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Week in pictures ADAM Architecture’s Oval overhaul Front page Newham defends Meanwhile London contest UK news Swan Housing insists Robin Hood work will go ahead Competitions & wins Larbert Loch viewing platform winner Awards RIBA’s Forgotten Spaces 2012 shortlist revealed People Design Commission for Wales chairman Alan Francis Venice Biennale International Architecture Exhibition preview Case study Beach chalet, by Jonathan Hendry Architects Culture Writing Britain: literary landscapes at the British Library This week online The next issue of the AJ appears on 30.08.12. For daily news, competitions and buildings, go to TheAJ.co.uk
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From the editor
The briefing document described it as ‘a fabulous opportunity for developers, investors, designers, artists, thinkers, entrepreneurs and community groups’. But the closure of London Pleasure Gardens and Industri(US) this week is a cautionary tale for architects: If you are going to enter a competition, read the fine print. The two projects, along with the Caravanserai development and the Royal Docks Baths (pictured), were all spawned in the Meanwhile London competition, launched by the London Borough of Newham and the London Development Agency (LDA) in November 2010. Of four Meanwhile London winners, one is in administration, another has temporarily closed, a third has cut opening hours and the fourth is on hold (see page 9). The contest had a noble purpose: to regenerate and reinvigorate derelict sites with temporary uses of one year or more, which would benefit from footfall during the London 2012 Olympic Games. The idea is still a good one. If properly organised and funded, pop-ups can be effective PR – what is the Olympics but one massive pop-up for East London? But those who read the details of this competition would have noted this critical sentence: ‘There is no specific budget for developing entrants’ ideas, so you will need to be prepared to do this yourselves.’ Winners received no seed funds or fee. They were given a vacant site and were expected to seek investment to implement their designs and business plan, paying all costs for planning, designing, building, even chain-link fences and site remediation. If they were successful, and the venture made a profit, the terms said they could be asked to pay market rent to Newham and the LDA. The four winners were announced with fanfare by London Mayor Boris Johnson at MIPIM 2011. The judging panel reads like a who’s who: from the LDA’s then deputy chief executive Peter Bishop to the NLA’s chair Peter Murray, Design for London’s head ..
The Meanwhile London competition is a cautionary tale for architects, writes Christine Murray
Of four Meanwhile London winners, one is in administration, another has temporarily closed, a third has cut opening hours Mark Brearley, Argent’s joint chief executive Roger Madelin, Urban Splash’s director Tom Bloxham and the Architecture Foundation’s director Sarah Ichioka. Unfortunately, the business cases for the winners depended on Olympic footfall that never materialised. So for most, this was a costly PR exercise. London firm Fluid sunk £200k into their up-cycling facility Industri(US) – for just 50k more, they could have paid Johnson’s annual salary for a Daily Telegraph column. Expensive PR for the firms that is, but good value for Newham. As Cany Ash of winning firm Ash Sakula says, ‘We are changing perceptions of Canning Town. PR firms are paid a lot to do what we are doing.’ Indeed. Newham’s website profiling the Meanwhile London competition is a plug for investment: ‘Newham are seeking developers for schemes worth up to £22 billion which will create more than 6,000 jobs.’ Compare the Meanwhile London contest to RIBA North East’s Forgotten Spaces ideas competition, and the latter’s £8,000 in prizes looks lavish (see page 18). But the terms and conditions of Meanwhile London were clear. This was a case of entrants beware. email@example.com
Week in pictures
Nicholas 1 Hare Architects has taken the wraps off its £11 million Alison Richard Building for the University of Cambridge. Located on the Sidgwick Site close to James Stirling’s History Faculty, the 4,300m² research centre houses the Department of Politics and International Studies. ..
Revised plans by 2 Hugh Petter of ADAM Architecture to overhaul the historic members’ pavilion at London’s Kia Oval cricket stadium are set to start on site this autumn and complete by spring. The scheme includes a remodelled ‘grand facade’ overlooking Kennington Park.
BDP has been 3 appointed to design a £400 million mixed-use complex in Shanghai with a circular walkway providing 360 degree views of China’s largest city. Located in Shanghai’s Bund Historical and Cultural Conservation Zone, the scheme retains historic buildings beneath an 80m-diameter dome.
BMJ Architects 4 has completed this £90 million clinical laboratory for the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow. The 25,000m2 building houses more than 800 health professionals and provides laboratory services, including blood sciences, genetics, pathology and microbiology. ..
Capita 5 Symonds has submitted plans for a £4 million bus station in Blackburn, Lancashire. The project for Darwen Borough Council features 14 bus stands, a community events space, a café, a retail kiosk and a focal hub. The 1,125m² scheme is planned to start on site in spring next year. ..
PICTURE CREDITS: 01 ALAN WILLIAMS 02 ADAM ARCHITECTURE 03 BDP 04 REUBEN PARIS 05 CAPITA SYMONDS
ABCOLINROWEDE RNSTGOMBRICHF GHIJOSEPHRYKW ERTKLMNIKOLAU SPEVSNEROPQRE YNERBANHAMST UVWXYZ AJ WRITING PRIZE IN ASSOCIATION WITH BERMAN GUEDES STRETTON ARCHITECTS The Brief The competition is for young architects or architecture graduates and students aged 35 or under. Entrants must write an essay that discusses the question ‘Do architects have a duty beyond satisfying the demands of the client?’ Specific references should be made to existing, unbuilt or historic projects. The piece should be written in lucid, jargon-free language. It should inspire, delight and inform AJ readers as well as those who have no design training.
The Prize , will be awarded to the winning writer. The winning piece will be published in full in the AJ and the writer of the piece will be commissioned to write a building study. At the judges’ discretion, a Highly Commended award may be given.
Terms & Conditions Entries should not exceed , words and must be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than October . Where relevant, supporting visual material may be supplied, though the emphasis is on the quality of the text. Authors should be aged or under on October . The competition is not open to professional writers or students of architectural history, theory or writing. Pieces should be wholly the work of the person submitting them. TheAJ.co.uk/writingprize
The Judges Alan Berman, David Partridge, Joseph Rykwert & Christine Murray
Dutton defends Newham pop-up contest after closures Newham regeneration chief defends Meanwhile London despite London Pleasure Gardens going into administration and Industri[us] having temporarily closed, writes Greg Pitcher
need to reflect on the programme The competition sought in a measured way and take stock temporary entrepreneurial in the round, rather than making projects that would attract people a knee-jerk reaction. Having a to Canning Town and Royal series of sites doing pop-up in Docks during the 2012 Games, a capital city is leadingwith the ambition of edge. People will have attracting developers to different experiences. the borough to invest But we feel there in schemes worth Amount spent on is an opportunity up to £22 billion. soil remediation for this approach However, the at London Pleasure to be beneficial.’ contest specified no Gardens The Meanwhile budget for developing Competition was entrants’ ideas, and winners launched by Newham with were responsible for all costs, the London Development such as site remediation, design, Agency (LDA), Design for planning and build costs, as London and Property Week specified in the competition magazine in November 2010. terms and conditions. The
FLICKR / DIAMOND GEEZER
Newham Council regeneration chief Clive Dutton has defended the local authority’s troubled Meanwhile London competition following a torrid week for the programme. Last week London Pleasure Gardens, one of the four winning schemes (see page 10), entered administration, while a second scheme, Industri[us], has temporarily closed. A third, Caravanserai, has cut its opening hours. The fourth winning scheme, Royal Docks Baths, is on hold. But Dutton, executive director for regeneration at the east London borough, told AJ: ‘We
terms also warned that ‘profit share or rental income’ could be required if any profit was made. The contest attracted 42 entries and was judged by a high-profile jury which included Dutton, LDA deputy chief executive Peter Bishop, Architecture Foundation director Sarah Ichioka, New London Architecture chairman Peter Murray, Property Week editor Giles Barrie, Argent Group joint chief executive Roger Madelin, Urban Splash chairman Tom Bloxham, Design for London head Mark Brearley and Building Design editorial director Amanda Baillieu. Announcing the winning >>
ideas at the MIPIM property fair in spring 2011, London mayor Boris Johnson said they would ‘help the Royal Docks and Canning Town become a thriving new economic hub for the capital’. But events last week appear to have dealt a blow to such hopes. London Pleasure Gardens, developed by Strong and Co, which partnered with the RIBA London to build pavilions and host events at the Pontoon Dock site, entered administration 3 August. Deloitte joint administrator Rob Harding said: ‘London Pleasure Gardens has underperformed against its original business plan both in respect of festival activity and far fewer visitors than originally envisaged passing through the site and using its facilities.’ More than £1 million was spent on remediating the 60,000m2 site,
though no mention was made of contaminated ground in the competition’s documentation. Industri[us], proposed by architecture practice Fluid, closed seven days later for the rest of August as it grappled with ‘crippling’ running costs and a lack of funding. Elsewhere, Caravanserai has had to reduce its opening hours, with one trader describing business as ‘slow’; and the Floating Village scheme has been put on hold. The key problem for the three Meanwhile schemes that were built has been a dearth of visitors during the London Games, when they were hoping to be at their busiest. The funding plan for Industri[us] was based largely on attracting business from thousands of visitors to the nearby ExCeL Centre during the Games. With visitor numbers
■ Caravanserai for the Canning Town site: proposed by EXYST, Space Makers Agency, Ash Sakula and others, who aim to create an ‘adaptable, open courtyard surrounded by busy shops and production spaces, collaboratively produced by architects, thinkers, makers, community groups and local residents’. : Open, but with reduced hours ..
CANNING TOWN CARAVANSERAI
■ London Pleasure Gardens for the Pontoon Dock site: proposed by Strong and Co, the creators of Shangri-La at Glastonbury. A ‘waterside festival site’ to feature year-round attractions and summer-time spectaculars. : Under administration
■ Industri[us] for the Royal Business Park site: proposed by Fluid, with Colliers International, Dare and others. The concept aims to rework found materials and waste products, bringing together artists, entrepreneurs, social businesses, local people and scientists. Newham Council has said it would work with this project so that it can be extended to other sites in the borough. : Temporarily closed to visitors
■ Royal Docks Baths for Pontoon Dock: proposed by Studio Egret West, this was to be a ‘floating swimming pool in Pontoon Dock made from seven re-used Thames lighters to form a pontoon, floating structure, café restaurant and spa’. This site was not in the original competition but the judges decided the scheme should be included as an extra winner. : Not yet built ..
hugely down on LOCOG told AJ: ‘We could have [been forecasts, Fluid resorted to hosting there] all day if there had been gigs to raise money and asked 40,000 people going past, Newham Council for help with but there is a new reality. running costs.When the council ‘We are now open from 3pm turned down the funding plea, until 8pm to catch local people. it decided the events were not a We are open Thursday to Sunday practical short-term solution. to concentrate our efforts.’ Fluid is using the rest of August Ash Sakula said it had so to work towards a viable model far managed to break even on for the struggling scheme. Caravanserai – although it has Director Christina Norton told invested a great deal of time. AJ: ‘There is no point continuing The final scheme, Studio with the plan we had for the Egret West’s Floating Village – Olympic period, so we’ve decided was put on hold until after the to close for that period and look Games. Partner David West at how we can develop our model. said: ‘Our Floating Village ‘Until we have a sense that project was paused to allow the events will raise enough the Siemens Centre and the cash to contribute to our Cable Car to be constructed. community aims, [we are ‘Now the Cable Car is putting them on hold].’ completed and the Olympics Fluid and its partners over, we will be reviewing and and sponsors have invested refining the Floating Village resources worth £200,000 in project over the coming months.’ Industri[us] while Newham Although much of the blame Council loaned £3.3 million to for the low visitor numbers London Pleasure Gardens. has been leveled at LOCOG Caravanserai trading market is transport inefficiencies during temporarily closed from Monday the Games, there have been to Wednesday and is open for claims that Newham Council one hour less than previously lacked the conviction to back on Thursday to Sunday its competition when as the scheme adjusts the going got tough. to meet demand Competition from local people. judge Ichioka said: Newham Council Ash Sakula ‘I don’t know the loan to London Architects, one intricacies of the Pleasure Gardens of the architecture situation, but it is very practices behind the unfortunate if Newham Caravanserai project, said Council are more eager local traders could not justify to champion innovative urban being on site full-time without approaches in their words, the Olympic visitor trade. rather than in their deeds.’ Practice partner Cany Ash A source close to one of the winners said private sector partners should be included Much of the blame has in future competitions to been levelled at add commercial thinking. ‘The council got really LOCOG for transport scared. It has a visionary hat inefficiencies during the on and a local council hat on,’ the source explained. London Games However, Dutton said the
council had been clear from the start that no direct funding would be available for the projects. Of the Industri[us] bid for council funding he said: ‘Industri[us] was a business and it was their proposition to do this and their assumptions about footfall during the Olympics.’ On claims that the council put too much onus on the winners to run the sites, Dutton said: ‘The make-up of the consortia was up to the entrants. There is no reason why architects and artists can’t run businesses.’ Dutton said the highprofile initiative would be seen as a pioneering way of using derelict land. He added: ‘Lessons will be learnt but I am confident others will be looking to see how this concept can be used in an age of austerity. ‘This is a resourceful way to bring land into use in a way that will help the local
community. I am confident that it will come to be seen as a success in the long run.’ Fellow judge Murray said the competition showed the importance of winners having expertise in several fields. ‘Meanwhile London may be temporary but it still has to be based on a sound business model,’ he said. ‘Putting on an event for three years is not the same as an event that lasts three years and requires a different level of expertise as well as building design.’ Ash insisted the programme should not be judged on financial grounds alone. ‘Caravanserai has been successful for the amount of time it’s been there,’ she said. ‘What we are doing with this project is changing people’s perceptions of Canning Town. Public relations firms are paid a lot of money to do what we are doing.’
