Posts tagged with "London":

Placeholder Alt Text

A new gallery dedicated to craft opens in West London

When a fire rages through a forest, it carves the opportunity for a fresh start. There was no fire at the Sarah Myerscough Gallery, but the inaugural exhibition, Scorched, signals a new life for the former Boathouse in Barnes, West London. The exhibition showcases an array of artists, designers, and makers who all work with wood—in this case, scorched wood. The exhibition was originally commissioned by the London Craft Week 2019 for the Fitzrovia Chapel (Central London) but has now moved to the Western banks of the River Thames, where gallerist Sarah Myerscough’s new permanent space can be found. “We want to show people the relevance of contemporary, craft, art, and design in the UK,” Myerscough told AN. “Putting on curated shows like this, it’s quite fitting to bring [Scorched] here to show how it's possible to curate something which allows us to look at individual artists, their unique skills, their innovative approaches, processes involved in making like lathe work, carving and CNC cutting. Designers David Gates and Helen Carnac have produced the most architectural piece, of which there are 17. Using elm, ash, quilted maple, cedar wood from Lebanon, and vitreous enamel on mild steel, the Gates and Carnac have created a cabinet that riffs on the industrial landscapes they draw inspiration from; particularly the former, now-derelict Tate & Lyle factory in East London’s docks. Rust has been used to form decorative patterns while the structural elements, the joints and drawer mechanism, of the cabinet are celebrated and made very apparent. If Lebbeus Woods were to design a cabinet, this is what it would look like. With a background in fine art, Myerscough founded her own gallery in 1998, setting up shop in Mayfair on London’s West End. “All the rents went astronomical,” she explained. “We had to decide to do exhibitions of fares. We chose fares so we could go out and reach our audience.” Then came the opportunity to do both, in Barnes. Supported by the landlord, Myerscough has renovated a former boathouse. Timber beams have been exposed, wood flooring has been put in, and the brick walls were painted white. On the Friday before the gallery opened on June 10, the smell of fresh paint still lingered in the air. “When we first got it, it was like a 1960s office space,” said Myerscough. “It's changed completely.” Where the opening for boats to come and go once was, is now a window which looks out onto the street. Today it advertises the contents of the gallery, offering a view into the relatively small, linear space. “We wanted to bring back its character and the original state of the place. Everything you are shown is full of character, narrative.” Despite being outside of Central London, Myerscough isn’t worried about a drop in visitor numbers. “It's probably more modest in the West End, but I don’t think that really matters, it's more what you do in the space,” she said. “I think we were slightly shackled by place. People say, 'Oh you're a West End gallery' and you immediately have this kind of profile. I don't think it should be like that; what you do in the space should determine how successful you are as a gallerist.” "In the art world, you need to have a specialization to be noticed. But it won't just be timber on display here. There are so much more exciting things going on — with organic materials, sustainability." Scorched runs through August 18, 2019. Other artists featured include Max Bainbridge, Alison Crowther, Christopher Kurtz, Eleanor Lakelin, Malcolm Martin and Gaynor Dowling, Gareth Neal, Jim Partridge & Liz Walmsley, Benjamin Planitzer, Marc Ricourt, Wycliffe Stutchbury and Nic Webb.
Placeholder Alt Text

Junya Ishigami reveals completed Serpentine Pavilion

Junya Ishigami’s sinuous stone 2019 Serpentine Pavilion is now complete and will open to the public this Friday, June 21, on the grounds of the Serpentine Gallery in east London. Ishigami worked closely with AECOM to design a lightweight, open-ended structure that floats a canopy of slate tiles above an occupiable void. Ishigami, the fourth Japanese architect to be tapped for a Serpentine commission since 2000, has designed a structure meant to evoke the feeling of wandering into a cave or forest as an extension of the natural landscape that complements the traditional architecture of the Serpentine Galleries. Sixty-seven tons of slate were used to create a swooping shingle roof that references a traditional building material found worldwide as well as natural rock formations. The triangular pavilion curves downwards at the corners and visitors can enter through the uplifted middle sections, imbuing the roof with a “billowing” motion. Inside, a forest of white columns has been randomly distributed and once open, the pavilion will be filled with simple tables and chairs designed by Ishigami. This year’s Serpentine Pavilion will be open to the public from June 21 through October 6 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The Serpentine Gallery will be staging its usual site-specific movie screenings, dances, written work, art, and dance as part of its Summer at the Serpentine series. Of course, if you’ve been following the news, this year’s pavilion hasn’t been without its share of drama. The discovery that Ishigami + Associates was requiring its interns to work 13-hour days, six a week for free (on top of having to supply their own equipment) set off a fervor online, and the Serpentine Gallery ordered the studio to pay anyone who was working on the pavilion. The controversy doesn’t end there. Just this morning, the head of the Serpentine Galleries, Yana Peel, resigned, one week after the Guardian revealed that Peel co-owns the Israeli tech firm NSO Group, which licenses out spyware used to crack down on protestors and dissidents around the world. The Serpentine Galleries released the following statement this morning, lauding Peel’s tenure: “Yana leaves the Serpentine Galleries deeply grounded in its mission to provide both established and emerging artists with a dynamic platform to showcase their work, and well-positioned to thrive. While we have every confidence in the Serpentine’s ability to continue to serve artists, visitors, and supporters in the future, she will be sorely missed. The arts sector will be poorer without her immeasurable contributions to our cultural lives.”
Placeholder Alt Text

