everything. On the crossroads of Waterloo- tube and rail station (which now connects directly to Paris), and Charing Cross â€“ tube and rail (right across the Thames), and on the bend of the river (a prime spot for a new pier) the possibilities were endless. Even with the best location, and the perfect timing, the venue had to be right. There had to be something to provide a connection with the community, the Royal Festival Hall provided that connection. Originally, the art component of the design was secondary, seemingly a mere tribute to the Globe Theatre that was located 1.1 miles east of this new complex. However, as the need for larger art galleries became apparent with the rising trends in modern art in the 1950s, the LCC joined with the Art Council to expand their vision for the complex. This joint venture has lead to South Bank hosting the one of highest concentration of art venues and other resources in the United Kingdom. The community involvement does not stop at the doors of the art galleries, however, when the Coin Street Community Builders noticed that the buildings on the other side of Waterloo Bridge, Gabriel Wharf and OXO Tower for example, were falling into disrepair they did not wait for the politicians to take action. Creating neighborhoods based on co-operative living, art, learning and retail, CSCB is striving to keep the city alive. Redeveloping the wharf district between these art venues into co-op projects CSCB is defining their way of living in the city. They are remembering a time when small businesses where the most important, you still knew your neighbors, and that performance tonight, well letâ€™s just wait and see.
S p e c u l a t i o n o n t h e V o i d London’s urban fabric resembles a close-knit carpet made up of buildings. But upon closer examination one becomes aware of the many holes in this apparently boundless carpet. The transient vacancy of building sites is an essential aspect of any dynamic city. However it seems that – judging from the the typical inner-city patina of dirt, graffiti and garbage – a lot of these voids have not been merely temporarily cleared. A typical example of these spaces is the empty lot on the corner of Hackney Road on the edge of the London Boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Hackney. The area is popular and the street itself is flanked by diverse buildings accommodating offices, shops and apartments. But then suddenly there is a gap – or rather a void concealed by several billboards featuring ever changing advertisement. Behind these neo-liberal Potemkin facades lies nothing but an empty space used as a (generally vacant) parking lot. This combination seems to be a common phenomenon – one would only have to cross Shoreditch High Street and walk down Old Street to stumble upon a similar example. One could speculate on the income generated by the parking fee and the billboards, but generally it does not appear too plausible that it would make more profit than a proper building – after all one could incorporate just these functions into a new construction. Accordingly there seem to be other reasons for the enduring vacancy of the lot in Hackney Road: one could hypothesize that the developer’s plans are continuously rejected by the authorities. Maybe the ground is unstable or even toxic. Or perhaps there is a legal battle over the tenure. All these speculations could be true and in any case it would need a thorough investigation into the specific building regulations, soil conditions, ownership and so forth. But nevertheless there seems to be another, underlying phenomenon that ties all these instances together, which recently gained a lot of media attention. Tne Bishops Avenue in Hampstead is a small street lined by some of the most expensive villas in the UK – a third of which are empty and derelict. Again the reasons here are surely manifold, but it is noteworthy that some of these houses have multiplied their value more than sixty times since they were acquired – a remarkable profit, which makes the fact that they are empty rather insignificant – at least for the owner. With reference to this (extreme) case, one can assume that the holders of empty properties in London are most certainly not loosing money. Consequentially it does not seem adequate to merely indulge into speculations about the particular reasons of the void in Hackney Road – but to understand it as the symptom of a syndrome which has turned urban voids into the object of a very different kind of speculation.