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Robin Hood ‘not impacted’ by inquiry Developer Swan Housing insists its project at Robin Hood Gardens will not be affected by inquiry into allegations of premature grant draw-down Swan Housing has insisted its controversial redevelopment of Robin Hood Gardens in east London will not be affected by a probe into allegations of premature drawing of government funds. The company is lead developer on the £500 million residential project, which was designed by Horden Cherry Lee and Aedas, and backed by Countryside Properties. But the Homes and Communities Agency, which is also backing the scheme, has launched an investigation into allegations relating to Swan staff. The HCA refused to comment on the east London project, which will see the demolition of a 1970s Alison and Peter Smithson-designed housing estate.
A spokesman for the body said: ‘We have been working with Swan to investigate this issue and, until we have completed that work, we cannot comment further.’ But a Swan spokesman told AJ: ‘We understand the Robin Hood scheme will not be impacted. This scheme specifically will continue as it was.’ Swan Housing Group said in
a statement last month: ‘Since January 2012, Swan Housing Group, in co-operation with the Social Housing Regulator, has been carrying out an investigation into allegations around the practice of a small number of Swan Housing Group staff prematurely drawing down grant from the Homes and Communities Agency. There is
Pickles vows to kick-start stalled homes Communities secretary Eric Pickles has launched an attack on ‘unrealistic’ Section 106 agreements with a new programme to encourage councils and developers to renegotiate subsidies thought to be blocking development. Under plans announced for consultation this week to tackle ‘economically unrealistic agreements’ made during the boom, developers may request councils to reconsider all Section 106 agreements made prior to April 2010. Currently deals may only be renegotiated five years after a council refuses a developers’ request for voluntary renegotiation. ..
with planning permission. At the same time, as part of Pickles said: ‘There is huge a pilot mediator scheme, the potential in sites to boost local government has dispatched economies and we simply cannot teams of independent brokers to afford to have them lying idle 10 local authorities – including because of earlier agreements Leeds, Ipswich, Corby, Ashford that are no longer viable.’ and Durham – to offer free Architects welcomed advice to help kickthe attempt to kickstart renegotiations. start development The brokers will Number of housing but said further provide technical schemes of 10+ units help was needed expertise to unlock stalled under to help resurrect negotiations, act Section 106 stalled schemes. as go-betweens in Hari Phillips, of Bell disputes and offer access Phillips Architects, said to a range of support services. the ‘desperate need’ for more Together the moves are part of affordable housing should not a government strategy to unlock be compromised in the drive 1,400 stalled housing schemes to move projects forwards. of more than 10 housing units
no evidence whatsoever that this practice has been for personal gain of anyone within Swan or that public funds have been misused.’ The firm said an interim report by solicitors Devonshires contained preliminary findings and allegations that a small number of Swan Housing Group staff had ‘deliberately subverted the operating system for premature grant drawdown’. It added that on 3 July 2012, following the interim report, three members of staff were suspended pending a full internal investigation. A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets council said: ‘The Blackwall Reach Regeneration project is very important to Tower Hamlets Council, as it will provide much-needed new homes for our residents. We are managing the project closely and working with all partner organisations involved to ensure its effective delivery.’ Greg Pitcher TheAJ.co.uk/robinhood
Alex Ely of Mae argued that a review of land value needed to proceed ‘hand in hand’ with efforts to stimulate supply and drive economic growth through construction. ‘Otherwise once again it is just the public sector losing out,’ he said. Aedas director Dominic Manfredi said mediation was ‘certainly sensible’ but warned the initiative was ‘unlikely to prove a panacea for all development woes.’ He said: ‘The vast majority of projects that have stalled have done so through a lack of financing options or because they are no longer commercially viable. The key to unlocking them lies in the economic, rather than the planning, landscape’. Merlin Fulcher TheAJ.co.uk/section106
News on TheAJ.co.uk
Olympic Stadium wrap set for Rio encore THIS WEEK ONLINE Dow Chemical’s controversial £7m Olympic Stadium wrap stands in line to offer humanitarian relief in East Africa and Rio, writes Merlin Fulcher Dow Chemical’s controversial £7m Olympic Stadium wrap could be converted into a sports shelter for the 2016 Rio games. London-based architecture charity Article 25 is designing a 130m² structure out of the fabric for a school it has completed in Patongo, northern Uganda, for former child soldiers and abductees. The humanitarian organisation hopes the pavilion design could later be used by Rio de Janiero-based sports charity Bola Pra Frente during the Rio Games in 2016. Planned to complete early next year, the structure will be prototyped in east London over
the next two months before being packed into a shipping container and dispatched to the East African republic. The charity is working with ES Global and Momentum Engineering to develop the design. Article 25 chief executive Robin Cross said the building would form part of the centre’s vocational training programme. ‘This will help the Ugandan participants take ownership of the project,’ he explained. He added: ‘London won the honor of hosting the Olympics in 2012 by promising to inspire a generation of young people around the world to greater heights of personal and sporting achievement.
Olympic legacy chief Altman steps down
Former RMJM employee Professionals forego argues unfair dismissal training opportunities
Former RMJM Olympic legacy chief employee Kirstin Taylor has Andrew Altman stepped down taken the company to an this week amid praise for employment tribunal for his ‘sophisticated’ vision constructive unfair dismissal. in masterplanning the Taylor, now of GlasgowOlympic Park’s future. based City Design, left Games procurement RMJM in February advisor Ricky Burdett after allegedly failing said Altman’s to receive her salary contribution was RMJM pre-tax since December. ‘exceptional’ and losses to The landscape he would be ‘difficult April 2011 architect claimed to to replace’. be owed about £5,000 LLDC chair Daniel in unpaid wages and has Moylan said Altman’s requested compensation. Last leadership had set ‘solid week the troubled company foundations for the park and put reported a pre-tax loss of £2.5 London further ahead in legacy million to the end of April 2011. planning than any previous host city’. TheAJ.co.uk/Altman TheAJ.co.uk/RMJM
‘By using the stadium wrap to build essential community facilities in Uganda and Brazil, Article 25 plans to deliver that promise to some of the most marginalised youngsters in the developing world.’ The 20m-high and 900m-long facade was blasted by Indian campaigners due to Dow subsidiary Union Carbide’s alleged responsibility for the Bhopal gas disaster. Cross declined to comment on Dow’s alleged connection to the environmental catastrophe but said: ‘This is about making the Olympics work for the marginalised people of the world as well as London.’ TheAJ.co.uk/ Olympicstadiumwrap
More than two-thirds of architects forego training opportunities because of other work pressures, RIBA Insight research has revealed. RIBA Insight polled almost 900 architects for the survey – and nearly all felt continuing professional development was important. But 69 per cent said a lack of available time at work often prevented them from taking part in such activities. Over a third of those surveyed left it to their employers to arrange their CPD rather than organising it themselves. On average, professionals spend between one and two hours a week on CPD. TheAJ.co.uk/CPD
Complete a short retrofit questionnaire for a chance to win a free copy of Drawing for Landscape Architecture and Handmade Houses. TheAJ.co.uk/retrofitsurvey 1
Gain half an hour of CPD out of the required annual 35-hour commitment by completing the online CPD entitled: Design and specification of rolled lead sheet. TheAJ.co.uk/CPD/leadsheet 2
Relive the Games in the AJ Buildings Library by examining 20 Olympic buildings, including the only dedicated public Paralympic venue on the Olympic site, Stanton Williams’ Eton Manor. AJBuildingsLibrary.co.uk 3
Vote for the building you believe will win the Stirling Prize in the AJ survey. TheAJ.co.uk/stirling-prize 4
Plan your London Open House weekend by choosing which of the 750 buildings you will visit when they open their doors next month. TheAJ.co.uk/OpenHouse 5
Competitions & wins
Lochside viewpoint winner revealed Aberdeen practice George Watt + Stewart Architects wins competition to design viewing platform overlooking Labert Loch for hospital
Sicilian research platform ICSplat has launched an ideas contest exploring the possible future usage of the Costa Concordia shipwreck (pictured), lying off Isola del Giglio on the western coast of Italy. The £372 million cruise liner sank earlier this year after hitting a rock in calm waters. Open to students and design professionals, the contest boasts a £2,300 prize fund. [Registration must be completed by 20 September] Newcastle College is seeking a designer for a gateway centre building. Architects are called for to provide full design services through all RIBA stages plus construction co-ordination, interior design and fit-out of the new build project in Newcastle Upon Tyne [Requests to participate to be received by 7 September] 0 12
Bristol City Council is looking to appoint a specialist workplace strategy organisation to lead and deliver the design of its workplace programme. The successful agent will be responsible for all the £8 million programme’s design elements. [Registration by 31 August to attend 5 September open morning] Sean Kitchen TheAJ.co.uk/competitions LA DY WE LL
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The victorious scheme, with its steeply angled portal frame, was praised by the judges for its references to a former boathouse which once sat on the site and for the ‘considerable attention given to access details and issues of maintenance, repair and replacement of components’. The competition attracted a total of 31 entries. Richard Waite
re E. Pastu across Views countryside to open
Aberdeen’s George Watt + Stewart Architects has won the contest to design a £30,000 viewing platform at Larbert Loch, near Falkirk for the Forth Valley Royal Hospital. The practice beat Jamie Hamilton Architect, Cameron Webster Architects with Makar and John Downie Architectural Design in the competition aimed at small Scottish practices.
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Competitions & wins
Forgotten Spaces 2012: the finalists Based on the competition developed by RIBA in the capital in 2010, Forgotten Spaces 2012 invited proposals for left-over land in the North-East - The AJ can now reveal the 21 finalists in RIBA North East’s Forgotten Spaces competition, run in association with the AJ. More than 50 students, artists, designers, planners and architects entered the contest with a variety of proposals to transform disused or overlooked locations across the region. The schemes ranged from
urban farms and new uses for stalled construction sites to riverside driving ranges using fish-food golf balls. The winner, who will receive a £5,000 prize, will be announced on 7 November. A £2,000 second prize and £1,000 third place award will be offered. All the shortlisted schemes will go on display at a special exhibition in Newcastle in November. Richard Waite
Clockwise from top The Hailing Station by Daniel Burn; Pilgrims’ Rest by Philip Miller; Newcastle back street reinvented by Ryder Architecture; Ian McArdle’s Lime Kilns Industrial Museum scheme
1. Nicola Ibbotson – Urban Sculpture Park – Inhabiting concrete walkways with artworks as an extension to the Laing Gallery 2. Will Mawson – TyneTee – Eco driving range on top of the double-decker timber Staithes on the Tyne 3. Ian McArdle – the Lime Kilns Industrial Museum (pictured) –Reinventing the ruins of the 19th century Marsden lime kilns 4. Nick Simpson – My Eggcellent Idea – Urban agriculture, including a chicken pasture, under a flyover in Newcastle 5. Daniel Burn – the Hailing Station (pictured) – reinvention of former shipping hailing station at North Shields Fish Quay 6. Otis Murdoch – Symphonic Backwater – the reinvention of the Lemington Gut with a restaurant, visitor centre and interactive sculptural boardwalk 7. Ali Abbas and Neal Tanna – St James’ Park – a vertical park within the hexagonal advertising hoardings outside Newcastle United FC’s home 8. Kay Glendinning and Brigitte Griffiths – Pink Plaza – a transformation of a dull short cut in Newcastle’s gay area into an inviting pedestrian route 9. Rumen Dimov, Sarah Rozelaar, Theodora Kyrtata, Fatima Afzal, Mary CookeFox, James Houston – Rethink-Replay – platforms for musicians and an audience in Plummer Chare 10. Philip Miller – Pilgrims’ Rest (pictured) – place of rest for local residents, shoppers and commuters on a redundant site 11. Greg Walton and Simon Bumstead – Online_Ontyne – filling the empty voids ..
in the Tyne Bridge towers with a cultural warehouse 12. John Robinson Beattie – New City Industries – an architectural system to reuse a redundant steel frame from a failed development 13. Iain Murphy – Lost Icons – a series of periscope-like viewing platforms and interventions along a route in Newcastle 14. Daniel Pearce, Gabriel Hobby and Callum Louch – Home Surveillance – a homeless community contained within the stalls of a disused cinema in Newcastle city centre 15. Kelly Mackinnon and Stephen Roberts – Forgotten River – a new green corridor along the banks of the Ouseburn 16. K4 Architects – Longsands Theatre – overhauling the decaying Tynemouth Lido into an outdoor theatre 17. Paul Jones and Will Campbell – Forgotten Relics – remembering the long-forgotten pilgrimage route to the holy relics of St Mary’s Chapel with a pair of interventions 18. Ollie Currie – City Wall circuit – a series of coloured beams and LEDs marking out the old city walls, creating a circuit for cars 19. Ryder Architecture – Behind the Side (pictured) – a series of new workspaces and studios along a redundant route in central Newcastle 20. Matt Drury – Augmented Distillery – a reinterpretation of Samuel Stokoe’s 19th century spirit cellar in St John’s Lane 21. Matt Nicholl and William Mackey – Angular Flight – an open-air museum and bird-like bridge across the railway tracks next to Newcastle Central Station
People & practice
‘We’ve done a great deal’
How has DCfW’s role evolved since it was set up? The design review service was refined in structure and frequency in 2005 and again in 2008-9. We later devised the design exchange supplementary service for local planning authorities to discuss the challenges they face in securing design quality. These sessions have no fixed agenda. They can be geared towards simply getting to know us better, or to look at projects, or to examine the barriers they experience and how we can help address them. They may simply examine earlier decisions. We’ve worked hard to establish continuous engagement and often see projects several times. Where has the organisation had its biggest impact? We’ve helped much more broadly than at a scheme-by-scheme level. We aim to build confidence and capacity, to help inform policy and its application. Particularly rewarding have been practices who told us our advice was vital to the success of their project, and members of the public who have found our expertise invaluable.