Chess set pays tribute to brutalist London

Board games like chess and Monopoly have some of the most creative game piece design on the market—but rather than another punny Monopoly for millennials, Skyline Chess, a London-based design brand founded by architects Chris Prosser and Ian Flood, creates bespoke chess sets with pieces inspired by iconic architecture around the world. Their latest edition? Brutalist London. The hand-cast resin set has a line up of built concrete celebrities, from the Barbican’s Cromwell Tower reigning as king to the stepped terracing of the Alexandra Road Estate forming a formidable wall of pawns. The board itself follows the concrete aesthetic, drawing inspiration from the fenestration of both Centre Point and One Kemble Street, designed by George Marsh. But this set is made for much more than casual gameplay—the set celebrates the extraordinarily rich, and controversial, tradition of brutalism in the city. Such late-20th-century architecture is threatened all over the world. Many of the great '60s concrete buildings in London have been deemed varying degrees of “ugly” in public polls, and some have been destroyed by the wrecking ball. Owen Luder has had three of his major works demolished in the 21st century already, notably the Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth in 2004. But he is far from alone. Even the iconic buildings of London’s Southbank Centre have faced threats—the Hayward Gallery faced demolition before a multi-million-pound renovation was approved.   While the icons represented by the London Brutalist Skyline Chess set are constantly critiqued—and often rightfully so—they occupy a significant place in architecture history that is worth remembering. The sculptural forms of these brutalist buildings become approachable at a miniaturized scale. Seeing the entire form shiny from above, rather than looming at street level on a gray London day, makes them accessible pieces of art. Maybe this set is a case for saving brutalist London and keeping the next cheque-mated car park from the wrecking ball.
Placeholder Alt Text

Throwback: Bob Hoskins talks about urban planning in London's South Bank

The actor Bob Hoskins was the star of the 1980 film, The Long Good Friday, a London gangster movie that reflected on major anxieties, opportunities, and economic changes taking place in the U.K. In 1982 Hoskins led Barry Norman and the BBC on a riverside walk along the South Bank, and while pointing to new concrete office blocks he calls “Mars Bars” he confronts change in the guise of urban development along the Thames. The coming redevelopment Hoskins claims (and was he ever right) will make the 1960s “redevelopment epidemic look like a rash.” Next to a Coin Street vacant lot, once the site of row houses, but torn down for the 1951 Festival of Britain, he points to another Mars Bar. You see that (the BBC overlays outlines the proposed structures) is what happens if you “don’t consult with local people.” In 1970 “a big property group said they would build flats, shops, and a hotel if they could build a great tower for their staff. Once they got that tower the company brass pushed off down to Surrey and their building was sold off and the new owners are new doing up a bit to let and now they say they are moving out of the tower as well.” Now thanks to these planning decisions what we have is an area that “looks and feels completely dead.” Hoskins was not just a great actor but with deep understanding of culture implicitly understood bottom-up planning. We need planners with his insight and passion.
Placeholder Alt Text

