Up until the turn of the millennium, Greenwich Peninsula in East London was a noxious swamp long forgotten by the capital. That all changed in 2000, however, with the coming of the Millennium Dome designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership (today Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners). Since then the peninsula has been the go-to place for architectural statement-making. After the Dome opened, the Emirates Air Line cable car from WilkinsonEyre was completed in 2012, while 2017 saw another big name—Santiago Calatrava—touted for bringing a twisting triad of towers there (though plans have since gone back to the drawing board). More recently though, a different approach is being tested; instead of opting for a starchitect to aid the peninsula’s regeneration, eight architects have been chosen to design 16 buildings for a new quarter known as the Greenwich Design District, located just a stone’s throw away from the Dome. The team comprises six London-based studios: 6a Architects; Mole; Architecture 00; HNNA; Adam Khan Architects and David Kohn Architects (DKA), as well as Spanish studios Barozzi Veiga and selgascano. All have been tasked with designing offices and workspaces for those in the fields of design, art, tech, food, fashion, craft and music. But—and here’s the kicker—neither studio was allowed to see what either one was doing and neither knew what the final use of the building was going to be with exception of one building, a food hall. (One architect told me that iPhone images of projects were, however, shared at the pub). “We wanted architects who would look at the project through a very individual lens, even though they would work from the same brief,” said Matt Dearlove, head of design at Knight Dragon, the developer behind the project. “We felt they would bring a great sense of individuality to their buildings.” “The guidance was minimal, but practical,” added Hanna Corlett, the District’s master planner and founding director of HNNA. With the exception of the food hall building, the brief to each architect was the same: Heavy workshops were to be located at the ground floor, with lofty, well-lit studio spaces on the top, and flexible studio spaces between. The responses to this brief have been varied, as one expects the developer, Knight Dragon, hoped would be the case. Each studio, however, applied a similar language to each building. This is most apparent with 6a’s two buildings, essentially twins, which both employ a sloping, diagrid facade inspired by American artist Richard Artschwager’s “precise surfaces and pop geometry.” “If you do two buildings and one is better than the other, shouldn’t you just do the better one twice?” said Tom Emerson, co-founder of 6a. With no immediate context to draw on, David Kohn instead chose the history of European guild districts. Sculptures within niches on the facades of his studio’s two buildings harken back to the guild districts in cities such as Venice and Antwerp where facades would be decorated with symbolic figures related to the organization. Both of DKA’s building facades face the street on the site’s eastern edge, so a communicative facade was in order: “The northern building would be the first thing people would see upon arriving, so the oversized colonnade on the ground floor offers a welcome visitors to the site, and a large illuminated sign on the roof continues this welcome to the wider city,” Kohn told AN. Selgascano, meanwhile, took a different approach, albeit still using its signature translucent building skin. Taking center stage in the site is a food hall, which has been shaped like a caterpillar, using a structural metal frame that facilitates the opening and closing of certain parts of the roof. Another adjacent building will provide workspaces for fast-growing businesses. The Madrid-based firm wasn’t the only one to make use of a translucent façade. Architecture 00 wrapped both of its buildings with a mesh—think the Seattle Public Library, only much smaller. The mesh, in turn, reveals both buildings’ floor plates and stairs and creates a covered sports court at the top of one building. The Design District’s predecessors, the Dome and cable car, have had mixed reviews—and that’s being generous. The Dome almost failed before it started as politicians threatened critics over bad press. Then it opened and things got worse. “You could blow it up,” suggested Boris Johnson, then editor of The Spectator. However, the Dome has since turned its fortunes around and is known today as the O2 Arena, one of the most popular music venues in the world. Such success is unlikely to come to the Design District, but it should be hope to the eight architects that good design on the peninsula does eventually reap its rewards.