What do you think DCfW could have done better? Perhaps to have secured a public face – on the street, as it were, very early on. If we started over, we’d still take an urban design-led and multidisciplinary approach, rather than a purely architectural approach. We’ve done a great deal with very lean resources and stayed flexible and light on our feet, so we’re not uncomfortable with what we’ve done. Can design review reach ‘local level’ and how will DCfW go about delivering it? Wales is a small country and much of our work is local by nature. We have always accommodated grass roots projects, assisted individuals, groups and members of the public and will continue to do so. Do you think you do anything better than CABE? We don’t compare ourselves with other organisations of different size and capacity, working in a different context. While some could view our size and resources as a disadvantage, we always have the advantage of flexibility and the ability to be fleet of foot, combining proactive services with the capacity for swift response. What is the best building to have been built in Wales over the past 10 years? Pat Borer and David Lea’s Wales Institute for Sustainable Education at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth. No question.
BRIDGER CARR (WORK UNDERTAKEN AT HDP)
Alan Francis, chairman of the Design Commission for Wales, looks back at the first 10 years of the fleet-of-foot ‘Welsh CABE’
Bridger Carr Architects Andy Bridger, Deborah Carr Leeds, West Yorkshire May 2012 www.bridgercarr.com Where have you come from? We’ve been delivering healthcare projects together for the past six years, at HDP in Shipley. Before that Andy was at Studio BAAD in Hebden Bridge and Nightingale Associates. Deborah worked for Halliday Clark Architects for her Part I and did her Part 3 with HDP. What work do you have and what kind of projects are you looking for? Approved consultants frameworks are our mainstay, such as Bradford and Airedale Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust framework. We’re also looking to diversify into sectors which require a high level of complex design coordination, such as research and development facilities.
What are your ambitions? Something big and complex, like a hospital, airport or a power station would be fantastic. How optimistic are you as a start-up practice? The RIBA Small Practice Spring Cleaning event in York at the end of April gave us a great kick start at just the right time. Our clients’ encouragement has been our biggest spur. We’ve had interest in our specialist healthcare consultancy service and a renewed willingness from clients to discuss their capital expenditure plans – all indicative of a shift in spending attitudes. We’ve made a lot of strategic decisions about expenditure. We’re staying as compact as possible, using innovative technologies to keep us lean. ..
Olympic pathway Anyone brave or stupid enough to attempt cycling to the London 2012 Olympic Games may have experienced something of a shock to discover the Games walking and cycling routes, marked on Transport for London maps, to be without signposting and entirely deserted. One such trail followed a rustfilled, post-industrial canal path leading from Limehouse Basin to Stratford. While the waterways were busy with barges shuttling officials to the Games, the tow paths were eerily silent and unnervingly slippy. Approaching their destination, path users
were welcomed by the happy sight of Adams and Sutherland’s Bow Riverside Footbridge and Walkway. Unfortunately, at the northern end of the bridge a security blockade terminated any further progress.
Defiant dress sense The AJ’s sustainability editor, Hattie Hartman, was handed the protest baton from RIBA president Angela Brady by wearing the now-famous dress defying the Olympic marketing ban. Brady first wore the controversial gown at the Name Drop event at Portland Place, where she and Peter Murray unfurled a
banner naming all the architects involved in creating the venues, temporary structures and accommodation for the London 2012 Olympic Games in defiance of the controversial marketing gagging order. Hartman wore the dress to the Olympic site, along with a hat fashioned with images of Hopkins’ Velodrome.
Food for thought Visitors to the Olympic site have been flocking to the AEW-designed super-sized fast food chain McDonald’s and, although it is reportedly the largest in the world, it seems it is not large enough. Large queues at Usain Bolt’s restaurant of choice, one of four on the site, have seen customers being forced to wait up to 20 minutes for their food at the apparently not so fast-food restaurant. Somewhat ironically at the giant outlet you can’t ‘Go Large’ because only regularsized meals are on offer.
Seizing the moment
With the London 2012 Olympic Games officially over, many architects were still waiting to see their names in the limelight. Sunday’s much-hyped closing ceremony offered one last opportunity. Curtain up and within the showcase was a curious tribute to the M25, fabricated from what appeared to be papier-mâché, alongside replicas of the much-loved landmarks Marks Barfield’s London Eye and Foster + Partners’ Swiss Re building, widely known as the Gherkin. Fast forward around three hours towards the end of the ceremony, and LOCOG chair Sebastian Coe took to the stage to hail the Olympic Games a success. ‘Thank you to the people who built the stadiums, the people who created a new neighbourhood in an old city, the people who stood guard to keep us safe. ’ But a residential legacy is still many years away. Could we have hoped for anything better? ..
Letter from London
The Olympics should provide some lessons about design procurement, says Paul Finch The understandable fuss about marketing restrictions on the teams which designed the London 2012 Olympics should not obscure a more fundamental issue relating to the future of architects in the UK: on what basis should they be appointed for public projects, and by whom? Procurement has been much debated in recent months, generally in black and white terms. On the one hand, we have a line of thinking that goes back to various studies into the future of contracting from more than a decade ago, which sees architecture as a sub-set of the construction industry, and therefore a matter which can be safely left to builders to deal with, just like piling, or health and safety. The other strand, best represented by the criteria for Lottery project applications, suggests that no proposal depending on public subsidy should be allowed to proceed without a design that is not only capable of getting planning permission, but is significantly better than that standard. We all know that, in theory, a planning permission implies a design of good standard. Alas, by looking around us, we can note that this is far from being the case. PFI procedures have muddied the water because of the assumption that there is only one way to procure designs, which tends to exclude the client from direct engagement with designer. There is no reason why this should be the case, but in practice that is how it has turned out under rules sanctioned and promoted by HM Treasury. Somehow they managed to get Stuart Lipton as provider and Norman Foster as architect for their own PFI office project. When it came to schools in ordinary parts of the world, you seemed to get Messrs Jarvis; an architect you had never heard of; and walls the school bully could punch a hole through. The Treasury didn’t seem to notice. Anyway, let’s remind ourselves how we managed to get a set of magnificent buildings and landscapes for the 2012 Games. Aquatics Centre: design competition. Handball: design competition. Velodrome: design ..
competition. Main stadium: competition which would have included a competitive design element, if there had been more than one conforming bidder. Masterplan: design competition. Landscape: design competition. Look and feel: design competition. Notice a trend? Government knows full well that if you want to get something really good when it comes to architecture, you need a system of procurement which prioritises design quality and involves a direct appointment. The ODA, LOCOG and the Legacy company absolutely did not rely on contractors to tell them who the architects should be or on what basis they should be appointed. That is not to say that novation never took place, or indeed that the original architect might not be replaced by a contractor’s architect at the delivery
The [London 2012 Olympic delivery bodies] absolutely did not rely on contractors to tell them who the architects should be stage. But it is to say that the client knew exactly what they wanted and how to get it. This involved a hands-on relationship with real, live designers. So why shouldn’t local authorities, health trusts, education providers and government departments behave in the same way? And, if it was right for the construction procurement processes at the Olympics to depend on a shadow set of checking contractors (ie lack of trust), why should we think that contractorled procurement is the answer for the vital, everyday buildings that affect so many lives, for better or worse? All those Olympic architects will find ways to make use of their Olympic experience in pitching for future work. Indeed it has already happened. I am less sure that government will take on board the procurement lesson that the Olympic project provides. ..
Project1_AJ 1/2 page 07/05/2012 21:14 Page 1
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Stephen Bates’ Casa Voltes means Cadaqués won’t stay secret long. And that’s unforgivable, writes Rory Olcayto
If it wasn’t in Cadaqués I wouldn’t have been been bothered. But why did Stephen Bates have to go and design one of the most beautiful houses in the world – one that’s going to win lots of prizes and encourage loads of architects to make enquiries – in Cadaqués? Cadaqués is mine, Stephen. You’re not meant to know about it. I’ve been going there for years and the only other British person I’ve ever met there were the ones I was travelling with. Arghhh! I first heard about Cadaqués 20 years ago, from an Italian friend who had spent a blissful summer there, and vowed to visit one day. I finally made it in 2001 and have been back many times since for long, lazy recharges. If I could, I’d move there. If more British architects knew about it, they would too. You see, outside Spain, Cadaqués is still a fairly well-kept secret. It’s on the Costa Brava but is very hard to get to. There is one road in and one road out; a hairpin-bender that scales and descends a mountain. Narrow cobbled streets weave through undulating formations of white-painted houses that cling to frozen lava flows, tumbled rockpiles and the remains of older dwellings. Beyond the perfect natural harbour, the sea glistens and the townscape, cubic, crustaceous, rises to a point marked with a gleaming church gable and tower. Artists used to flock to this once tiny fishing town: Man Ray, Picasso, Duchamp and the rest. They all came,
beguiled by Cadaqués’ micro-climate, its fine light, its inaccessibility. Salvador Dali, who spent summers here as a child, loved it so much he transformed a fisherman’s shack in the adjoining village of Port Lligat into a holiday funhouse for he and his wife, Gala. The curious formations of the surrounding rocky coastline made a big impression on the surrealist showman: they appear repeatedly in his painted dreamscapes. Bates clearly loved the place too. But forget what you know about his firm Sergison Bates’ typical work. There’s nothing Brutal about Casa Voltes (pictured). It was completed last November in association with Barcelona practice Liebman Villavecchia Arquitectos. Since then it has been shortlisted for a number of awards, and was recently commended by the jury of the Premi FAD, the Spanish Stirling Prize equivalent, for, says the architect’s website, ‘acknowledging and respecting the qualities of its surroundings and adopting them in an intelligent and elegant manner.’ That Spanish jury is right. Bates says the project, an extensive renovation in the old town, draws on the critical regionalism of Modernist architects who practiced locally. Figures such as Josep Coderch who designed three homes in the town, Federico Correa and Alfonso Milá and British-Italian duo Peter Harnden and Lanfranco Bombelli. The latter team’s Villa Gloria and Casa Staempfli, both in Cadaqués, appear strongly influential, judging from pictures alone. Casa Voltes is sublime. Two storeys of perfectly white distorted cubic forms, a mysterious, sunlit home. A cave-like cellar, hewn from the volcanic rock, underpins the plan, a magnificent foil to the pristine, stylised spaces above. This is what retrofit is all about: the reuse of salvaged parts – stone, tiles and structural elements – to create something strikingly new. There’s so much to it: externally, walls are white-painted rough stone. Inside, it’s Pawson-white render... But what am I doing? It’s meant to be a secret. Forget Cadaqués on the trashy Costa Brava. Tuscan hill towns are more your thing. Aren’t they. hicarquitectura.com/2012/03/sergison-bates-architectsliebman.html ..
Project of the Week Apollo Pavilion Victor Pasmore (1969). Refurbished by Burns Architects Peterlee, County Durham, 2009 Following this restoration, after years of vandalism and neglect, Victor Pasmore’s reinforced concrete Apollo Pavilion in the new town of Peterlee gained Grade II* listed status ..
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Penoyre & Prasad’s East Village Health Centre, Stanton Williams’ Eton Manor Sports Complex The AJ Building Library’s London 2012 archive
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Design with sole My daughter, who works for Softroom Architects, emailed me your leader on the role of the architect (AJ 19.07.12). I graduated in architecture at the Bartlett in 1976 before apprenticing as an orthopaedic shoemaker. I couldn’t agree more with what you said and I will put it up in my workshop to help answer the question, ‘What has an architecture degree got to do with shoemaking?’ The answer; everything! Architecture is a great design degree even if, like me, you never design a building again. With orthopaedic shoemaking, elegance and functionality are key and the physics of loading, lever arms, kinetic and static stress all have the same interactions and cannot be ignored just as in buildings. Thanks so much for writing this. Bill Bird, billbird.co.uk
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Retrofit City exhibition (AJ 19.07.12). The aim was to advocate for our city and to show how to make the most of built assets. As such, the positive feedback and Mr Howard’s interest are extremely encouraging. We are pleased to confirm that the exhibition is now on tour, with the first stop at the city’s Create Centre. While you’re in town, pop in and see Scale and Ambition; our riff on the AJ’s Small Projects show which runs until 16 September. Rob Gregory, associate editor, AR and Architecture Centre programme manager createbristol.org/events
to rebuild its components – Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery – on the Hungerford Car Park site upstream from the Hungerford Bridge and recreate the open or lightly-built space between the Festival Hall and Waterloo Bridge. Relocation to the site would create a better-balanced sequence of public buildings and open spaces along the river downstream from County Hall. It still seems a better idea than pouring funds into the existing buildings rightly, in my opinion, denied the protection of listing. James Dunnett, James Dunnett Architects, London N1
South Bank proposal
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The list of finalists to ‘revamp’ the South Bank complex (AJ 05.07.12) reminds me of my own proposal prompted by a request from the Twentieth Century Society for an alternative to Richard Rogers’ ‘glass wave’ of 17 years ago. I thought his project would swamp the Grade 1-listed Festival Hall and leave very little of the South Bank complex left from a conservation point of view. It seemed better
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Venice Biennale 2012 Introduction
Venice Biennale 2012
Common people With its theme of Common Ground, the 13th International Architecture Exhibition looks to find mutual understanding while celebrating a rich culture of difference, writes Emily Booth
& de Meuron, Caruso St John, FAT, Novartis, Farshid Moussavi, SANAA, Renzo Piano, Haworth Tompkins, Eric Parry, Lynch Architects, Peter Zumthor, Grafton, Valerio Olgiati and Gort Scott, the exhibition promises to be a vibrant display by agenda-setting architects, photographers, artists and critics. The show is complemented by 55 national participations in the pavilions in the Giardini, Arsenale and the city of Venice. Four nations will be participating for the first time – Angola, the Republic of Kosovo, Kuwait and Peru. This Venice Biennale 2012 preview celebrates a selection of British and Irish contributors with an in-depth look at the British and Irish Pavilions.
exhibition La Biennale di Venezia – 13th International Architecture Exhibition Venice 29 August until 25 November 2012
Right The Venice Biennale Arsenale Exhibition Hall 2
DANIEL CLEMENTS / VIEW
he emphasis of the 2012 Venice Biennale is on what we have in common,’ David Chipperfield, director of the 13th International Architecture Exhibition has stated. ‘Above all, the ambition of Common Ground is to reassert the existence of an architectural culture, made up not just of singular talents but a rich continuity of diverse ideas united in a common history, common ambitions, common predicaments and ideals.’ It’s an impressive aim: one that emphasises dialogue and isn’t afraid to celebrate a rich culture of difference. With contributions ranging from Peter Märkli to Zaha Hadid, and including O’Donnell + Tuomey, Foster, Herzog
Zaha Hadid Architects FAT Foster + Partners Gort Scott Haworth Tompkins, Lynch Architects and Eric Parry Architects Grafton Vicky Richardson introduces the British Pavilion The British Pavilion contributors The Irish Pavilion: Shifting Ground ..
