In 1722 Daniel Defoe published his novel, A Journal of the Plague Year. It uncannily describes some of our current conditions, writes Jeremy Melvin. Ostensibly the novel looked back to the London of the Bubonic Plague in 1665, which Defoe (born around 1660) might just have remembered. Its chief interest is its depiction of a city in crisis, its citizens in panic. In this it foreshadows by a century and half the condition of the modern metropolis, characterized by uncertainty and random forces, described by (among others) Georg Simmel and which became familiar in modernist novels like John Dos Passos’ USA and Alfred Doeblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz, where the city itself becomes a protagonist in the narrative...
Paul Finch writes, ‘As the office sector faces seas of change, we challenge you to imagine a better future. Entrants are encouraged to think outside the box to present innovative and thought-provoking solutions that bring to life how workspace may change over the next five years.’ Thus the preamble to details of a British Council for Offices ideas competition, aimed at its younger ‘NextGen’ members. This is only the second time that such a competition has taken place, but older readers may remember a famous predecessor won by Andrew Chadwick in the 1990s on the same sort of subject. His suggestion was that the office of the future would comprise what today we would call a laptop...
The new practice that I have established will be one of the world’s first post-Covid-19 architectural consultancies, writes Paul Hyett. I make this bold claim because, unlike practices established pre-Covid, my co-director Ben Vickery and I have not been ‘slimming down’, nor adjusting our operation in an effort to survive this tragic period. Nor have we been preparing for any ‘new normal’. The reason is quite simple: we did not exist pre-Covid; we had nothing to adjust from; Vickery Hyett was created after Covid started...
Proposed changes to the UK planning system, based on the ‘beauty’ of design proposals, are misguided, writes Jeremy Melvin. ‘It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness’, wrote Leo Tolstoy in his late short story ‘The Kreutzer Sonata’. By this measure, no body is more completely deluded now than the so-called Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission created by the British Government to advise it on how to infuse ‘beauty’ into their proposed reforms of the planning system...
Almost everybody is in favour of the maximum number of people being able to move about London in a speedy and convenient way, writes Paul Finch. In recent years, the attack on cars has implied that such a policy is beneficial to pedestrians. This is not necessarily so. Investment has been poured into the capital in favour of cyclists, a small minority of the population, in order to allow them to move about in a more convenient way, whatever inconvenience it may cause others...
This month's reviews cover:
In praise of monographs
Architects rarely acknowledge monographic publications on the work of their peers. But like any other book form, they can be good, bad or indifferent, writes Paul Finch.
Reconciling tradition with modernity is a complex matter
Architect Robert Adam, who will be speaking at the inaugural WAFVirtual, raises critical issues about memory and tradition in his latest book ‘Time for Architecture’, writes Paul Finch.
We are delighted to announce the full WAFVirtual programme. A series of talks will discuss pressing international topics including living with pandemics and winning new business in a post-Covid world, as well as looking at the very latest developments in product design, technical innovation, and emerging architects...
Last month British academics and intellectuals were regaled with a claim that the British Library is in a ‘state of emergency’, writes Jeremy Melvin. Many will have thought, what with the Tories in power and Boris Johnson as prime minister, how could a cultural institution be in any other condition? But maybe a few of soberer and more reflective frame of mind will have waited for the detail. Under the aegis of the chief librarian, the staff have declared that the institution’s state of emergency derives from its inherent racism...
This time last year, we had just completed a holiday tour around Europe which took us from the north coast of County Donegal through 12 European countries, writes Paul Hyett. All that freedom is now a world away. We could neither afford the four-week time extension necessitated by the two-way quarantine restrictions on most remaining holiday destinations, nor face the prospect of flying virtually solo to some far away land. When fully loaded, such long-haul journeys demand some 40,000 gallons of aviation fuel, which at around 130 gallons per person is about double the fuel consumption required for a car journey for the two of us across the same distance...
London isn’t working –and it isn’t moving either, writes Paul Finch. I voted for Sadiq Khan, both as my former constituency MP, and when he stood as a candidate to be Mayor of London. So what follows is not generic criticism from a political critic, but a plea from a Londoner who would like the mayor to ensure that this great capital remains just that. Currently, the experience of travelling in what is supposed to be a ‘world city’ is evidence that it is anything but: instead a messy amalgam of failed ideas, operational incompetence and political indifference...
