Artist duo Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe have conjured a science-fiction fantasy of decrepit staged dioramas stashed with junk. Like an ode to their lust for illicit substances, traces of crystal meth that regularly show up in their previous projects become sublime again. The substance acts as the underlying central theme where "rock" motifs reoccur (i.e. the cactus sculptures growing out of geodes on metal tables in the lab and the arcade room's case of black market prizes). With eleven rooms that seem to have been abandoned by their junkie inhabitants, the exhibition fabricated by Wolfgang & Hite swallowed two floors of the Marlborough Gallery in London from September through October. Named Colony Sound, the exhibit is the pair's most recent work which offers up a speculative take on American history. Rooted in an obscure fantasy of their own, the premise is a past where a technological communication system made from a bacterial petri dish in California during the Cold War, "The Smile," brainwashes people. Set in present-day, the installation conjectures about how this technology could be adopted by new generations. After passing through what looks like a bullet-proof door abandoned by ticket counter clerks, one enters a mundane hallway lined with mailboxes and clocks arranged in a haphazard framework of four arbitrary time zones. The liar reveals itself with as a crack den living room, outfitted in 1970s mustard wallpaper, stalactite-like ceilings, and brown sofas. Read the full show breakdown on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
Posts tagged with "London":
An 856-page document of a government-led inquiry into London’s Grenfell Tower fire states that the materials used on the building, including those from a 2016 renovation by Studio E Architects, failed to meet regulations and accelerated the fire which killed 72 people in June 2017. The news follows a 2018 report by fire specialists BRE Global which claimed that the fire wouldn’t have spread so readily in the 43-year-old concrete tower block before it was renovated. The latest report released last Wednesday stated that the aluminum composite cladding added in 2016 was the “principal reason” for the blaze rapidly consuming the building, going on to say that it acted as a “source of fuel” and was further assisted by flammable insulation and materials around windows. In addition, Architect’s Journal reported that “the ‘decorative’ architectural crown of the tower also played a ‘significant role in enabling the fire to spread around the building.'” The cladding was made by the U.S. company Arconic and the fire is believed to have been sparked by a faulty Whirlpool refrigerator. The inquiry’s report also criticizes the “gravely inadequate” response by the fire brigade. However, Matt Wrack, the general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, disputed this characterization to the BBC: “The truth is that the fire spread the way it did because it was wrapped in flammable cladding," he said. "The firefighters turned up after that had happened, after the building had already been turned, in reality, into a death trap." Wrack went on to explain that while "nobody is trying to avoid scrutiny...we think that the ordering of the inquiry is completely back to front.” Following last week's report, lawyers suspect the chances of criminal charges being brought in relation to the fire have increased significantly, according to The Guardian. The second phase of the inquiry will investigate how the inadequate design and construction, which was in violation of existing regulations, was allowed to have happened. Former judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick who led the inquiry stated that he will also look into "what was and should have been known" about the particular dangers posed by thermoplastic polymers within the construction industry and those responsible for setting fire safety standards in the central government. Following this initial report, Moore-Bick has issued a series of proposals to shore up fire safety for towers in the U.K.
The first union for architects has been founded in London. The Section of Architectural Workers (SAW) aims to improve the toxic design culture of overwork and address issues like stagnating wages, discrimination, and industry-wide attitudes towards mental health. SAW operates within the United Voices of the World (UVM), a relatively young but influential union based in London with 3,000 members. According to the Architects' Journal, a SAW spokesperson said some of its members had been working 60 hours of overtime per week, while others hadn't taken a weekend break for four months. The union is supported by many architects and administrators in the field, including notable alumni of the University College London Bartlett School of Architecture Thandi Loewenson, Jane Rendell, and David Roberts. They describe the unionization as a "landmark moment in the ethical production of the built environment." The industry has steadily felt the pressure to take on big-ticket, ground-up built projects with low-risk profiles to compensate for tight competition over projects and wages. Kate Macintosh, a London-based architect and union member, told AJ that the "toxic system" has penetrated the profession since 1979. "Those rights have been steadily eroded to the point where one in three of the workforce are on zero-hours contracts and typically work 25 hours a week.” The culture of overwork trickles down even to unpaid interns, who often work from 9 a.m. to well into the evening—sometimes past midnight—consistently. This year’s Serpentine Pavilion, designed by Junya Ishigama, made headlines after the press discovered the architect solicited unpaid interns to assist in its fabrication. Subsequently, it was revealed just how widespread the practice was. Not only was the inquiry illuminating of the lack of pay but also the degree of overwork even the youngest in the profession are expected to take on. An internship job posting for Lot-Ek also announced this in plain language last March:
While architectural workers have attempted to unionize before and other varieties of unions like the construction-sector UCATT have tried to attract architects to join them, no effort has ever come to fruition quite like SAW. The breadth of professionals enveloped and supported by SAW, from architects to BIM technicians and cleaners, are using this platform to help support each other and therefore support their industry from top to bottom. “It will transform the environment in which we work, encouraging and empowering us all to step up and speak out to confront systemic social injustices and inequality, climate breakdown and biodiversity loss,” said SAW, asserting that unionization will allow architects and their firms to focus on the projects that really matter, rather than who stays at their desk the latest.
