Page 1

Architectural Association London AA Agendas No. 10

LONDON +10 Edited by Carlos Villanueva Brandt With essays by: Will Self, Rowan Moore, Brian Hatton, Brett Steele, Alex Warnock-Smith, Carlos Villanueva Brandt and others

An Introduction: London +10 Carlos Villanueva Brandt

The London par t is obvious and t h e +10 p a r t , w h i c h i s m o r e o b s c u r e, describes the structure of the book


The London +10 book concentrates on London over the last 20 years and aims to bring together the individual views of diverse authors who have worked, in different ways, on some of the key issues that have had a direct effect on the experience of this ever-changing city. The issues that affect London directly are fundamental to the London +10 book, which sets out to interpret London as a city in action: a ‘live city’. London +10 is not a history of London, not an illustration of London, nor a proposed design for London; it is an attempt to create, in a book, a structure that communicates the complex reality of London and gives a possible indication of the salient issues that will decide its future. It is a book on London; it is also a book on urbanism, but not a book on London or urbanism in the conventional sense. London +10 explores an alternative interpretation of urbanism: a concept of urbanism that speculates on the relationship between the live realm of the city and its urban fabric. This interpretation acknowledges that the live realm of the city is composed of many layers of overlapping structures. These structures, which include cultural, political, financial and administrative systems, control and interact directly with the physical structures that make up the fabric of the city. The former can be described as social structures and the latter as physical structures. It is this relationship between physical and social structures that the book sets out to communicate and explore. Generally, the live realm or social structures are derived from different starting points than the fabric or physical structures, but together they undeniably make up the true space of the city. This real space is the central topic of London +10. A combination of physical and social structures creates the space of the city, but the complexity does not stop there. This space is not static; it is made active by the user’s interpretation and experience. London +10 brings together physical and social structures and combines them with interpretations and experiences in order to describe and communicate a different perception of London. The book itself is an interpretation of London – a composite interpretation made up of a number of individual interpretations by authors who have actively engaged with the issues that shape the reality of contemporary London.


W h a t a b o u t t h e +10 ?


Ah yes, in order to bring together the disparate points of view of many different authors, London +10 interprets the city by means of themes. Themes deal directly with the live realm of the city. There are ten chosen themes and the number of themes, 10, forms the key reference to the +10 of the title. All the themes address the essential relationship between physical and social structures and, when combined, provide a true representation of the experience of London. In alphabetical order the themes are: conflict, control, exchange, fiction, groups, life, power, space, structures and time. These 10 themes are further subdivided into subthemes: conflict is subdivided into crime, resistance and terrorism; control into systems, order and rules; exchange into interface and interchange; fiction into reading and interpretation; groups into immigration and sectarianism; life into events, sex and culture; power into politics and civics; space into territory and public space; structures into regeneration and infrastructure; and time into incident and instance. The 10 themes make up the first reference to +10 and together with the 23 sub-themes make up the structure of the book. The book does not claim that the list is definitive, but the themes and their sub-themes cover most of the issues that directly affect the city. They establish a formwork that generates an alternative interpretation of London, allowing the London +10 book itself to become experimental. All the themes form part of the everyday experience of London and are expanded and described by means of topical news quotes, short essays and speculative projects. The thematic essays and related projects concentrate on London over the last 20 years. The projects have all been carried out in Diploma 10 at the Architectural Association between 1989 and 2009, while the theme essays have been written especially for the book in 2009. London is seen through the eyes of authors connected to Diploma 10; the theme essays address London issues and the speculative projects are overlaid on London. Diploma 10 is added to London. The number 10 of Diploma 10 is the second reference to +10 of the title. While there is undeniably a chronological progression in the work of Diploma 10, the projects are not presented in chronological order but are instead grouped with the thematic essays, to allow them – as suggestions of a possible London – to form part of the discourse on the city. In total there are 40 projects, by 39 authors, spanning 20 years, from Eldon Croy’s ‘Town Hall’ in 1989 to Edmund Fowles’ ‘Food’ in 2009. Spread throughout London, with some exceptions, the projects are presented as an alternative reality for London. London with the addition of the Diploma 10 projects becomes London +10.