Posts tagged with "London":
A pair of Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF)-designed high-rises are set to become two of the tallest all-residential towers in London after receiving a crucial blessing from the Ealing council. This marks a major step forward for a rather contentious project that has residents and officials in Acton, West London, taking opposing sides since it was first announced last year. As Architects’ Journal reported, a relatively new Holiday Inn will be razed to make for the snugly situated twin buildings, one of which will be 45 stories and the other 55 stories, with the tallest topping out at about 705 feet. A sky bridge will connect the towers between their 26th and 34th floors while a podium with a sizable hotel, retail, and some office space will link the residential towers at their respective bases. Composed of nine habitable floors, the sky bridge is decidedly more substantial—more of a bulky suspended housing block wedged into two slender volumes than a proper bridge—than other notable skyscraper-linking appendages found at buildings like SHoP Architects’ American Copper Buildings in Manhattan or César Pelli’s Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. Building Design noted that 36 of the development’s apartments will be located within the sky bridge, and that the sky bridge along with both towers will have rooftop garden terraces. There will be 702 new residential units in total between the towers, which are being developed by Egyptian company Aldau. Currently, the tallest residential towers in London are One Blackfriars (557 feet) and the St George Wharf Tower (594 feet). The Aldau project may ultimately not be the tallest in London, however, when considering that work on another lanky residential tower, Landmark Pinnacle, is underway on the Isle of Dogs. When complete, the 75-floor Landmark Pinnacle will top out at 764 feet, making it the tallest residential building in all of the United Kingdom, a title currently held by a 659-foot tower at the Deansgate Square development in Manchester. In addition to getting an all-important go-ahead from the borough, council planning officers gave the yet-to-be-named development a warm reception, noting in a report that “in its own context, the scheme will act as a catalyst for change in the surrounding area whilst providing an acceptable balance of employment generating uses and animated street frontages, combined with a substantial amount of much-needed housing and including a significant number of affordable homes.” “This brings to life our vision for a mixed-use ‘hub’ with a hotel, flexible workspace, residential use and a public venue at the top of the building,” said John Bushell, design principal with KPF, in a statement. “It will be an active anchor to the emerging area and we are very pleased to see this vision received a resolution to grant.” Other reactions to the highway-flanking, skyline-altering project, located in the Old Oak Common section of Acton on Portal Way, have been less gracious. Per The Guardian, local residents have called KPF’s design “extremely aggressive,” while Nicholas Boys Smith of Create Streets, a London based research institute that champions high-density but low-rise/street-scale residential development, referred to the twin Acton high-rises as “London’s Trump Tower.” “This is solving London’s housing needs with false logic,” Boys Smith explained to The Guardian. “We need housing. This is housing. Therefore we need this. But human beings don’t appreciate being reduced to the scale of ants.” Planners with the office of London Mayor Sadiq Khan are also not entirely keen on the development, noting last year that “the bulk, height and massing of this very tall building raises concern in terms of its impacts on townscape and on the Old Oak & Wormholt conservation area.” Khan, who has the authority to squash Ealing Council’s approval and veto the development, also found that dedicating only 35 percent of the towers’ 702 units to affordable housing to be “not acceptable.”
In new developments that emerged last week in the public inquiry of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, Bruce Sounes, the architect tasked with overseeing the refurbishment of the 24-story West London apartment tower, revealed that he was unaware that the plastic-filled aluminum composite rain screen cladding used in the project was combustible. Furthermore, Sounes said that he had not fully familiarized himself with existing governmental regulations “demanding external walls must adequately resist the spread of fire,” as The Guardian reported. On June 14, 2017, a small fire sparked in a fourth-floor apartment rapidly engulfed the 43-year-old, council-owned housing block in North Kensington as flames climbed upwards along the tower’s recently refurbished exterior. The fire raged for nearly 60 hours, completely gutting the structure while claiming 72 lives total in the process. Dozens of others suffered injuries. Serious concerns about fire safety had been brought to the attention of the building’s operator, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, both prior to and after the refurbishment, which was completed in 2016. Among these issues: The absence of a central fire alarm system, a dearth of emergency lighting, the presence of long-expired fire extinguishers, and the fact that the aging tower had only one central staircase for all 120 units (127 units at the time of the fire). The first phase of an official