Generally speaking, no two people work the same way. Given that, global blockchain solutions company ConcenSys consensually chose an open, flexible working environment for its new London headquarters. Tasked with its refurbishment, local firm Neiheiser Argyros, creating a unique office identity and spaces for a range of different working styles. Taking form in the shell of a five-story office building, a number of workspaces and meeting rooms orbit around a central area swathed in plywood. While the office provides flexibility, partners Xristina Argyros and Ryan Neiheiser were skeptical of a floor plan that was too open-ended. Weary of seemingly endless rows of open desking, they opted instead for specific environments differentiated without partitions. On each floor, a central meeting space, or, if you will, "object," contains a kitchen, cluster of meeting rooms, and phone booths. This neutral space acts as a transition between a variety of distinct spaces, an arm that subdivides micro working environs that can be passed through without going having to open a door. Surrounding the central "objects" are an assemblage of working environments, each unique with their own material palette. Separated by theoretical boundaries, each space metaphorically alludes to a location that has an established identity for how work should be carried out—be that a study fo individual contemplation or group space to gather. In what Neiheiser Argyros call "The Laboratory," light grey flooring, white furniture, and sanitized fluorescent lights prescribe a quiet space for uninterrupted work. Meanwhile, "The Library" is outfitted with cork flooring and dark wood furniture, alluding to a medieval study that fosters personal reflection. Then, in "The Living Room" bright orange carpeting and custom built-in soft furnishings invite informal working and casual conversation. Read the full profile on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
We have a lot to thank computers for; the laptop I typed this article on can execute millions of instructions every second. This is a number us humans can’t comprehend, but thankfully, computers can. Computers have changed the way we see and interact with the world around us: able to connect people across the globe and able to optimize oil extraction from prime sites decided through digital derivation. Those most grateful for our microprocessor-driven overlords should be architects: they may romanticize the analog medium of sketching, but the truth is every building constructed today is “drawn” up using a computer at some point and the computer allows them to conceive every shape and size imaginable. Depending on who you ask, this has either saved or ruined architecture, and this friction is acknowledged in Drawing Attention, currently on show at the Roca Gallery in West London, where drawings from 70 participants are on display. Drawing digitally is now part of the process of design, something historian Mario Carpo describes as the digital turn in architecture. Drawing Attention, curated by Jeremy Ficca, Amy Kulper, and Grace La, professors at Carnegie Mellon University, Rhode Island School of Design, and Harvard GSD respectively, attempts to unpack the manifestations of this and asks questions such as: Where does the advent of BIM (Building Information Modeling) leave 2D digital drawing? As evidenced in this exhibition, the second dimension is far from obsolete. In a post-digital age, and as digital representation techniques allow architects to obfuscate renderings and reality, we find these 2D drawings to be evermore abstract as they take on more artistic qualities, representing architectural ideas more so than buildings themselves. The 70 drawings are thematically displayed in the following categories: Drawing limits; Drawing omniscience; Drawing instrument; Drawing environments, and Drawing as world-making. In Drawing limits, architects like Zachary Tate Porter play with scale: his Topographic survey of two Sidewalk Holes in Downtown Los Angeles (see gallery above) is wonderfully ambiguous; the holes could easily be moon craters. “The digital model presents a crisis of scale,” he argued, and the scroll of a mouse facilitates a “seamless” and “disquieting” transition between scales. Architect Achim Menges, meanwhile, achieves ambiguity in a different way. An abstract view of his Bundesgartenschau Wood Pavilion celebrates the structure's parametric qualities, something which is fitting for the exhibition’s venue (the Roca Gallery was designed by Zaha Hadid). However, this view is a reminder of how alienating