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LONDON

The Architectural Review presents a snapshot of the city

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Contents 3

Introduction

Editor

Catherine Slessor introduces this special supplement on London

Contributors

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Studio East Dining, Carmody Groarke

a pop-up restaurant provides a delightful vantage point for London’s Olympic Park AR October 2010

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Evelyn Grace Academy, Zaha Hadid Architects

How a dynamic and thoughtful school building can transform educational opportunities AR November 2010

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One Hyde Park, Rogers Stirk Harbour On the edge of Hyde Park, modern mansion block living is redefined for the super rich AR March 2011

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History

Sixty years on from a key moment in London’s history, the Festival of Britain is reconsidered AR July 2011

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Roca London Gallery, Zaha Hadid Architects

an exclusive preview of the new showroom for roca designed by Zaha Hadid

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Itinerary

The ar’s selection of the best new and historic buildings to visit in London

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Catherine Slessor Will Hunter Joseph rykwert

Art Editor

Jon Morgan

Designer

Heather Bowen

Production Editor Nicola Homer

Editorial Assistant Phineas Harper

Photographs

Luke Hayes Christian richters Nick rochowski/VIEW royal academy of arts rIBa Library Photographs Collection

The Architectural Review Greater London House Hampstead Road London NW1 7EJ, UK architectural-review.com


Introduction The panorama over the Olympic Park from Carmodyʼs Groarkeʼs pop-up restuarant (see page 4) neatly encapsulates the scale and scope of current architectural activity in London. On the one hand, there is what could be described as the ‘Grands Projetsʼ, of which the staging of the Olympic Games next year is the largest and most ambitious, recasting a hitherto languishing and neglected part of Londonʼs East End as a new and multivalent piece of city that will have life long after the Olympic circus has finally packed up its tents. Harnessing the Games as an agent for wider urban regeneration is not new in itself, but London hopes to replicate the catalysing experience of Barcelona, rather than the stagnation of athens. and though the set-piece sporting structures, designed by Zaha Hadid and Michael Hopkins, among others, constitute the most immediate architectural focus, the real measure of the Gamesʼ success in the long term, must surely be the more intangible qualities of space and placemaking.

at the other end of the scale, Carmody Groarkeʼs temporary restaurant, which scavenged materials being used to construct the new Westfield Stratford City shopping centre, opened for a brief, brilliant summer and then was dismantled, is emblematic of a nimbler and more responsive architectural constituency. Despite its size, London is often likened to a series of interlocking villages, each with its own distinct local identity. It is not corseted by Haussmann-esque boulevards and axial allées; its urban grain is soft, organic and fluid, where modest interventions and stealthy, bottom-up regeneration can have a surprisingly pervasive impact. always hard to pin down, London is the supreme mistress of reinvention, constantly reworking old ideas and trying out new ones. This supplement presents a snapshot of Londonʼs recent architectural history. It captures a metropolis in flux, an urban Janus, looking forwards and backwards at the same time, yet still one of the most dynamic cities on the planet.

Catherine Slessor, AR Editor

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Studio East Dining Stratford London, UK Carmody Groarke


DINING EYRIE

Overlooking the site of the Olympic Park, this inventive and witty pop-up restaurant momentarily celebrated the spectacle of London’s latest urban transformation Writer Will Hunter


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site plan of Olympic Park

Studio East Dining Stratford, London, UK Carmody Groarke

1. (Previous page ) Carmody Groarke’s temporary dining room sits on top of the new Westfield Stratford City shopping centre 2. The overall disposition has both unity and dynamism; while the short section of the white blocks has a datum width. They are rotated in plan and inclined in long section to frame panoramas of the emerging Olympic Park, where Zaha Hadid’s Aquatic Centre is materialising in the muddy foreground

