Posts tagged with "London":

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London’s Gingerbread City goes high-tech for 2018

The sprawling Gingerbread City is back in London for another year, bringing the biggest names in European architecture together for an exercise in edible design. Over 60 studios have contributed gingerbread buildings to the Museum of Architecture’s annual holiday exhibition, bringing an abundance of sugar glass to the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) until January 6, 2019. The 1:100 scale city was again master planned and sponsored by Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design, and like last year’s installation, champions progressive urbanist ideas such as sustainability and accessible mass transit. Rooftop (candy) farming, a stadium, high rises, shorter multifamily housing, a botanical garden, college campus, opera house, and more are all present. Foster + Partners went high-tech for their contribution this year, using a robot arm to construct a serpentine, open-air pavilion reminiscent of BIG’s Unzipped. London-based Apt created the SugarLoop, a walkable green corridor through the city that references the High Line but also includes several literal loop-the-loops. Zaha Hadid Architects stacked sheets of rounded gingerbread to create a ribbed concert hall that wouldn’t look out of place in their real-world portfolio. Hopkins Architects contributed the Bakewell Bridge, which features a variety of different gingerbread people meant to bolster the city’s diversity. The professionally-designed buildings aren’t available to eat, but the Museum of Architecture is offering workshops on 10 different days for families who want to construct their own gingerbread masterpieces. Not in London? New Yorkers can check a more staid, but equally impressive, scale recreation of NYC’s landmarks rendered in cookies at the Columbus Circle Williams Sonoma.
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UK implements a flammable cladding ban, but hits timber too

After a fire ravaged the Grenfell tower block in Western London last June, killing 72 and leaving hundreds homeless, an in-depth investigation was launched into the cause of the fire and why it spread so rapidly. After fire specialists BRE Global pointed the finger at the combustible cladding used in the tower’s most recent renovation, England acted to implement a ban on combustible cladding in new structures—a ban that includes timber. The original Clifford Wearden and Associates–designed tower was built in 1974 with passive fire prevention in mind. However, a 2016 renovation (reportedly to beautify the housing block to improve the views from the wealthier neighborhoods to the south and east) clad the concrete building in combustible polyethylene-cored aluminum panels. Alleged incompetence on the part of the contractors also created a “chimney effect” wherein flames were able to travel upwards through the gap between the structure and flammable panels. These revelations led the UK’s Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to declare a ban on combustible external cladding for new buildings over 59 feet tall and those that contain housing. Hospitals, dorms, schools, and residential towers would all be affected. The ban goes into effect on December 21, a full 17 months after the fire. The ban, which would also affect retrofits, effectively limits the materials that can be used as exterior cladding to steel, stone, glass, and others with a European fire rating of Class A1 or A2. After the final terms of the ban were revealed, the Architects’ Journal reported that London’s Waugh Thistleton Architects, of cross-laminated timber (CLT) proponents, spoke out against the restriction of timber in high rises. Other than slowing the research and development of engineered timber, the ban would disallow the use of a low-carbon cladding alternative. On the other hand, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), has seemingly embraced the ban. Adrian Dobson, RIBA director of professional services, released the following statement shortly after the ban was first announced: “It is good news that the Government has acted on the RIBA’s recommendations to ban combustible cladding on high-rise residential buildings over 18m. The ban needs to be accompanied by clear guidance and effective enforcement to promote fire safety and leave no room for cutting corners. “However, toxic smoke inhalation from the burning cladding very likely contributed to the disproportionately high loss of life at the Grenfell Tower disaster. Permitting all products classified as A2 does not place any limits on toxic smoke production and flaming particles/droplets. In our view, this is not an adequate response to the tragic loss of life and might still put the public and the Fire and Rescue authorities at unnecessary risk.”
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Foster + Partners’ tower-topping Tulip may be delayed over aviation concerns