parametricism can be. Where Porter’s scale subversion was playful and called upon the viewer to interrogate a terrain they see every day but probably ignore, Menges’s drawing is devoid of any scalar reference; it could be any size—a daunting and maybe exciting prospect, but one thanks to Hadid, we’ve already experienced. Rightfully so, parametricism doesn't get much more of a look-in; but still many works on show exhibit the digital tropes from this period (fractals and excessive iteration) which is odd considering, by the exhibition's own definition, this is an examination of the contemporary. ‘Drawing as world-making’ showcases the industry’s biggest names. Jimenez Lai of Bureau Spectacular; Office Kersten Geers David Van Severen (KGDVS); Mark Smout, Laura Allan, Geoff Manaugh, and Tom de Paor are all on show. All exhibit interesting works though only KGDVS’s OFFICE 171 Crematorium from 2014 stands out, a hallmark of the post-digital ‘style’ pursued by other offices such as Point Supreme, Hesselbrand, and Fala Atelier, among others which aren’t part of the exhibition. Drawing Attention also partially highlights how architects are representing the environment. C. J. Lim of Studio8 Architects goes against the grain of using endless amounts of data to inform a drawing, instead opting for a tongue-in-cheek cartoonish depiction of the ocean littered with plastic bags with phrases like “recycle or die” written on them. Lim’s Ocean Cleaning falls under the ‘Drawing Environments’ section of the exhibition, which arguably misses a trick by omitting architects who are aggressively pursuing a more sustainable planet. As the academic Peter Buchanan argues, without the computer we could not grasp the complexities of climate change nor be able to design the built environment to ameliorate it. Where are the drawings that exhibit this way of thinking? We are in a climate crisis after all. That aside, there are some outstanding drawings on show: Sarah Wigglesworth’s The Disorder of the Dining Table is a classic—dating back to 1997—but always a joy to see and still relevant, as evidenced by James Michael Tate's development of this drawing for an architecture office showcased adjacent. Meanwhile, Maj Plemenitas’s MSFM — Territorial Printing with Ocean Currents riffs off graphic designer Peter Saville’s timeless work on Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures album cover. That work was informed by radio signals from a neutron star, whereas Plemenitas’ piece is derived from a simulation of the autonomous “production” of islands, seamounts and resilient shorelines. “Drawing is taking a line for a walk,” said artist Paul Klee in 1961. When he said this, he was invariably inferring a pen, pencil, or paintbrush being guided across a page by a human hand. Through drawing, architects conceive spaces and places; stage sets for the theater of life. British anthropologist Tim Ingold takes it a step further, proposing that life is carried out on such lines, not just within them. Today, however, algorithms, scripts, and strings of code are used to represent architecture, serving as more than architecture’s final form before the hand-over to contractors and builders—the people that make architecture manifest in physical, tangible reality. However, contractors and builders will never use the drawings exhibited in Drawing Attention, for drawing digitally is not just a means to an end, like it was before Carpo’s “digital turn”, defined by him as a period between 1992–2012. We’re now well beyond that and Drawing Attention gives us a glimpse of our post-digital trajectory.
The U.K. has released a National Design Guide to help “create beautiful, enduring and successful places.” The guide was published at the start of the month and unveiled by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, however, for all the “good design" the guide preaches, it is at odds with Jenrick’s actual policies. To architects and designers, the principles outlined in the document will seem run-of-the-mill, even perhaps a little patronizing. But the guide is not for them; rather, it intends to ensure that all those involved in a project are on the same page. The focus of this design guide is on good design in the planning system, so it is primarily for:
- Local authority planning officers, who prepare local planning policy and guidance and assess the quality of planning applications;
- Councilors who make planning decisions;
- Applicants and their design teams, who prepare applications for planning permission; and
- People in local communities and their representatives.
