Global events trigger showcase architecture
7 July 2021, Paul Finch
Major sporting and cultural events generally have an architectural corollary even if, as with the European football spectacular this week, the stadiums used are pretty familiar. Instead we note the backdrops the tv commentary teams use – in the case of ITV, showing us the tower of London in the foreground and Rafael Vinoly’s ‘Walkie Talkie’ office tower as a sort of centre stage. At Wimbledon there is always some new design to take in, especially since the aversion to sliding roofs finally dissipated.
However, the really big architectural events will be slightly later this year: the Dubai World Expo, and of course the Tokyo Olympics. In both cases, for anyone with an interest in architecture, there would be a reason to visit. In Dubai, countries are falling over themselves to prove their green credentials via zero-carbon (sort of) pavilion and feature designs. In Japan, we will marvel at Kengo Kuma’s main stadium design – nearly 60 years after the country staged its first Olympics in 1964, with impressive architecture to match.
We will just have to suffer convenient amnesia in respect of the Zaha Hadid stadium-that-never-was, consigned to the plan chest of history by the unspoken Tokyo closed shop which determines some of the big calls in that city and indeed country.
Dubai will feature a far greater variety of design, and in some ways the Expo will take on the characteristics of this year’s Venice Biennale, holed below the waterline by Covid-19 – though if we ae lucky quarantine restrictions may be lifted well before the closing date for the Biennale (extended to 21 November). The Dubai expo opens on 1 October and lasts for six months, so should attract gigantic crowds as did the last world expo in Milan, a veritable feast of architectural and design invention.
And of course we are confident that we will be able to stage World Architecture Festival in Lisbon this December (1 to 3) – a long-awaited gathering of the architectural clans.
Retailers wake up to housing
The John Lewis group, which has been suffering like all store-based retailers in recent years, has announced it plans to build 10,000 homes for rent, exploiting under-used or simply unused sites in and around its stores. Happily, this includes building over car parks.
If they want some advice on how to go about this in a way which will provide consistency of design and delivery, they should seek out Bill Dunster, energy architect guru, who has been advocating the greater use of retail sites and buildings for many years.
Will Morrison’s pick up the residential baton? One of the reasons for the multi-billion-pound bids being made for the company is its ownership of all its own properties. As is frequently the case with big takeovers, they can easily be viewed as property deals with a business attached to them.
This may be less true for Morrison than most, since the cash flow generated by its retail operations is extraordinary, but it was certainly true of many privatisations of recent vintage – for example when Stagecoach got its hands on multiple city centre sites which had always been considered as bus depots. You can always park a bus somewhere else and do something profitable with the real estate.
Extending liability periods doesn’t mean much
Government legislation announced this week is intended to increase retrospectively the period during which aggrieved householders can sue ‘developers’ over defective homes. As with anything involving litigation, we will have to wait and see how works out in practice.
Contractors, specialist sub-contractors and product manufacturers do not generally carry insurance in respect of their potential errors. That task falls to ‘professionals’, who these days are being increasingly invited to take on responsibility for the work of entire design and delivery teams. This immoral and unethical practice has been dreamed up by the sort of lawyers who one imagines will be advising builders how to bypass their responsibilities from a legal point of view.
That shouldn’t be too difficult.