Leslie Green’s Fifty Tube Stations (1903-1907) Maarten Lambrechts
There’s something very distinctive, yet completely commonplace, about the tube stations which the young architect Leslie Green designed at the beginning of the 20th century. Their glazed red façades (ox-blood red Burmantoft’s faïence, to be exact) made them to be recognized landmarks in London’s cityscape. But at the same time they are so much a part of it, that they have become an evident feat to the neutral passer-by. A feat nonetheless, seeing that these series of iconic buildings have been realized within a very limited amount of means and time. Due to the invention of the electric tram as a cheap and fast solution for connecting the growing workingclass suburbs with the city centre, there suddenly emerged a very urgent need for a developed underground metro infrastructure. The Tube, which was an immediate success, should therefore be considered as a direct result of the prospering Industrialism at that time. As a result, Leslie Green’s series of tube stations had to represent the rapid development of society and at the same time a certain robustness in referring to the values of successful British culture. This twofold programme of the building (one which could easily be transferred to contemporary practice) is solved, very pragmatically, by Green in opting for a steel frame construction. By working with this sort of construction, one which was not very common in England at the time, Green not only designed particularly flexible two storey buildings, it also allowed him to use red tiles for the façade instead of bricks. This did not only provide a consistent image throughout the different designs, still apparent because of the durability of glazed tiles, it also allowed Green to apply more freely the references to the renowned English Renaissance architecture (as embodied by the round arched windows, oculi and heavy cornices, but in some cases more specific, e.g. the Palladian window at Chalk Farm). However, going further into the method of construction, it could be argued that this was also a logical result of the emerging globalisation. Green himself had previously worked in Paris where he might have witnessed the opening of the first metro line in 1900. More importantly, Charles Tyson Yerkes, the commissioner of the tube stations was an American who had already worked on Chicago’s public transport system. The combination of rudimental steel frame and elaborate glazed tile could therefore be seen as the result of the confrontation between two cultures, and in like manner, the confrontation of the classic with the modern, and of tradition with the new. In this sense, it is also worth noting how these tube stations have adapted to their contemporary situation. The modifications because of the new ticketing system, the shops that started occupying the plinth, and the changing context around and sometimes on top of the stations; all of it has an influence on the general image of these buildings, as it would have on any other building. Nevertheless, it seems that Leslie Green’s designs embrace the adaptation necessitated by the ever changing nature of the city, and by doing so, they seem, until today, to be perceived as the symbol of a city with a tradition of looking forward.
Marzia Marzorati 12th February 2014 Design by words - Day 3 MA HCT Laboratory on Writing with Fabrizio Gallanti and Marina Lathouri
The atmosphere is prosaic. Frame one: an ordinary, postmodern building whose Middle-Eastern style and position earned it the nickname ‘Babylon-on-Thames’. A dozen stores high, a compelling view. There are no anomalies here. A smiling couple is walking a black dog on the bridge. The junction is jammed up. The engines roar, and there is a strong smell of fuel. The only, perceptible individual gesture of patriotism is a fluttering flag on the entrance of a local pub. Next. Inside the fortitude. Closed doors on a corridor. The emerald glasses constantly deform the vision line. Distortion. Silence. Repetition. An open threshold. A world map is hung up on the wall, while a pile of paper work conceals a standard, black desk. Signs of activity. Absence of people. The motion picture industry is based on exaggerations. The real skyfall: London, 20th September 2000. A rocket hits the eight floor. No spectacular explosions, or lethal evisceration. No deaths. Only a smashed window, and a few broken panes. This is not Hollywood. The building rises up a conventional working class neighborhood; before it, lonely pleasure gardens and a bunch of drunkards. Common critique. No Aston Martin. No 007 agents wearing Tom Ford’s tuxedo suits. What did you expect? The edifice was not even conceived as the future SIS headquarters. It was merely part of a rational, pretty standard land speculation. Terry Farrell probably liked Oswald Mathias Ungers. She was surely a fan of Aztec architecture. Yes: everything appears gigantic, but iconic? No way: bad-proportioned should be enough. It could serenely settle a fake, trashy financial start up from the Nineties. And, if it was, blogs would probably be clogged with editorials sustaining how much its ‘deejay’ architecture mirrors its commodatum.