David Adjaye and Ron Arad revise design for the UK Holocaust Memorial

David Adjaye and Ron Arad’s design for the UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre planned for London looks distinctly more understated in the most recent set of renderings released by the duo. Crafted in collaboration with landscape architecture firm Gustafson Porter + Bowman, the updated version of the memorial project was created in response to concerns from neighbors and the local Westminster City Council. Planned for a site next to the Houses of Parliament in Victoria Tower Gardens, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the project has been highly contentious. For years, Britain’s government has been seeking a way to honor Holocaust survivors and the lives lost under Nazi persecution, but a cross-party group of Jewish leadership, as well as local residents, have been against the memorial, saying it would present an inaccurate attitude of national guilt. Still, in 2016 the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation launched an international design competition, which attracted high-profile firms and artists like Zaha Hadid Architects, Anish Kapoor, MASS Design Group, Studio Libeskind, and Allied Works. Though the jury unanimously selected Adjaye and Arad’s proposal in October 2017, the winning design was criticized from the start by the public, and even UNESCO, for its size and location. Concerns were raised over the Foundation’s plans to put the Learning Centre underground, which would disrupt the site during construction, and people feared the memorial wouldn’t be built in dialogue with the existing monuments on site or with the nearby Imperial War Museum, which has planned its own Holocaust tribute. Adjaye and Arad’s revised design features a new, single-story entrance pavilion that’s lighter, more transparent, and more in sync with the existing landscape, according to Adjaye Associates and the planning application submitted to the city this January. Its roofline has been changed to allow for better views across the entire site, which was a major change to appease critics who argued the memorial blocked sights towards Parliament. The bronze fins that signal the memorial’s presence, arguably the most striking part of the exterior design, have been subdued and pulled away from the old plane trees that surround the structure. Visitors will still be able to walk through the rows of fins and into the subterranean Learning Centre below. Overall, Adjaye and Arad’s new plan for the memorial, which is now under a public commentary period, is better integrated into the landscape of Victoria Gardens and doesn’t pose as serious a threat to the surrounding historic views or the existing native plantings. Walking from the Houses of Parliament, the grass sweeps in an upward motion towards the memorial, becoming a part of its roof. From the other side, the stark fins still seem to stand out, but maybe in the summers, when the site’s flora is in full bloom, the structure will surprise visitors who stumble upon it amongst the luscious greenery. 
Placeholder Alt Text

Leo Villareal and Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands architects to illuminate the Thames

Londoners will see the Thames in a whole new light beginning this summer. In a collaboration between British architecture firm Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands (LDS) and U.S. artist Leo Villareal, up to 15 London bridges—including UNESCO World Heritage sites—will be outfitted with an array of new lighting for at least the next decade. The project, called Illuminated River, will highlight the bridges' unique sculptural and environmental qualities, breathe new life into urban spaces, and connect communities all along the waterway. This summer, Illuminated River will begin with four bridges—Southwark, Cannon Street, London and Millennium bridges—getting lit up. The massive installation will continue to be built over the next few years, with a further section to be completed in 2020, and an aimed completion date of 2022. The collaboration between artist and architect was natural, said LDS’s Alex Lifschutz in a statement. “Architects collaborate with many different species of being. Indeed, architects are many species of being,” he said. Villareal, who has previously illuminated bridges like San Francisco’s Bay Bridge, felt similarly. “We rely on each other’s views to achieve this great ambition," Villareal said. "The collaboration is so far a success because it is based on trust and the respect of one another’s expertise and unique vision.” The architects and artist worked together to use the latest in LED technology, along with custom software, to outfit the bridges to produce an effect that is, according to Villarreal, “gently kinetic.” While, Lifschutz pointed out, there's been a “huge revolution” in LED technology—in terms of efficiency, scalability, cost, color, control, and other attributes—in the wrong hands LED fittings are “a very potent destructive mechanism.” Lifschutz explained: “LED fittings are maybe five times more efficient than standard fittings. People have thought, ‘Well, that's fantastic. We'll save a lot of energy and the world will be all the better for it. And climate change will be that much further away.’ The unintended consequence of this high efficiency is that people use more of them. And the world has become brighter and jazzier as a result, which is a great shame." LDS and Villareal's answer is to use light “very judicially.” The architects and artist did a huge number of studies using the latest laser techniques. While the top surfaces of bridges are “straightforward,” the undersides—with all their supports and trusses—are “incredibly interesting and abstract,” said Lifschutz. “Each bridge has its own character,” he said. "It's like having 15 children—not that I do—but each one has a different character and each one deserve a different way of talking about it, of dealing with it.” They considered how to light the bridge as both a piece of art and architecture, working where the two intersected to manage the relationship between structure, form, and function in order find the best places to provide light and fix fittings, all while not affecting the structure, especially on the “very precious bridges.” “Both [Villareal and I] have a technical background in the color of light, the spread of light, the way in which light falls on surfaces, and the kinds of fittings or kinds of technical fittings that are available to make the magic happen,” explained Lifschutz. “And light is very magical, obviously.” Additionally, the river is not only a site of architectural life and preservation, but also of ecological vibrancy and conservation. The team had to do a number of ecological studies, some reportedly more thorough and substantive than those that had been done before, and research the effect of light on the creatures living in the Thames. “If you have a line of light that lies across the water, fish generally don't like to cross that,” explained Lifschutz. “It may affect spawning patterns in the shoreline and so on.” In their research, they discovered much of the existing lighting on London’s bridges was already detrimental to wildlife. “[The lighting] is spraying light everywhere; it’s the wrong color.” Many naturally uncommon colors and color temperatures—many of which are currently in use before the team’s intervention—negatively affect the wildlife swimming below. The competition to develop the river project was supported by the office of Mayor Sadiq Khan, received over 105 entries, and was done in collaboration with over 100 local organizations on and around the river. It required numerous approvals to work with listed structures. The local groups have "mostly been hugely enthusiastic,” reported Lifschutz. And it is apt that the project is titled Illuminated River—working at a scale Lifschutz calls “epic,” there will be integration across all 15 bridges to create a cohesive, unified effect and artwork “painting with light,” as Villareal put it, across the whole of London’s main waterway. “We hope Illuminated River will open up the riverside public realm spaces for people to linger, appreciate the enhanced architecture of the bridges, cultivate new opportunities, and encourage tourists to come to London and enjoy nightlife activities,” said Villareal. “It will celebrate the unique character and the amazing landmarks of the city through art.”
Placeholder Alt Text