W hy 4 0 projec ts and why not 10 year s? H ow do e s it all f it in w it h Lo nd o n +10 ? The 40 projects have been chosen, illustrated and categorised into the themes of the book and, in this context, provide a speculative view of London. They were not created or intended for the book, but all of them have, in different ways and at different times, addressed the issues that affect London directly. By contrast, the theme essays have been specifically written for the book and provide an overview of the current issues that activate London. All the 21 theme essay authors are connected with Diploma 10 and all, with the exception of one, also have projects included in the book. As described above, the central issue of the book is London and the mechanism for addressing London is the use of the 10 themes. It therefore seemed apposite to invite the Diploma 10 authors to write about the 10 themes. The most important resource that the book had to draw from (and this does not in any way undermine the importance of the projects) was the perception and thoughts of the hundreds of talented individuals who have spent time in Diploma 10 working on urban projects and, of course, working on London. It was an onerous task to select the 10 key themes for the book, but it was even more daunting to whittle down the list of 209 possible authors and to then allocate the sub-themes accordingly. One of the authors, Alex Warnock-Smith, who has helped me throughout the making of this book, assisted me in this task by patiently listening to the pros and cons of the different potential authors so that I could make a final choice. The 10-theme structure provided a means for the book itself to be experimental. It generated the eventual 21 subthemes that gave the selected authors an opportunity to reassess and discuss London. In this experimental structure, it was important to allocate these sub-themes, but the content, nature and structure of the individual essays was left totally open. In setting up this structure, there was an ambition to discuss London but no way of predicting the final outcome of the discussion. As with most open structures, one measure of control was introduced. The selected authors were asked not to write about their projects in Diploma 10 but to focus, instead, on the themes that they had been allocated. The responses were astoundingly varied in both content and structure, including a personal interpretation of the Situationists, an assessment of the economic system that governs urban developments, a short story, an SMS discussion on London, two descriptions of professional work, various insights into the ins and outs of different social realities, numerous assessments of the inner workings of the city, varied interpretations of the systems of urban control and a description of a single image that encapsulates the concept of urban time. All of the essays expand the issues set up by the allocated subthemes, address the main 10 themes, complement the chosen projects and, where relevant, augment the issues that were first raised in the author’s Diploma 10 project. The majority of the essays tackle London head on, a couple of them describe issues in other cities that are


presented as lessons for London, but all of them successfully provide a current debate on the contemporary reality of London. So the theme essays are contemporar y and the projec ts span f rom 19 8 9 to 20 0 9. W hy 20 year s?


The projects do span 20 years but are, in the book, divided into two periods of 10 years. The first period includes projects that were carried out in Diploma 10 between 1989 and 1999 and the second includes those that were carried out between 1999 and 2009. This division is created for two reasons: one relates to London and the other to Diploma 10. Diploma 10 has dedicated the last 10 years to working exclusively in London and the product of this work has informed the structure of this book. Since 1999, there has been a concerted effort to focus on London and its issues, which has led to the interpretation of London by means of the 10 themes. The last 10 years form the basis of the London +10 book, but do not tell the whole story. Diploma 10 at the AA spans a much longer period, which dates back to the 1970s when the unit was first set up by Bernard Tschumi. The issues that form part of the London +10 themes did not arise magically in 1999 and are clearly influenced by the earlier work of Diploma 10. The year 1999 is important, but there is another key date, 1989, which informs the structure of the book. The unit, Diploma 10, which was taken over from Bernard Tschumi by Nigel Coates in the 80s, was subsequently taken over by myself and Robert Mull in 1988. The first transitional year led to the work of 89 to 90 that set the unit on the track that would lead to this book. The topic and title for the year was ‘Change – London Central’ and the emphasis was on revisiting the work of the Situationists, whose methods and definitions we adopted and adapted. London +10 does not claim that there is a clear progression from the work of 1989 to the work of 2009. Rather it defines two distinct stages in the work that, in different ways, inform the intended discourse on London. The first stage, between 1989 and 1999, built on the work of the Situationists and explored a number of alternative ways of working with the city that started a new debate on urbanism. When Robert Mull left in 1999, I focused this debate on urbanism exclusively on London. Exploiting the forces of change that shape London, the second stage, between 1999 and 2009, concentrated on the architectural, urban and direct applications of these alternative ways of working with the city and transformed them into composite urban interventions and strategies that engage directly with the reality of London. But all this is becoming rather academic and self-referential and it is now important to shed light on another reason for these dates. The other reason relates to London and its governance. After the metropolitan vacuum left by the abolition of the GLC (Greater London Council) in 1986, the regional government for London was re-established in 1999 when the Greater London Authority Act received Royal Assent. This led to the