30 31 32 33 34-36 37 38 40 60
Venice Biennale 2012 Arsenale and the Italian Pavilion
Zaha Hadid Architects
Pleats and lightweight shells ‘The more our design research and work evolved on the basis of algorithmic form generation, the more we learned to appreciate the work of pioneers like Frei Otto’ This year’s Biennale theme, Common Ground, shows how the work of the major protagonists of contemporary architecture, often regarded as independent, individual creations, is in fact based on historical lineages of collective research. This is also true of the work of Zaha Hadid Architects. It is well known that the
Above Arum, by Zaha Hadid Architects
early work was initially inspired by Russian Suprematism. In our installation and exhibition we want to show that – apart from the dialogue with the work of contemporary competitors that existed all along – our recent work connects to a rather different historical strand of research. The more our design research and work evolved on the basis of algorithmic form generation, the more we learned to appreciate the work of pioneers like Frei Otto, who had achieved the most elegant designs on the basis of material-structural form-finding processes. From Frei Otto we learned how the richness, organic coherence and fluidity of the forms and spaces we desire could emerge rationally from an intricate balance of forces. We expanded Frei Otto’s method to include environmental as well as structural logics, and we moved from material to
computational simulations. One particular area of research we would like to explore with our installation is the domain of lightweight shells in combination with tensile structures. We have already designed a number of complex shells, as well as some tensile structures. Here, for the first time, we would like to integrate these two worlds. The shell should be made from pleated metal. We will surround our installation with the documentation of our research. This includes the display of key reference projects of the pre-eminent precursors in this line. We will show the work of Frei Otto, Félix Candela and Heinz Isler, among others. We are also including the work of Philippe Block, a young, contemporary researcher of stone compression shells. Zaha Hadid and Patrik Schumacher
The fake and the authentic ‘Copying and repetition are embedded in the way architecture is produced, yet the copy also threatens fundamental disciplinary concerns of originality’ For some time FAT has been interested in the idea of the copy in architecture. The copy is a foundation of architectural culture, evidenced, for example, by the influence of the Grand Tour on the creation of the English Baroque. Copying and repetition are also embedded in the way architecture is produced, in modularity of components and the keystrokes of digital drawing. Yet the copy also threatens fundamental disciplinary concerns of originality, authorship and authenticity. It’s the schizophrenic nature of the copy as the discipline’s perfect and evil twin – at once fundamental to architecture and its nemesis – that fascinates us in our project, The Museum of Copying. Centrally placed in the Arsenale is FAT’s large-scale facsimile of Palladio’s Villa Rotunda, titled Villa Rotunda Redux. The Villa Rotunda is perhaps the Ur-example of the architectural copy. It is a building composed out of copies – an assemblage of temple and Pantheon – arranged to produce a radically new architectural typology. It has been the subject of multiple exercises in replication across time and space, from Chiswick House (London), through Monticello (Charlottesville) to contemporary examples including Beit Falasteen in the Palestinian Territories. As both subject and object, the Villa Rotunda presents us with an unfolding narrative of architectural copying. On the occasion of the Venice Biennale, we feel it appropriate to return a version of the Rotunda back to Venice in a state resonant with the condition
Below The Villa Rotunda Redux, by FAT
of the copy Palladio helped to propagate. The facsimile is fabricated by a process that places reproduction and repetition at its core. A quarter-section of the villa was produced by CNC-ing a large-scale mould. From this, a cast was taken by spraying into the mould with polyurethane foam. The cast and mould are arranged as an installation, displaying the process of fabrication as well as the qualities of positive and negative, of interior and exterior and the abstractions and fidelities of the original villa, set one against the other. Alongside this, FAT has curated four parallel projects. Architectural Doppelgängers explores buildings that might otherwise be described as copies, fakes or replicas. Here, original and double are presented side by side and the unusual stories behind the copy are drawn out. Ines Weizman explores the relationship of copyright to architecture in Repeat Yourself: Loos, Law and the Culture of the Copy. As Loos’ copyright passed into public
domain 75 years after his death, Weizman recalls his architectural imperative to ‘repeat yourself’. The installation examines the place of copyright in architecture by proposing the construction of a facsimile of Loos’ unbuilt House Baker (1928) together with a reconstruction of the legal disputes around the ownership of Loos’ archive and work. Italian group San Rocco presents The Book of Copies, which addresses the idea of influence and recalls 18th century pattern books. The project comprises volumes prepared by invited architects, each of whom has assembled photocopies relating to a thematic building typology. Readers assemble their own versions of the book. FAT’s Museum of Copying explores the idea of the copy in relation to the Biennale theme of ‘Common Ground’, arguing that copying is a force that creates common architectural language and is simultaneously the site where radical reinvention occurs. Sam Jacob, FAT
Venice Biennale 2012 Arsenale and the Italian Pavilion
Foster + Partners
A gathering at the Gateway ‘Common Ground can infer the body of knowledge passed on through generations […] in a more physical sense it is the communal gathering space that brings us all together’ ..
David Chipperfield’s theme of Common Ground can infer the body of knowledge passed on through generations of architects, critics, designers, landscape architects and planners. In a more physical sense, Common Ground is the communal gathering space that brings us all together socially – outside or inside buildings. The works selected for the Gateway installation bring together
these two interpretations of the theme. The site is a black box space. In it, Finnish-based artist Charles Sandison has created a site-specific work, which incorporates the names of the many individuals who, from antiquity to today, have influenced the design of our cities and buildings. The effect is of hundreds of words, constantly in motion. Overhead are projections of huge, constantly changing
Thames to Tooting ‘The drawings look to harness a current mood for a renewed recognition of the importance of our high streets, a mood prompted by riots and recession’
Left Norman Foster with video art installation by Charles Sandison Below Gort Scott drawing: Temperance and Restoration, Clapham High Street
images. These range from the historic spaces of the western world to the booming new cities of Asia and South America, as well as the favelas, which are an inseparable part of these emerging urbanities. In the spirit of Common Ground, these thousands of images have been solicited from a global network of architects, planners, photographers, critics, writers and artists. Norman Foster
Gort Scott Architects is exhibiting drawings from on-going research related to London’s high streets, which will be shown alongside a short film by Robert McKillop about Renzo Piano’s Shard. The exhibit is intended to reflect upon two different attitudes to planning in London. The Shard’s significant visual impact as a backdrop to the city is contrasted with the urbanism of the arterial high road, which to many is so mundane as to be almost invisible. Our drawings, Thames to Tooting: Urban Block and the Arterial London High Street, expand upon research I initially did as part of the AJ/RPS Urban Design Scholarships programme (AJ 14.05.09) which proposed a new understanding of London’s urbanism – one focused not on centres, but on routes. This linearity isn’t the American ‘strip’, and it’s not a Modernist streak of speed and movement. It’s a low-key, disorderly linearity that is particular to the way London has evolved. The drawings capture a moment in time. They show urban blocks along a long, arterial high road that runs from London Bridge, past The Shard, through Borough, Kennington, Oval, Clapham, Balham, Tooting and out of London. It follows the route of a Roman road and it encompasses many high streets along its length. Roads like these are part of a large network of high streets that are the life-blood of the capital city today. They have an extraordinary depth and variety of form and use, which supports more than half of London’s jobs. The drawings look to harness a current mood for a renewed recognition of the importance of our high streets, a mood prompted by riots and recession. From this flows an attitude to London’s urbanism at a strategic level, about how investment and resources might be distributed. Fiona Scott, Gort Scott
Venice Biennale 2012 Arsenale and the Italian Pavilion
Haworth Tompkins, Lynch Architects and Eric Parry Architects
Working within the peculiarity of London ‘How could we get across the idea of London as a city lacking in traditional public space, but operating in a highly theatrical fashion, reclaiming unofficial public spaces as areas in which to play or protest?’
e’ve approached our joint installation as a means to communicate something about London and how we work in London to the Venice Biennale audience. Unlike many of the other exhibitions in the Corderie, this isn’t a team with just one architect, but three practices which all work in London. We’ve tried to shift the focus from an auto-biographical approach to one about the peculiarities of public space in London and how we all apply this understanding of the city to how we make architecture in it. Despite being the theme of the Biennale, Common Ground is actually one way of describing our approach to making buildings. Common ground in London’s public spaces is something that has been fought for as the city evolved over the centuries. We make shared territories in a literal sense in that each of our three practices regularly collaborate with artists and designers, but also in that we make spaces
Left Inhabitable Models, the joint installation by Haworth Tompkins, Lynch Architects and Eric Parry Architects in the Arsenale Corderie
in our city for public use and enjoyment. The concept behind our joint installation, Inhabitable Models, stemmed from asking the question of how we could bring a little bit of London, and this way of working in London, to Venice. How could we get across this idea of London as a city lacking in traditional public space, but operating in a highly theatrical fashion, reclaiming unofficial public spaces as areas in which to play or protest? We also wanted to tell the story of our collaborative approach to architecture as a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at theatricality and public space in London. So, our inhabitable models are inhabited by the visiting public (standing in for Londoners), but also by collaborations with artists such as Jake Tilson, recorded discussions with mentors like Dalibor Vesely, and audio-visual representations of the differing contexts of London in which our buildings live, represented in the installation by a film made by Sue Barr and David Heathcote.
Venice Biennale 2012 Arsenale and the Italian Pavilion
e wanted to present our work at the Young Vic Theatre, so what better way to do this than by bringing the theatre itself to Venice? Using seven panels temporarily removed from the building’s facade, including the original artwork by Clem Crosby, we have formed a 1:1 representation of the theatre in an exhibition context. This is the first time an existing building has been partially deconstructed to be displayed during the Biennale. Behind this facade, we present a cross-section of artists who inspire our work, from the provisional nature of contemporary theatre companies such as Punchdrunk and Shunt, the working methods of artists such as Zoe Leonard’s tracing of the layered, quirky beauty of overlooked urban spaces, to Dan Graham’s observations on New Jersey. In the midst of this, artist Jake Tilson has collected and assembled ephemera and the junk of the everyday reality of The Cut, the home of the Young Vic Theatre, to illustrate how the texture of urban life can be appropriated into a meaningful and vibrant architecture. Graham Haworth and Steve Tompkins
e are showing three projects designed for Victoria Street in Westminster: Kingsgate House, Westminster Cathedral Piazza, and an urban block that comprises a new public library and affordable housing. The relationship between architecture, sculpture and landscape is investigated in these large urban projects. The south facade screen of the library is constructed inside the corderie of the arsenale at a scale of 1:3. This screen is designed as a brise soleil and trellis for artworks.