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If Britain’s venerable parliament has been eroded by the emulation of the american presidential model, the late arrival of US-style live debates has certainly proved welcome compensation. Indeed, one of the first televised combats struck a decisive knell: in the 2008 London mayoral campaign, the incumbent Ken Livingstone provoked pantomime boos as he likened his method of winning the 2012 Olympic Games to a card trick. With the initial nominal budget already quadrupling to £9 billion, Londoners unamused by this whopping sleight went on to crown his rival Boris Johnson with 53 per cent of the vote. Magicians, it seems, reveal their methods at their peril. and yet Livingstone’s remaining 47 per cent suggested a marked citywide ambivalence towards the issue. almost as many as were angered actually admired the deviousness in generating the funding for the renewal of a huge neglected area around east London. Instead of focusing on the ephemera of the Games, politicians emphasised the rhetoric of regeneration; of amenity and infrastructure; of long-term legacies. Only as people dissented from this narrative did the underlying tensions between connection and isolation become exposed. Communities voiced their displacement, a sentiment that found its tangible emblem in the monochrome fence that rose to secure the

colossal site’s perimeter. ‘a viscous slither of blue,’ as the London chronicler Iain Sinclair described it, ‘like disinfectant running down the slopes of a silver urinal trough’. Now with this infamous barrier largely dismantled or replaced with sunnier decorative hoardings, the time has come to attract attention to Stratford’s work in progress. Hailed as the ‘largest building site in Europe’, the spectacle of the interim landscape embodies a special state of flux. In summer 2010, roughly midway between Sinclair’s musings and the 2012 opening ceremony − a beautiful pop-up restaurant, Studio East Dining, celebrated the spectacle of this pivotal moment. Designed by young London-based practice Carmody Groarke, the project derived its particular poignancy as a pin-pricking counterpoint to the scale of the Olympic operation; and in its positioning within the polarised opinions surrounding the iteration of this ancient competition and the expansive urban transformation it will eventually entrench. While the justification for the London Games is a settlement projected decades into the future, the duration of Studio East Dining was three weeks; the gap between the first briefing and the restaurant’s opening night was (what must have been for the architects) a terrifying 10 weeks. Where the budget for the larger region is

suffixed with an unfathomable amount of zeros, this pop-up diner was delivered for the price of a modest London back-extension. The pavilion’s cleverness is in the line it takes between permanence and transience, and its exploration of what constitutes value. The 800m2 dining room is placed on a 35m-high flat roof, which presents fantastic elevated views, the Olympic site in the foreground segueing seamlessly into the established city beyond. The object is sitting on top of a multi-storey car park that belongs to Westfield Stratford City, a mammoth 1.9 million square metre shopping centre that when completed will be the continent’s largest. To generate interest in its forthcoming opening, the retail developer commissioned the project, produced in collaboration with bespoke east London restaurateurs Bistrotheque. If these two clients were a married couple you would think Cupid had a lamentably rotten aim or a very wry sense of humour. Launching some years back in a whitewashed warehouse in an abandoned part of Hackney, the original restaurant made itself a destination most notably for its esoteric evening entertainments − I especially admired the Bear Beauty Contest (for hairier, heavier, gay man; not a woodland version of Crufts). You might not immediately think the pairing would be likely to work out, but the resulting  LONDON | ar 7


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Studio East Dining Stratford, London, UK Carmody Groarke 8 ar | LONDON

creative success proves that opposites can and do attract. Carmody Groarke’s design was informed by the project’s specific constraints. One of the earliest decisions was to borrow materials already on the site, using workmen seconded from the shopping centre’s construction. The building’s structure was made entirely from scaffolding poles; the wooden floor, panelling, even the tables, from rough planks. The translucent polyethylene roof membrane was sourced and bought especially for the project, but is, the architects are pleased to say, 100 per cent recyclable. as a live building site, people have to be ferried safely to and from the restaurant, which influenced the idea of a single sitting for 140 people. Instead of making one large marquee-like space, the conversation distance across a dining table has created the scale of the cross-section to a series of extruded forms. These volumes intersect at the plan’s centre to provide a cocktail-supping place of the arrival; guests then move to one of the long, linear tables to dine. With the pavilion opening coinciding with the summer solstice, when you arrive the space is naturally lit, articulating the almost Gothic decorative quality of the structure. as you progress through the courses, the lighting, provided by standard site lamps, conjures an increasingly intimate

atmosphere. The denouement is a post-prandial stroll to the balconies, to the panoramic views that, glimpsed throughout the evening, can now be fully appreciated as the sun descends. as you leave, the pavilion is a glowing angular form, radiant in the crepuscular light. across the globe, the once-chasmic distance between the centre and periphery of culture is now quickly traversed, a change certainly catalysed by the speed and abundance of communication. Particularly in London, the distinction between commerce and creativity, money and art, has become muddied over recent years, and yet the blurry threshold is still perceptible and significant. The same comparison is becoming true for the city map itself. It seems incredible that Stratford is now reachable from metropolitan King’s Cross within minutes. Carmody Groarke’s canniness has been to create a pavilion that accentuates the inherent contradictions in the project’s complexion, while appearing to straddle wider divisions, embracing its status and rejecting it at the same time. It is the Wildean epigram of 21st century temporary architecture, a light little expression that somehow conveys some deeper, more meaningful truth about the city. ☛ This project was a joint winner of the AR Awards for Emerging Architecture 2010