election on 5 May 2000 of the first Mayor of London and the London Assembly consisting of 25 salaried members. The London +10 book argues that 1999 was a key date in the contemporary history of London and that, 10 years on, London is a very different place. This 10-year period of London under a metropolitan authority forms another reference to the +10 of the title. Since the creation of the GLA in 1999, Diploma 10 has worked closely with the strategies set up by this new governance structure for London. The projects of the previous 10 years are included in the book because they have either addressed the issues set out in this greater vision for London or have generated working methods and critiques that have informed and inspired the later projects. All of the selected projects have directly addressed the issues of governance and engaged with the city in different ways. Here, in London +10, the intention is to bring them together in order to generate a contemporary discourse on London. This discourse is intended to engage with London. In order to broaden this engagement two established London commentators, Will Self and Rowan Moore, have been invited to contribute to the book. Both have been instrumental in expanding our understanding of London, having spent many years writing about the life of the city on the one hand and its built environment on the other. Will Self was invited to write about 10 key London issues between 1989 and 2009, Rowan Moore about 10 key projects between 1989 and 2009. The 10 key issues and 10 key projects form a further reference to the +10 of the title. The London commentators were introduced to the London +10 themes, but were not asked to write about them. The fact that the London commentators are unconnected to Diploma 10 is critical to the debate set up by the book, which aims – through its structure – to provide an alternative view of the city that engages directly with London. A further alternative view of London is provided by a third commentator, the writer and architectural historian Brian Hatton, who has a connection with the AA, though not a direct connection with Diploma 10. Brian Hatton was invited to write about 10 historical roots that may have influenced the direct action projects of Diploma 10, and about his field of expertise, the work of NATØ (Narrative Architecture Today). With the addition of the all the +10s referred to above, the book certainly aims to portray an interpretation of the city that engages with London, but it also proposes an approach to urbanism, Direct Urbanism, which provides food for thought and suggests an alternative way of dealing with the city in the future. London +10 does, of course, have an academic dimension. This is represented by the work of Diploma 10 and by a contribution by Brett Steele, the Director of the AA School, describing Diploma 10’s relationship with the AA, and by two further essays that describe the workings of Diploma 10. In one of these, Alex Warnock-Smith attempts to relate a view from within Diploma 10. In the other, I attempt to describe the methods of engagement, tools and techniques used in Diploma 10 and conclude with



a description of the concept of Direct Urbanism. Putting aside this academic dimension, London +10 does not set out to provide a methodology or a solution for London. If anything, it is hoped that the structure of the book – the projects and the essays – will do the opposite by creating a catalyst for the continuation of the ideas. London +10 creates a view of London, a working view of London. The +10 of the title consists of 10 London themes, 10 years of governance since the establishment of the GLA, 10 years of Diploma 10 work since the creation of the GLA, 10 years of formative Diploma 10 work prior to the GLA, 10 historical roots for this type of work, 10 key projects for London and 10 key issues for London. London +10 does not claim to compete with the erudite historical eloquence of Peter Ackroyd’s London: The Biography or the experiential directness of Iain Sinclair’s London Orbital, but it does aim to provide, by means of its structure, an alternative view of contemporary London portrayed by those who have, in quite different ways, spent time working with it. Together the themes, the projects, the commentator’s essays and the academic essays provide an overview of London that questions and celebrates the live realm of the city and generates possible scenarios for the future of London.