Context – Enhances the surroundings. Identity – Attractive and distinctive. Built form – A coherent pattern of development. Movement – Accessible and easy to move around. Nature – Enhanced and optimised. Public spaces – Safe, social and inclusive. Uses – Mixed and integrated. Homes and buildings – Functional, healthy and sustainable. Resources – Efficient and resilient. Lifespan – Made to last.The guide also takes into account the contemporary context we find ourselves in and looks to the future: “We expect continuing change as a consequence of climate change, changing homeownership models and technological changes. It is likely to emerge and embed in society rapidly.” Furthermore, there is an added focus on inclusion and community cohesion, defined respectfully as: “Making sure that all individuals have equal access, opportunity and dignity in the use of the built environment;” and “A sense of belonging for all communities, with connections and trust between them. Diversity is valued and people of different backgrounds have the opportunity to develop positive relationships with one another.” However, for all this positive rhetoric—which will hopefully make some impact—the guide is undermined by Jenrick’s latest policy to allow homeowners to add up to two stories to their house without having to get planning permission. This is part of the Conservative party’s push to "build up not out," and essentially allows homeowners to do what they want irrespective of their neighbors' objections, provided the building meets council guidelines and building regulations. Subsequently, it seems bizarre for the guide to talk about scale, height, relation to surroundings, and design quality, the latter of which will be most lacking as a result of such a policy. The guide also appears to feature mostly low-rise schemes and genuine examples of suburban sprawl with a straight face, the antithesis of building "up." “Publishing new design guidance alongside plans to extend permitted development rules, which allow projects to sidestep vital quality and environmental standards, just doesn’t make sense,” remarked RIBA President Alan Jones. “Although increasing permitted development rights is a step in the right direction, they will still be subject to heritage and conservation areas and viewing corridor type constraints,” Vaughn Horsman, design director at the British practice Farrells told AN. “And whilst it supports wider densification, by the time the tangle of other constraints get overlaid, there is still very little available land and air space available for growth in London. Meaning more still needs to be done.” Moreover, the design guide also seems to focus solely on housing. It has admittedly come from the Housing Secretary, but alternative typologies could at least be acknowledged, particularly as the industry moves towards adaptive re-use. Despite this, the guide has been for the most part warmly received by the profession. Teresa Borsuk, a senior adviser at the London-based Pollard Thomas Edwards, told the Architects’ Journal:
[The guide] is a sound piece of work aimed at planning officers, councillors, applicants and local communities. And a lot of it is not new. But what a difficult time for its launch – with everything else going on just now; climate change, affordability, targets, undersupply, Brexit…Speaking in the same article, Richard Dudzicki, director of Richard Dudzicki Associates, meanwhile called for an “anarchic version of the National Design Guide”:
I started reading the National Design Guide thinking to myself this is not a bad idea, but I quickly thought of the successful places I love; Farringdon in the 90s or Peckham now. They do not fit in the government’s ‘10 simple rules to good design’. The truth is very little good design or successful placemaking will fit in this dull, grey, pragmatic framework. It is about interventions. Predefining spaces will lead to failure; failure of design, failure of place and failure to create a society. Architecture as a profession should be calling out for more. In this profession, we read the brief, rip it up and throw it out of the window and try to come up with a new idea. Let’s have an anarchic version of the National Design Guide.Finally, the guide concludes by saying that it could be altered after the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission publishes its final report in December this year. This could likely cause groans in the profession: the Commission’s re-appointed cochair, Roger Scruton, has previously voiced his distaste of modernism, and in particular, architects Norman Foster and Mies van der Rohe. "The words 'beautiful' and 'ugly' are dangerous when referring to architecture — they expose personal bias, when our industry is more restricted than ever, by budgets, political and technical constraints," Horsman added. "Urban homes at the scale we need today will struggle to fit everyone’s view of ‘pretty’ –having our work, almost degraded, to such terms is frustrating. "How would ministers feel about a public vote on whether they’re too ugly for the job?” The report can be found in full online, here.
The Architectural Association School of Architecture (AA) in London has finally been given taught-degree awarding powers (TDAP), allowing the influential school to grant degrees for the first time in its 170-year history. While the school is the oldest independent architecture school in the U.K. and internationally renowned as a pioneering educational institution, graduates of the AA could not, until now, receive academic degrees backed by the U.K. government. Nonetheless, the illustrious alumni list of the institution includes Pritzker Prize winners Rem Koolhaas, Richard Rogers, and Zaha Hadid among other big names. The victory is a turning point for the AA, whose financial insecurity and an uncertain future was a major factor in pursuing accreditation earlier this year. The institution, which does not receive government funding, is reliant on student tuition dollars, particularly from foreign students whose visa status would remain on shaky ground as long as the school was unaccredited. While the road to gaining TDAP was years in the making, the school successfully petitioned the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education for the right this year. "Without TDAP, the AA Diploma–widely known and internationally acclaimed – is not an academic award recognised by the UK government, and AA graduates regularly encounter challenges when returning home or to other overseas countries for the purposes of professional development or further academic study," explained Eva Franch i Gilabert, directors of the school, in an interview with Dezeen last year. Franch i Gilabert was elected to the directorial position in March 2018 after receiving the largest majority of any candidate in almost three decades. Balancing the school’s finances and securing TDAP status was a major point of Franch i Gilabert’s administration. The decision to give degree-granting power is a much needed boon for the AA after the international architecture community protested staff cuts at the AA Files, the school’s journal, under the previous interim director. Their acceptance into the circle of official higher education institutions is also a sharp turn for the AA, which maintains a reputation for its cutting-edge and radical educational style.