The U.K.'s largest concert venue will feature 360-degree sound, and everything else

The Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) has revealed renderings and details of its Populous-designed MSG Sphere London, a massive, well, sphere set to sprout up in London. Similar to the forthcoming MSG sphere planned for Las Vegas, the London Sphere, if approved, would be covered in high-tech LED screens both inside and out, so that the event inside can be seen up to 500 feet away. The developer has selected a 4.7-acre site in Stratford, east London, according to The Guardian, close to the site of the 2012 Olympics Park. The 300-foot-tall, 400-foot-wide dome will hold around 17,500 seated guests and 21,500 seated and standing visitors, which would make it, if built as planned, the largest concert space in the entire United Kingdom. Inside, stadium seating will face a central stage, and a massive LED screen will clad the Sphere’s interior to augment the performance. Other than concerts, MSG has suggested that the venue might be used to host everything from award shows to esport competitions—all events that would benefit from an arena-spanning digital backdrop. The Sphere will also hold retail, a café, a 450-person restaurant and club, and a 1,500-person-capacity black box-type venue for local and emerging artists to perform in. Plans for the MSG Sphere London were submitted to the City of London on March 26, though London Mayor Sadiq Khan had already voiced his approval for the project when it was first revealed last February. If the scheme is approved, construction would take three years, and MSG expects that the entertainment dome could be completed by 2022. However, Khan's approval doesn't mean the project will face smooth sailing, as local residents have argued that up to 1,400 new housing units could be built on the site instead. Across the pond, construction on the Las Vegas Sphere is well underway, and the venue is expected to open in 2021. The 18,000-seat arena will feature high-tech perks such as speedy internet at every seat, and “planar audio waves”—concentrated, targeted sound—bounced directly to each guest courtesy the German company Holoplot.
Placeholder Alt Text

Foster + Partners' skyline-busting London Tulip is on the path to approval

London’s 1,000-foot-tall Tulip tower looks like it might have an easier time receiving approval than first thought. Plans for the Foster + Partners–designed observation tower will go before London’s Planning and Transportation Committee on April 2, but before that, planning officials have released a 152-page document expressing their support for approving the project. The tower was controversial from the beginning. The Tulip would loom over the neighboring Gherkin in Central London, both developed by Jacob J. Safra, and its distinct “concrete-stem-and-glass-bulb” design drew ridicule online. The tower’s siting would also, according to a report released by the Greater London Authority (GLA) in January, impede views of the historic Tower of London. Questions over whether the building would contain an area open and free to the public, as required by the London Plan, were also raised. The GLA’s report came on the heels of concerns submitted to the City of London shortly after the tower’s reveal, wherein the London City Airport questioned whether the rotating, Ferris wheel-esque pods on the tower’s exterior would interfere with their radar systems. The report released today acknowledged these issues, but on the whole, recommended the planning and transportation committee approve the scheme. “Virtually no major development proposal is in complete compliance with all policies,” the report reads, according to BD Online, “and in arriving at a decision it is necessary to assess all the policies and proposals in the plan and to come to a view as to whether in the light of the whole plan the proposal does or does not accord with it.” Additionally, planning officials praised the design, stating that it was “highly unusual and unique within the UK context” and had “the potential to become an architectural icon for the City, London, and the U.K.” However, that doesn’t ensure that the scheme will sail through to approval, as a number of preservation groups, London mayor Sadiq Khan, and the Tulip’s prospective neighbors have spoken out against the plan. Additionally, the city’s built environment team, which is responsible for overseeing London’s public spaces, has expressed doubt that the street-level entrance would be able to handle the tens of thousands of expected annual visitors. Twelve stories of restaurants, observation decks, educational spaces, and rides would greet guests in the Tulip’s glass “bulb.” AN will follow up on this story following the committee’s vote on April 2.
Placeholder Alt Text