4 3. Industrial PVC strip curtains half-veil the spectacular views in the daylight of arrival, while shimmeringly reflecting diners back to themselves as the exterior gradually grows dark towards the end of the meal 4. The scaffolding structure has an alomst Gothic decorative quality 5. As the sun goes down, the emphasis of the space descends from the back-lit overarching structure to the dappled timber lining within it

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LIFE CLASSES

The dynamic architecture of this new school in Brixton fosters a sense of community and channels the power of education to transform lives Writer Will Hunter

as the ar went to press in November 2010, the British Chancellor George Osborne gave details of the severest public spending cuts for nearly a century. and while it’s risky to predict where the £83 billion savings will come from, the Department for Education looks a likely place. By far the biggest beneficiary of the previous Labour government’s splurge, the department’s real-term expenditure expanded by a colossal 198 per cent over the last five years. attacks on education spending are familiar territory for the LiberalConservative coalition. Earlier this year the Tory education secretary Michael Gove abolished Building Schools for the Future (BSF), 10 ar | LONDON

Labour’s £55 billion flagship secondary-school investment programme. However, what has come as more of a surprise − not least to the targets themselves − has been the attack on architects. Gove’s accusation (levelled before he gained power) that the profession was guilty of ‘creaming off cash’ from BSF was the lobbed stone to the anti-architect ripple of the last few weeks. ‘are architects the new Muslims?’ followed Toby Young’s tangential gambit in The Spectator. The columnist averred that ‘academic attainment is almost wholly independent of the type of building a school is in’, and went on to claim that architects have ‘perpetuate[d] the myth’ to the contrary.


Evelyn Grace Academy London, UK Zaha Hadid Architects


site plan

Soon after the Daily Mail bellowed with the ‘Scandal of Blair’s £31m flagship school’, DID ARCHITECTS referring to the benighted Bexley Business academy, completed by (Labour-created peer) Norman Foster in 2003. ‘It’s a nightmare to run,’ complained the school’s chief executive. Yet just as architects appeared defeated, the next day the battle’s dynamics switched with the arrival of the profession’s very own Boudicca. Fresh from winning the Stirling Prize for rome’s MaXXI, Zaha Hadid emerged as the unlikely saviour of school design as she welcomed the press to the Evelyn Grace academy. Set into the tough urban context of Brixton in south London, a tour round Hadid’s first completed building in 20

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England reveals it to be a tour de force that transforms the brief’s complexities into a remarkable piece of architecture. Sponsored by Londonbased financier arpad Busson’s absolute return for Kids (arK), the 1,200-pupil academy adheres to the charity’s ‘small schools within a school’ philosophy. The Evelyn and the Grace of the name are separate branches, with both an upper and lower division, creating four schools − each with their own head teacher − within the same building. alongside this organisational intricacy, Zaha Hadid architects (ZHa) had to supply 11,000m2 of accommodation together with game-playing amenities on a cramped 1.4ha site.

Having explored and rejected as unworkable the planner’s preference for the school to trace the perimeter at the same scale as the adjacent listed period houses, ZHa set a larger single building towards the central long axis. a bold red 100m running track streaks through the middle, terminating with a gate at both boundary ends. Journeys then diverge to separate doorways for the four individual schools, resulting in a modest visitor entrance. Compared with the inside, the external appearance of the building is less successful, perhaps initially intimidating, and at times its sharp angles seem contrived − a needless deployment of Zaha’s artistic artillery. However the interior

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1. (Previous page) a 100m red running track streaks from one side of the site to the other. In part this is to articulate the entrance, but also to resolve the demands of the academy's sport's specialism on a tight urban site 2. The sports hall on the left is pulled back from the street edge at the planner's request, to avoid clashing with neighbouring listed buildings