One discussion stream at V-WAF, in the first week of December, will focus on the smooth and successful running of practices, writes Jeremy Melvin. There is no reason why a talented individual architect should not also have a superb head for business, but the common aversion to it is unfortunate. Any practice needs one or more people who like and understand business, who may or may not also focus on design, or client relations, or production information, or any combination of the myriad tasks which architects have to undertake...
Architect Robert Adam raises critical issues about memory and tradition in his book ‘Time for Architecture’, writes Paul Finch. Because he is a Classical architect, and proud of it, Robert Adam has never been everyone’s cup of tea in the UK profession. The style wars of yesteryear are far from over, even in an age where pluralism is increasingly the norm. Ideas about what constitutes ‘contemporary’ design frequently exclude Classical buildings, even if they were designed this year. The very word now carries overtones beyond the strict dictionary definition...
In recent years, Houghton Hall in Norfolk has established itself as a venue for art displays, writes Jeremy Melvin. In doing so it has offered a completely different setting compared to the bland white box which has dominated gallery design since Max Gordon created the original Saatchi Gallery in St John’s Wood. The current show (until November 1) features unseen works by Anish Kapoor in various locations in the house and grounds, some site-specific, evoking all sorts of ideas about the relationship between place, architecture and art, one of our themes for WAF/INSIDE 2020...
When Delores Hayden, urban historian, architect, author and poet, was consulted about a new commercial development in Los Angeles, her concern was that connections with the past were being systematically eradicated, writes Paul Hyett. Gleaming office skyscrapers set in anodyne plazas were replacing buildings and streets of richer character and more human scale...
When Boris Johnson announced in a speech on June 30 that a strategy for ‘build, build, build’ would be a cornerstone of the UK recovery from the corona recession, writes Jeremy Melvin, he received few plaudits from the architectural profession – though it had drooled over far smaller spending plans trumpeted under the regime of Tony Blair and his chancellor Gordon Brown. In neither case was this because of an understanding of the origins of economic theory, specifically in relation to the 17th century developer, speculator, pioneer of fire insurance and general trouble-maker Nicholas Barbon (c1637-1698)...
Getting to grips with new virtual realities, writes Paul Finch. ‘As COVID19 emerged, the line between virtual and reality has blurred. Place-making and public space have become suddenly irrelevant. We can communicate through a wide variety of digital technologies, work out in our home by following YouTube tutorials. You can now do the things you used to do in person by using the internet, with more and more people accessing the information cloud. Growth now is not focused on the urban, but on information flows. Will this result in new spaces being introduce in urban settings and in buildings? What would this look like?’ This challenging question was submitted during a WAF webinar earlier this month, and in truth would make for a stand-alone discussion (which may yet happen)...
COVID-19 has changed what is required from our public spaces, writes Richard Hyams. Bustling city centres, narrow streets and packed public transport hubs need to be reconsidered in the age of social distancing. These measures will likely be lifted, yet the pandemic will continue to influence the design of our public realm for years to come...
Towards the end of last year I was invited to talk about World Architecture Festival to the Cape Institute of Architects in South Africa, writes Jeremy Melvin. The invitation led me to reflect on what WAF is, from its origins to what it could be. I have lived with WAF for well over a decade, for at least a year before we launched the first festival in 2008 in the wake of the Lehman Brothers’ collapse. It could and should mean many things to many different people, but from my position as curator one particular strand stands out: that is how it promotes a particular approach to assessing and promoting architecture...
In these strange times, the importance of history becomes even more apparent, writes Paul Finch. The way we are recording the events surrounding Covid-19, the Black Lives Matter protests, and the UK negotiations with the EU about future trade relations are a reminder of how historical records inform our views of the past – and the more varied and considered they are, the more chance there is of us understanding what happened once the metaphorical dust has settled...
I composed this piece on the eve of the re-opening of Jallianwala Bagh Memorial Park, pride of the city of Amritsar, writes Paul Hyett. It had not been closed to prevent public gatherings or demonstrations, but use of it was suspended during the restoration of the memorial that bears its name, that process delayed by the impact of Covid-19...
Our age demands that anyone we commemorate should be, if not exactly Christ-like, at least on a spiritual level with Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela, writes Jeremy Melvin. The Casa Malaparte and its eponymous owner and co-designer, the colourful avant-garde writer Curzio Malaparte, therefore present a nice little conundrum...