Bureau de Change unveils five-story building with undulating brick facade

London’s Fitzrovia neighborhood is a bit of an architectural collage. There are 18th- and 19th-century brick homes interspersed with 20th-century concrete housing blocks and, at its far east end, John Nash’s All Souls Church. The London firm Bureau de Change was asked to create a building sandwiched between two of the many simple brick buildings in the area, and as much as the firm hoped to respect this context and legacy, the designers wanted to disrupt it too. Their “Interlock” building, a five-story residential building with a street-level cafe and a gallery below, features an undulating facade of cool gray-blue bricks that enliven the building's elongated form. “We were interested in taking these very traditional proportions and in some way subverting it,” explained co-founder and director Katerina Dionysopoulou, “like a puzzle box that seems familiar and reveals a hidden complexity that increases the more you interact with it.” Considering how a brick facade could respond to openings and fenestration, rather than just frame them, Bureau de Change designed ripples that seems to grow out of and shrink into the windows and doors. The firm modeled 14 brick types and worked closely throughout the research and development process with brickmakers to iterate forms that would fit together, successfully fire in the kiln, and remain strong when arranged. Once the final forms were decided, handmade metal molds were made and bricks—5,000 of them—were cast. In addition to the 14 “parent” brick morphologies, 30 related “offspring” bricks were derived during the modeling and testing process, for a total of 44 different brick types. “We were walking the line of what would be technically possible, but through this process, found a point that was both buildable and produced the richness and movement we were trying to achieve,” said co-founder and director of Bureau de Change Billy Mavropoulos, on striking a balance throughout conception, design, and construction. The intensive modeling process allowed the designers to control the placement of each individual brick, and installers were given 3D files so they could align each of the rows correctly, which, due to the unusual nature of the structure, required millimeter-level accuracy and specific adaptations for each region of the facade. Between the windows, steel trays were necessary to support the bricks, but installers had to expertly align them so that the frames’ edges would be hidden. Similarly, the layout had to be crafted in such a way that holes within the bricks that help with their load-bearing ability were hidden despite the many odd angles they were placed at. The bricks were made of Staffordshire Blue Clay and were fired in oxidation to create the matte finish. Building the 5,000-brick “landscape” took three months. “The fabrication team used 1:1 printed templates that set out the number, typology, and location of each brick,” explained the firm, going on to say that the 188 templates acted as a sort of “construction manuscript.” The process was defined by collaboration between Bureau de Change, the brick manufacturers Forterra, and the construction team, and, as comes with working iteratively on untested ideas, it took a great deal of trial and error.
Placeholder Alt Text