Evelyn Grace Academy London, UK Zaha Hadid Architects

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3. (Opposite) terraces providing spaces for each of the school's different communities are used to encourage responsible adult behaviour in the pupils 4. A view of the building's protective undercroft from the main entrance

is a more convincing spatial experience, with curving corridors and volumetric variations. The central spaces shared by the schools are large and light-filled, with floor-to-ceiling glazed curtain-walling from Schüco. The inclines of the walls − so dramatic from the outside − appear in the classrooms to give appropriately-scaled definition and character. The building is cast in in-situ concrete, which is mostly exposed, and the accompanying material palette is robust yet refined. Unlike many recent schools that resort to a ghastly rainbow of colour-coding to differentiate areas, ZHa has limited itself to three − two greens and a yellow − that very subtly articulate the

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identity of Evelyn and Grace. The strategic use of glass and lighting creates a highly sophisticated interior, layered and − not a word I would expect to associate with Zaha’s cool geometric approach − lovable. Mace completed the school under a Design & Build contract, and both ZHa and the contractor’s design teams deserve great credit for the control they’ve managed to maintain over the detailing. The architectural clarity of some similarly delivered schools has been marred by servicing and signage; here the expression of what can’t be dispensed with or hidden fades into the background. Well-designed schools are a good investment. Doubters of this should  LONDON | ar 15

First Floor L


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5. The dining room is glazed on both sides to allow views through the building 6. The angled walls, which read so strongly from the outside, create more intimate classrooms within

Evelyn Grace Academy London, UK Zaha Hadid Architects 16 ar | LONDON

visit Evelyn Grace, where ZHa has manifested the academy’s belief in ‘the power of education to transform lives’. The institution combines ambition with discipline, such as the rule that pupils must carry a book at all times. Those who might argue the way things look is superficial to these efforts ignore the sense of purpose and identity things like school uniforms can instil. With many pupils coming from chaotic backgrounds, the school provides a high level of order and the building is an integral part of that. It demands a certain level of respect − for instance, the running track must be walked around, not across − but it also gives respect back. The stepping-in of the plan

creates terraces for the different communities in the school, more private as one ascends through the different year groups. This is architecture that treats its pupils like adults, and so expects them to behave in an appropriately mature manner. In September, Michael Gove opened another of arK’s projects, the Globe academy in Elephant and Castle by amanda Levete architects. In his speech he talked of Winston Churchill’s passion for bricklaying and quoted him: ‘We shape buildings and then they shape us.’ This is the ultimate riposte to the bashers of school architecture, and Evelyn Grace academy exemplifies it.


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block party

Facing out over Hyde Park and handy for the retail emporia of Knightsbridge, London’s most expensive address redefines mansion block living for the super rich Writer Will Hunter


‘The pressure on us as architects to find a way of mediating between the public’s expectation and those who have spent hundreds of millions purchasing a site is intense,’ explains Graham Stirk, perhaps a little defensively, about the design that he has led for rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (rSH) at One Hyde Park. The media has given the architects − who have been known to make socialist noises − a rather a rough ride for completing what is reputed to be the world’s most expensive residential address in their own capital city. Financed by a company owned by the Qatari prime minister, the luxury developer Candy & Candy approached the practice to create the scheme during the economic uplands of the mid-noughties. One global economic meltdown later, the grand opening of the 86-apartment scheme in Knightsbridge finally took place at the end of January. On the day of the celebrity-studded launch party, publicists chirping about achieving the worldrecord price of more than £6,000 per square foot struck a dissonance with the news that 20 per cent of young people in Britain are currently unemployed. Described by rogers concisely but vaguely as ‘a 21st-century monument’, the building was read more critically and symbolically by the Guardian columnist alexander Chancellor as 20 ar | LONDON