public inquiry into the tragic fire kicked off in September 2017, and included key evidence from emergency responders, building residents, engineers, and fire safety experts. The second phase of the inquiry commenced in January 2020, with the first section focused on the 2015-2016 refurbishment. In his testimony, Sounes, an associate architect at London firm Studio E Architects, admitted ignorance to issues such as fire spread and the regulatory guidance surrounding building safety features meant to curb the spread of fire in tall structures. Sounes claimed that ensuring the refurbishment—including specific products used in the refurbishment—exceeded fire safety guidelines was not in his professional purview as lead project architect. He told inquiry counsel that “it was the responsibility of the council’s building control department to check on compliance and other expert consultants were expected to advise,” according to the Guardian. “We asked for advice,” the BBC quoted Sounes as telling the inquiry, “but it wasn't for us to... satisfy ourselves because I don't think that was within our ability.” Sounes also confirmed in the inquiry that he had no previous experience working on high-rise projects or with the type of flammable polyethylene composite cladding material used in the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower. “I thought their melting temperature was quite high,” Sounes said of the insulating panels. “I was not aware they were combustible or a risk.” Speaking at the inquiry, Andrzej Kuszell, founding partner of Studio E Architects, said that his firm’s previous lack of experience working with high-rises should not be considered as a factor in the incident. “The issue of whether a project poses new challenges is not, I think—if that is the implication, that somehow we were not capable of doing the project, I think that is false,” Kuszell explained. “Because clearly every project, in your experience, there comes a point when every project is a first, and we had actually been dealing with projects of quite some sophistication and complexity as firsts.” Kuszell went on to apologize for the horrific incident while also blaming lax governmental fire regulations for allowing it to ever happen. “If we had understood that the building regulations were not robust, if we had understood that we can’t trust a certification, if we had understood that advice that was being given from parties who were either specialists or marketing products were that unreliable and misleading—this is so sad to say, but I don’t think this tragedy would have happened,” he said. “I’m really, really sorry for all of you,” he said while addressing the public gallery, which was populated with surviving former residents and family members of those who perished in the fire. “I can only say to you from my heart that we really wanted to do the absolute best project we could.” Declared as structurally sound, Grenfell Tower, site of the deadliest residential fire since World War II, continues to stand, cloaked in ghostly white sheeting. There are plans to demolish it and transform the site into a memorial, although any path forward is at least a couple of years off as the inquiry continues.
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is staging its first virtual reality exhibition, Freestyle: Architectural Adventures in Mass Media, created by Space Popular and curated by Shumi Bose. How architectural styles change and combine, and are propelled by media—etchings, magazines, Pinterest—is at the center of Space Popular‘s dizzying installation, and the changes in the technologies of architectural publicization will also be the subject of an upcoming lecture by the studio. Rather than taking the taxonomical approach of traditional historians, Space Popular opted to investigate the history of style itself by showcasing the messy experience of viewing built aesthetics whether on the page, the street, or the screen. As Space Popular cofounder Lara Lesmes said in a release, “Styles are most easily recognized as patterns, which can translate across mediums, from cutlery to textiles, furniture to buildings. This show explores how style relates to popular culture and technological changes.” Space Popular’s un-history takes place both on headsets and in physical space. A colorful carpet acts as a large-scale timeline of 500 years of architectural history, while a sizable model in the center of the room combines oblique and direct references to notable London structures—including St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Crystal Palace—into one atemporal amalgam. Through headsets, avatars transport visitors through VR spaces that explore the history and present of style in the built environment and which are occupied by many patterns of stained glass, noir-ish outlines of art deco buildings, Googie decorations, and more. The virtual spaces themselves use various representational styles: some parts look hyper-realistic, others like 8-bit video games. And, perhaps, VR may be a new way we experience style together in the future. “Architectural style has throughout all of human history been the most class dividing art,” wrote Space Popular co-founder Fredrik Hellberg of Freestyle in a RIBA announcement. “As spatial media makes its entry through virtual reality, this may finally change.” In addition to Space Popular’s virtual and material creations, there are objects from the RIBA collection, including books, drawings, photographic and stereoscopic prints and other materials, with original works by Owen Jones, Augustus Pugin, and John Nash among them. There are also “alternative” VR spaces created by 15 students from the London Design and Engineering University Technical College on display. This is the second in a series of exhibitions at RIBA that respond to the work of 15th–16th-century architect Sebastiano Serlio, whose visual-heavy publications, written in vernacular language, are part of an under-recognized legacy of architectural communication and education. Freestyle: Architectural Adventures in Mass Media at the Royal Institute of British Architects, London, will run through May 16, 2020