The internet was aflame last week after Foster + Partners and the development company J. Safra Group revealed plans for the tallest building in Central London, a skyline-busting observation tower with a suggestive shape that would overshadow the Gherkin. Although planning documents for the Tulip have already been submitted, the London City Airport has requested that construction not move ahead until an assessment of the tower’s impact on the airport’s radar systems was conducted. The 1,000-foot-tall observation tower would resemble a sprouted version of the adjacent Gherkin, with a bulbous glass pod balanced atop a solid concrete core. At 984 feet up, visitors would be able to take in London (and much further beyond) in 360-degree views from a series of internal observation decks, as well as glass gondola pods that would rotate on an exterior track. Those sky-high Ferris wheels are cause for concern, according to the London City Airport (LCY). In a letter submitted to the City of London yesterday, Jack Berends, technical operations coordinator for the airport asked that: “Construction shall not commence until an assessment has been carried out on the impact of this development on the radar coverage.” Skyscrapers can impact radar results, either hiding real objects or creating the impressions of aircraft where there aren’t any. Modern radar systems are generally capable of differentiating buildings from actual moving objects, but the airport fears the moving gondolas will throw off the safeguards such systems have in place. A fly-through of London's Tulip from The Architect's Newspaper on Vimeo. "No part of the proposed development or associated construction activities shall commence until LCY is satisfied that there will be no reduction of the integrity of the current instrument landing system in use at London City Airport," said Berend in the letter. The airport maintained that it would be closely coordinating with the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority to resolve the issue. Construction of the Tulip was expected to begin in 2020, with a 2025 opening date. When reached for comment, a spokesperson for the J. Safra Group told AN that: “As part of the planning process, interested parties have the opportunity to respond to the proposals and raise any questions or seek clarification. We look forward to working collaboratively with London City Airport, and other stakeholders, to work through planning matters during the current consultation period.”
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Foster + Partners reveals The Tulip, a sky-high observation tower in London

The Gherkin may be getting a much taller sibling, as Foster + Partners and billionaire Jacob J. Safra have revealed renderings of a 1,000-foot-tall observation tower for a Gherkin-adjacent site in Central London. If the planning application for “The Tulip” is successful, the rod-shaped building would become the tallest tower on the northern side of the Thames (directly across the Thames, Renzo Piano’s Shard is three feet taller). Tulip is an appropriate name for the project, as the renderings show a glass “bulb” supported by a slender, windowless, high-strength concrete stem. A two-story entrance atrium at the 31,100-square-foot building’s base will feature an occupiable public roof deck and retail to create a street-level presence for the tower. A new pocket park around the entrance that would include two green walls, and 284 bicycle parking spaces are also planned for The Tulip’s ground floor pavilion. At the 984-foot-high observation deck, visitors would be able to take in 360-degree views of London and beyond. The steel-framed observation “bubble” would be fully wrapped in high-efficiency glass, and feature sky bridges, glass slides, a restaurant and bar, and multiple floors worth of programming. The most impressive part is likely to be the gondola system Foster + Partners have envisioned for the bud’s exterior. Guests would be able to ride in glass pods along the tower’s facade on what amount to three sky-high Ferris wheels. Although The Tulip was envisioned as a destination attraction, the J. Safra Group has also included an educational facility. The tower would give free entry to 20,000 London public school students a year and offer classes on London’s history inside of what Safra described as a “state-of-the-art classroom.” A planning application for The Tulip was submitted on November 13, and if everything moves along smoothly, construction is expected to begin in 2020 and wrap up in 2025.
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The Bartlett launches dean search to replace Professor Alan Penn

This past week, University College London’s (UCL) Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment announced its search for a new dean to replace Professor Alan Penn, the current Dean who will resign after two five-year terms in the role. The new dean will head the 13 schools and organizations that compose The Bartlett, one of the most prestigious centers for architecture and urban planning in the world. During his ten-year reign as head of The Bartlett, Penn has contributed to major organizational changes within the program. Under Penn’s lengthy tenure, the maximum allowed by UCL, The Bartlett’s curriculum has doubled in size, from 36 to 77 programs offered to over 3,000 students. To facilitate this rapid development, faculty income and staff numbers have increased five-fold. The physical estate of The Bartlett has expanded as well, developing from 18,000 square feet to nearly 46,000 square feet in only ten years. This includes the renovation of 22 Gordon Street and the unveiling of the Here East facility along London's Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which added valuable housing, teaching, research, and commercial space to The Bartlett community. “Accelerate,” the ground-breaking program designed to increase diversity in the architectural field, was also founded during this time. “I have been lucky to have been dean at a time when the central importance of the built environment to the future of society and the planet has started to be understood,” said Professor Alan Penn in a statement. “UCL has invested heavily and The Bartlett is now a research and educational powerhouse. We attract some of the best staff and students from around the world and working with them is truly inspiring.” The new dean, who will assume the position in September 2019, will have the opportunity to build on the success of Penn and continue to establish The Bartlett as a world leader in architecture and urban planning. Some of the key tasks that will be assigned to the new dean include launching a UCL Energy Impact Accelerator program, expanding opportunities for cross-disciplinary work at business and tech outlet Here East, and engendering diversity, equality, and inclusion among the students and faculty of The Bartlett. Penn will return to The Bartlett after a year’s sabbatical in order to resume his job as Professor in Architectural and Urban Computing in the school’s Space Syntax Laboratory, where he will explore the built environment’s impact on the patterns of socioeconomic behavior of communities and organizations. Details regarding the Dean recruitment process can be found on UCL’s career website.
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Patrik Schumacher sues to become sole executor of Zaha Hadid’s estate

Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) principal Patrik Schumacher issued a claim in London’s High Court earlier today in an attempt to remove the other three executors of Dame Zaha Hadid's will from her $90 million estate. Those executors include Zaha’s niece, Rana Hadid, artist and friend Brian Clarke, and developer and current Pritzker Prize jury chairman Lord Peter Palumbo. The three executors, all trustees of the Zaha Hadid Foundation, immediately released a joint statement slamming Schumacher’s decision. It was stressed that before her death, Hadid chose the three executors to oversee her estate based on the closeness of her relationship to each. A lawyer representing the three issued the following statement:
The attempt to remove these three executors is totally unjustified and misconceived. Unlike Mr Schumacher (who is seeking to gain financially from the estate), the three executors have no personal financial interest. They have at all times acted properly and in good faith with the desire to do their best for the estate given their friendship with Zaha Hadid.
Rana Hadid was more pointed in her rebuttal, adding: “My aunt, Zaha, would have been devastated to learn what Schumacher is doing and we feel obliged to resist his claims in order to defend her great name and legacy.” A spokesperson for Zaha Hadid Architects told the Architect’s Journal that “this is a matter relating solely to the executors of Zaha Hadid’s estate.” This isn’t the first time Schumacher and the executors have butted heads, as the three took the ZHA partner to task after a speech at the World Architecture Forum in Berlin in 2016. In that speech, Schumacher called for the abolition of all social and affordable housing and getting rid of government land use policies. The executors and the rest of ZHA weren’t amused with Schumacher professing his libertarian views on a world stage while representing the firm, and they spoke out afterwards, saying his views were completely at odds with Hadid’s legacy. AN will update this story as more information becomes available.
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Limestone load-bearing exoskeleton spawns outrage in London

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In a time when stone is primarily used in facades as screen walls or purely decorative cladding, London’s 15 Clerkenwell Close by Groupwork + Amin Taha Architects (ATA) brings structure to the fore with a load-bearing masonry exoskeleton. Since construction in November 2017, the mixed-use development, which is the home of Taha and his practice, has proved contentious between critics and local authorities. While the firm was awarded the 2017 RIBA Award, the Islington Council has ordered the architect to demolish the structure for a perceived incongruity with the surrounding historical context—albeit a significant portion of Islington's architectural stock was built in the mid-20th century with half brick facades—a major complaint being the rustic quality of the limestone slabs.
  • Facade Manufacturer & Installer Stonemasonry Company Ltd, Ace Sheet Metal Ltd, Glasstec Ltd
  • Architects Groupwork + Amin Taha Architects
  • Facade Consultants Webb Yates Engineers Ltd
  • Location London, United Kingdom
  • Date of Completion November 2017
  • System Concrete floor slabs fastened to load-bearing masonry with unitized glass-and-wood curtain wall
  • Products Limestone blocks, double glazing bonded through nylon thermal isolators to bronze finished metal curtain wall system
To source the limestone facade, ATA went across the English Channel to a quarry outside of Lyons-la-Forêt in Northern France. According to Project Architect Dominic Kacinskas, "the region is noted for its continued use of strength certificates with a generations-old workforce well trained in extracting stone and splitting it accordingly." In contrast to historic and contemporary stone construction that is polished, chiseled, or hammered into a relatively smooth surface, the project’s columns and lintels are left in their semi-unfinished state. Striped indentations formed from the splitting process and fossilized remains track across the facade along with the smooth faces of bedding planes. Columns and lintels, all roughly measuring 10 feet by 1.5 feet by 1.5 feet, are stacked atop each other in a six-story square grid. Each block is bonded to the next with just under an inch of mortar and gravitational force. In total, the limestone exoskeleton weighs just under 250 tons. The reinforced concrete floor slabs, measuring nearly eight inches thick, are embedded with a series of steel plate casts that are bolted to external metal bosses through thermal isolator nylon plates. The metal bosses are in turn grouted into a system of galvanized steel I-beams placed at the meeting point of horizontal and vertical stone elements. Groupwork + Amin Taha Architects were able to execute a continuous bespoke curtain wall inches behind the load-bearing masonry effectively disengaged from the structure through the use of pinpointed metal fastenings. Window openings, composed of double-glazed units with metal brass finished frames, follow the equal subdivision of the exterior's stone structural grid. The design team placed solid oak timber panels where outward views are not permitted by the columns, which are grafted atop a solid oak sub-frame. Along the side elevations of 15 Clerkenwell Close, the design team elected to keep intact the original red brick party walls abutting adjacent structures. This decision is most apparent on the northwest elevation where a new grid of limestone, and infill grey brick, is cut into the party wall to support the insertion of new floor and roof slabs. Why the controversy? The Islington Council contends that Groupwork + Amin Taha Architects did not accurately display the finish of each stone component of the facade. According to the firm, the rough finish of the limestone, formed by millions of years of fossilized marine organisms, quartz pockets, and other sedimentary products, "is only discoverable weeks before installation on site as the stonemasons sub-divide the extracted stone into sizes set by the structural engineer." An appeal against the motion of demolition will occur in April 2019.
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London exhibition explores the impact of design on public health