‘a monument to the ever-widening gap between rich and poor and to the unique ability of the very wealthy to ride out the recession unscathed’. Perhaps this is true. But, in a sense, what’s new? If the scheme is such a monument, it would hardly be an innovation for a site gazing north across Hyde Park. and indeed it used to be much worse: in previous centuries the ‘public’ was even excluded from the ‘public space’ itself. as one Captain Gronow remarked in his Reminiscences of 1863, you did not see ‘any of the lower or middle classes of London intruding themselves in regions which, with a sort of tacit understanding, were then given up exclusively to persons of rank and fashion.’ Many buildings that run along the park’s southern edge were born of and long commemorate this unique aristocratic milieu. Of these, the scheme is equidistant between two examples that appear as particular points of reference. On the park’s east corner is robert adam’s apsley House (1771-78), the former home to the Duke of Wellington; the ultimate forebear for opulence, status and significance, the Grade I-listed mansion has for centuries been known as ‘No. 1, London’ − a sobriquet that surely influenced those who named One Hyde Park. To the west, of more typological interest, are the albert Hall Mansions

which were designed by richard Norman Shaw. These started to sell the idea of apartments to the English upper classes, who had always associated such arrangements with either poor people or, worse, continental foreigners. Indeed, for inspiration, Shaw visited Paris in 1879, bringing back the city’s ideas about communal areas − grand lobbies and graduated staircases − and mixing them in his design with apartments more like a traditional London townhouse. This allowed the familiarity of split-level living, but it was still a radical proposition, and the developer opted to build it in stages. The mansions as a whole are composed of three separate blocks, each in plan centred on a light well and two staircases: one large and open for the residents; the other small and hidden for the servants. Essentially, what rSH has done is to invert this plan and to scale it up. Instead of designing long facades hiding light-voids and stairwells, the practice has created four separate ‘pavilions’, the floorplates of which flare in plan to maximise apartments’ floor areas and park views. The vertical circulation has been displaced into five glazed cores, connected up at ground level with a gently curving spine corridor. There are two residential and three service passages, all treated identically in proportion and detail (how about that for socialist principles?), but


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One Hyde Park London, UK Rogers Stirk Harbour

1. (Previous page) One Hyde Park boldly addresses Knightsbridge with little to suggest its residential function 2. Plan of Albert Hall Mansions 3. Albert Hall Mansions by Richard Norman Shaw drew the upper classes to apartment living 4. Apsley House by Robert Adam, former residence of the Duke of Wellington, known as 'No. 1, London'  LONDON | ar 21


One Hyde Park London, UK Rogers Stirk Harbour

5. The widening of the apartments at lift cores forces a neighbourly proximity 6. The north side of the development looks out over Hyde Park, offering power vistas for today's aspiring aristocrats and re-envisaging mansion block living for the modern era 6

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mirrored in plan so that the goods lifts face the local rag-trade and the residents the park. although rSH is au fait with the process of inverting a diagram − they practically invented this concept with the Pompidou Centre and the Lloyd’s Building − it was less comfortable with scaling up a model. as Stirk admits, ‘We didn’t know how to fill in the planning drawings with these apartment sizes: we even scaled the beds up.’ and it wasn’t simply the extremities of scale that proved challenging, but the breadth of the shifts required to achieve them. ‘apartments range from a generous one-bedroom flat, all the way up to 27,000 square foot,’ says Stirk. ‘That’s bigger than our office − what residential morphology can you think of that would deal with that?’ The closest real precedent is, of course, an office itself, and in their sheer size and adaptability, the large floors and sparse structure are indeed like parts of an office. Where the architect begins to rebuff the comparison lies in the property’s details. ‘There are bedrooms twice the size of the house I live in: that’s not a punched hole for a window,’ Stirk strikes back. ‘No one bedroom is the same size and we needed the verticality of the facade to allow all this fine-tuning.’ The pavilions are of course glazed floor to ceiling, but this is wrapped in a veil of bronze privacy screens, which funnel views towards the park and,

as the widening of apartments towards the cores forces an almost neighbourly proximity, has the effect of hiding the super rich from each other. ‘rather than doing slick glazing, which in big residential projects is a nightmare since you can’t control what blinds people will have, you’ve got to create something robust enough to allow people to be exuberant in terms of what they want to be,’ says Stirk. In taking this view, he touches on the project’s crucial dilemma − that between fantasy and rationality. This duality is no more clearly expressed than in the building’s relationship with the adjacent luxury hotel, the Mandarin Oriental, an Edwardian version of a French château, with two floors wedged between each band of stone, coursing in an attempt to make the building’s proportions hold. Even though the context is dotted with a number of more high-rise buildings, rSH has set out their project’s massing using the Mandarin eaves line and attempted to strike a companionable dialogue by picking up the strong horizontals every two floors. In mediating the relationship between the building and the street, the practice has created a couple of gardens that will give access to the three ground-floor shops. This green space is more than most private apartment blocks offer, while also giving