During his visit to Athens over two hundred years ago, British diplomat Lord Elgin absconded with nearly half of the Parthenon’s architectural marble sculptures and bas relief panels and transported them by sea to Britain over an 11 year period. The event, no doubt, is infamous not only in the minds of Greek citizens, who resent that they are now on display in London’s British Museum. But the absence is especially felt by the curators of Athens’ Acropolis Museum, where the remaining half is displayed among a set of pale facsimiles that will be cheerfully replaced whenever the “Elgin Marbles” return from their unwarranted journey up north. In a surprising turn of events, it seems the 2,500-year-old statuary might be returned amidst Europe’s current political turmoil. If the United Kingdom wishes to continue trading with the European Union post-Brexit, according to a recently leaked clause in the European Union's (E.U.) negotiating mandate, it must return the Elgin Marbles back to Greece. The clause’s declaration that the U.K. must now be committed to the “return or restitution of unlawfully removed cultural objects to their country of origin” has put the marbles front-and-center of the raging trade debate. Of course, Britain and Greece have been arguing over the Elgin Marbles for years—Greece claims they were taken without permission while under occupation and should be repatriated, while Britain has claimed this could open the door to returning an untenable amount of cultural assets to other countries. But the transaction is not yet set in stone. Negotiators on either side are set to begin a much-needed conversation next month and will attempt to reach an agreement by November 26, when a trade deal must be presented to European Parliament for ratification. Currently, the U.K. refuses to give up the marbles, stating that their acquisition was lawful at the time given Greece’s occupation within the then-existent Ottoman Empire. According to ARTnews, a spokeswoman for the British government said in a statement on Tuesday that the Elgin Marbles are, therefore, “the legal responsibility of the British Museum,” and that they are “not up for discussion as part of our trade negotiations.” “I would expect some of these negotiations to be rather difficult," E.U. aide Stefaan de Rynck told French politician Michel Barnier in a public statement. “Perhaps more difficult than during withdrawal because the scope of issues is much vaster.”
AN talks to Eyal Weizman about tech in truth-telling ahead of Forensic Architecture’s first U.S. survey
Forensic Architecture has garnered a significant reputation within the field of architecture (they had a major showing at the most recent Chicago Architecture Biennial) and beyond for their work reconstructing violent events perpetrated by state actors and others using architectural tools and emerging technologies. The collective’s work has been displayed everywhere from the courthouse to major art exhibitions, including during this past year’s Whitney Biennial. The video One Building, One Bomb, co-produced with The New York Times, won an Emmy this past year, and in 2018 they were also nominated for the United Kingdom’s prestigious Turner Prize. This month, Forensic Architecture, which is based out of Goldsmiths, University of London, will have its first major U.S. survey; Forensic Architecture: True to Scale will open on February 20 at the Museum of Art and Design at Miami Dade College. Ahead of the Miami exhibition, AN spoke with Forensic Architecture founder Eyal Weizman to discuss the changes of the past decade, the power of technology, and the importance of forensics in a “post-truth” era. Drew Zeiba: Forensic architecture began a decade ago. How has the project changed and how have the tools you use evolved since then? Eyal Weizman: When we started around 2010, it was the beginning of the Arab Spring and the really heartbreaking civil war that came in its wake. Those particular sets of conflicts had a particular texture to them. They happened in an environment that had a lot of mobile phones and in the areas where there's internet connectivity, and where the government’s ability to shut down the internet was not always successful. We started being in an environment where increasingly you had more and more videos around incidents that we could map. It was also the early teens where at the time, in London great protest around tuition fees and then the big protest after the police killing of Mark Duggan in North London. This killing was during a period when police did not yet have dash cams. And ever since, we've seen the introduction of body cams and dash cams to police investigations. If you look today at the conflicts that are taking place, we have several thousand videos, hours long, broadcasting live as things are happening. The sheer