In Search of a ‘Neutral Space’ By Yanisa Niennattrakul
Economic development encouraged by the city government of Southwark district and situated behind the shade of the Shard. Starting the investigation from a free standing unknown, the church which is not a church, along St.Thomas Street located a brick tower and with a typology of church located an unusual programs of “old operating theatre museum” at the attic through existing bell tower performs as extra connected to the Southwing, operation wards of the old St.Thomas hospital famous for Florence Nightingale, which serve as a general hospital for the poor, including suffering. Religion and infirmary are on the same line of principles in the balance state of orthodoxy. However, to the unlimited of extensive th
endowment of financial security with other hospitals, throughout the 18 century, the hospital continues to seek another source of income, such as rebuilding, charging admission fees that starting to limit the ability of the very poor to access its service. It was demolished in 1862 for building railway and redevelopment leaving the church left redundant in 1898. Until, it was passed in 1905 as a Chapter house of the Southwark Cathedral serves contradiction between religions and commercial in 1989 that it was purchased by Buther, Robinson, and Staples Ltd. as a part of the Chapter Group for the network of religious, hospital, and insurance, to „insure‟ relationship between life and death. Commercial is everywhere, religion and commercial, or, hospital and commercial. If there is a limitless amount of land by historically transformation from charity to commercial, slightly, money is in every stage. The question is where neutral space of common is or all are corrupted.
Design by Words: Laboratory on Writing with Fabrizio Gallanti and Marina Lathouri MA History and Critical Thinking, February 2014 María José Orihuela
THE YOUNG VIC THEATRE [controversy: prolonged public disagreement or heated discussion]
Controversy no. 1 | Money Cost according to the architect’s website: 6.9M £ Cost according to ‘The business of shows,’ an article published in ‘The Financial Times’, February 2007: 12.4M £ Controversy no. 2 | Author If we were to accept that in the Young Vic every design decision is a necessary one; if we could welcome the idea that every material is as honest as presented and if we were able to picture the circulation and the growth of the building as exclusively orchestrated by organic, natural spontaneity; we would have to face a seemingly unsolvable question: who is going to write and pronounce the discourses for the 10 award-ceremonies that Young Vic is expected to attend? Shamelessly stripped bare from artifice, the walls of the Controversy no. 3 | Location As a part of its constitutive formation Its intimate auditorium, built cheaply with a rough, light-industrial feel, created in concrete a dream of the inclusive, class-free society to which its originators aspired.
The People of the Community of Hackney wish to propose vast amendments to the appeal for redevelopment of the Boris Limited Warehouse standing at 87-95 Hertford Road, N1 5AG. What is slated by the developer is quoted as â€œ1,858 square meters of commercial space and nine new build terraced housesâ€?. This proposal offers more of the same and London is getting oppressively boring. Hackney is often described as an up-and-coming neighbourhood. Rather, it is in a constant state of flux, and the building in question deserves to be a practical part of this transition. As the facade stands, a boarded up boundary, somewhat dilapidated with rotting wood and rusted sign, one could imagine a city of squatters, as in the old New York tenements or Elephant and Castle estate houses, and frankly, this is a prettier picture than the characterless strip-mall like imposition proposed by Serdnol Properties SA. The People of the Community of Hackney wish to propose the facade of the Boris Limited Warehouse be treated as a convex lens. The aged face has countless stories to tell, recorded innumerable moments, transgressions, and salvations over the course of its hundred year observation of the many reincarnations of this neighbourhood. It has swung from aristocratic playground to impoverished slum and seems to remain in a constant state of flux. The red brick has recorded, like the all-seeing eye of CCTV, the evolution of the diverse region. Now with its renovation it may be turned into a projector, declaring its records of balloon rides from Mermaid Tavern, the falling of the first bomb of World War I, the aristocrats pig-swinging and horse paddling, and the riots of 2011. Neither should the gentrification of East London continue, nor should the fabric the neighbourhood is built on be demolished. What is suggested is some live/work/play community space which boasts as an interior, all that the exterior of Boris Limited offers. This rebirth belongs to the indigenous immigrants, mediators between here and there, past and future, decay and rejuvenation.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/uk/london/9448019/The-surprising-history-of-Hackney.html http://www.debeauvoir.org.uk/http___www.pcs.planningportal.gov.uk_pcsportal_fscdav_READONLY_OBJ=COO.2036.300.2.6501181&NAME=_Decision.pdf http://www.debeauvoir.org.uk/boris.html http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Hackney/