It's September, which in the U.K. means it's time for the London Design Festival (LDF). Now in its 17th year, there is once again a feast of shows, talks, walks, exhibitions, and installations to gorge upon. The Architect's Newspaper has surveyed what's on view firsthand and rounded up what to catch this year. Sea Things, Sam Jacob Studio As always, the LDF is heavily connected to the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A). At the museum's entrance, visitors can find a 13-foot-on-each-side glass cube hanging from the ceiling. Stand underneath it and look up, and you will find pieces of plastic floating by as if being carried by a current through space. It's only a film, but the mirrored edges of the cube create the impression of it being limitless through a simple, yet effective, trick. Titled Sea Things, the work from Sam Jacob Studio aims to raise awareness of plastic in our oceans. "The V&A is full of things and our relationship to things," Jacob told AN, who cited a hand-drawn pattern of sea creatures by the Eames's (in the V&A collection) as part of his inspiration. That pattern was drawn at a time when there was tangible hope of saving our oceans from pollution. Jacob's installation omits such optimism: by 2050, if current pollution levels remain on track, the world's oceans will be 50 percent plastic and 50 percent marine life, the end of his studio's film predicts. Black Masking Culture, Big Chief Demond Melancon with Assemble A surprise hit at the V&A comes from the New Orleans-based artist and educator, Big Chief Demond Melancon of the Young Seminole Hunters. Working with London studio Assemble, two of Melancon's giant, full-body Mardi Gras Indian suits (I can't imagine how hot they must get) have been installed. The suits have been hand-sewn; fitting then, that they have been placed in the V&A's Tapestries Gallery. They are truly a sight to behold: joyously flamboyant, bursting with life, ornate and infinitely intricate, they are works of art in their own right. A fascinating film tracing the making of the suits in the run-up to Mardi Gras accompanies the suits and it's well worth a watch. More LDF at the V&A Many other installations part of LDF can be found at the V&A too. Studiomama has designed a wooden postbox, for example, and Korean artist Do Ho Suh has had his forensic video survey of Robin Hood Gardens displayed via a 100-foot-wide projection. For Smithson buffs, the model of the ill-fated housing estate made for the 1970 film, The Smithsons on Housing, is also on display. Paddington Pyramid, Adam Nathaniel Furman Beyond the V&A more color abounds, as LDF has always featured in recent years. Welcome returners to the fray Adam Nathaniel Furman and Camille Walala have once again done a marvelous job sprucing up the vicinities they've occupied. In Paddington, Furman has erected a fluttering pyramid next to where he was born, drawing on the towering, ephemeral structures that populate fairs and festivals. Walala Lound, Camille Walala Furman's 2017 project, Gateways, was supposedly the most photographed LDF installation ever, however, this year, Camille Walala appears to be giving him a run for his money. Wander down South Molton Street just a stone's throw away and you'll find a host of street furniture: planters, benches, and bunting all emphatically stamped with Walala's hallmark, vibrant geometric style, all being snapped and papped by hashtag-happy passersby. Please Be Seated, Paul Cocksedge There are more moments to sit at this year's LDF, too. London designer Paul Cocksedge has designed an undulating trio of concentric timber circles in Broadgate, East London. Aptly named Please Be Seated, the work reuses scaffolding planks to create a sculpture that acts as both a pedestrian thoroughfare and place of rest. "There's a motorway of people [around here]," Cocksedge told AN. "I looked at where people were going to and from, the arches are oriented in the general direction of that flow, so it works for everyone." So far, Please Be Seated has been an instant success, with LDF-ers and bankers working nearby making the most of it. "It's nice to see people using something in the way that it's meant to," added Cocksedge. Life Labyrinth, PATTERNITY Sticking to the same theme, Life Labyrinth, riffs on Daniel Buren's Les Deux Plateaux (The Two Levels) in Paris. London studio PATTERNITY's black-and white seating arrangement, mini-maze, and garden is a welcome addition to the entrance of Westminster Cathedral where visitors can rest and children can play with the garden bells and labyrinth itself. Buren's work has been a hit since 1986 and, while being somewhat paired down, Life Labyrinth looks to emulate that success, if only for a week. Day of Design 22 September, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. To mark the end of LDF 2019 there will be a "Day of Design" along Exhibition Road. Closed off to cars for the day, the V&A, alongside the Natural History Museum, Science Museum, Imperial College, and the Royal College of Art will fill the street with installations and events centered around solutions to climate change. Don't miss out on the Plastic Pavilion from London designer Seyi Adelekun. The parametric structure is comprised of string, steel mesh and 1,600 plastic bottles—some of which, according to Adelekun, were collected by "raiding neighbors bins." Adelekun told AN she hopes to raise awareness about single-use plastics and how to use them in construction.