media density requires us to use different technologies in order to bring accountability. We have recently developed machine vision and machine learning technologies that, working together with human researcher, can speed up the process of sieving through thousands and thousands and thousands of hours of content coming from confrontations with policing Hong Kong, for example. In relation to police violence, we have now concluded the investigation in Chicago [into the police killing of Harith Augustus] with full body cams available, several dash cams, a CCTV, etc. We are working in a much more media-saturated environment and need new tools like artificial intelligence to help us identify materials like our work on Warren Kanders that used machine learning. [Kanders is the ousted vice chairman of the board of the Whitney Museum, whose company Safariland sells tear gas used at the U.S.-Mexico border, in Gaza, and elsewhere, including in U.S. cities such as Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri.] We're creating virtual reality sites for witnesses to walk through the scene of the together with the psychologists and lawyer and protection, but can also recall events. And we are trying to be at cutting edge of technologies that would help social movement and civil society to invert the balance of epistemological power, against the monopoly of knowledge that states have over information in battlefields and in crime scenes. The abundance of images also has to do with the increasing presence of surveillance—including by CCTV cameras and police body cams, as you mention. How can architectural and technological tools invert the power relationship embedded in some of these commonplace image-making tools? Forensics have to be in the hands of the people. Forensics was developed as a state tools, as a form of state power, as a police tool. But when the police is the agency that dispenses violence and the agency that's investigating it, we have a problem. We absolutely need to be able to have independent groups holding police to account. And what we have is our creativity and we can effectively mobilize and make more of much fewer bits of data and image, because we're working aesthetically and we work socially with those independent groups in producing evidence. We socialize the production of evidence, we make it a collective social practice that involves the communities that are experiencing state violence continuously. At the same time, Forensic Architecture often works in places where there is seemingly a limited amount of the evidence or data that investigators typically rely upon, or with evidence that is biased. Police body cams show the officer’s perspective only, for example. Your work is coming at a time that people are describing as “post-truth.” How does the work of Forensic Architecture fit in to this political context? The very nature of what we call investigative aesthetics is based on working with weak signals and with partial data. You need to fill that gap with a relation between those points you have, sort of like stars in a dark sky. You see very few dots and we need to actually see how they can support the probability of something to have occurred. And any investigative work that comes from the point of view of civil society is both about demolishing and building. So we need to use our training as critical scholars in deconstructing police statements, or military statements taken by secret services or the government—and we need to take those ruins, those scattered bits of media flotsam that exist and build something else with it. There’s always demolition and rebuilding that takes place. That is very structural to our work. Right now, the mistrust in public institutions in the political sphere, In the so-called post-truth era, that trust is not being replaced. Those that tell us not to believe anymore in science and in think tanks and in experts are not building a new epistemology in its stead. They're simply demolishing it. Rhetoric replaces verification. What we do similarly to them is we are questioning state given truths. We are attacking those temples of power and knowledge, but we attempt to replace them with a much more imminent form of evidence production that socializes the production of that evidence.
It appears to be high time for the beleaguered inhabitants of London’s Neo Bankside, a Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP)-designed luxury development located a little too close to the Tate Modern museum, to finally invest in window treatments. Neo Bankside’s four hexagonal towers, angular affairs constructed from steel and glass with exterior bracing that’s characteristic of RSHP, are located opposite the west entrance of the Tate Modern’s Herzog & de Meuron-designed extension. Dubbed the Blavatnik Building, the brick addition was completed to much fanfare in 2016 with its observation deck touted as a main attraction. Neo Bankside opened four years earlier in 2012. It didn’t take long after the extension opened for residents living in certain Neo Bankside apartments to sense that they were being watched—closely watched. In addition to sweeping panoramic views of London, hordes of Tate Modern visitors were enjoying glimpses of other things from the terrace. Per The Telegraph, one resident complained of needing to be “properly dressed” at all times, lamenting that it was impossible to enjoy a meal at his dining room table without a rapt audience watching from across the way. Another