Essays CRIME – Anna Mansfield TERRORISM – Jan Willem Petersen Projects US EMBASSY – Jan Willem Petersen 04–05 ASBOs – Anna Mansfield 05–06 FICTIONS OF CRIME – Ipek Turelli 97–98 URBANISING JUSTICE – Anna Mansfield 06–07 VOCAL POINT – Lewis Kinneir 06–07 LOCAL HEROES – Torange Khonsari 97–98

crime , terrorism , resistance: transgression , objection , confrontation , d issent, inci d ents & violence

‘… a young mother was drugged and sexually assaulted by teenagers in front of her children and the footage posted on YouTube. It was viewed 600 times before its removal. Around one in 15 of all rapes in London are gang rapes involving three or more attackers.’ Evening Standard, 3 November 2009

‘The US authorities want to build a new £275million embassy in the Nine Elms area of Battersea. Dubbed The Iceberg, it would be protected by a 30 metre “blast-zone” and a detachment of USmarines. Work on the new embassy is due to begin in 2012 … ’ Evening Standard, 3 November 2009


Anna Mansfield



Julie was a prostitute, a crack addict, a heroin addict and a thief. She lived a life scattered across King’s Cross: her bedroom a crack house in Somers Town, her wardrobe a charity shop on Tavistock Square, her bathroom the public toilet at King’s Cross station, her gang’s ‘office’ the red telephone box at the main exit, her place of work the steps, doorways and alleyways of the residential area opposite. The transport interchanges in King’s Cross, which expand the local population to a quarter of a million people each day, provided both a market and a hiding place for Julie. She had been repeatedly arrested for soliciting and loitering but Julie’s addictions ensured that she remained a commodity. She spent most nights ‘clipping’ – leading her client to somebody else’s front door and jingling her keys in her hand to pretend she owned the place, she would shout through the letter-box to be let in, ask her client to wait, then run away with their money, very fast. Left stranded, the client would inevitably kick the front door down, and be beaten up. By this time, Julie would be round the corner doing it again, leaving a trail of destruction while worrying that next time she would be the one getting the kicking. Then one day, Julie was banished. She was given a five-year AntiSocial Behaviour Order that banned her from returning not just to King’s Cross, but to an area that covered the borough of Camden and included parts of Westminster and Islington. The boundary enclosed 1,200 ha that stretched from the Thames up to Kentish Town, including the drug hotspots of Euston, Bloomsbury, Camden Town and Soho, three major stations and stretches of six underground lines. The physical exclusion boundary was drawn up by the police in red marker pen on an A–Z map, a personalised exile. The perimeter was 17,230 m long. The ASBO also listed her prohibited behaviours – this area is enlarged to cover all of England and Wales, to prevent the relocation of anti-social behaviour. Julie was just standing in the street, not working, when she was arrested and received the ASBO. She was mostly annoyed by the inconvenience and carried on as usual, hanging around with the same people. The first time she was arrested for breaching her ASBO, for walking within her exclusion zone, she anticipated that she would be taken to the police station and perhaps held overnight, and was planning what to do the next day. Instead she was taken to Holloway Prison, just outside her exclusion zone. In six months she breached the ASBO nine times and was jailed each time, for periods of between 14 and 36 days. Although the original behaviour may not be criminal, breaching an ASBO is a criminal


04–05 US Embassy Jan Willem Petersen


The project consolidates issues of security and anti-terrorism and acknowledges them as an integral part of contemporary culture in London. A process of intense involvement with the UK’s core counter-terrorism community – the MET’s Diplomatic Protection Unit S016, UK Defence Academy, MET’s Anti-Terrorism Branch and the Ministry of Defence – allowed an opportunity to engage directly with current security strategies, policies, responss and activities. A series of experiments around the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square acts upon the conflict arising from the expansion of the embassy’s security measures into the surrounding city fabric by physical, social and statutory means. An architectural understanding of state-directed security alterations and their relationship to the city is exploited to unlock the present condition of these unsustainable security mechanisms. A 63 an number of inconspicuous proposals suggest alternative, less obtrusive approach to counter-terrorism in the public realm, and question the conflicting (arguably illegal) measures that result from the unquestioning implementation of government security guidelines. Altogether, the role and scope of future architectural participation in counterterrorism measures is scrutinised.