Density is good, sprawl is bad; high-rise is virtuous, low-rise is old-fashioned. We are now having to rethink all this in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, writes Paul Finch. It turns out that in respect of pandemics and enforced isolation and/or social distancing, density is not a great idea. Those fortunate people who live in a spacious house with a garden are at a huge advantage, particularly if they have children, compared with those restricted to a small apartment without a garden, or even a balcony...
Few architects have wrestled longer and harder with the problems of South Africa, and the potential architecture has to address them, than Jo Noero, writes Jeremy Melvin. Many of the challenges stem from Apartheid, itself an example of the mid 20th century modernist obsession with zoning as a basis for planning, though that country took it to an extreme rarely seen elsewhere...
Of those who have died during the current crisis, the most personal for me was Bill Menking, co-founder of the Architect’s Newspaper in the US, writes Paul Finch. Bill actually died of a long-term illness rather than the virus, but currently, deaths seem somehow to merge...
Here, in an increasingly beleaguered Britain, many analogies have been drawn between Covid-19 and World War II, writes Paul Hyett. Those analogies include: the biggest threat to our freedom since the last war; the virus as a hidden, ruthless and cruel enemy random in its attacks; a threat to our economy, manufacturing output, distribution and way of life; and a destructive external force making life a misery...
Anyone with little more than a cursory knowledge of British history might think that the British state is defined and shaped by ancient traditions, writes Jeremy Melvin. Our monarchy, its Church, its parliament and its legal and educational systems all seem to have origins in the mists of time. The truth is more prosaic...
WAF is teaming up with our friends at PechaKucha to launch a competition, ‘Isolation Transformed’, thinking about the post-Covid world, writes Jeremy Melvin. The ideas competition seeks to unleash the creative potential of the architectural, design and city-making communities to consider how our environments might help to address the effects of pandemics. We are looking in particular for creative thinking that stems from the condition we find ourselves in which might not have emerged in more normal circumstances. In other words, we are looking to learn and find real benefit for architecture from the measures deemed necessary to defeat the pestilence...
Michael Sorkin, whose premature death has robbed New York and architecture generally of a distinctive and important voice, had a wonderful way with words, writes Paul Finch. Many younger architects may know of Sorkin and his practice Terreform as a result of pioneering design work in respect of city planning and environmental strategies. The huge (decade-long) research effort which culminated in a two-volume study into how New York City could feed itself was prescient. Typically, when I asked him how soon all this could happen, he replied: ‘I don’t think anyone is going to give up on strip sirloin any time soon’...READ MORE
It is an extraordinary coincidence that two of the past buildings of my old practice Paul Hyett Architects – both of which featured as building studies in the Architects’ Journal – should have been indirectly connected to the tragic events surrounding the Grenfell Tower fire, which made headlines around the world in 2017, writes Paul Hyett. One was the Fire Research Testing Station, completed in 1995, was constructed for the UK Building Research Establishment at Garston, north of London...READ MORE
In response to the current pandemic, architects are now using their skills to do what they can to help resolve it, writes Laura Iloniemi. Carlo Ratti, for example, has published his intensive care units for coronavirus treatment. Some may see this as an opportunistic way to capitalise on the media’s hunger for COVID-19 related stories, yet it is only natural for architects to expend their creative energies in trying to make sense of a crisis that has wide societal implications...READ MORE
I like books about architecture, writes Jeremy Melvin. From a young age I poured over FRS Yorke’s The Modern House (and learnt to read plans and calibrate them with photographs as a result). In my teens my father gave me Alastair Service’s The Architects of London and Peter Davey’s Arts and Crafts Architecture, and a few years later, Pierre de la Ruffinière du Prey’s study of Soane’s early career. All remain treasured possessions; Service, in particular, shows distinct signs of frequent reading...READ MORE
Need some inspiration for your WAF entries? Brought to you by the official WAF podcast sponsor FSC, we have all the 2018 and 2019 winning project presentations for you to listen to including the World Building of the Year plus a whole catalogue of keynote seminars from industry leading experts. You can also watch the winning presentations, talks and highlights from previous festivals in our exclusive WAF videos...LISTEN NOW