Timorous Beasties have created a 1:3 scale stone pier that sits in the screen facade, and is ornamented with their pattern, ‘Birdbranch’. A large table houses models, drawings, artefacts and art works at various scales, as well as two short films including interviews with Joseph Rykwert and Dalibor Vesely, accompanied by a visual essay including photographs of Westminster by David Grandorge. Our collaborations with artists Rut Blees Luxemburg, Hilary Koob-Sassen and Joel Tomlin are presented as examples of the Common Ground of the urban imagination. Patrick Lynch
Eric Parry Architects
e explore the radical potential of the collaboration between artist and architect in two recent projects in the City of Westminster, London. At St James’s Gateway on Piccadilly, we are collaborating with sculptor Richard Deacon, who has created a cornice integrated into the new facade. Formed of 39 individual coloured ceramic elements, the 25m artwork echoes the exuberance and activity of nearby Piccadilly Circus and is represented at the Biennale with two full-scale sections and a model of part of the building elevation at a scale of 1:3. We also present our work at St Martin-in-the Fields, one of the most complex developments of its kind undertaken in London in many years, and in particular our collaboration with the artist Shirazeh Houshiary on the remarkable new east window, a central element of the practice’s refurbishment of the historic church and one which creates a strong visual presence both inside and outside. Eric Parry
Grafton Architects and Paulo Mendes da Rocha
Infrastructure and landscape ‘Mendes da Rocha describes architecture as a specific form of consciousness, aware of the responsibility of man’s action in the universe’ When we received the invitation to exhibit, we had just won an Architectural Competition for a new University in Lima, Peru. This is our first Project in South America. During the competition, as we researched Lima, with its unique climate, its unique culture, we acknowledged our influences from South America and took the opportunity to celebrate the inspirational work of Paulo Mendes da Rocha. Exploring themes of architecture as ‘built geography’, ‘abstracted landscape’,
Below Exploratory model for a building on the UTEC university campus in Lima, Peru, by Grafton Architects
‘landscape and infrastructure’ and ‘the horizon and the human being’, we are proposing two ‘figures’, forming a sense of Common Ground .The two ‘figures’ we are studying are Mendes da Rocha’s Estádio Serra Dourada football stadium at Goiânia, Brazil, and our university campus in Lima, where we are investigating the idea of a university as an ‘arena of learning’. Through models, we explore the relationship between infrastructure and landscape. These include models of Mendes de Rocha’s Serra Dourada stadium and his Montevideo Bay project, along with other of his works and exploratory models of Grafton Architects’ UTEC university campus in Lima and our new building for the School of Economics at the University of Toulouse. Mendes da Rocha describes Architecture as a specific form of consciousness, aware of the responsibility of man’s action in the universe. He speaks
about Venice as the most appropriate place for this kind of discourse, as Venice is a transformed place, constructed after human necessities and wishes. It is the capital of the imagined world: the ideal place to expose these ideas. He says: ‘An interesting example for me is Venice – not the much-sung Venice, with its beauty, but rather the sight of a new geography … the sublime architecture of Venice is the construction of territory.’ Mendes da Rocha cites Venice as his inspiration in the design concept for his Bay of Montevideo project in Uruguay. This project transforms the shallow bay into a 3km-wide ‘water square’, where multiple passenger ferries animate the urban waterway in a practical, human and delightful way. Like a cultural beacon in this water space, an existing small island is transformed into a theatre. Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell, Grafton Architects
Venice Biennale 2012 British Pavilion: Venice Takeaway
The British Pavilion Curated by Vicky Richardson and Vanessa Norwood
Designing beyond boundaries
Liam Ross and Tolulope Onabolu Page 54
The British Council’s Venice Takeaway asked architects to undertake study trips and bring back new models for British architectural practice. This is what they found
he British Pavilion presents the work of 10 architectural teams that have travelled the world to seek imaginative responses to universal issues and explore the ‘common ground’ of architecture. Venice Takeaway charts their course in Argentina, Brazil, China, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Russia, Thailand and the USA. The participants’ findings are displayed in a Research Emporium, while the galleries of the ion present the Takeaway proposals: installations and objects that encapsulate their ideas for change. Venice Takeaway aims to showcase talent from the United Kingdom, as well as provoke important debate about the path British architecture has taken during a time of flux. The programme is in part a reaction to the strictures of the current British institutional context; the 10 proposals are all fuelled by the desire for the architect’s role to be strengthened and for the profession to play a more proactive role in society. The proposals defy the fear of risktaking that has filtered into the country’s current practice, while at the same time basing their ideas on case studies from real, alternative practices. Rather than being speculative utopias, these are innovative interpretations of practices
applicable as a model for Britain. The British Council’s commitment to the Venice Architecture Biennale is illustrative of the powerful contribution that the architecture profession makes both to cultural relations and to the UK’s economy. Drawing on an entire world of architectural knowledge, experience and ambition, Venice Takeaway is a reminder that the practice of architecture is as much about observation as it is about design. We have taken inspiration from Albert Einstein who said, ‘If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?’ This is the attitude that challenges routines, reconstructs established practices and opens up the way for genuine innovation. The road begins in Venice; we look forward to seeing the direction it will take. Vicky Richardson, director of architecture, design, fashion at the British Council and commissioner of the British Pavilion at the 13th Venice Architecture Biennale. Venice Takeaway: Ideas to Change British Architecture, presented by the British Council, will go on show in London at the RIBA Gallery next year. It will be the first time the exhibition in the British Pavilion has transferred to London.
exhibition Venice Takeway: Ideas to change British Architecture RIBA Gallery, London W1 25 February – 27 April 2013, free The Venice Takeaway exhibition catalogue is published by the Architectural Association and available to buy at aaschool.ac.uk/ publications from 29 August
Takero Shimazaki/ Toh Shimazaki Architecture Page 58
Darryl Chen Page 44
Aberrant Architecture Page 40
Forum for Alternative Belfast Page 48 Ross Anderson and Anna Gibb Page 42
Elias Redstone Page 52
Smout Allen & BLDGBLG Page 56
dRMM Page 46
Public Works, Urban Projects Bureau, Owen Pritchard Page 50
Venice Biennale 2012 British Pavilion: Venice Takeaway
Animating education: Learning from Rio de Janeiro ‘Aberrant proposes that standardising school design will reduce costs and ensure accessibility to all students’ ..
Aberrant Architecture investigated a radical and experimental school building programme conceived by Leonel Brizola, Darcy Ribeiro and Oscar Niemeyer in Brazil in the 1980s. The programme provided a series of high-quality standardised and prefabricated primary schools, known as
Integrated Centres of Public Education (CIEPs), which were designed to support and enhance curricula. Today, this network of 508 CIEPs covers the entire city and state of Rio de Janeiro. From towns and cities to favelas and beach resorts, wherever you find people, you’ll find a CIEP. In a
FUNDAÇÃO DARCY RIBEIRO
climate of austerity in the UK, with limited educational funds and a shortage of space for new primary schools, Aberrant proposes that standardising school design will not only reduce costs but also set a new global standard of high-quality schools that are accessible to any student.
Above Founding directors David Chambers (left) and Kevin Haley (right) Left The Sambódromo Top, clockwise from top left Darcy Ribeiro, Leonel Brizola and Oscar Niemeyer; CIEP Jose Pedro Varela, Lapa; Workshop with the students of class 150, CIEP Tancredo Neves, Catete; Covered playground, CIEP Tancredo de Neves, Catete
Where did your idea come from? You could say it happened by accident, but we would say it came as a result of intrepid exploration and research! We try to visit Brazil regularly. On a trip last year, while driving to a beach outside Rio de Janeiro, we stumbled across an interesting but relatively unknown building by Oscar Niemeyer, similar to a more familiar building in Rio. After doing some digging, we learned that both buildings are examples of CIEPs. What began as casual curiosity about an obscure Niemeyer project sparked a wider investigation into a radical schoolbuilding programme. Most surprising thing you found out? The architect Jair Valera, Oscar Niemeyer’s right-hand man, said the original plan was to construct 10,000 CIEPs across the entire country. The school-building programme in Rio stopped at 508 because the state governor failed in his bid for Brazil’s presidency. Had he been successful, each state would have created its own standardised design, which would have incorporated local cultural and climatic requirements. The most surprising
features, though, are the small housing blocks on the roofs of each CIEP – one for girls and one for boys. Some students live there during the week and return to their homes on weekends. Most challenging part of your trip? Without question, it was getting our heads around the enormity of the CIEP project. We are talking about hundreds of school buildings and a radical programme rolled out across the entire state of Rio de Janeiro – an area double the size of Wales. The schools outside the city are separated by relatively large distances and long travel times. The social nature of the project also means that many CIEPs are located in some of the poorest and historically violent areas of Rio, including the notorious favelas where CIEPs play a key community role. How do you plan to take this forward? We plan to use the knowledge gained from our investigations to engage in wider conversations regarding the future of school-building in the UK. We also plan to address some of the issues currently surrounding the subject through new creative projects.
Venice Biennale 2012 British Pavilion: Venice Takeaway
Ross Anderson and Anna Gibb
Paper Architecture ‘In the ’80s, a Russian group sought to escape restrictions of the regime by entering forbidden competitions’ ..
Two recent architecture graduates, Ross Anderson and Anna Gibb, travelled to Russia to investigate a loose collective of young architects who lived in Moscow in the 1980s and called themselves ‘the Paper Architects’. The group, which included Alexander Brodsky and Ilya Utkin, sought to
escape the restrictions that came with working under a communist regime by entering projects in ‘forbidden competitions’. Anderson’s and Gibb’s research has been motivated by their own disillusion with the state of practice in the UK, where the lack of job security and creative limitations means
SHCHUSEV STATE MUSEUM OF ARCHITECTURE
Above Anna Gibb and Ross Anderson Far left Columbarium Architecturae, etching by Brodsky and Utkin Left Moscow, drawing by Gibb, 2012 Top Photograph of the original members of the Paper Architects during a picnic near the village of Mukhani, 1992
design competitions offer the only outlet for self-expression. For Venice Takeaway, the pair have entered a ‘forbidden competition’ in Scotland. Their entry, Castle to Cathedral to Cashmere, aims to encourage work between young architects: a community of new Paper Architects in the UK.
Where did your idea come from? Since graduating in 2008 and 2009 and starting to practice, we’ve been entering competitions. As individuals or as collaborators, competitions offer a space for creative freedom and a welcome alternative to the restrictions of professional practice. We also both have a long-standing interest in drawing. It was a friend who alerted us to the work of Alexander Brodsky and Ilya Utkin – even suggesting a similarity between Anna’s work and theirs! We loved the quality of their drawings, and we were intrigued when we discovered they were part of a collective. We wanted to find out more to see what lessons we could apply to our situation. Most surprising thing you found out? We didn’t expect to meet as many as eight of the original Paper Architects, nor did we anticipate the detailed insights they would provide. It was fascinating to learn of the determination and invention required just to maintain a connection with the outside world. In order to enter foreign competitions, they even faked committee authorisation signatures to
get sketches past military censors. We were also inspired by the risks they took, which propelled them beyond accepted boundaries. A lot of architects today seem scared to try things. It made us think we should be bolder. Most challenging part of your trip? In some ways it was Moscow itself. The sheer expanse of the city meant that it was quite difficult to comprehend. The language barrier was also an issue. Fortunately, we were accompanied by Elina and Ksenia, two architecture students who translated interviews and helped us navigate the city. One unexpected challenge was tracking down our interviewees. We wondered if having a studio in an offbeat location was a prerequisite for being a Paper Architect. How do you plan to take this forward? Inspired by the collaboration exhibited by the Paper Architects, we intend to develop a network of young architects in the UK. We have established paperplusarchitects.com, an online platform for discussion and a space for the presentation and critique of new architectural ideas.
Venice Biennale 2012 British Pavilion: Venice Takeaway
New [Socialist] Village ‘Caochangdi has a thriving mixed-income community making it an anomaly among the city’s mega-developments’ ..
Darryl Chen studied Caochangdi, an atypical ‘new socialist village’ on Beijing’s Fifth Ring Road with a thriving, diverse mixed-income community. Among the city’s masterplanned mega-developments, Caochangdi is an anomaly. In the space created by the Chinese government’s
evolving planning laws, the village’s growth is driven by the instincts of local peasants and the bohemian opportunism of artists who have established a set of unstated rules governing urban form. The UK’s Localism Act provides the biggest opportunity in decades to rethink the role of planning.
Above Darryl Chen Left Define the neighbourhood: Caochangdi, plan Top David Cameron and China’s leader Hu Jintao have both pioneered new planning laws
Chen argues that the time has come to breathe new life into the idea of the village by eliminating townscape sentimentalism and recovering economic growth as the primary driver of urban form. Chen’s project asks, what can China teach the UK about planning?
Where did your idea come from? My idea sparked from frustration with the planning system and the arbitrary hurdles it makes you jump through. In the UK, I’ve noticed a kind of love of anomalous detail, which is both brilliantly distinctive and maddeningly frustrating. The Chinese, on the other hand, are able to unlock urban intensity and economic opportunism at a time when they’ve become more open to new ways of doing things. Most surprising thing you found out? The nuances of the Chinese planning system surprised me. Don’t get me wrong – it is still a largely overbearing, top-down machine, and a real source of frustration for many architects I spoke with. But these days the top-down rule is guided more by pragmatism than by ideology. Under certain special situations, you can prise open that rigidity with solutions that work. In isolated but incredibly important cases like the one I researched, local noncompliant practice thrives when it dovetails with party objectives.
Most challenging part of your trip? Because of the temperamental nature of the government – or rather, the way in which decisions are made and communicated – many of the villagers and professionals I spoke to were wary of offering a bare-faced critique on record. The government tries to keep a lid on this, not just because of the content of the critique, but to quell the idea that someone would want to upset the prevailing ‘peaceful order’. When we took photographs in the village we were viewed with suspicion. On a few occasions we were asked whether we were government representatives with new plans for demolition. How do you plan to take this forward? This project is a research-led design provocation. I think its propositions should apply at every level of the planning system. Urbanism needs to be done differently in this country – it’s time to shake things up. I think we should be exploring the potential for exploiting the Localism Act, particularly while it is relatively fresh.
Venice Biennale 2012 British Pavilion: Venice Takeaway
The Dutch Way ‘IJburg, a small prototype floating community, is thriving under an advanced culture of planning and design’ ..