Public Practice helps architects and planners in the U.K. engage the public

“Attention: The fire alarm system is about to be tested. You do not have to leave the building. When all testing is complete, you will hear a further message.” In the local council buildings in Greater London, the fire alarms are tested every Friday at 3 p.m. The seventeen associates of the independent nonprofit Public Practice have learned this by now, a few months into the nonprofit’s associates program. The participants are selected and placed at public planning offices in the region and meet up every two weeks, one hosting the rest of the group on a rotating schedule. These Fridays mean mutual exchange—of everything from recent research to the nuances of office culture. This morning they arrived at a mildly postmodern conference room at Epping Forest District Council for tea and instant coffee. Semi-rural Epping sits at the northeastern end of London’s longest tube line, six public transit zones and a brisk walk from central London. Ione Braddick, a young architect who was selected as an associate in the first Public Practice cohort a few months ago, has taken that route here every morning since. “Much of the work comes down to persuading people that a local council thinking about design is even a good thing,” she told AN. This is also the main argument behind Public Practice. It works as a broker between organizations and people. On one end are local councils, planning authorities, transportation agencies, regional actors, and publicly owned development companies, and on the other are a new generation of designers looking to work in public planning. The first cohort of seventeen associates was picked and placed in new, strategic roles in April 2018. After a year, the hope is that they have gathered unique experiences, and also have built collective knowledge and networks between planning institutions. When Public Practice was founded around a year ago by Pooja Agrawal and Finn Williams, it was on a basis of a series of clear observations: Four decades ago, 49 percent of all architects in the U.K. worked in the public sector. Today, only 0.7 percent do. Since the financial crash in 2008, local budgets for planning and development have dwindled. Planning authorities are struggling to stay relevant counterparts to strictly commercial interests. Nearly half of them have no in-house design capacity at all. Epping Forest was one such authority, until Braddick was placed here as a pioneer for the yearlong program. Some of Braddick’s new Epping workmates have joined in around the table. Veneered walls and a lavender carpet frame the conference room window, which overlooks the far end of High Street, with a Tesco Superstore, a gas station, an Indian restaurant squeezed between coffee franchises, and a gothic revival church farther down. One block away, terraced-houses line private cul-de-sacs and at the horizon sit a dozen golf courses and a royal forest. Much of what is happening here since Braddick arrived is happening for the first time. “You realize one of the things we architects are worst at is explaining why design is important,” she said. Braddick used to work at a small architecture firm and enjoyed it. She led housing schemes from sketch to the construction site, instructed on the placement of bricks and the depth of mortar joints. But she found herself thinking: “Of all the things in architecture, buildings were maybe the one I was least interested in.” She was more drawn to the ways people use the city and its structures. At her new workplace in Epping Forest’s public sector, she leads the council’s new “Implementation Team,” negotiating and reviewing larger projects, which in Epping’s case means 50 units or more. Plans for the expansion of Harlow and Gilston Garden Town are now on her table. “It’s like jumping into an entirely new career. Not only, as with any new job, trying to learn to use the printers and who everyone is and what everyone’s name is. You’re also trying to learn about whole democratic processes, decision-making and get a strategic understanding of an area that you, quite often, don’t know very well.” Public Practice’s cofounders Agrawal and Williams, who share a background at reputable architecture schools and award-winning offices, themselves left the private sector to work for local authorities a few years ago. They would like to see more architects follow suit. And, more importantly, they have noticed that the British public sector struggles to attract—and maintain—the competence and knowledge that urban planning requires. They thought they would have to work very hard to get local councils on board, but they have already received more inquiries than they can handle from all over the country. To the planning and development industry, Public Practice offers a resource pool that the field could not otherwise reach and at a lower cost than the go-to temporary consultants. For the associates, the program offers a prestigious and hands-on role with a huge potential impact alongside a tight-knit community of like-minded colleagues. The Public Practice cohort meets regularly and spends a tenth of their time on common research and development. The project is supported financially by regional and national actors, private as well as public. That the associates are placed in a wide spectrum of contexts, from Epping to the City of London and everything in between, is part of the idea. It is also a precondition for the exchange that everyone can visit each other without spending half a day traveling. Public Practice is looking to branch off to other regions with enough critical mass but, for the first cohort, London’s outer ring road is more or less the limit. For Ei-Lyn Chia, another associate in the cohort, the London metropolitan region is also as far as her design work stretches. She used to do strategic planning with a private firm working on schemes which, she points out, ended up on a shelf. “I wanted to get things done. That’s why I applied here,” she said. She is now getting used to the view from City Hall’s glass cocoon by the Thames. Her morning commute goes to Greater London Authority (GLA), run by Mayor Sadiq Khan. Braddick jokingly describes where Chia works as “the brain of London.” Chia agrees that the job deals with the city on a macro scale, but added: “Local councils are the real experts, who really understand local conditions. But ideas have to be carried through policy level and political decisions and Braddick fills in, urging for design skills to be present at every stage of planning, also, when projects are proposed, procured, reviewed, executed. That is not the case today.” Along with two other Public Practice associates, Chia spends her research days exploring how industrial intensification can coexist with things like offices and housing. “Since the topics you work within the public sector are so multifaceted, it allows you to reach out to people in different disciplines, without it being weird,” she said, adding, “We’re allowing conversations to happen between people who wouldn’t otherwise have spoken to each other.” That also applies to dialogues within, and between, the public sector’s different actors. One of the advantages of Public Practice, they have realized, is that seventeen people from different authorities regularly get together in the same room. It is a rare thing. Most of the roles in which the associates have been placed are also positioned in between two different departments of an organization—which is intentional, said Chia. “With one foot in each door, that person, in effect, allows teams to transfer information in new ways. Most of the associates have an architecture background and are at the start of their careers, with a stray example of one with 25 years of experience in local planning. Some have expertise in strategic planning, others in digital infrastructure or placemaking and public relations. What they all have in common is that they were drawn to the Public Practice model and, in tough competition with ten times as many applicants, have been placed where they can contribute the most during a year. In a similar way, the organizations they now work for also applied to be part of the network. It is not a matter of just filling vacancies. Epping Forest and the GLA both had to present a case for a new role that they saw a strategic need for and were willing to offer resources for. On an intense day last spring, two hundred applicant architects and almost forty aspiring partner organizations gathered for workshops, talks, and interviews. According to Agrawal and Williams, it is this rigorous selection and matching process that is the key to the initiative actually working. Almost all 32 London municipalities say they need more urban design and planning expertise on the payroll, but have difficulties recruiting them. That is the gap that Public Practice is aiming to address. And what they are looking for in the applications, apart from talent and training, is humility, and the capacity to listen and to learn. “Attention: All testing and engineering work on the fire alarm system is now complete. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.” “I’m hoping to stay,” Braddick said, knowing what she would like to get out of her one-year placement. To see what she can contribute takes more than twelve months. And she hopes Epping Forest District Council sees the value in making a role like hers permanent. People around her are already talking about how things are designed, not just about parking quotas, profitability, and unit ratios. “‘Does it have a sense of place?’ people would ask, out of habit,” she said. “Well yeah, somewhere really shit can have a sense of place—but we want it to be a good place, don’t we?” Already trying to define what “good” is, is a successful start, she argues, and worth the effort. Two weeks later, someone else will have the group visiting them at their workplace. The participants say it is thanks to the Friday meet-ups with their Public Practice colleagues that they had a smooth transition to a new working environment. When they see each other, they exchange new knowledge and concrete tips, but also share their experiences open heartedly. “Sometimes it’s all about leaning against someone and going, ‘Ah, what a week…I need a drink!’” Braddick and Chia said, “and the next time, it’s, ‘Something happened—it’s amazing!’” A new cohort of Public Practice Associates will be starting placements in April 2019 in London, the South East, and the East of England. In the near future, the model is set to be expanded to other UK regions—perhaps also abroad. This is a translation of an article previously published in Arkitekten, the news magazine of Architects Sweden.
Placeholder Alt Text