As of yesterday, $250 Million is available to private owners of tower blocks in the U.K. to replace cladding at risk of catching fire. The government fund is for towers that use the aluminum composite material (ACM) cladding—the same facade material employed by the Grenfell tower which caught fire in June 2017, claiming the lives of 72 people. Those who do not use the money will reportedly be "named and shamed" according to Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (HCLG) in a statement released to the press. "Government funds are available for private building owners to remove and replace unsafe ACM cladding, and let me be clear, inaction will have consequences and I will name and shame those who do not act during the course of the autumn." "There is no excuse for further delay—and for building owners to fail to take action now would be frankly disgraceful." A national safety review of tower blocks was issued in the wake of the Grenfell fire in 2017. In May 2018, the government pledged $532 Million for state-owned blocks to remove any cladding deemed potentially dangerous. Private owners, meanwhile, were encouraged not to pass on the recladding costs to occupants. That, however, did not happen, and the most notable example occurred in Croydon, South London, where multimillionaire owner Vincent Tchenguiz refused to pay the $665,000 re-cladding fee. A tribunal following the debacle ruled that leaseholders should stump up the fee, leading to a deadlock between landlords and tenants. As a result, some had to start 24-hour patrols of their buildings to monitor for any fires while other homes have become unsellable. The government estimates that 170 privately-owned blocks currently use ACM cladding. In addition to the aforementioned funds, a further $5 million has been issued to collect data on cladding used for state-owned buildings. Motions to facilitate action to reduce fire risk due to ACM cladding have been slow in coming. Since the fire in 2017—24 months ago—there have been three different Secretaries of the HCLG, and four Ministers of State for Housing amid multiple cabinet shake-ups in the wake of Brexit. In his statement, incumbent Secretary of State Jenrick also unveiled a new Protection Board which has been set up by the Home Office with the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) to give assurance to those in tower blocks listed as high-risk that fire risks will be identified and acted upon. The board will have access to $12.5 Million each year until 2021. "The new Protection Board will make sure building owners don’t flout the rules, as well as ensuring fire safety risks in other buildings are being addressed," said Jenrick. In addition to investigating cladding, a commission has been set up to review when sprinklers are to be employed. Currently, sprinklers have to be used for buildings taller than 98 feet or roughly ten stories, but ministers are considering lowering this to 60 feet — roughly six stories. As reported by the Architects' Journal, this was a measure the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) called for, however, RIBA wanted all residential buildings above 60 feet to have sprinklers added to them. England lags behind its neighbors in this regard. In Wales, sprinklers are mandatory in all new residential buildings and in Scotland, the same applies to care homes, sheltered housing and schools above 60 feet. The current commission's review only covers housing blocks built since 2007. Grenfell Tower was completed in 1974 and did not have sprinklers added to it when it was refurbished in 2016 at the cost of $10.85 Million. According to the BBC, 96 percent of state-owned tower blocks above 98 feet (32 out of 837) do not have a sprinkler system installed.