speculated by L Stamps
Sunday afternoon plan: a walk through Hampstead Heath. An attempt to flee from the tensions of urban life. Every weekend, the park becomes a kind of ‘back to paradise state’ for thousands of Londoners that try to recover energies in order to face the metropolitan week. The park counterbalances the weight of the exhausting city center configuring an equilibrium that shapes modern London, between large parks and congestion. The idea of working in one of the centers of power in the World while living in the countryside. Maybe nowadays it has become a mere illusion, but at the beginning of the the XXth Century when Metroland was promoting “from cramped homes in Central London into rural paradise”, Hampstead was considered a village in the outskirts. Metroland was a concept created by James Gerland in 1915. An attempt to solve the social problems of the city through a escape to nature, made possible by the extension of the Underground to the North-West. The materialization of this rural ideal took place by means single-family houses, most of them design in Art Deco and revival-Tudorbeathen styles. In the 30s´, Hampstead was an anti-urban development quickly connected with Bank Station through the Northern Line. Facing this ideas, solutions to social problems promoted in the continent were introduced in the debate. The translation of Vers Une Architecture in 1927 by struck the thoughts of an insightful young generation of English architects. Promoting a higher engagement of the architect in social questions, “modern architecture” envisioned a just city deprived of social tensions. The universal-rational-standardized design of the avant-garde saw in the revival styles the worst enemies for the injustices in modern metropolis. In a theoretical debate, the universality of industrial design would bring justice to the difference of classes—Architecture or Revolution—, while the promotion of Metroland lifestyle would increase the gap. However, looking at the first modern buildings in London, besides High Point I—from which Le Corbusier saw materialized his social ideals—, most of them were commissions of wealthy businessmen. Hampstead is were the majority of this buildings were design. But in the core of this Arcadia which is Hampstead, there is one specially notorious. Some meters to the north-west of Belsize Park Station, a bright white volume that echoes the hope for equality that modern pioneers preached. But behind its walls, there were no workmen´s families, but an elite of thinkers of the moment. Nowadays, a kind of pantheon of preeminences that are all death. Renowned tenants such as Walter Gropius, Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, Agatha Christie, Henry Moore or Barbara Hepworth created an atmosphere of cosmopolitanism and elitism very few related with the social ideals that theoretically their promoters fostered. A building commissioned by Jack Pritchard—promoter of the only work of Le Corbusier in England—, conceived as apartments for the intelligentsia of the day. Wells Coates, first director of the MARS Group, designed the building, and Marcel Breuer made the bar. A building that contradicts the social creed of first Modernism.
! Cerys Wilson ! !
In the shadow of One Hyde Park!
A bemedaled athlete standing atop a milk crate or stepladder was noticeably missing! from the UK’s ‘Back the Bid’ poster campaign - an oversight on the part of the Olympic! committee to promote one of London’s most prized landmarks. For Speaker’s Corner is, I would! argue, if not immediately visible in the city’s image, still heavily ingrained in the public! conscience.! !
Located at the North East entrance to Hyde Park and only a few feet from the world’s!
most expensive apartment building, an empty Speaker’s Corner stands as if in silent protest.! Closed on Wednesdays as a rule, the site is currently under construction while new ‘bespoke! fencing’ and ‘golden gravel’ is set and ‘disease-resistant elms’ are planted. When the new and! improved space opens again in April, two key features will remain in place, however: the! delineation of the original allotted area, and the absence of any designated structure from which! to address a returning public.! !
The legal parameters of Speaker’s Corner are, in fact, much larger than the space!
presently cordoned off would suggest, extending from Hyde Park Corner to Marble Arch. Traditionally though, groups have concentrated around the Marble Arch end, which originally housed the Tyburn gallows - a site for public executions. ! !
Speaker’s Corner was officially designated a forum for public protest with the passing of!
the Parks Regulation Act in 1872, and has since hosted some of the world’s most famous! activists, intellectuals, and orators, including Karl Marx, Vladimir Nabokov, and George Orwell.! To date, it has stood the test of time, as both a London institution and a propagator of free speech in other cities, both in the UK and abroad.! !
As an apparatus directly “at the intersection of power relations and relations of!
knowledge” (Agamben), Speaker’s Corner, despite its lack of solid brick and mortar, should be! considered a counter structure of significant bearing in future architectural and urban discourse.!
With Fabrizio Gallanti and Marina Lathouri Cause and effect Exercise: Identify a building in London and speculate about the political, soc...