Andrés Jaque, David Adjaye, and others paint a bleak vision of tomorrow in London

Alison and Peter Smithson, James Stirling, Eduardo Paolozzi, and then some: The Whitechapel Gallery's This is Tomorrow show had an all-star cast when it was unveiled in 1956, not that the audience was necessarily acquainted with these fresh-faced artists and architects (yet). Bold, radical, and surefooted—as the name suggested—This is Tomorrow turned heads as visitors flocked to the then-genuinely edgy East End of London to see the show that was welcoming a new artistic movement, Pop Art, to Britain. Is This Tomorrow? a show now at the same Whitechapel Gallery in the same, now banker-friendly part of London, recalls the exhibition of 63 years ago. Instead of being laced with new ideas fuelled by the optimism of a country finally free from food rationing, Is This Tomorrow? takes a more pessimistic view of what the future may be. Ten teams, of mostly architects and artists, have been assembled by curator Lydia Yee. From the start, audiences are confronted by metal sheep pens courtesy of British studio 6a and Argentinian artist Amalia Pica. This is clearly farm equipment and having to move through the narrow contraption in single file as a human is hardly fun, but dark humor punctuates the work; objects like buoys for seals to play with raise questions about how we treat animals. Maybe too, this is how it feels for some in migrant detention camps. An engaging and provoking start is followed by less moving exhibits on the gallery's ground floor. Adjaye Associates and Canadian artist Kapwani Kiwanga's Sankofa Pavilion is meant to be a place for intimate conversations, but the star-shaped installation, which uses dichroic glass to partially reflect light, is more fun for taking pictures in. Thugz Mansion by London firm APPARATA with Glaswegian artist Hardeep Pandha also falls short. The premise of addressing "what happens to architecture when political systems collapse or become outmoded?" sounds deliciously anarchic but the reality is is that Thugz Mansion lacks any real potency. The final installation on the large, open ground floor is a welcome return to the dismal yet engaging promise of 6a and Pica's work. Spirits Roaming the Earth from architect Andrés Jaque and artist Jacolby Satterwhite, both based New York, posits "highendcracy," while bringing up air-rights dilemmas, designer babies, pollution, fracking, gay porn, queer space, and the placement of 432 Park Avenue renderings in Russian luxury hotels. It's rich in content and remarkably coherent, even with so much packed in. If you can't sit through the eight video episodes which explain how the world is fucked by the aforementioned subject matters, a leafy pulsating tower that rises above fumes and a jungle featuring rooms hosting sex parties and topped by two men kissing distills everything nicely. Above, the second floor is a similarly mixed bag of installations. An interim space glosses over the 1956 exhibition with newsreel footage from the British Pathé archive and an assortment of relevant books. Beyond that, the Mexican match-up of artist Mariana Castillo Deball and Tatiana Bilbao results in what appears to be a melted Mecano set; it's meant to symbolize communal connections and the Mesoamerican calendar. Is This Tomorrow? has been promoted alongside a photo of Bait Ur Rouf Mosque in Bangladesh by Marina Tabassum Architects. The firm, with fellow Bangladeshi, artist Rana Begum, has exhibited Phoenix Will Rise—simply an oculus with a crinkled, colored lining, in an inverted trapezoid structure. A weak reference to what is a wonderful building. Thankfully, two much stronger works follow. Duck down and enter The Salvator Mundi Experience from British duo David Kohn Architects and artist Simon Fujiwara. The work accommodates only one person at a time and offers a 360-degree panorama of 1:24 scale scenes depicting experiences of Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi—the painting that broke records when fetching $450 million in New York two years ago. Kohn and Fujiwara's work investigates the commodification and marketability of art and art experiences, focusing on the public relations campaign from marketing agency Droga5, and depicts an auction room, the Dubai Louvre where da Vinci's piece was set to be exhibited, a creepy "interactive chapel," fake replica artwork donation center, a restoration room, and more. All scenes feature CCTV cameras, but of course, the viewer is the real Big Brother. After these miniature metaphors, Borders/Inclusivity from Iranian-born architect Farshid Moussavi and French artist Zineb Sedira ensnares audiences at human scale (the installation isn't for those with claustrophobia). Borders/Inclusivity is a procession of turnstiles that turn different ways and force visitors to awkwardly negotiate the course. Meanwhile, motion sensors set off sirens and sounds of border patrol over the radio. The installation is simple but fits nicely with 6a and Pica's treatment of humans as animals and it'd be a fitting end to the exhibition. However, Brits Rachel Armstrong and Cécile Evans signal the end of Is This Tomorrow? with a piece that somehow dovetails microbial cells and a fog curtain with a fluttering bird projection, all within 140 square feet—London's smallest living space. And that's it. Maybe the Whitechapel Gallery is showing its age—once young and full of hope, now it's moaning about how bad everything is and how much worse it will get, and not doing it too eloquently either. The original, the emphatic, This Is Tomorrow endures more than half-a-century on; the pessimistic, Is This Tomorrow? might not last so long. Despite offering genuine moments of intrigue and asking tough questions, one leaves wishing it was 1956 again.
Placeholder Alt Text