spoke of being “under surveillance” by museum-goers. A female claimant expressed that she no longer felt comfortable hosting birthday celebrations for her young daughter at home, adding: “I feel as though my life revolves around the viewing platform’s opening hours.” Other residents claim to have been filmed, photographed, waved at, taunted, put on social media, and been subjected to lewd gestures by Tate Modern visitors, some of them wielding binoculars. Despite what they called this, what they called a “relentless” invasion of privacy, five residents of Neo Bankside have now experienced yet another blow in an ongoing legal battle with the museum. Earlier this week, the residents lost an appeal that challenged a February 2019 ruling issued by the High Court in favor of Tate Modern. In that ruling, Justice Anthony Mann dismissed an injunction that would have forced the Tate Modern to prevent “hundreds of thousands of visitors” from peering straight into the residents’ multi-million dollar flats across from the wildly popular 10th-floor viewing terrace. Specifically, the injunction demanded that the Tate Modern install privacy screening or block public access to sections of the viewing platform with direct views into the apartments. As reported by The Guardian, Mann suggested that Neo Bankside residents take it upon themselves to halt the onslaught of voyeurism by simply lowering their solar shades, installing privacy film, or opting for good old-fashioned sheer curtains. “These properties are impressive, and no doubt there are great advantages to be enjoyed in such extensive glassed views, but that in effect comes at a price in terms of privacy,” the judge explained. He went on to note that residents had “created their own sensitivity” by purchasing luxury apartments with floor-to-ceiling windows in an increasingly crowded city. In the latest setback for the claimants, the appeal court sided with the previous ruling to throw out the injunction. “The court has dismissed the appeal on the basis that overlooking does not fall within the tort of nuisance,” explained master of the tolls Sir Terence Etherton. In the latest ruling, the Court of Appeal also refused the claimants’ application for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. According to the ruling,
“Despite the hundreds of years in which there has been a remedy for causing nuisance to an adjoining owner’s land and the prevalence of overlooking in all cities and towns, there has been no reported case in this country in which a claimant has been successful in a nuisance claim for overlooking by a neighbour.”Still, despite the most recent defeat, Natasha Rees, the head of property litigation at the law firm representing the five claimants, announced that the case was far from over. “The leaseholders are obviously very disappointed with the outcome of the appeal, not least because they lost on a ground raised by the court of appeal,” Rees told The Guardian. “This is not a case of ‘mere overlooking’ but a situation that can clearly be distinguished from the type of overlooking experienced between residential or commercial flats and houses, a fact that was accepted by the first instance judge.” A Tate Modern spokesperson said of the most recent ruling: “We have noted the decision of the court of appeal and are grateful for their careful consideration of this matter. We continue to be mindful of the amenity of our neighbours and the role of Tate Modern in the local community.”
Less than a month after developer Jacob J. Safra filed an appeal to keep the possibility of erecting the Foster + Partners-designed Tulip tower in London alive, Mayor Sadiq Khan has pledged to keep fighting. Mayor Khan had originally rejected the proposal in July of last year and dismissed it as “poorly designed.” That came after the Greater London Authority (GLA), the agency responsible for enforcing the London Plan, which dictates sustainable growth in the city, dinged the tower. At the time, the GSA cited the 984-foot-tall Tulip’s design—which would balance a 12-story glass observation pod atop a hollow concrete stem—as inappropriate, and the potential for the building to block historic sightlines. They also raised the issue of the Tulip’s base, which would consist of an incongruous two-story retail podium. With the appeal, Safra, founder of the J. Safra Group, which also developed the Foster + Partners-designed Gherkin at the neighboring 30 St Mary Axe, will have the case heard before Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick or another government minister. However, as BDonline notes, Khan already wrote to Jenrick last week to voice his displeasure, and has amassed a $450,000 “war chest” for the GLA to fight the appeal with. BDonline has broken out the costs, but Khan has allocated nearly $200,000 for the leading counsel (legal advice) and another $77,000 for architectural consultation. In his letter to Jenrick, Khan reportedly wrote, “The Tulip is an inappropriately sited visitor attraction, which would make no such economic nor positive social contribution to London that would outweigh its harm to a world heritage site, the City’s skyline, and the public realm at ground level.” This echoes the reasoning Khan gave when he used his veto powers to stop London’s Planning and Transportation Committee from greenlighting the project, despite their earlier approval. No hearing date for the appeal has been set yet, but the battle over the Tulip’s approval is shaping up to be a long one.