Three adventurers set forth on a mission to study IJburg, a small prototype floating community in the east of Amsterdam that has thrived under an advanced culture of planning, design, procurement and construction. They travelled with the aim of understanding IJburg, extracting vital
information and inspiration. The team went local for a week, experiencing life in the floating village. In the UK, the housing shortage is projected to worsen, with escalating land and property prices alienating young buyers. The Dutch Way hopes to address long-term flood strategies
SIMONE VAN DE MORTEL
and housing need by proposing new floating neighbourhood ‘incubators’ to be tested in London’s Royal Victoria Dock. With this proposal, dRMM presents a provocative case for increasing density in a city that has little space left to build by activating some of its most underused areas – its waterways.
Above Alex de Rijke, Merlin Eayrs and Isabel Pietri Left Water-houses in IJburg Waterbuurt West, Architectenbureau Marlies Rohmer Top Map of London waterhoods
Where did your idea come from? For 15 years, making use of London’s vast expanses of empty waterways has been a theme in dRMM’s work – we have made one-off proposals for floating houses, bars, galleries and gardens. The random development of waterside London sites against the backdrop of the underused Thames has prompted us to think of more ways to inhabit waterscapes, including plans to move our studio into a 60m Dutch barge. UK waterways offer huge potential for tackling housing shortages, transport infrastructure and urban density. Most surprising thing you found out? London’s houseboat owners are preoccupied with the security of tenure over the water on which they are moored. In the Netherlands, however, a 50-year leasehold policy for water plots has completely changed the commitment to waterborne accommodation. This kind of policy encourages the design of high-quality floating housing as opposed to more opportunistic converted boats. Another revelation was that after centuries of working to keep water at bay, there’s an
acceptance that rising sea-levels mean they will be unable to combat water indefinitely. They are now re-flooding parts of the country through a process called ‘de-polderising’. Most challenging part of your trip? Our biggest challenge was finding out what constituted the Dutch Way and the secrets behind the efficient, practical and, to UK eyes, often surreal solutions that make a small country living below sea-level one of the most successful and densely populated nations in Europe. We spent four action-packed days in the floating community of IJburg. For our return, we boarded our 6m ‘rescue’ rigid inflatable boat and travelled from Amsterdam to London via the river IJ through the North Sea lock and down the Dutch and Belgian coasts of the Channel. We’re certainly more seawise as a result. How do you plan to take this forward? dRMM aims to create an incubator in London’s underused Royal Docks, which will involve dock management and ‘pioneer settlers’ in an experiment with living and working on water.
Venice Biennale 2012 British Pavilion: Venice Takeaway
Forum for Alternative Belfast
Internationale Bauausstellung Belfast ‘Does Belfast need a far-sighted urban renewal project like West Berlin’s Internationale Bauausstellung?’ ..
Mark Hackett and Declan Hill, directors of Forum for Alternative Belfast (FAB), arrived in Berlin with a question: ‘Braucht Belfast eine Internationale Bauausstellung?’ – ‘Does Belfast need an international building exhibition?’ The Internationale Bauausstellung (IBA) was a far-sighted
urban renewal project carried out in West Berlin between 1979 and 1987. It consisted of Neubau (new buildings), led by Josef Paul Kleihues, and Altbau (alterations of existing blocks), led by Hardt-Waltherr Hämer. IBA was realised over the course of a decade, often through ambitious
international competitions. FAB hopes that lessons learned from the process and delivery of IBA 1987 can be applied to the re-stitching of Belfast. The Missing City Map published by FAB in 2010 will become the basis for the international competition that FAB plans to complete by 2018.
Above Declan Hill and Mark Hackett Left Inner courtyard with buildings by Cook/ Hawley, Botta and others, 1988–90 Top, clockwise from left ‘Missing City’ map of Belfast (red indicates vacant building sites); ‘Unshared City’, a ‘grey doughnut’ of space around the city centre; Map showing walls and barriers in Belfast (in conjunction with Aisling Shannon)
Where did your idea come from? In 2010 Forum for Alternative Belfast published the Missing City map, which very starkly illustrated the need for a strategy to re-stitch the centre of Belfast to its innercity neighbourhoods. Having lived in Germany in the 1990s, we were familiar not only with Berlin’s Internationale Bauausstellung (IBA), which ran from 1979 to 1987, but also with the longer tradition of building exhibitions in Germany, which has spanned much of the 20th century. Most surprising thing you found out? Many of the people we interviewed in Berlin were closely involved in IBA 1987, while others are involved in plans for a future IBA in 2020. When we asked them what they thought about our attempts to apply the spirit of IBA to Belfast, they responded with enthusiasm. What we did learn, which was not nearly so evident in our previous Berlin experiences, was the extent to which gentrification is an
issue today. The realisation reminded us of the need to carefully build safeguards into our proposal for Belfast. Most challenging part of your trip? For the most part, the people we interviewed were comfortable with spoken English, but on a few occasions we unfortunately subjected our generous hosts to our rusty German. We can only apologise! How do you plan to take this forward? The Internationale Bauausstellung Belfast will be launched in Belfast City Hall in August 2012, at the end of the fourth summer school hosted by Forum for Alternative Belfast. The launch will give the project a local ownership. The international aspect of the project will be announced at the opening of the 13th Venice Architecture Biennale. The selection of designers and sites in Belfast takes place during 2013, with five years to complete the projects by 2018.
Venice Biennale 2012 British Pavilion: Venice Takeaway
Public Works, Urban Projects Bureau, Owen Pritchard
The image of the architect: an Open Charter ‘The image of the architect and the profession’s role varies around the world, from Bangkok to Ebbw Vale’ ..
After travelling to diverse locations across the globe, this team of architects and writer Owen Pritchard examined how the image of the architect varies around the world. From Houston and Bangkok to Amsterdam and Ebbw Vale, these places reveal a variety of approaches to urban development. The
investigation was motivated by a desire to reaffirm the qualities that are vital to the continued progress of society and to the architect’s role as an agent in the world. Two motivating factors drove their work. First, they aimed to accurately depict an image of architects within varied but specific
contexts. Second, they sought to provoke debate about the future of the profession. The group’s findings will establish the basis for an Open Charter – a proposal for a new platform for discussion and engagement to clarify, critique and act upon issues that determine the role of the architect.
Above Andreas Lang, Torange Khonsari, Alex Warnock-Smith, Owen Pritchard Left Rebuilding after the floods, Old Min Buri, Bangkok Top, clockwise from left No zoning and no planning regulations, Houston, Texas; ‘Architects used to be distant in my life, now they are important to save my community,’ an interviewee in Thailand; A vision of progress, Ebbw, Wales
Where did your idea come from? Through working together on a diverse selection of projects in different constellations – in academia, media and practice – and in general conversation with peers and friends, we sensed an underlying frustration regarding the status of the architect and the future of the profession. Although a lot of research exists in this area, it is hard to see how action might be taken. The idea of an open resource which grows over time and develops as a platform that identifies the many roles that an architect must fulfil – both professionally and outside of the legal framework – could act as a catalyst for change. Most surprising thing you found out? A house made out of beer cans can be a key tourist attraction and part of Houston’s cultural fabric. Cities can work without zoning. In Thailand, urbanism is nonexistent. Professionals can be Marxist activists and commercially successful. Bangkok keeps building shopping centres but
there aren’t enough shoppers to fill them. Architects need a stronger political voice. In essence, there are no simple answers. Most challenging part of your trip? The most challenging part was realising the complexity and enormity of the issues we had discovered, dealing with them in an effective manner, then delivering meaningful, proactive and positive outcomes. How do you plan to take this forward? The project is open-ended and aims to develop a resource for the continuing discussion that surrounds the future of the profession. We have opened up a space for discourse, and we hope this will continue to grow and become the eventual space of the Open Charter. The research will feed into an ongoing framework that the profession can share, discuss, critique and act on. It will stand alongside existing research and provide another point of view that humanises the professional.
Venice Biennale 2012 British Pavilion: Venice Takeaway
Fideicomiso! ‘Redstone flew to Argentina to investigate how architects were developing projects following an economic crisis’ ..
Elias Redstone flew to Argentina to investigate how and why architects were initiating and developing their own projects following an economic crisis. Fideicomiso, one of the legal trusts that allow architects to function in this way, has come to represent a business model for
architects to develop housing blocks with multiple investors, who are often future occupiers of the building. While in Buenos Aires Redstone researched fideicomiso buildings and looked at the economic and planning conditions required to deliver the projects. He discovered that when plots
CHRISTOBAL PALMA, MARCELO FAIDEN
and building codes are clarified and standardised, building projects are more likely to be guaranteed. Inspired by what he found, Redstone returned to the UK and approached architects and developers to discuss the feasibility of fideicomiso in Britain.
Above Elias Redstone Left ‘Fideicomiso is now taught as a business model,’ Javier Agustín Rojas, architecture graduate Clockwise from top left ‘Fideicomisos makes investors feel safe,’ Carlos Cottet, architect; Fernando Diez, editor in chief, Summa; ‘Fideicomiso have reshaped parts of the city,’ Camilo Policastro; ‘Fideicomiso has created style of building based on planning codes and consumers,’ Florencia Rodriguez, editorial director
Where did your idea come from? A few years ago I was introduced to architects from Buenos Aires who were constructing apartment buildings with funding from the eventual occupiers, using a fideicomiso legal trust. This stuck in my mind as an interesting model for funding projects in a way that enables architects to take the lead in the development of their practice. With the deepening financial crisis in Europe, it feels like now is the right time to explore an alternative approach to homebuilding that provides a model for architects and homebuyers to work together. I am interested in whether such a model might allow architects in the UK to take the lead in developing their own projects, and improve the quality of residential architecture. Most surprising thing you found out? In Buenos Aires, fideicomiso is so widespread it has become a common term for marketing and purchasing a particular type of apartment. It is perhaps the equivalent of purchasing an apartment ‘off-plan’ in the UK. People are comfortable with situations where there are often no developers.
Instead, buyers work directly with practices to design and build housing. In fact, many architecture practices now market fideicomiso buildings. This positions the architect as both a designer and developer, and resonates with development models in the UK such as co-housing. Most challenging part of your trip? The situation in Argentina is very specific, and it was not always clear how the approach to practice in Buenos Aires could translate to a UK context. Not being an architect, there was additional pressure to ensure that my research could be relevant and interesting to the profession. How do you plan to take this forward? I am able to raise general awareness of this approach to architectural practice and development. However, its implementation depends on direct engagement with architects and planners. To achieve this, I am keen to initiate an exchange between architects in Argentina and the UK. Architects would then be in a position to start conversations with planners, policymakers and financial institutions.
Venice Biennale 2012 British Pavilion: Venice Takeaway
Lagos State Police barracks
Mammy Market Fence
Liam Ross and Tolulope Onabolu
British Standard, Lagos Exception As UK architects complain of over-regulation, this study looks at how Lagos distributes risk and responsibility ..
In Britain’s current architectural climate, many practices consider the industry to be over-regulated. Architects argue that burdensome building standards stifle innovation and creativity. At the same time, practitioners acknowledge a need for the state to take responsibility for the public’s
health and safety. Architects Liam Ross and Tolulope Onabolu travelled to Lagos, Nigeria to reframe this debate and offer a critique of regulation through an examination of risk, responsibility and sovereignty. The study compares Edinburgh and Lagos – two quite different legislative structures – and reflects
some collateral and two hours at an outdoor single-sided photocopier. The regulations contain the ‘setback’ rule, which defines the urban character of Lagos. Although no development is permitted within the ‘setback’ area, in practice it is the most vibrant space in the city – occupied by ad-hoc and temporary development, kiosks, garden centres and mosques, bars, gin-drinkers and mendicants. It’s a legally defined zone of extra-legality.
Above Liam Ross and Tolulope Onabolu Clockwise from top left Survey of permissible setbacks in Lagos, including photograph and plan of Ikoyi vulcanisers; plan and photograph of Lagos police barracks
on the different ways they distribute risk and responsibility between the state and individual. Their research provides a critique of the inclusive and universalist rhetoric of British building regulations and suggests that the purpose of rules is actually to generate the possibility of exceptions.
Where did your idea come from? Our idea was shaped through two phases. The first took place during a workshop at the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture in which students surveyed the city. Their drawings depicted the built environment as it responded to a particular ‘British standard’. Secondly, we wanted to compare the formalised regulations in Edinburgh with a less regulated city. How would the same risks be managed? We chose Lagos partly because it’s Tolu’s hometown, but also because it’s a former British settlement. We expected to find imported or inherited ‘British standards’. Most surprising thing you found out? We were surprised to uncover the Lagos State Physical Planning and Development Regulations – both Tolu and the Lagosian architects and lawyers we interviewed had been unaware of their existence. Securing a reproduction of these regulations required a three-hour drive to the Lagos State Secretariat, a personal meeting with the director of urban development, some persuasion,
Most challenging part of your trip? Getting permission to take photographs was both challenging and revealing. It took 24 hours for the British Council to grant clearance for us to photograph the street frontage of their office, and we were required to take the photograph outside opening hours to ensure that no members of the public were seen entering or leaving the building. While photographing other frontages and setbacks – from Ikoyi to Lagos Island – we set up a visible camera and tripod and asked permission to photograph anyone present. Most private individuals declined. For a small tip, a shopkeeper or a guard occasionally agreed. Despite these precautions, after taking a photo that included the Lagos State police headquarters in the background, we were arrested and our equipment was held for 24 hours. We had not broken any law and were released, but the photograph was destroyed. Even the Lagos State police commissioner was unable retrospectively to grant permission for its having been taken. How do you plan to take this forward? We would like to use the project as a platform to engage with policy in both Britain and Nigeria. For example, we will propose revisions to British Standards, including regulations directed at the safe cleaning of windows. We plan to engage with the ongoing consultation on the first detailed set of building standards in Nigeria.