Exquisite Corpse is a Surrealist game that named itself, writes Neil Spiller; it involves sides of folded paper, on which several people contribute a phrase or drawing, none of the participants having any idea of the nature of the preceding contribution or contributions...READ MORE
Degrees of Truth, an exhibition by artists Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell (Langlands & Bell) at the Soane Museum – is a delight, writes Jeremy Melvin. Langlands & Bell have been judges for the Architecture Drawing Prize in conjunction with, MAKE, WAF and the Soane, through its previous head of exhibitions Owen Hopkins. The Soane has hosted an annual exhibition of the prize since it was inaugurated in 2018...READ MORE
The debate over gender and ethnic representation in respect of architectural awards and prizes is understandable, but is far from being a simple matter, writes Paul Finch. That is because there are many people who do not believe that awards should be made on merit, but because they send the right ‘message’, that message being what the proponents say it should be...READ MORE
Before trying to understand St Ives’ extraordinary part in British and international art over the last century, let’s start by thinking of it as a fairly typical pre-modern English town, writes Jeremy Melvin. Its urban structure has a logic – if not clarity – derived from adapting topography as a basis for its streets and building plots, with due emphasis on commerce and religion. Its main geographical feature is the sea which seems to surround it on all sides, and from it low-rise hills. So it has a variety of beaches which makes it an attractive seaside resort for swimming, sand lounging, surfing or boating. Nor is it lacking in prominent sites for chapels and look-out posts. The sea also gave the town its original raison d’etre – fishing, and later, like many other Cornish and West Country ports, for piracy, smuggling and colonial adventurism...READ MORE
As a child I had a wonderful model service station, writes Paul Hyett. Its hardboard base supported a white building with a flat roof behind parapets, a ramp provided access to roof parking for my toy cars and a huge window revealed a spacious car showroom. Little did I know that this architecture, so modern in style, would represent just the briefest of moments in the evolution of the local filling station which is today making its latest transition, albeit to an earlier format, an example of which I found late one wet November evening just north of Cork...READ MORE
Hosted by Sustainability Editor for the Architects' Journal, Hattie Hartman, don't miss this deep dive into the issues surrounding the use of timber in construction and the importance of timber certification with Jeremy Harrison, Forest Stewardship Council, Misak Terzibasiyan, UAArchitects and Giacomo Garziano, GGLoop Amsterdam...LISTEN NOW
Working from home? Did you know we have a whole catalogue of content for you to listen to, brought to you by the official WAF podcast sponsor FSC, from the 2019 winning project presentations including the World Building of the Year to keynote seminars from industry leading experts. PLUS you can also watch the winning presentations, talks and highlights from previous festivals in our exclusive WAF videos...LISTEN NOW
Design Computation was initiated in 2015 as a free and independent platform for all knowledge related to computational design, creative cognition and digital fabrication, writes Abel Maciel. As part of this process, we have created a computational design wiki with the aim of organising and semantically cross-linking content related to the many kinds of design computation and adjacent technologies, including design theory, data science, artificial intelligence, simulation and computer supported collaboration...READ MORE
Open Buildings first made an impact at WAF when Marc Koehler Architects entered their Superlofts project in the Amsterdam docklands in 2016, writes Jeremy Melvin. It won the Director’s Special Award, a rarely given prize which marks a particularly impressive entry which falls just short of the Building of the Year...READ MORE
The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak reminds us that the world continues, metaphorically, to shrink, writes Paul Hyett. An epidemic that might have taken decades to spread around the globe mere centuries ago now takes only hours as unwitting travelers act as host and courier alike...READ MORE