An ambitious exhibition at London's Wellcome Collection highlights the long and complex relationship between design and public health. Titled Living with Buildings, the show explores more than 150 years of thinking about how the built environment impacts social well-being. Ranging across eras and topics from Garden City idealism and 1930s modernist hospitals and health centers to 1960s high-rise housing projects, this beautiful and thought-provoking exhibition reveals how design in the built environment has the potential to be a powerful agent of change, both of healing and of harm. The broad overview is illustrated by a wealth of period artifacts, artworks, and historical documents, beginning with Charles Booth's powerful cartographic depictions of London's Victorian-era slums, which first identified the connections between poverty, illness, and poor-quality housing. Other highlights include original architectural drawings by Erno Goldfinger, Berthold Lubetkin, Le Corbusier, and Alvar Aalto, all of whom designed pioneering public housing and health centers during the 1930s. Architectural sketches, renderings, and pieces of custom-designed furniture are displayed alongside photographs and video essays by artists including Rachel Whiteread, Andreas Gursky, and Martha Rosler that document the challenges of preserving and maintaining egalitarian social services in the face of declining public and governmental support. A last section of Living With Buildings is dedicated to high-profile, health-conscious contemporary architecture, showcasing the healing environments of Maggie's Centres cancer support charity, and a portable hospital intended for use in disaster relief situations, designed and engineered by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and Buro Happold. The free Living with Buildings exhibition will be up until March 3, 2019, at the Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road in central London. More information is available here.
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Assemble masterfully plays with history in its design for a London gallery