glimpses of the park skyline through the glass cores. On the one hand, the project is looking to placate the planners and the public, whereas on the other − well, the other hand must tease and titillate the fantasies of the billionaires. These fantasies, as the interior reveals, can be pretty extreme and disquieting. If at one time hotels mimicked stately homes so that rich people felt comfortable in them, now the international super rich demand their apartments to look and feel like hotels. The Candy brothers clearly understand and cater for this shift. alongside the constant availability of room service via an underground passage, their intent is confirmed through their fit-out’s five-star friskiness. Once you cross the threshold, you enter a world where reality feels familiar but strangely filtered. The scene calls to mind Sigmund Freud canoodling rocco Forte, shot by robert Mapplethorpe. at first you arrive in a double-height hotel lobby, with copious staff yet no other guests. You see a ‘library’ that does not appear to have any books: a grand piano playing without a pianist. Then a schism emerges. Candy & Candy produced the interiors with rSH only doing shell and core, and nowhere is that put to more deranging effect than in the spine corridor, which abruptly alternates between detailed high-tech  LONDON | ar 23


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7. Detail of facade with perforated fin-like louvres made of bronze 8. Lozenge-shaped foorplates taper to funnel light and protect privacy

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transparency and the frothy cappuccino of polished plaster − from the start of the curving route, it looks like this small schizophrenic episode might go on forever. Inside the enclosure of the show flat − which amazingly covers the entire floorplate − the Candy treatment is on a surer footing, and it is this that Stirk credits with the scale of the record sales figures. ‘When you walk into one of those apartments that hasn’t been finished by [Candy & Candy] you look at it and think, it’s really nice, but would it command the sales figures they’re talking about?’ he says. ‘But when you walk into one where they’ve positioned everything, you think it probably would. The whole way this thing is secretly guarded. We don’t know one person who’s bought one.’ There’s a paradox here between publicity and privacy, the media fizz at odds with the desire for anonymity. This suggests that the enterprise’s immediate financial success depends as much on perception as on reality. With prices claimed to be £6.75 million for a one-bed flat and to reach up to £135 million for a penthouse, you wonder whether a residence here will prove such a good long-term investment once the hype has eventually died down. In a recent essay in aD on Typological Urbanism, academic Peter Carl observes that: ‘Dwelling, properly understood, is more profound

than the efficient or attractive accommodation of a lifestyle − it comprises orientation in reality.’ One Hyde Park steers clear of a reality that almost anyone can relate to. applying mega-scale to the mansion block has the effect of removing its local and national context: albert Hall Mansions were mostly for people rooted in the English countryside who wanted a pied-à-terre; One Hyde Park is for nomadic global billionaires with perhaps no real links to Britain. I have no problem with that, but − combined with such things as car lifts that mean residents never have to step on a pavement − this certainly alienates them from London’s larger story. The architecture is a wellconceived, finely detailed private apartment block, but it is not a monument in any sense of the word, since it deliberately avoids any emotional engagement with the wider city . Of the Napoleon-trouncing Duke of Wellington’s former residence No. 1, London, historian Edwin Beresford Chancellor eulogises in The Private Palaces of London (1908): ‘For Englishmen it represents, crystallised in stone, more fully perhaps than other dwelling in the country, an idea, a sentiment… consecrated to the memory of one who may justly be termed the saviour of our country.’ Now that’s an architectural monument. One Hyde Park doesn’t even come close.


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HIStoRY

FEStIvAL oF bRItAIN REvISItED

Sixty years on from the opening of the Festival of Britain, the AR invited critic Joseph Rykwert to reconsider its role in shaping modern, post-war architecture JOSEPH RyKWERT

Opposite, above: pages from the AR of January 1949 in which Gordon Cullen illustrated AR Editor J. M. Richards' vision for the South Bank in 'Bankside Regained'

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Opposite, below: 'intricacy come to modern architecture'. Details of the AR's extensive coverage of the Festival site and buildings from the August 1951 issue