Not Vital – a Swiss name pronounced more like No Veetaal than following English sound patterns – is one of those artists who wrestles with architectural concepts in a way which throws light on them, without ever producing a work of architecture, at least in the sense that would have been recognized by the old style Architectural Review, writes Jeremy Melvin. And it is at least arguable that it is all the more insightful, and enjoyable, for that. His ongoing exhibition Scarch (a neologistic amalgam of sculpture and architecture) in the seductive setting of Hauser & Wirth’s Somerset outpost makes a fine introduction to his work (until May 4)...READ MORE
Installation view 'Not Vital. SCARCH' Hauser & Wirth Somerset 2020
Photo: Ken Adlard
Courtesy of the artist and Hauser &Wirth © Not Vital
The Festival’s second outing in Amsterdam was as stimulating as it was enjoyable, writes Paul Finch. Choosing a retrofit project as the overall building winner at this year’s World Architecture Festival was a symbolic moment, since it was not only the first winner of its type, but it also represented much of the environmental design content of this year’s conference programme...READ MORE
The keynotes at WAF 2019 each took a particular look at the theme of flow, though they tended to relate to flows of and between space and time, writes Jeremy Melvin. Marc Koehler’s opening night keynote on the concept of the Open Building – a tour de force especially as he had compered a whole day’s programme on the same subject on the Festival Hall Stage - told a story of how human life can flow through and reshape a building with several iterations over the course of its life...READ MORE
We introduced the WAFX manifesto two years ago to mark the tenth festival, and to provide a platform to discuss some of the critical social issues to whose solutions architecture can contribute. As in the past two years each of the ten category winners (for which all the future project entries are considered), were invited to make a short presentation focusing on how their project addresses the theme of the category it won. The second stream to the WAF Manifesto is to make research grants for projects which specifically advance some aspect of each of the category themes. This year, for the second time we asked the winner of the water research grant, Maria Kuzma of Recycle Build Brazil to present her proposal, which was chosen from the responses to our open call for proposals...READ MORE
After reviewing some of the most shocking pieces of curatorial imbecility over the last few months, it is a delight to turn to some highly intelligent examples of the interaction between architecture and curation. First was Grimshaw’s Arter Foundation in Istanbul, which I believe is one of the most imagination instances of architecture being used to present art, where the inherent qualities of architecture of light, space, form and route offer numerous and varied ways for curators to make exhibitions. Next up in this happy sequence is the second Orleans Biennale, entitled ‘Years of Solitude’ on until Jan 19...READ MORE
Time to get a grip on political reality, writes Paul Finch. I have always been suspicious about ‘surveys’ claiming that architects think this or that. The surveys are often in fact questionnaires, so the people who fill in answers are, by definition, self-selecting. As professional survey folk will tell you, the results are scarcely worth the paper, or on-line response mechanism, they are written on, since they can only be representative of those who chose to take part in the exercise. Similarly, the near-hysterical reaction on the part of a small handful of architects in the hours following last week’s election result cannot be regarded as the considered view of the profession at large -- but the inevitable headlines suggested otherwise...READ MORE
In Turkey, says Meli Fereli, the urbane and elegant director of the Arter Art foundation, people tend to suppress their inner creativity – which is precisely what the foundation he heads is trying to unlock. ‘We want to hook them early and encourage them to develop an interest in art’...READ MORE
When the Louvre decided to move its main storage facility from Paris, because of fears of catastrophic flooding, there was really only one location that made sense, writes Paul Finch. If you visit the recently completed Louvre Conservation Centre in Liévin, which will be possibly via organized tours, you are certain also to be visiting the Musée du Louvre-Lens, a few minutes away. The latter, designed by SANAA with Adrien Gardère, opened in 2012; it immediately became apparent that it would make more sense to continue a programme of decentralisation than trying to retain the collections in Greater Paris...READ MORE
Beyond Bauhaus - Modernism In Britain 1933 to 1966
First Floor Gallery, RIBA, 66 Portland Place, London W1B 1AD
Until 1 February 2020
One of the first questions that springs to mind on visiting any exhibition is ‘what is its point?’, writes Jeremy Melvin.
Is it showing new or unknown work? Is it presenting familiar work in the light of new scholarship? Or is it a way of aggrandizing the exhibitors or curators, using what may be scarce resource?