Assemble Studio's most recent project is also its most ambitious to date in terms of size and permanence. The group has turned a former public bathhouse in New Cross, a south-east neighborhood of London, into an arts center for Goldsmiths, University of London. The Victorian brick and cast iron Laurie Grove Baths are now recast as the Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art for a new kind of creative immersion. When Assemble was awarded Britain’s most prestigious visual arts prize, the Turner, in 2015 it was a moment of celebration for the architecture scene, but also of confusion. Were the architects artists now, and their architecture, in effect, art? Or the other way around? Some saw it as a promotion of architectural work to the realm of fine art, other a demotion. Perhaps it was neither, and what it meant remains unsettled. At the time, the architecture collective had already won the competition to design a new Centre for Contemporary Art at Goldsmiths’ campus as a wild card entry. An art-architecture commission for the artist-architects. Assemble was commissioned for the project following an open architecture competition in 2014, and it has been realized with Paloma Strelitz and Adam Willis acting as lead architects, in collaboration with Alan Baxter Associates and Max Fordham Engineers. The 10,700 square foot building accommodates an event space and cafe alongside seven galleries that opened this fall. In a sense, the building’s purpose further complicates things, and points toward the conventions we still lean toward in defining the roles of artists, architects, cultural institutions, and academia. A group of architects, attributed as great artists by the art world, commissioned to make architecture for art’s sake with affluent alumni artists as patrons. And at that, the building is on the front yard of one of today's international strongholds in the realm of history and theory of art. Assemble has previously made a name for itself in producing design projects where a hands-on approach to design and a close relationship with the local community and the prospective users lays the groundwork. In this case, that end-user community is the art theorists next door. It is the London art world. It is the curators and the museum directors and the interns. It is the gallery-circuit weekend visitors; it is fellow architects; it is the Assemble fan base. It is us. That could be cause for concern, but it could also be a moment for introspection. On the gallery's second day open, a handful of visitors strolled around, peeking up and down through openings in the three-story atrium that has been carved into the building’s heart. Spiraling around it is an array of galleries, transitional spaces, nooks, and crannies that present a buffet of architectural flavors. It is a ruin and a temple, a cave and theater stage, a maze and a manor. It is a murky basement and an airy loft. It is a piece of industrial infrastructure and a quirky contemporary playhouse. The baths have been respectfully added to and carefully taken care of. What once was a public building for the most private of uses, where grimy boilers and shiny tiles worked to unite water and naked skin, has now been brought to a new public for a new solitary-slash-social event: our encounter with art. Some things have been scrubbed away, other kinds of dirt preserved and exposed. It is generous, gentle, masterfully executed. Assemble’s CCA building is a well composed collage. And somehow it is also a monolith. It might sound confusing. It is not. It makes perfect sense, because something about it is eerie. The building is kind of good, extraordinary but also kind of ordinary. And it remains etched in your memory like a familiar face that you can not quite place. In one of the second-floor galleries, we find ourselves standing were only water once stood, inside a black iron box that used to be a cistern. A cut-away to one side now lets daylight in. For the opening exhibition, a work by Mika Rottenberg is on display. On the floor, a half-dozen frying pans are placed on electric stoves. Drops of water slowly rain from the ceiling, evaporating into a thin mist as they hit the hot pans. It is beautiful. Maybe this is what architecture for architects is, today. The “now”. The nuanced material presence of local history, the palette of delicate metalwork dipped in graceful pastels, the robust but cute bespoke detailing. What if it is calculated to fit its purpose. What if this is what it is like to have someone design for your own community. Maybe this is what we have been craving. A machine attuned to serving us this relationship with art.
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Heatherwick Studio raises the roof on a historic industrial rail yard

A 100,000-square-foot shopping center in London's Kings Cross set within a Victorian-era coal yard officially opened to the public last weekend. Designed by Heatherwick Studio, Coal Drops Yard completely transforms the former industrial site into the city’s latest shopping district, dropping dramatic, contemporary architecture within the historic brick buildings. Built in the 1850s, the railway tracks were once used to sort and unload millions of tons of coal as they arrived by train. As urban coal consumption declined, the huge cast-iron and brick structures were left neglected. The district’s cobblestone courtyards, ornate ironwork, and rugged brick viaducts survived despite the lack of use, and were revitalized over a two-year period of construction to link a new network of over 50 stores, restaurants, and cafes. Once considered the underbelly of King’s Cross, the formerly depressed area was long-known for its derelict warehouses, eerie remoteness, and later, for its mob of rowdy night-clubbers. Heatherwick Studio's restoration revived the area's distinctive character, turning it into one of Central London’s busiest and trendiest boroughs. Coal Drops Yard is centered around two cast-iron and brick structures that define the space, both fluid and highly technical. They include dramatic curvilinear roofs that rise upward and stretch out toward each other, creating a large covered outdoor space and a hub for the entire shopping district. Within the historic coal drops where incoming trains once unloaded their cargo, the individual retail and food spaces are built out to uniquely take advantage of the site's low-rise structures, Victorian arches, canal-side views, and gritty charm. Heatherwick Studio has already made a substantial impact on both Central London and Manhattan. Their upcoming projects include a 16-story landmark sculpture in Chelsea’s Hudson Yards, and an innovative park and performance space, Pier 55, along the Hudson River.
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Spatial Affairs Bureau runs wild over disciplinary boundaries