Venice Biennale 2012 British Pavilion: Venice Takeaway
Smout Allen & BLDGBLOG
British Exploratory Land Archive ‘The Centre for Land Use Interpretation aims to record human interaction with the earth’s surface’ ..
Having long admired the Centre for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) in Los Angeles, Mark Smout, Laura Allen and Geoff Manaugh saw Venice Takeaway as an opportunity to investigate the organisation and its context. Founded in 1994, CLUI is a research and educational organisation that
aims to understand and record the nature of human interaction with the earth’s surface. From its small base in Culver City, CLUI publishes books, conducts public tours and offers information and research resources through its library, archive and website. As an outcome of their research, the studio of
Smout Allen, along with Manaugh, will launch the British Exploratory Land Archive. BELA will unite a variety of organisations and individuals to document a diverse range of sites, centralising scattered catalogues and becoming an internationally useful body for recording land use in the UK.
Above Geoff Manaugh, Mark Smout and Laura Allen Far left A respiratory site mask Left, top BELA’s speleological pantograph for producing models of subterranean spaces Left, bottom BELA’s universal radar object for the measurement of variable slopes Top, clockwise from top left CLUI’s files; The respiratory site mask or ‘capture blanket’; Manaugh correlates the previous day’s itinerary with items in CLUI’s archives
Where did your idea come from? All three of us are long-time fans of the Centre for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) in the US. We have casually discussed what a similar institution in the UK might look like and, in particular, what sort of sites might be catalogued. This seemed the perfect opportunity to pursue the idea of one central repository of human land-use sites. The UK already has a large number of organisations whose remit includes the cataloguing, preservation and/or public touring of unusual sites. Our project explores a model for a different landscape taxonomy, one motivated by a desire to expand the bounds of what it means for an organisation of this kind to archive and explore sites of human intervention in the British landscape. Most surprising thing you found out? ‘Surprising’ is perhaps not the right word, but one eye-opening realisation was how shockingly normal most of these landscapes really are. Sites that would not be at all out of place in a science-fiction novel were simply right there, woven into the city’s
most distant suburbs and desert communities. Over time, these landscapes have been absorbed into the regional geography. Stadiumsized debris basins catching landslides in the San Gabriel Mountains or an airport for testing spaceplanes are considered ‘infrastructure’ or simply ‘business’. Things that seem spatially extraordinary and somewhat unbelievable – at least to us – are part of everyday life on the fringes of LA. Most challenging part of your trip? The challenge we faced was limiting ourselves to visiting only a handful of sites in the Greater Los Angeles area. We could very easily have spent two or three weeks in Los Angeles alone, exploring the city’s regional infrastructure, its networked periphery and the industrialised landscapes that allow the city to function. How do you plan to take this forward? We hope to realise the British Exploratory Land Archive (BELA) as a functioning research and design organisation in the UK, with the funding to take student groups to visit or produce work in sites of interest.
Venice Biennale 2012 British Pavilion: Venice Takeaway
Takero Shimazaki / Toh Shimazaki Architecture
People, nature & place ‘Shimazaki examined the idea that negotiations with the client may lead to architecture that is compromised’ ..
Takero Shimazaki’s exploration focused on Japanese architect Itsuko Hasegawa, whose architecture displays remarkable abstraction yet is intimately connected to its location and users. By investigating the work of Hasegawa, who often goes against the grain of architectural fashion, Shimazaki
examined the premise that negotiations with the client, public or planners may lead to an architecture that is dull and compromised, and that the role of the architect is often to act more as a facilitator than as a design leader. Shimazaki documented four of Hasegawa’s public projects and conducted
a series of interviews with Hasegawa and her peers, revealing her attitudes and approach to her work. The investigation shows an architect who is prepared to challenge and, sometimes, be unpopular, yet who builds lasting connections with the communities in which she works.
Above Rosie McLaren, Jennifer Frewen, Meiri Shinohara and Takero Shimazaki Left Niigata Performing Arts Centre Top, clockwise from left Nagoya Building; Niigata Performing Arts Centre; Shonandai Cultural Centre
Where did your idea come from? Given the abstract nature of plans, sections and elevations, communicating architectural ideas is one of the most difficult parts of the design process. Architects are educated to communicate ideas to other architects and frequently adopt a self-referential language. This can alienate the people for whom they are actually designing. Hasegawa addresses this by ‘crafting’ her drawings, writings and artefacts. She decides many details on-site, which empowers the builders and involves them in the process. I wanted to find out how she made this approach work in an age when architects operate within an economically and politically challenging environment. Most surprising thing you found out? Hasegawa takes clues from the dialogues with both the client and community in her workshops and makes them integral to her designs, while still retaining the qualities of an architectural leader. The preconception within architectural discourse in the UK and Japan is that participatory community projects can
be architecturally diluted. However, we found that Hasegawa’s workshops are not about ‘facilitating voices’ or simply incorporating the comments of ‘end users’ into the design. Instead, she uses the workshops to investigate and ‘hear’ the local context. Most challenging part of your trip? We were challenged to retain the clarity of our own exploratory agenda while interviewing architects with different and conflicting opinions and experiences. This aided our understanding of the challenges of taking on the leading role and maintaining your focus through the design and development process, even as additional parties are involved. How do you plan to take this forward? We will develop the course agenda for our international t-sa forum workshop around the theme ‘Towards New Leadership’. With Europe experiencing economic and political imbalances, we will investigate our role as architects in uncertain times both intellectually and practically through community-focused designs for our local area, Elephant and Castle.
Venice Biennale 2012 Irish Pavilion
The Irish Pavilion Heneghan Peng Architects
Shifting Ground (Beyond National Architecture) This year’s exhibit looks at architecture’s relation to networks of products, data, and knowledge. It asks how a global architecture could be grounded culturally, philosophically and spatially ..
Main image Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre Top Shifting Ground concept drawing Right Shifting Ground
Ireland is one of the most globalised countries in the world and this year’s Irish Pavilion exhibit at the Venice Biennale looks at architecture’s relation to networked flows of products, data, and knowledge. It asks how a global architecture could be grounded culturally, philosophically and spatially and if it can sit outside national reference points. Heneghan Peng Architects was selected because the practice typically works across different continents on a range of diverse projects. Our dialogue led us to a discussion about the universal languages of projective geometry and number being shared by architects and related professionals. In their work, the specific embodiment of these geometries is carefully calibrated by the choice of materials and their detailed design. The stone facade of Heneghan Peng Architects’ Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre in Antrim takes precise measure of the properties of the volcanic basalt seams from which it is hewn. The extraction of the stone is the subject of wall drawings that record the cutting of basalt to create the facade of the building. We also identified water as the element that is shared across the different sites. Venice is a perfect place to take measure of this element, which suggests links to another site; the Nile Valley. An ancient Egyptian rod for measuring the water level of the Nile inspired the design of a responsive oscillating bench that invites visitors to balance their respective weights. The bench constitutes a shifting ground located in the unstable field of Venice. It is about measurement and calibration of the weight of the body in relation to other bodies, in relation to the site of the installation, and in relation to water. It is located in the Artiglierie section of the Arsenale. Its level is calibrated against the mark of the acqua alta in the brickwork of the neighbouring building, which marks a horizontal datum in a floating world. John McLaughlin, curator
Survival of the Fitties
How we used mirror, timber and marble to create a modern chalet home still a part of its historic Humber setting, writes Jonathan Hendry. Photography by David Grandorge
n 2009, we were asked to consider the viability of altering and extending an existing chalet. It was located within the Humberston Fitties conservation area (Fitties meaning ‘salt marsh’) on the southern side of the Humber mouth. Looking across this beautiful estuary your eyes are drawn towards two First World War forts, which would once have had a net strung between them to defend against enemy submarines. Development of the Humberston Fitties began when it was divided into ‘plot lands’ during the 1920’s. During the First World War, the coastal area was used for billeting soldiers who were stationed in the nearby Haile Sands Fort. After the war, a local family set up a tent on the site so they could have access to fresh air to combat ill health. The following year they erected a chalet and, after the soldiers were demobbed, other people moved in with tents, or into the original camp huts used by the soldiers. In 1938, the land ownership was passed to the local authority. This has allowed the unique area to be preserved while other, similar private plot lands have been sold off for >>
Beach chalet, Humberston Fitties Jonathan Hendry Architects
development over the years. During the Second World War the chalets were again returned to military duty. In 1953, many of the chalets were destroyed by the devastating floods that breached the Lincolnshire Coastline. Others had to be recovered from neighbouring plots. The sea defences were then improved, which meant many chalets lost their sea views. The issue of flooding is an ongoing struggle between conservation and
Externally, the form of the chalet has been dictated by its predecessor ..
planning. As a result, on this site planning permission was granted to alter and extend the existing chalet, with a condition requesting that the structural timber frame to the front and side facades and the floor was retained. Work commenced on site in July 2010. As the existing timber floor and frame was carefully exposed, it became evident that the floor joists were in poor condition. Building Control requested that the pad foundations and timber frame were replaced and, within a week, planning asked for work on site to cease. After a year-long battle with the planning department the conservation officer and the Environment
Top left View from the north Bottom left Sleeping pod Right View between mirror-clad bathing box and timber-clad sleeping pod
Agency, planning permission for a new chalet was granted. The client had a desire to create a dwelling that resisted the restraints associated with a conventional home, where the plan is organised as a series of rooms. In response to this, we created a single, loft-like space; tall and vaulted at the front, lower and flat towards the rear. The floor and exterior walls up to a height of 2.4m are lined in timber, holding the space together like the hull of a boat resists the ingress of floodwater. In places, the wall lining is adjusted in depth or height to provide a place to hang clothes, watch TV or sit at a computer. Within this lining we carefully positioned four >> ..
Plan 1. 2. 3. 4.
Stove Kitchen Bathing pool Sleeping pod
Beach chalet, Humberston Fitties Jonathan Hendry Architects
Section A-A 20 19 16
10 18 30
17 18 19 7
15 27 14
12 11 10 9
5 25 24
6 5 4 3
4 23 22
pieces of furniture: a sleeping box, a bathing box with sleeping platform, a kitchen and a stove. The material choices of mirror, timber, marble and linen applied to the different pieces of furniture were chosen to give different spatial and atmospheric qualities responding to the domestic rituals of sleeping, bathing, eating and resting. Externally, the form of the chalet has been dictated by its predecessor. The colonnade-like space at the front of the building creates a threshold between the intimate domestic interior and the world outside, providing a place to sit and shelter from the weather. The walls and columns of this space are painted in bitumen paint. In the summer months the bitumen ..
1. 450mm GEN 1 concrete pad foundation 2. Galvanised MS shoe painted with bitumen paint 3. Rhodesian Teak decking 4. 100 x 50 treated SW joints 5. Oak engineered T&T flooring 6. 9mm WBP ply fixed between joist supporting insulation 7. 12.5mm plasterboard and skim 8. 100mm Kingspan TW55 insulation board 9. 175 x 50mm tanalised SW timber frame 10. Tyvek 11. 18mm WBP plywood cut into 600mm strips screwed to 25 x 25mm SW timber battens 25 x 25mm vertical battens cloaking joints in ply 12. 150 x 150mm Douglas fir post with bitumen paint 13. Mild steel track, lacquered by Hafele 14. 18mm WBP plywood fixed to soffit painted with bitumen paint 15. 150 x 100mm C16 SW timber beam 16. Terne-coated
stainless steel standing seam cladding 17. WBP plywood deck screwfixed to timber joists 18. 3-layer felt roof system 19. Terne-coated stainless steel standing seam cladding 20. PPC aluminium rooflight 21. 100 x 100mm treated SW decking post, bitumen paint finish cast into concrete pad 22. Engineering brickwork pier 23. 225 x 75 treated SW timber cross beams 24. DPM 25. 60mm Kingspan TF70 between floor joists 26. Douglas fir-framed windows, oiled internally, painted externaly with bitumen paint 27. 125 x 50 C16 treated SW timber joists at 400mm C/Cs 28. 225 x 50 C16 treated SW timber joists at 400mm C/Cs 29. Mild steel support bracket and flitch plates 30. 140mm Kingspan Thermaroof insulation
softens releasing the smell of its oils, catching the sand blown from the beach, building up and changing over time, becoming reminiscent of the bitumen paper used to roof many of the existing chalets. The rear south facing facade also has an overhanging roof cantilevering as opposed to supported on columns, relaxing the transition between house and garden. The roof and gable walls are made from stainless steel sheets making an analogy to the steel clad forts in the Humber, each resisting the forces of nature and gracefully aging over time, as well as blending with the vast sky over the estuary. ■ Jonathan Henry is director of Jonathan Hendry Architects ..