Stirling Prize-winners are always the occasion for disagreement, writes Paul Finch ‘The architects of the building that has made the greatest contribution to the evolution of architecture in the past year’ are supposed to win the Stirling Prize. It is a big claim, especially since only buildings in the UK – designed by RIBA members – are eligible. Moreover, the awarding of the prize is often complicated by individuals on the Stirling jury (institute presidents included) who think they should be sending a ‘message’...READ MORE
Twenty-two years ago, Tadao Ando was in London to receive the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture. We met an hour before he was due to give his acceptance speech so I could interview him for the Independent newspaper. Mrs Ando, his translator, was held up on the way to the Royal Institute of British Architects. Neither of us speaking the other’s language, I was wondering what best I should do when, reaching inside my jacket for a pen, I dropped my wallet on the table and a photograph I carried of William, my curly-haired mongrel, landed between Ando and me...READ MORE
Off for a stroll in Sherwood Forest during a weekend trip to Nottingham, it struck me just how well Robyn Hood’s mission fitted with the ambitions of the UK Welfare State which sponsored so much of the significant architecture of the post-World War II era. In the early 13th century, the legendary character symbolized a free spirit to oppressed common people, fighting against tyranny, righting wrongs, and setting up his own system of justice by ‘robbing the rich to pay the poor’...READ MORE
I moved to Los Angeles in the early 1990s, a fascinating time. It was a moment of transition between yesterday’s and tomorrow’s LA; the tail end of four decades of Reyner Banham’s LA of Four Ecologies, involving near-total car dependency, sprawling and zoned development, and a lifestyle centered on private, personal space, much of it very affordable. This was a time when architects, many attracted by LA’s theory-free variant on postmodernism by the then-subversives -- Frank Gehry, Thom Mayne, Eric Owen Moss, etc. -- were able to test formal ideas on affordable single-family homes or small commercial or art spaces, out of sight of the critical glare found in global cities...READ MORE
A sultry early evening during the high southern Spanish summer. Valencia’s Parque Central, the first 11.5 ha phase of a 23ha park on former railway tracks which took a convoluted route into the city’s main station. It is warm, slightly sweaty and with that close, mildly soporific effect that warm, humid weather contributes more to than anything other than the largest amounts of lunchtime wine. But the park, and the activities of its occupants, speak of pleasure and delight, and moreover pleasure and delight that could mitigate the effects of the atmospheric conditions...READ MORE
This month's reviews cover:
The Theatre of Work
Courtyard Living: Contemporary House of the Asia-Pacific
Millennials in Architecture: Generations, disruption and the legacy of a profession
If the Swiss Alps take us a little closer to heaven, it is probably not because of the native music, writes Jeremy Melvin. Yodelling, the soundtrack to the Sound of Music, the moan of the alpenhorn and the constant clamour of cowbells may evoke happy memories of strenuous climbs, delicious cheese or the discovery of some rare mountain flower, but they are not likely to induce transcendental experience. Richard Strauss tried to change that with his Alpine Symphony, but by his own admission a ‘first-rate second-class’ composer, the attempt to depict a day in the mountains falls slightly short...READ MORE
Projects for contemporary housing
Maxxi Museo nazionale delle arti de XXI secolo
Via Guido Reni, Rome Until 22 March 2020
When Zaha Hadid’s Maxxi Gallery in Rome opened in 2010 it caused quite a stir. It was in the vanguard of a growing wave of projects which challenged the white box minimalist tyranny that dominated art gallery design, and it received many plaudits, including WAF’s very own World Building of the Year
King’s Cross is an ambitious private development of showy new offices, shops and restaurants in central London. It occupies much the same area as 70 football pitches. In terms of planning, design and atmosphere it owes more to provincial English cities like Manchester than it does to London, or London, that is, pre-2000. In a bread-and-circuses manner, King’s Cross appears to be popular with a new generation of citizen-consumers. It is, however, decidedly unpopular with anyone who takes seriously the premonitions of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. The development is bugged with facial recognition cameras keeping a forensic eye on the identities and movements of those using this patch of privatised city....READ MORE
Le Mans, the first stopover on a tour of some 12 European countries during a welcome summer break, well illustrates just how dominant a single – or repeating – event can contribute to our perception of a city. Venue for the 24-hour motor race that has run from 1923, the city is associated with heroic struggles of Bentleys against Alfa Romeos, Ferraris and Audis against Jaguars and Aston Martins and, latterly, the dominant Porsches against the refreshed Bentleys and newly arrived Toyotas...READ MORE
This month's reviews cover:
Climax City: Masterplanning and the Complexity of Urban Growth
Dream City: Creation, Destruction and Reinvention in Downtown Detroit
Model City Pyongyang
The Short Story of Architecture: A pocket guide to key styles, buildings, elements and materials