C.F. Møller's mass-timber vision for Robin Hood Gardens stifled by ban on combustible cladding

C.F. Møller has designed a swath of social housing for an upcoming development called Blackwall Reach atop east London’s famous Robin Hood Gardens, a demolished series of brutalist blocks designed in the 1960s by renowned British architects, Alison and Peter Smithson. Initial plans released in 2017 indicated that the Danish firm would create a 330-unit complex featuring cross-laminated timber (CLT), a resourceful construction method that’s been gaining wide acceptance in the United Kingdom. But a recent government ban on combustible cladding materials has put plans for the engineered product in jeopardy, reported Architects' Journal. The new legislation, which was enacted late last December, was introduced after the Grenfell Tower fire of June 2017 in which one of West London’s tallest residential towers burned down, claiming 72 lives. After a pressure-filled campaign from Grenfell United, a group of survivors and victims’ families, the U.K.’s Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government introduced a new building safety code last summer that would prohibit the use of cladding materials holding a European fire rating of less than A1 or A2. Per the ruling, architects and developers cannot use such products in the external wall construction of schools, high-rise homes, hospitals, and care facilities, reported AJ. The ruling also calls for local municipalities to begin removing unsafe aluminum composite material (ACM) cladding on existing structures taller than 18 meters (about six stories). Though CLT is not an ACM and has been proven to perform well under fire load, it contains wood and is being cited as hazardous to lawmakers. CF Møller’s affordable housing design for Blackwall Reach is phase 3 of a larger, controversial regeneration plan of Robin Hood Gardens, which the London-based practice Metropolitan Workshop is overseeing. Phase 1b and Phase 2 includes the build-out of 268 homes across four buildings designed by Haworth Tompkins and Metropolitan Workshop. These structures, currently under construction, are slated for completion this year and in 2021. Phase 3 construction is expected to start following the move-in of residents to the new buildings. Overall, the 20-acre Blackwall Reach project is set to replace 250 high-rise homes within the area with a total of 1,575 new units. Swan Housing Association, a community development and management organization, is developing the site alongside the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and the Greater London Authority. While this is only one project suffering a design setback thanks to the new ban on combustible cladding materials, it signals what could become a major issue with the use of CLT products on future tall buildings in the U.K. and across Europe. Already a world leader in mass timber manufacturing and construction, it’s unclear how the U.K. will now move forward in creating large-scale projects using the material. The ban has recently received major criticism from industry leaders like the Timber Trade Federation and architects who worry about the environmental cost of restricting timber in large construction. The Royal British Institute of Architects came out in support of the ban in November but recommends it only apply to specific cladding applications.