Essays SYSTEMS – Carsten Vellguth RULES – Susanna Lumsden ORDER – Nick Simcik-Arese Projects UNITARY URBANISM II – Carsten Vellguth 90–91 UNITARY URBANISM EXCLUSION – Susanna Lumsden 91–92 CONGESTION CHARGE – Alexia Kokorelia 04–05 PRISONER RELEASE MANUAL – Rory Pennant-Rea 07–08

SYSTEMS, ORDER, RULES: restriction, containment, organiSation, regulation, monitoring, limits

‘The London congestion charge zone will be halved after Boris Johnson, the Mayor, decided to abolish the western extension introduced last year by his predecessor, Ken Livingstone. Mr Johnson plans to tackle congestion by adding one or two seconds to the green phase for traffic lights.’ Times, 28 November 2008

‘The first UK identity cards for more than 60 years will start to be issued in November, the Government announced It bears the person’s picture, name, date of birth, their status in the UK and whether they have a right to work … The biometric details are the person’s two fingerprints.’ Times, 25 September 2008

Systems of Control Carsten Vellguth

Thoughts on being controlled When I was asked to write about systems of control, I found it most intriguing to reflect on how I have become a relatively tame member of society over the past 20 years. How do I account for this level of selfregulation? ‘The unit started this year by borrowing methods used by the Siuationists to question philosophies existing within the capitalist world, or, as they call it, the society of the spectacle.’


When did it really start for me? There is a moment in a young man’s life when one is confronted with a situation which one has to revolt against. Often the protagonist will be somewhat intoxicated and eager to put on a manly display of resolve. At best, the situation will not get out of hand. ‘I was born in East Germany. I left the country at the age of 24.’ After that life is not quite the same anymore. What is left is a memory of an adrenalin high and a line that has been overstepped. I would think that this pattern of behaviour is addictive. At least for me. And then there is this one persistent problem: how can I ratchet it up next time round? ‘When I was 18 I chose to look away. All of society was turning in one direction and I decided to rebel. Something in me told me not to trust what was happening. I fled communism by breaking through the border from Bulgaria to Greece. I was caught and imprisoned.’ The penalty for disobedience was severe. It did one main thing: affected my life. After getting over the penalty, it started to sink in that there is a set of rules out there. And it is well protected by its agents. ‘Having experienced the collapse of the communist philosophy, and all its manifestations, and finding myself unable to accept the capitalist equivalent, I have, during the last year, tried to find a way to create architectural proposals that root themselves outside either of those philosophies, both of them claiming to hold a universal truth, and in doing so imposing an intricate network of legislation and sociological frameworks that form the basis for any architectural intervention.’


90–91 Unitary Urbanism II – Carsten Vellguth



Using Situationist tools to focus on Somers Town, King’s Cross and Euston, the project identified systems of information, rules, timetables, and signs that can be altered to directly affect the urban fabric and the social and economic reality of this area of London. Different systems were manipulated to create constructs for each of the areas. Census data was used for Somers Town, signs of transient communities were used for King’s Cross, and a sound survey was used for Euston Road. ‘Hobo Signs’, the sign language of the homeless, was adopted and adapted to set up a construct of signs that formed an information space and database in King’s Cross. The construct consisted of a space of different-sized letters, A for advice, H for housing, J for jobs, M for mail and T for travel, which were positioned in relation to the interior of the station, and to the scale of the surrounding area. The transient population’s 89travel interpretation of housing, jobs, mail and varies greatly from that of the permanent community. The construct set up a city space for a city user. Like the other constructs, it was a structure that people could react to and work with – the eventual outcome was not specified.