The silly season is in full flow, writes Paul Finch The surreal political scene in the UK has been the context for a series of controversial/farcical events in the world of architecture. The first was the re-appointment of Professor Sir Roger Scruton, conservative philosopher, as a co-chair of the clumsily named Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission (let’s call it BeauCo). Only three months earlier he had been sacked for politically incorrect statements he had made in an interview with the left-wing New Statesman magazine. After a social media storm, he was summarily dismissed, without the benefit of an interview with the politician who sacked him, the Secretary of State for housing and local government, James Brokenshire...READ MORE
A soccer stadium for LA Los Angeles is a region that’s going through immense change, so much so that at an awards ceremony this week a new soccer stadium won the top design prize. Yes, you read that correctly, soccer. The Banc of California Stadium, designed by the design firm Gensler, opened last year near downtown Los Angeles, and its instant popularity attested to the impact of several decades of immigration -- from Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe -- that has transformed LA from a baseball and (American) football loving city to one that embraces the global, beautiful game...READ MORE
‘This is a movement about movement’, says Kim Nielsen, founding partner of Danish architects 3xNielsen, referring to the International Olympic Committee headquarters his firm has designed. Murmurs of assent emanate from colleagues and IOC staff who hear it. Olympic House, the IOC headquarters, has continuous, sinuous facade. The building’s serpentine façade is a series of similar modules, each angled to appear slightly different to, though in logical sequence with. its neighbours...READ MORE
Daylight in buildings can have a greater effect on our health and well-being than many of us might think. In society today, though, we don’t get enough of it. Green Solution House, a hotel and conference centre in Denmark, demonstrates that through leveraging daylight in building design, it’s well within our ability to create sustainable spaces that are both good for occupants and the environment...READ MORE
The official opening of Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium in April this year was a symbolic moment, not just for the football club, but for the area as a whole. This was the biggest achievement in the area since it was devastated by riots in 2011 – riots which spread to other cities across the country – but which had a profound psychological effect on a once-proud north London community, now down on its luck...READ MORE
We were pleased when the London First organisation used the atrium space in our office to hold one of their recent evening events. You know the format: a welcome glass of wine and some networking; 45 minutes of formal discussion around a ‘hot’ topic followed by Q+A; and then a chance for those with a late pass to chat some more and finish off the canopés...READ MORE
In fits and starts on recent train journeys, I have been reading The Rings of Saturn by W G Sebald. Ostensibly a record of a walk the celebrated German writer and Anglophile made along the coast and waterways of East Anglia, the book is far more than a travelogue. So I was fascinated to read Sebald on the nitty-gritty of Lowestoft, a town I had an appointment to visit this month...READ MORE
This month's reviews cover:
Modernity and Durability - Perspectives for the Culture of Design
Building on Tradition: The new architectural language of Qatar
On this year of celebrations for the Bauhaus centenary, Weimar has stolen a march on the other two hosts of that legendary institution, Dessau and Berlin. Earlier this year it inaugurated the Bauhaus Museum Weimar, designed by Heike Hanada, who won a competition in 2012, as part of a programme which places the Bauhaus’ emergence in the context of time and place. Appropriately so: this small central German city is where it all kicked off in 1919. The new museum, an apparently blank, cuboid concrete box set on the edge of the city centre and an urban park, contains some complex spaces, fabulous objects, and fascinating narrative displays. At night its striated walls streak with light, hinting at the fireworks within, but also marking its presence in the city....READ MORE
Changes in technology have manifested themselves in many different ways during the last thirty years- often disruptively for the architectural profession. How we procure, fund, make and design buildings has morphed in technologies wake, practices have had to continuously redefine their structures and their skillsets, but these changes are nothing compared to what is to come. Architecture doesn’t stop with buildings and cities, it encompasses, landscapes, virtual environments and spacecraft, all have complex virtual and actual components. Materials are changing also, the pre-eminence of dry hard materials is being challenged by soft and wet materiality. Top down’ construction methods are being questioned by emergent ‘bottom-up’ paradigms...READ MORE
“Karlskirche is a celebration of the effervescent spirituality of the high baroque”, writes a one-star Trip Advisor reviewer from Australia of the famous Viennese church, “and it has been turned into a cheap money-making circus.” Working my way past a cacophony of shouty men in cheap red tunics selling tickets for Vivaldi concerts, I step inside Karlskirche, pay €8 at a crude Po-Mo booth and enter the nave. I take one hard look at a pair of enormous reflective Christmas balls dangling from the dome and at a makeshift lift-shaft ferrying a flashlight of boisterous tourists up to the church’s cupola, and walk back out. ...READ MORE