An all-female team from Johannesburg, South Africa, has been selected to design the 2020 Serpentine Pavilion. The 29-years-old architects Sumayya Vally, Sarah de Villiers, and Amina Kaskar of Counterspace are also the youngest designers ever selected to create the annual summer installation in Kensington Gardens, London. According to The Guardian, the architects envisioned the pavilion as a series of spaces “inspired by places where people gather across London, particularly migrant and other peripheral communities.” The trio wrote in a statement that “places of memory and care” in parts of the city—from Brixton to Hackney, Whitechapel, Ealing, and more—will come together in a singular shelter within Kensington Gardens. “Where they intersect, they produce spaces to be together,” said Vally, who co-founded the firm in 2015. The pavilion will be comprised of different sections, each representing various existing gathering spaces throughout London. Visitors will be able to see these distinctions through structural breaks, gradient changes, and differences in color and texture, according to the architects. “As an object, experienced through movement,” said Vally, “it has continuity and consistency, but difference and variation are embedded into the essential gesture at every turn.” Counterspaces’ pavilion will be built in waves. The completed sections will be set up in different neighborhoods where they’ll first play host to numerous community events. By the summer, the sections will return to Kensington Gardens and make up the whole structure. Counterspace aims to build the pavilion with earth-friendly materials such as cork and custom K-Briq modules from Kenoteq. Each unfired brick used for the structure will be made with 90 percent recycled construction and demolition waste. Now in its 20th year, the pop-up Serpentine Pavilion has long-been a space for debate and, as The Guardian puts it, selfies. Design teams that have had the recent honor of producing a temporary structure for the Gallery’s site have attempted to capitalize on the Instagram-age. Architects including Sou Fujimoto, Bjarke Ingels, selgascano, and Frida Escobedo have created stand-out spaces that have attracted thousands of visitors from around the world. Last year’s selection, however, left the organization mired in controversy. Pavilion designer Junya Ishigami came under fire for not paying his overworked interns on the project. Soon after the news broke, Yana Peel, head of the Serpentine Galleries, resigned from her post. Bettina Korek, former executive director of Frieze Los Angeles, took over thereafter and, alongside artistic director Hans-Ulrich Obrist, chose Counterspace to design this year’s project. “The idea of working with different communities is very important for us and Counterspace’s proposal does this in a remarkable way,” Obrist said in a statement. “We were totally convinced by the social dimension of their practice. They bring an African perspective, an international perspective, but they are working with locations and communities right here in London and their pavilion design is inspired by that work.” The 2020 Serpentine Pavilion will go up as part of the institution’s 50th anniversary in London. In a push to produce greener architecture, Serpentine Galleries is now asking its pavilion designers to focus on sustainable construction methods. Additionally, the Gallery’s current events series, the Back to Earth program, explores how architecture can respond to global climate change, promote wellbeing, and rupture social hierarchies. Counterspace's pavilion will be open from June 11 through October 11.
The recent uptick in timber construction across the globe has led to a wave of innovation as firms test the material’s limits by building taller, bolder structures each and every day. In just the past year, timber has been transformed into stadiums, pre-fab homes, and even entire neighborhoods. The Architectural Association School of Architecture (AA) in London hopes to build on this momentum with the launch of its AA Wood Lab, a research center in which scientists and practitioners will come together to transform the future of timber. The Wood Lab will function as part of Hooke Park, the AA’s woodland campus in Dorset, U.K., with the overarching goal of educating architects in the sustainable use of timber for building projects and other research capacities. Guided by a problem-solving approach, the Wood Lab will combine the latest technologies in science, design, and fabrication in order to develop building strategies that pair with the inherent properties of wood. Zachary Mollica, Warden of AA School’s Hooke Park campus, looks forward to the wide-ranging benefits of timber research: “As architects grapple with the need to reduce the negative environmental impact of making buildings, there is no better moment for the AA to further take a leading position in the use of timber within the built environment,” Mollica, who will direct the lab, told AN. “Timber is one of our first building materials, and its carbon locking potential has unparalleled ecological benefits of increasing contemporary relevance given pressing climatic concerns.” In Mollica's view, timber is intimately tied to Hooke Park, as founder John Makepeace and Parnham College were ahead of the curve in realizing the potential of timber construction: They worked closely with architects and engineers like Frei Otto, Richard Burton, and Ted Happold to construct the campus’s first buildings. The Wood Lab recently opened applications for research fellows and team members. In the coming months, founding members will lay the groundwork for long-term research aimed “beyond conventional architectural thinking,” working closely with partner organizations in the process. First in the lineup is a retrospective analysis of projects in Hooke Park by both Parnham College and the AA, ending with the launch of a print publication as the foundation for the Wood Lab’s work to come. For a timber buff like Mollica, the launch is an exciting step in shedding light on a long-underestimated material: “Timber for me is simply the most interesting material we have available—and there is good reason I will always want a wooden desk. Timber’s incredible complexity derives from its formation as a living being. It is a material that we have a long social and cultural connection to.” The Wood Lab was made possible thanks to the generous support of John Makepeace, who as director of Parnham College founded the Hooke Park campus, which was turned over to the AA in 2000. The creation of the Wood Lab is part of a broader initiative at the school launched by director Eva Franch i Gilabert, the AA Residence. “The AA Residence allows for new experimental forms of research to emerge,” said Franch in a statement, “at the intersection of academia and practice, opening up a new space for innovative ideas that can radically change the way we think, build and shape the future.”