Spatial Affairs Bureau can get a lot done. Started in 2010, the multifaceted landscape, architecture, and design practice led by Peter Culley boasts a wide array of diverse and engaging projects in the United States and England, with offices in London, Los Angeles, and Richmond, Virginia. With a background in landscape-focused cultural projects—Culley earned his stripes at London-based landscape architecture practice Gustafson Porter + Bowman in the late 1990s—Spatial Affairs pursues an intellectually nimble practice by pushing project constraints toward broad ends that encompass everything from “interior landscapes” to urban-scaled configurations. As the number of commissions in hand has multiplied over the years, the practice has become well-versed in combining the advice of expert consultants with its own penchant for programmatic and spatial innovation. It does so in an effort to create layered material and historic conditions that always push back toward the landscape in some form or another. The approach has resulted in a string of under-the-radar but dramatically good-looking commissions that aim to create something greater—and more cohesive—than the typical, rigidly defined arenas of normative practice might allow. Aside from the work profiled here, Spatial Affairs Bureau has a number of other significant projects on the way, including several sustainable houses in Los Angeles, a master plan and remodel of the headquarters for advertising agency TBWA\Chiat\Day, and a new pedestrian path and bicycle redevelopment scheme for the Richmond, Virginia, waterfront. Birmingham Markets Park As the city of Birmingham, England, looks to capitalize on a historic opportunity to create a new major civic space and park, Spatial Affairs is working to enrich a community-led proposal by laying out new residential, commercial, and public spaces in synergy with greenery and public health goals. To highlight the potential of the site, Spatial Affairs has developed an alternative approach that appropriates the leftover footprint of a redundant public market as the heart of the new parks complex. The project aims not only to meet the city's stated commercial and residential development goals, but also to use urban design in an effort to focus the benefits of rising land values surrounding the site toward community needs. Metropolitan Museum of Art Spatial Affairs Bureau has worked on several projects with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, both as a part of an interdisciplinary team that provided new outdoor seating areas for the museum’s Fifth Avenue location, and for several other projects as an independent contractor, including at the Met Breuer building. As part of its work with the Met, for example, the firm developed a pair of black metal panel–wrapped security buildings to flank the museum. Here, Culley deploys gently tapering forms designed to “respond to the classical architecture and soften the impact of larger elements as they meet the ground.” The approach was mirrored in a series of sleek bronze ticketing kiosks Culley created to help relieve crowding at both museum locations. Crosstown Arts The Contemporary Art Center in Memphis, Tennessee, is an arts and culture complex strategically carved out from within the hulking mass of a landmarked—but currently underutilized—1.5 million-square-foot former Sears warehouse and distribution center. The venue includes galleries, shared art making facilities, offices, artist-in-residence studios, and a bar. These amenities encompass portions of the first two floors of the warehouse, including a 10-story light well located at the center of the complex. With a distinctive, curving red staircase and excavated flared concrete columns populating the main “hypostyle” lobby, the complex represents an attempt to breathe new social life into a long-forgotten relic. Bouverie Mews Culley is also pushing the envelope in terms of housing, especially with the firm’s proposal for a planned 5,400-square-foot arts and residential compound in North London. There, the architect is working on a ground-up duplex anchored by studio space and a sculpture court. The Passive House complex is located atop a former brownfield site and is sandwiched between existing multifamily homes, warehouses, and the Grade II Listed Abney Park Cemetery Wall. Due to the landlocked project site, designs for the complex include multi-tiered gardens, precisely calibrated frameless skylights, and an interior layout that emphasizes borrowed daylight and views between different project areas.
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London dispatch: Bloomberg HQ should not have won this year’s RIBA Stirling Prize