When the Festival of Britain projects were published, many of my generation of architects were disappointed that those whom we considered our leaders had been sidelined: no Tecton, no Goldfinger, and even Fry and Drew were only given a small restaurant by Waterloo Bridge. That is (in part) why the next generation of Team X, Stirling, the Smithsons, Bill Howell and Sandy Wilson wanted nothing to do with it. My involvement was minimal. a friend, the painter/designer Edward Wright was assigned the thatching section of the agricultural and Country Pavilion, where the interiors of Brian O’rourke’s building were devised by FHK Henrion. I was suborned to help Wright make the manikins who worked the straw. That humble role gave me access to the site before the queues. I could wander through the South Bank site and get a sneak preview of it all. The triumphalism around the show was overt, even showy. It was, after all, to be a morale fillip to the nation when austerity reigned over all spheres of public life. But of course, there were plenty of cheeseparing protests at the time, many politically motivated. and of course, the Festival generated a high volume of excitement and ‘fun’. Crowds that flocked to it seemed to be enjoying themselves and visitor numbers did not disappoint, not only on the South Bank, but in subsidiary venues, of which Battersea, a century-old park turned into a pleasuregarden (evoking ranelagh and Vauxhall), was the most important − a fun place by design, connected to the South Bank by river boats. The trouble with ‘fun’ was that there tended to be something tatty about it: as was the case with rowland Emett’s railway, which wound its way around Battersea. He was a popular cartoonist, but what was endearing in his whimsical drawings became amateurish and ominously ramshackle when eventually metamorphosed into the third dimension; and that was also true of other winsome, allegedly characteristic, English flummery.


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HIStoRY

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HIStoRY That emphasis on the amiable eccentric helped to obscure the Festival’s international debts and precedents: to Gunnar asplund’s Stockholm Exhibition of 1931, for instance, or to more recent Italian work which was all glossed over, as were native precedents. Coming six years after the end of the Second World War, the Festival was an echo of the Empire Exhibition of 1924, an event wryly evoked at the beginning of andrea Levy’s Small Island. But then the South Bank and Battersea were a vast project, and so important that the irritating whimsy could not diminish its main achievement: the conquest of the river bank for Londoners and their visitors. The story of the choice of the site as an early exercise in townscape and of its political undertone is

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too long and complex for an essay such as this one, yet the change in the city fabric that it effected was perhaps even more important than its authors quite appreciated, since it would determine the future relation between the City and its river, inflecting the whole of London’s urban space. From Westminster to Waterloo Bridge, the site was all brownfield land, industrially inaccessible and a bomb-scarred waste. Once it had been turned over to public use, that river bank never reverted to its fragmented pre-war enclosures. Instead it became one of the largest urban promenades in Europe. The inevitable gentrification downstream from the site, and the building of the wretched London Eye at one end, or the Shard (which is sure to suck up space around itself, as high-rises of that character inevitably do) at the other, cannot detract from the permanent achievement. Was there nevertheless something of the theme park about the whole affair? I do not think so. Even the spindly, acid-coloured ‘style’, though it was echoed in the Coronation displays two years later and affected household goods over the next decade, turned out to be a closed episode. Commonplace as many of the pavilions were, they were innovative enough. Instead of the pervasive concrete and brick, the Festival buildings were light metal and glass, with much use of steel cable − notably on the Dome of Discovery and the Skylon. Popular parlance soon reduced the most obvious to a ribald soubriquet. as the screen of multi-coloured spheres at the entrance became known as ‘Morrison’s balls’ − after the minister responsible for the whole affair − so the Dome and the Skylon were dubbed the ‘cap and the condom’, suggesting a contraceptive trap for any excess energy the Festival might have generated. The style could not be grafted on to the older native modernity associated with such projects as the architecture and graphics of


Previous page: the masterplan of the Festival site Opposite: Dome of Discovery and Skylon, demonstrations of steel and cable construction

Top: the Royal Festival Hall, the only permanent vestige of the Festival, was remodelled in 1964 Above: Fairway, a key space of the South Bank Exhibition