London seems to be stuck in a continuous housing crisis with fewer housing units being built every year. The sale of local authority housing stock under the ‘Right to Buy’ scheme has diminished the available housing stock even further for people in need of suitable accommodation. Especially during the Post War period, London has been a testing ground for new innovations in housing developments with architects being innovators and champions of social change. But in the last few decades, this innovation seems to have stopped. The RE-Stock London Housing architecture competition is the Bartlett School of Architecture initiative in partnership with Bee Breeders Architecture Competition Organisers and ARCHHIVE BOOKS where participants are asked to look at existing iconic council housing and RE-visit, RE-imagine, RE-invigorate and RE-think them. Looking at different iconic housing schemes, participants are free to either extend these existing buildings and transform them, or by echoing their spirit with newly design buildings on a site of their choice within London. This architecture competition requires participants to be bold and think outside the traditional box. How can housing be an answer to some of the questions we are facing today – community cohesion, limited energy consumption, reducing the carbon footprint, food production, construction methods and so on. Winning participants will need to apply unique strategies as well as creative designs to tackle the housing crisis, while at the same time remaining in keeping with the city’s situation and heritage. Competition Program: The participants are asked to design either extension to existing housing developments or to design new housing schemes which can be easily rolled out to increase the capacity of housing stock. No minimum size or amount of the residential units per block is defined. The proposals should be flexible enough to adapt to different sizes with different inhabitant capacity requirements. Designs for the RE-Stock London Housing should be flexible to different locations across the city. The designs should also be adaptable, allowing adjustments to be made in order to suit different residential capacity requirements.
The team behind Foster + Partners’ Tulip tower wants to put the project back on the drawing board after the proposal was blocked last summer by London Mayor Sadiq Kahn. Building Design reported that the tower's developer, billionaire Jacob J. Safra, recently filed paperwork with the City of London Corporation to revitalize the project just three days before the six-month appeal window was set to expire. Designed for a Central London lot next to the Gherkin (which was also backed by Safra’s company, J. Safra Group), the tulip-shaped observation skyscraper would stand 1,000 feet tall with only 12 stories spread across a thin, concrete support stem and a bulbous glass topper. Since the first visuals of the building emerged in November 2018, critics have claimed that if built, the structure has the potential to block views of the Tower of London, a world heritage site. Khan used his veto power to stop London’s Planning and Transportation Committee from moving forward with the project, despite the fact that the agency had already approved the educational center and external gondola design as a means to bring visitors and public school children to the sky-high space. Khan said the overall design wasn’t sufficient, claiming it wasn’t a piece of “world-class architecture that would be required to justify its prominence.” Increased congestion was also a major concern. Both Historic England, the London City Airport, and The Greater London Authority (GLA) agreed with Khan’s sentiment. GLA published a 15-page report in early 2019 detailing why the Tulip scheme failed to comply with the London Plan, a framework meant to help achieve economic and sustainable development without sacrificing the city’s historic character. Now that the appeals process has launched, Tulip fans can expect an inquiry to take place in the near future. Locals have already speculated that the appeal could reach the highest office in British Parliament and that the Robert Jenrick, the current Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, could make the final decision.