The Regs The construction industry would achieve more if it remained as one Team GB, says Geoff Wilkinson
property energy efficiency beyond 2010 standards, tightening of existing domestic and non-domestic property extension standards and removal of consequential improvements area threshold. Interestingly, there is no reference to 2006 and, very roughly, a 44 per cent improvement over 2006 equates to a 25 per cent improvement over 2010, the hybrid case. Also, each option masks significant differences in results for proposals’ individual elements. The overwhelming majority of energy and CO2 savings in each option actually comes from proposed tightening existing property standards. Even more shocking is the admission that the net return for the 25 and 40 per cent improvement in new domestic property
We can safely say that having differing standards to those in England will not be welcomed in Wales
As we come together to celebrate Britishness for the Olympics, the first stage of breaking up the England and Wales regulation system takes a step forward this month. Responsibility for setting Building Regulations in Wales transferred to the Welsh Assembly on 31 December 2011. The Assembly promptly announced its desire to overtake England in the zero carbon race. Discounting a hugely ambitious 70 per cent reduction, they settled for 55 per cent, based on 2006 standards in the Approved Documents for England & Wales, whereas DCLG plans a 44 per cent reduction for England. The Welsh Assembly has now published proposed changes to Part L 2013. The concepts remain the same as the English version, retaining a National Calculation Methodology, but performance benchmarks will differ, so architects will need two more software tools: consultation Standard Assessment Procedure Wales and consultation Simplified Building Energy Model Wales, both now available free on the BRE website, which will allow you to calculate the effects of proposed changes to the Regulations and Approved Document ADL1A and ADL2A, but cannot be used to show compliance with the current Part L or to generate Energy Performance Certificates. The consultation document suggests three options. 1. Low case 25 per cent improvement in new domestic property energy efficiency beyond current Part L standards, 11 per cent improvement in new non-domestic property energy efficiency beyond 2010 standards, tightening of standards for extensions to existing domestic and non-domestic property and removal of consequential improvements area threshold. 2. High case The Assembly’s preferred option. 40 per cent improvement in new domestic property energy efficiency beyond Part L, 20 per cent improvement in new non-domestic property energy efficiency beyond 2010 standards, tightening of standards for existing domestic and non-domestic property extensions and removal of consequential improvements area threshold. 3. Hybrid case 25 per cent improvement in new domestic property energy efficiency beyond current Part L, 20 per cent improvement in new non-domestic
energy efficiency is negative, entailing a net cost to taxpayers because existing building regulations already impose relatively high energy standards and further improvements will require significant additional costs for new technology and renewables. The return for a 40 per cent improvement is less negative than for a 25 per cent improvement because PV panels’ cost-effectiveness increases with quantity, assuming sufficient roof space. The consultation is open until October and I haven’t yet heard UK housebuilders’ views, but it’s safe to say that different standards to those in England will be unwelcome. There is a risk that increased capital costs associated with these and other policies will make Welsh projects less attractive to developers. While I understand the political attraction of devolution, the last thing the industry needs is varying standards across borders. As Team GB’s success in the Olympics proves, more can be achieved by pulling together than by going separate ways. Geoff Wilkinson is managing director of approved inspectors Wilkinson Construction
WASTELANDS TO WONDERLANDS The British Library’s summer show, Writing Britain, trawls through the library’s rich archives to take us on a remarkable journey with our poets and authors, writes Abigail Gliddon ..
It’s settled then: in this Jubilee and Olympic year we can put aside our squeamishness and accept it’s OK to be British. Along with the Royal Family and Team GB, the British Library is making the most of this year’s celebration of Britishness. Its summer show Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands is a remarkable selection from the library’s archives of manuscripts, photographs and maps covering a thousand years of British landscape history. There’s class war, religious bigotry, NIMBYism and curtain-twitching aplenty. The exhibition wends its way through countryside, industrial wasteland, heath, city, suburb and shore. The challenge to make a book-bound attraction visually ..
exhibition Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands, British Library, London NW1, until 25 September, £9
Left Top Withens, near Haworth, Yorkshire, by Fay Godwin Above ‘Dark Satanic Mills’ looks at the birth and legacy of the Industrial Revolution
exciting has been met with huge floor-to-ceiling illustrated canvas sails hung between each of the six sections. Sound effects have also been added, though with less success. The clattering engines of the ‘Dark Satanic Mills’ area might be fun, but the trickling river in ‘Waterlands’ is easily mistaken for an echo from much closer waterworks. The ‘Rural Dreams’ section begins the journey. Personifications of nature from the 14th century manuscript of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to Carol Ann Duffy’s poem John Barleycorn trace a pagan tradition that continues to shape country life, from its architecture to its pubs. Elsewhere in this section the >>
likes of Thomas Hardy, John Clare and JR Tolkien make valiant efforts to counter Oscar Wilde’s snub ‘I cannot imagine how anyone manages to survive in the country’, scribbled on his The Importance of Being Earnest manuscript, which is shown covered in speech bubbles and exclamations. Here, too, are the friendly countryfolk, neat hedges and aged oaks so much a part of the British psyche that Danny Boyle wrote them into his Olympic Opening Ceremony. The industrial revolution, both its birth and legacy, shape ‘Dark Satanic Mills’. An original letter from William Wordsworth to prime minister William Gladstone counsels against the terrible spread of the railways into the Lake District: ‘We are in this neighbourhood all in consternation, that is, every man of taste and feeling, at the stir which is made for carrying a branch railway from Kendal to the head of Windermere.’ Often the paternalistic, conservative relationship that Britain has with its landscape makes it difficult to identify with these places as anything other than curios or, as in George Orwell’s notes for The Road to Wigan Pier, as museums of social history. But the section ‘Wild Places’ offers a glimpse of Britain as we rarely see it: passionate and remote. Mostly poetry here – there’s Seamus Heaney, John Keats, Coleridge and Wordsworth. Unlike in other sections, landscape itself becomes a character, rather than a setting. The moors of Wuthering Heights take shape both through Emily Brontë’s own novel and Sylvia Plath’s poem of the same name. The accompanying recording of Ted Hughes reading Plath’s lines is heavy with a sense of place: ‘There is no life higher than the grasstops/ Or the hearts of sheep, and the wind/ Pours by like destiny, bending/ Everything in one direction.’ Along the way, though, there’s a nagging sense that the British Library isn’t raving about its collection as much as it should be. The descriptions don’t set the scene and there’s not enough background or biography to introduce unfamiliar works. The library might well have chosen to simply let the texts speak for themselves, but this modesty can be frustrating. Several of the books, Brontë’s Wuthering Heights being one, are displayed showing passages that have no landscape description, as if they fell open at random. Although the suburbs are often dismissed as life without landscape, ‘Beyond the City’ contrasts their
The British Library is making the most of 2012’s celebration of Britishness ..
ESTATE OF JG BALLARD
Culture Exhibition: Writing Britain
Above First page of JG Ballard’s manuscript for Kingdom Come
monotony with JG Ballard’s Kingdom Come opener – ‘The suburbs dream of violence’ – shown here on a manuscript with all but that line crossed out. This leads to world of peeping toms (Jubb by Keith Waterhouse) adultery (Hanif Kureishi’s Buddah of Suburbia) and class conflict (George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion). An evocative print by James Thomson, The City of Dreadful Night, opens ‘Cockney Visions’ and introduces stories of poverty and privilege, migration and overcrowding from Charles Dickens to Zadie Smith. By the time you arrive at ‘Waterlands’, immersion in this much history through so many sights is a little overwhelming. ..
The Olympics highlight the disparate lives lived in east London, writes James Pallister
With so much to take in, it would be easy to focus on personal favourites rather than discover new pieces. But there are displays that offer new takes on much-loved texts. TS Eliot’s line in Little Gidding: ‘Where is the summer, the unimaginable Zero summer?’ resonated this drab July, while contemporary maps and receipts from a ‘fan-trip’ in the style of Three Men in a Boat, and Ted Hughes’ animated letters to photographer Fay Godwin gathered more attention than other exhibits. What becomes clear is how muddled and messedwith the landscape of Britain is, and how it’s loved all the more for it. In this of all years, Team BL could have been forgiven a bit more flag-waving. Instead, there’s a touch of stereotypical British reserve with the archive that borders on self-deprecation. Despite that, Writing Britain is a welcome effort at exploring the way we respond to landscape through words. What’s most interesting is how little this response has changed, in the face of industrialisation and population increase: although the environment is different, people aren’t. As Writing Britain proves, it’s the character, the narrator or the author who, as Ian McEwan says, ‘makes places larger’. ■ ..
A year ago today, James Meek wrote an excellent essay in the London Review of Books. Entitled ‘On Broadway Market’, it took the August riots as a prompt to explore the tensions of city-living. More specifically it articulated the way in which parts of east London are segregated between the haves and have-nots: ‘It is not a melting pot. It is a set of groups that are rigidly selfseparated by race, language, religion, class, money, education and age, who have not only come to an unspoken agreement that they will not mix, but have become complacent that this agreement will not be challenged.’ As journalist John West commented on the Surreal Politics blog ‘It is all too easy to live in the East End and see it as a paragon of New Labour-esque Cool Britannia. Delis with wafer-thin ham, new pubs selling craft beers and basement cinema clubs are all yours to indulge in. We walk past those who strut along with a hood up and, let’s face it, bypass shortcuts that would take us through the estates. It is possible to live here and have a charmed existence. Many do not.’ The interaction – or lack of – between these groups is explored in Zed Nelson’s portraits of hipster newcomers and long-time residents, ‘A Tale of Two Cities’. Like much of the work currently on show at Brixton’s Photofusion gallery in the Bridget Coaker-curated Residual Traces exhibition, he series has been displayed several times. The Olympics have been used as a peg to bring together a disparate group of photographers who have all documented the Lea Valley and its environs, pre-Olympic clean up. There’s some great pieces: Stephen Gill’s book Archaeology in Reverse; Sophia Evans’ portrait of the ‘Fuck Seb Coe’ graffito on a Lea-side bridge (pictured) now scrubbed and cleaned; and the studies of abandoned allotment buildings by Jan Stradtmann. But post-Olympics, this area needs to be explored and documented again, free from the obscuring fug of nostalgia.
Above The ‘Rural Dreams’ section in Wrting Britain
visit Photofusion,17a Electric Lane, London SW9, until 7 September, free
A warm welcome to everyone but the critics process I asked myself constantly: ‘If L’Obscurier were alive today, would he approve of this commercial effloresence erupting all over his vision?’ It’s a tough question to keep asking yourself. Over and over, I kept toughly answering myself: ‘Yes, this is brilliant. L’Obscurier would have bloody loved this. Well done, carry on.’ So, critics – game, set and match to me. Some of the niggles are frankly laughable. My new structures ‘impact’ the landscape, do they, speccy prick from the New York Times? I suppose you’d like to keep the Marmalade Chapel a cosy little secret, visited only by you and your pretentious friends every now and then. Or are ordinary people not allowed to see this masterpiece too? Are they not allowed a roof over their heads while they buy tickets? Are they not allowed to eat, or shop, or adequately park? The project brief called for a ‘cost-negative’ visitor centre and that’s what the client has got. A sacred place first and foremost, but also a focused money-spinner. ‘Out of scale’ is it, bald dickhead from Die Welt? You don’t even know what scale I was working to; maybe it was supposed to look 110 per cent ‘normal’ size. ‘Disembodied’ is it, pompous shitballoon from Le Figaro? I’ll tell you what I’d like to see disembodied: your stupid hat-wearing head! ‘The vertical mullions clash horribly with the horizontality…’ SHUT UP FAT MAN-EGG FROM CHINA DAILY, YOU’RE LOOKING AT THE MULLIONS UPSIDE DOWN. Now that I have answered my critics, I hope I will be left in peace to carry out my next prestigious job, a fitness hub at Durham Cathedral.
MONDAY. Knocking out a few rough building ideas for Rio 2016. So far I’ve got a bagel-shaped velodrome, a main stadium that looks like a wok and an aquatic centre that draws heavily on the timeless form of the pilchard. Not sure about the Olympic Village yet. I wanted to go with a ‘hip favela’ feel, but you know how people like to play the ‘cultural sensitivities’ card. TUESDAY. Talking of which, I’m designing a ‘women-only city’ in Saudi Arabia. It’s actually a smallish industrial estate, but that doesn’t sound as dramatic. A ‘women-only city’ gets you top sidebar in the tackier online papers; according to my fixer, Rock Steady Eddie, that’s now the premier showcase for quality design. As he always says: there’s no such thing as bad controversy. He’s urging me to start talking up the hospice I’m working on as a ‘death camp’, and to rebrand the luxury bachelor apartment commissioned by a hugely respectable Middle Eastern prince as a ‘sex hutch’. WEDNESDAY. To the Royal Institute for the Pop-Uption of British Architects, where a noisy protest is in full swing. President Molly Bismuth is in defiant mood. So are members of staff. They all have paper hats with their names on. ‘For too long we have suffered the ignominy of obscurity!’ she shouts. ‘We will be gagged and muffled no longer! It is time to stand up and tell the world who we are and what the Royal Institute for the Pop-Uption of British Architects actually does!’ There’s an extended pause. I slip away from the silence, back into the bustling street.
FRIDAY. Design a ground-breaking green supermarket that generates more energy than it uses. This is achieved with a complex series of sustainable operating systems, including an innovative thermal harvester that converts human warmth into electrical power and ‘eats’ anyone who’s too cold. Spare blood/plasma is then recycled via a ‘smart generator’.
THURSDAY. You know, internationally-renowned architecture critics can sometimes come across like a prissy cartel of mewling wankers. Especially when they’re having a go at me. This time their criticism is especially harsh and unjust. I took enormous care when designing the new visitor centre at Marmalade, in eastern France. Modernist colossus L’Obscurier created his masterpiece here: the breathtaking anarcho-Catholic Chapel of Notre Dame du Marmalade. Of course I know how sensitive a site this is. I’m not an idiot. My visitor centre has been made extra-discreet by being scattered across the hillside, so that from a far distance it looks almost semi-transparent. Throughout the design
SATURDAY. Five-a-zeitgeist theoretical football. Festival of Britain-style Tonical Nationalism 0, Niche Recessionary Concessionism 1, after extra time for going into administration. SUNDAY. Ample self-parking in the recliner. ..
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