the London Underground and other pre-war buildings; or be put beside the famous and familiar international developments. anyway, the pavilions were intended to be temporary, and were disposed of all too quickly so that only the Festival Hall remains as a permanent vestige. It has become a permanent feature of London musical activity. Some of the carping about the festival style focused on its dinky version of Tecton modernity. Le Corbusier, quizzed by a journalist at the time, refused to comment, but enthused about a small exhibition showing the geometry of biological phenomena, On Growth and Form (the title was derived from D’arcy Wentworth Thompson’s masterpiece), which richard Hamilton had organised at the Institute of Contemporary arts. When provoked by an exasperated journalist to comment (at least) on the Festival Hall’s acoustics, he said, ‘well, they worked it out, so what do you expect?’ Worked out or not, musicians inevitably complained about its ‘dry’ resonance, and there have been several makeovers. Yet it is now established as one of London’s favourite venues, and its virtues shine when compared to the grimly graceless neighbouring Queen Elizabeth Hall and Hayward Gallery, with their recurrently vandalised and graffitied parking basement. With other halls downstream from Waterloo Bridge, the National Theatre and the Film Institute, they form a bank of ‘cultural’ institutions which contrast favourably − as an urban planning exercise − with the more concentrated Pompidou Centre in Paris or the Parco della Musica on the Via Flaminia in rome. Yes, the Festival style was flimsy and condescending, and most Festival buildings were undistinguished. They are gone, and the style did not outlast the decade. What remains is not a memory of the style, but the conquest of the South Bank, and for that Londoners will remain ever grateful.  LONDON | ar 31


RoCA LoNDoN GALLERY Opened at the end of October, the new roca London Gallery was designed by Zaha Hadid architects. The new flagship space, which joins roca’s existing Galleries in Barcelona, Madrid and Lisbon, is more than just a showroom for the company’s world-leading bathroom products. accesible to a wide-ranging design constituency, from architects to students, it is conceived as a space of cultural encounter and interaction, hosting a wide range of activities, from exhibitions and seminars, to debates and presentations. The movement of water is

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a key architectural theme, defining the landscape of the interior and cultivating a sense of mobile liquidity. Three organic portals, which appear to have been shaped by water erosion, open up the Gallery to the city, while inside, sensuously sculpted spaces in white concrete meld and flow into each other. ‘Our work imbues architecture with the intricacy and beauty of natural forms,’ says Zaha Hadid. ‘Using a formal language derived from the movement of water, the roca London Gallery has been eroded and polished

by fluidity; generating a sequence of dynamic spaces carved from this fascinating interplay between architecture and nature.’ a flowing space serves as the Gallery’s central axis. Set around this are a network of smaller, semi-enclosed enclaves creating a captivating sense of spatial permeability. Hadid and her team have created an interior that is not simply set dressing. In its adeptly considered sculpting of form and space, it draws on the transformative power of water, bringing the Gallery and its contents to life.


ground floor plan

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to vISIt The Gherkin

Idea Store

Mould-breaking skyscraper by Foster + Partners redefines the City skyline

David adjaye’s lively East End mediatheque

30 St Mary Axe City of London, London EC3

The Shard

32 London Bridge Southwark, London SE1 When complete in 2012, renzo Piano’s soaring tower will be the tallest in London

Evelyn Grace Academy 225 Shakespeare Road Brixton, London SE24

Zaha Hadid’s new school channels the aspirations of its users into dynamic forms

One Hyde Park

1 Hyde Park Knightsbridge, London SW1 rogers Stirk Harbour redefine the London mansion block for the 21st century

Maggie's Centre

Fulham Palace Road Hammersmith, London W6 Innovative cancer care centre by rogers Stirk Harbour 34 ar | LONDON

1 Gladstone Place Bow, London E3

Festival Hall/ South Bank

Belvedere Road Waterloo, London SE1 Going strong 60 years on from the Festival of Britain

Lord's Media Centre

St John’s Wood Road St John’s Wood, London NW8 Future Systems’ monocoque pod adds a futuristic frisson to the Home of Cricket

Laban Centre

Creekside Deptford, London SE8 \ Herzog & de Meuron’s dance studios dazzlingly animate a dull corner of Deptford

Roca London Gallery

Imperial Wharf Hammersmith, London SW6 Zaha Hadid designed this sinuous, sensuous showroom and gallery for roca

Roca London Gallery


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The inspiration that flows from water. Welcome to the new Roca London Gallery, a space designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, where you can enjoy a unique visual and interactive experience with Roca, the leading global bathroom brand. A space inspired by the various phases or states of water. The desing expresses the fluid relationship between Roca and Zaha Hadid Architects and their shared passion for innovation.

www.rocalondongallery.com Station Court, Imperial Wharf, London SW6 2PY 36  ar | LONDON Phone: + 44 (0) 20 7610 9503 Fax: + 44 (0) 20 7348 7236 Opening times: Mondays to Fridays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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LONDON GUIDE