07–08 Prisoner Release Manual Rory Pennant-Rea


Reversing Prison Induction Wandsworth Prison is a void in the city. The perimeter acts as a physical and a social boundary, separating the controlled internal environment from the outside world. The prison is an autonomous structure which bears no relation to the surrounding urban context. The Prisoner Release Manual urbanises offenders released on probation from HMP Wandsworth. A direct reversal of the existing Prison Induction Manual, it seeks to familiarise the recently released with their immediate surroundings. Long prison sentences often leave offenders heavily institutionalised and out of touch with public life. The manual aids the integration of offenders into the local community by locating available social necessities, unlocking the potential for employment, housing and welfare. The manual translates Wandsworth borough into an engaging and accessible environment and includes guidance on how to gain employment, set up a bank account, find accommodation and a list of other relevant local public services. By familiarising offenders with the borough, it provides an opportunity for social integration, reducing the likelihood of reoffending and maximising opportunities for former offenders.

Essays REGENERATION – Tim den Dekker INFRASTRUCTURE – Regine Kandan Projects PHASED SHOEHORN PERIMETER – Tim den Dekker 06–07 URBAN EXCHANGE – Regine Kandan 07–08 CORNERS – Knut Hovland 93–94 SERVICE COURTYARDS – Jin-Seok Park 01–02

FABRIC, INFRASTRUCTURE, REGENERATION: development, renewal, growth & systems

‘It’s a crisp October morning two weeks before the biggest shopping centre in Europe flings its mighty doors open. Shepherd’s Bush buzzes with builders … in hard hats … something monumental is happening to this once-barren patch of west London – and the facelift for Shepherd’s Bush tube station is the first clue.’ Time Out, 17 October 2008

‘By providing a much-needed boost to rail capacity in London… Crossrail will help to develop London as a sustainable world city… …Boris Johnson said of the one billion-euro loan: “Our good friends at the EIB have provided us with a billion more reasons to proceed with the unstoppable force that is Crossrail.’ The Independent, 8 September 2000

Regeneration Tim den Dekker

Learning from Finance


There is no point in trashing the financial industry; too many have done so already. Of course, we should be dismayed at the reasons why the financial system failed: poor government regulation and the incentives which permitted reckless lending and trading resulting in dangerous risk concentrations that were not properly quantified, or were ignored. However, if it were not for the many institutions already using techniques in decision making that were state-of-the-art and fit for purpose, the financial collapse would have been far worse. The scrutiny that the world’s financial system is currently undergoing presents a good opportunity to understand the techniques developed in finance and translate them for use in the design of our cities. The financial system permits the economy to operate: it cannot be allowed to fail for if it does, so will the economy, with catastrophic consequences for living standards. The financial sector has led the development of techniques for protecting solvency because, uniquely to this sector, financial regulators impose statutory minimum solvency levels. A similar analysis can and should be used to evaluate impacts on living standards of proposed changes to the physical environment in which most of us live, namely cities. I will set out an analogy for understanding cities in these terms, and explain how the techniques used in finance to bolster quality can be applied to urban strategy. Valu e an d r i sk in f inanc e The philosophy behind decision-making in financial services companies focuses on value and risk. A financial services company has shareholders and debt-holders. Debt-holders primarily comprise policyholders (in the case of an insurer) or depositors (for a bank). Frameworks to optimise returns for shareholders recognise the symbiotic relationship between shareholders, on the one hand, and policyholders or depositors, on the other. The one could not exist without the other; therefore decisions for one should always consider the other. Policyholders’ and depositors’ main concern is that the company holds enough capital to protect them against the insurer or bank going insolvent. Insolvency occurs when the capital, or value, of the company dips below zero, the point at which shareholders are likely to abandon the company to its debts. When this happens, policyholders’ claims will not be


01–02 Service Courtyards Jin-Seok Park A search for existing services along the A13 led to the courtyards of several housing estates that, as interviews revealed, contained eight isolated communities. A constructed situation within the estates uncovered the spatial potential of the courtyards to house appropriate service structures. The Service Courtyards provide new locations for existing services, and are activated by a fluid set of social structures that interlink the separate estates and connect them to the A13.



AA Agendas 10: London +10  

London +10 focuses on London over the last 20 years, interpreting it as a 'live city' and speculating on the relationship between the live r...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you