During the 19th century Britain taught the world how to produce, in the 20th America taught the world how to consume. In the 21st century, it surely falls to China to teach our world how to sustain. In saying this, I recognize that with a population of 1.4 billion, China only represents some 18 per cent of the world’s population. Its proportion of the world’s population is also diminishing: it is anticipated that by 2050 its population (despite relaxation of the ‘one child’ policy) will only grow by 25 million, whereas India’s is expected to grow by 400 million...READ MORE
‘What is going on?’ is the sympathetic question we are asked by visiting architects, baffled by the ongoing farce we know as Brexit. The short answer is that few understand exactly what is happening, and those that do are in no position to predict the final outcome. All is uncertainty. Under the circumstances, things could be much worse. We have record UK employment levels, and the predicted exodus of EU citizens from our shores has yet to happen. Inflation shows little sign of unbalancing the economy and architects are not sitting about with begging bowls...READ MORE
For the last 30 years classic LA modernist houses by the likes of Richard Neutra, Rudolf Schindler, Pierre Koenig, John Lautner and others have been bought, lovingly restored and have soared in value. But one of the most iconic of LA’s early twentieth century homes has not gotten this treatment: the Lovell Health House. It was built at the edge of Griffith Park in the still wild hills of Los Feliz in 1929, and designed by Austrian immigrant architect Richard Neutra for a physician and naturopath named Dr. Philip Lovell...READ MORE
This month's reviews cover:
The New Arab Urban: Gulf cities of wealth, ambition and distress
Design Champion: The Twentieth Century Royal Fine Art Commission 1924-1999
Aesthetics Equals Politics: New discourses across art, architecture and philosophy
ALA Architect’s Helsinki library is a true civic landmark, writes Paul Finch. The Oodi Library in Helsinki is not in fact Finland’s central library, but the latest public face of a national library network which is part and parcel of that country’s history and cultural tradition. As a recent article in the Architectural Review (December 2018) noted, the transition from an oral to a literary culture only occurred in the 19th century, explaining the enthusiasm for the written word which then informed Finnish independence in 1917....READ MORE
It has always been possible to have a good time in Helsinki, despite decades of Russian domination, the harsh climate, and the grim granite-faced buildings with their strange figures from Nordic mythology painfully carved into their stone portals. For these reasons many of the city’s most exciting experiences were concealed under snow or needed determination to enter. From its opening last year, Amos Rex Art Museum, though, represents an important stage in a decades-long process which is turning the Finnish capital into one of the most appealing and engaging cities in the world...READ MORE
This is the first in a regular series of WAFN columns by former RIBA President Paul Hyett, a Principal in HKS Architects. ‘We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us’. What a call to arms by Winston Churchill: design really does matter. It should, as Lord Palumbo said, ‘lift the spirit’ of all who use, or simply pass by, your buildings....READ MORE
Foster + Partners has reworked and extended Florida’s Norton Museum of Art to create a building worthy of the mother of the arts, writes Paul Finch. Photography by Nigel Young. If architecture is the mother of the arts, does that mean architecture itself is an art? And if it aspires to be so, is it restricted to what Adolf Loos described as the only architectural types capable of being art: the monument and the tomb?....READ MORE
Columnist Jonathan Glancey considers the virtues of uncomfortable architecture. April showers are commonplace in England. This spring, a shower fell inside the House of Commons, with MPs having to abandon an arcane debate on tax policy. ‘I hope I can complete my speech before rain stops play’, said Justin Madders, Member of Parliament for Ellesmere Port, a famously wet corner of England. ‘I think there is probably some kind of symbol, about how many people view how broken parliament is, going on here...READ MORE
The conference theme for WAF 2019 is ‘Flow’. Here, architect and academic Abel Maciel discusses the implications for Blockchain on the built environment To fully grasp the potential impact of Blockchain on the built environment, it is worth taking a holistic view of Industry 4.0. Previous industrial revolutions were erratically distributed across the world, with change often taking significant time before affecting communities generally...READ MORE
Lake Victoria is the world’s most densely populated rural area, yet poor road and rail infrastructure mean that life-saving medicine and cargo often can’t reach those who need them most. A drone network could transform mobility in the region; could a drone-port, as an entirely new civic space, open up economic opportunities for the region?...READ MORE
This month's short reviews cover:
New Chinese Architecture
Evolution. The work of Grimshaw Architects: Volume 4, 2000 -2010
New Chinese Architecture
Gordon Matta-Clark: Physical Poetics
Tower Bridge. History, Engineering, Design
The Buildings of England: Hertfordshire