This week, Foster + Partners’ Bloomberg European headquarters in London picked up the 2018 RIBA Stirling Prize, an award ostensibly given to the best building in the U.K., marking the third time Norman Foster's firm has won the award. But was it actually the best piece of architecture on the shortlist of six projects? No. Let me start off by saying that the Bloomberg headquarters is by no means a bad building. The judging panel, chaired by Sir David Adjaye, was right to say the project “pushed the boundaries of research and innovation in architecture." They added in a statement: “Bloomberg has opened up new spaces to sit and breathe in the City,” and went on to laud “the visceral impact of the roof-top view across to St Paul’s from the concourse space,” the office’s helix ramp and its “dynamic new workspaces.” However, all of these listed items of praise are merely examples of pricey green gadgetry and fancy add-ons. While good in their own right, they have not come together well enough to form an exemplary piece of architecture worthy of winning the RIBA Stirling Prize. Inside, amid the myriad of seating, the scheme feels like a glitzy airport at times with stock markets being displayed on screens emulating departure boards. Views out are also hard to come by, besides one panorama of St Paul’s and a vista of the city reserved for Bloomberg's higher-ups as they dine.  The Bloomberg HQ may have also carved a new thoroughfare through this part of London, but it’s hardly space to breathe. The public feels somewhat ushered through the massive slabs of sandstone by undulating bronze fins that dominate the facade, being employed further up to aid air circulation and shun views out in the process. The only spaces where you don’t have to be a paying patron at an establishment to sit are two benches at the site’s southern corner, both of which have seating dividers to prevent rough sleepers. Poor people it seems shouldn’t be allowed to rest when in the presence of a $1.7 billion building. And that’s the project’s biggest issue: money. “Some people say the reason it took almost a decade to build this is because we had a billionaire who wanted to be an architect working with an architect who wanted to be a billionaire,” said former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg at his building’s unveiling. Norman Foster is the U.K.’s wealthiest architect. This year, partners at his firm shared $30.4 million between them, a 43 percent increase on last year despite a downturn in profits and turnover with the company having to lose staff in the process. As critic Oliver Wainwright noted in a tweet, Foster's 'non-resident in the UK for tax purposes' status prevented him from even picking up the award in person. What does all this say about architects and the profession? That to design a good building you must find a client with apparently limitless pockets? That as an architect it is more important to be obscenely wealthy over everything else? Bloomberg’s London HQ is a far cry from last year’s winner, dRMM’s Hastings Pier, which exemplified civic architecture at its best. That delightful scheme made extensive use of timber salvaged from a fire that burned down the previous pier. It was truly a community project. dRMM held close consultations with the public and the charity funding it, and the pier was built for the public of Hastings (and those visiting, of course).   There were far better examples of architecture on this year’s Stirling Prize shortlist too. Take Waugh Thistleton Architects’ Bushey Cemetery for example. Using walls of rammed earth sourced from the site it rests on, the project demonstrates genuine material innovation and manages to convey a sense of weight and be delicate at the same time. Bloomberg, meanwhile, shipped in 600 tons of bronze from Japan and granite from India, and despite the similar earthy tones, feels dauntingly heavy. An example of working wonders when on a budget was also shortlisted: Storey's Field Centre and Eddington Nursery in Cambridge by MUMA. Like Hastings Pier, this was a celebration of civic architecture, with a community center and kindergarten surrounding a landscaped courtyard. “By building at a lower height than approved at planning…Bloomberg shows a high level of generosity towards the City,” the judges commented. In light of this, Jamie Fobert Architects’ Tate St Ives was arguably more adept at concealing space. Buried underground, yet still allowing bucket loads of light in, the museum has somehow doubled in size. It’s a remarkable piece of architectural contortion that keeps locals and the museum happy. Another shortlisted project, Níall McLaughlin Architects’ Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre for the University of Oxford, like the two aforementioned projects, articulated light in spectacular fashion. The project provided a lecture theater, a student learning space, seminar rooms, and a dance studio of immense quality and leads by example the quality of spaces students deserve. London studio Henley Halebrown’s Chadwick Hall student accommodation for the University of Roehampton, the final project on the list, did the same. A win for the project could have sent a message about what the standard of student housing in the U.K. should be. The majority of current student housing stock is dire. With space standards for student housing thrown out of the window due to it being temporary accommodation, the area has become a safe bet for investors looking to cram as many units in for a guaranteed profit. A message, in fact, was sent, coming in explicit form from RIBA President Ben Derbyshire. “This building is a profound expression of confidence in British architecture—and perfectly illustrates why the U.K. is the profession’s global capital,” he said in a statement. “This role and reputation must be maintained, despite the political uncertainty of Brexit.” This, however, feels like a lazy excuse to award a project the Stirling Prize. Defaulting to listing “Brexit” as a reason should not be in the criteria. Neither should sustainability, a high standard of which should be a baseline for all shortlisted projects. Let BREEAM (the U.K. equivalent of LEED) deal with recognizing that. The RIBA Stirling Prize doesn’t have to send any message, though. It just has to recognize the best building, and this it has not done.