Piers Secunda creates art out of history and ruin. The painter’s latest exhibition, What Remains, is now on display at the Imperial War Museum in London and is marked by a distinct materiality—works in the show are made with industrial paint, as well as charcoal from the ruins of Mosul, Iraq, ground into ink. Almost resembling individual plaster casts, Secunda’s unique painting method allows him to build his “canvases” into the third dimension. Resulting forms can be cut, carved into, sculpted, and painted over. The cast-like quality is also used more literally. For this show, the artist has used his material method to capture impressions of ISIS bullet holes and bombed building fragments collected on-site in Mosul. “I developed [these] systems of making works of art with paint, where I took the paint for a walk in three dimensions and I tried to figure out how I could enable the paint to grow without those traditional restraints,” Secunda told The Art Newspaper, “Since then, I've tried as much as I can to examine what the damaging of art means, especially if entire communities or ideologies systematically go about doing it.” The Imperial War Museum is exploring the theme of ruin and destruction over the past century in a free season of three exhibitions called Culture Under Attack. In addition to What Remains, the series zeroes in on the Nazi's targeted bombings of London during WWII and the Taliban's destruction of religious iconography in Afghanistan. These ruinations spark the conversation around cultural heritage and how it is both protected and restored. What Remains specifically focuses on the Mosul Museum, an ISIS target that was looted and burned by the group, sparking a worldwide outcry. It shows that the destruction of art is as powerful a symbol as the creation of art and has been exercised for millennia as a method for new leaders or regimes to assert dominance over prior systems. Secunda’s work reinvigorates and reinstates the destroyed art, creating something new out of the ashes, quite literally. His series of drawings, created as site studies from the artist’s photographs of various ruins, could become an exhibit unto themselves. Secunda created the drawings by grinding the charcoal from the burned buildings down with mortar and pestle and mixing it with alcohol and gum arabic, fixing it to the paper in a fluid motion. Secunda’s drawings incorporate a strikingly different process than his paintings since they are two-dimensional. But the artist comments on the two disparate ways of working, saying: “Drawing by comparison is like lightning—it's that immediate instant of expression and you can see the line grow.” In the interview with The Art Newspaper, the artist said he's eager to explore destruction Mali and Syria next.
London architect Amin Taha has won his battle against planners to save his award-winning project, 15 Clerkenwell Close. Taha had previously been told his building faced a demolition order from the London borough of Islington. However, today, that decision has been overturned and the glorious, unfinished limestone that serves as a load-bearing facade will remain. For more than a year Taha has been embroiled in a disagreement over the building's appearance. In fact, the council had attempted to bring the building down twice before: In 2013, when the building was granted planning permission, a local argued that concrete was being used instead of brick, the facade material that was supposedly initially stipulated. A demolition notice that resulted from a site inspection from an enforcement officer and conservation officer amounted to nothing. The saga was far from over, though. 2017 saw another demolition notice, this time stating that the building must be rebuilt in brick. Taha disputed this, asking to see the notice report. Again, the notice was withdrawn. A year later, a third demolition notice was issued. "After an investigation, the council has come to the view that the building at 15 Clerkenwell Close does not reflect the building that was granted planning permission and conservation area consent in 2013," said the council. Taha, meanwhile, argued that the difference from what was sent to the planning department and was built was down to the fact that the limestone used was being taken from a quarry in France and left unfinished. Speaking to me last year, he likened it to complaining where knots in wood appear. The architect also said that the enforcement officer was relying on outdated and rejected plans for the design, as approved plans showing the stone facade had been redacted. Today it appears the architect has saved the seven-story building, where his studio's offices are also located. "It was taking so long and so much of our time it’s come somewhat close to a pyrrhic victory," said Taha in an email to The Architect's Newspaper today. "The battle is over and now we clear up the mess left behind." Planning inspector Peter Jarratt told the Architects' Journal in the U.K. that while he agreed there was a "difference" between the architects and planning authorities on what was submitted and approved, the building was in "general terms" not detrimental to the conservation area. "This is an unsatisfactory situation for both parties and it is not in the public interest if members of the public cannot establish what has been approved when examining planning records... Nevertheless, the principle of development is not in dispute and the building accords with the generality of what had previously been approved," he added. Despite all this, there is evidence of demolition, or at least that seems to be the case anyway. 15 Clerkenwell Close sits on the corner of the street, nestled into an enclave. Its rough, unfinished limestone facade, which still bears fossil marks in it, begs you to stroke it and feel the raw material. This is what stone is like before humans meddle with it and refine with technological precision, and in the author's experience, is wonderful to experience in this quiet forum in North London. As you approach it to do so, one will find a fallen Ionic pilaster—but fear not, it's only a joke, a tongue-in-cheek architectural moment that serves as a testament to how much this relatively simple building speaks. The planning department of Islington Borough Council may have lost, but this is a victory for everyone. An Islington Council spokesperson provided the following statement:
“We’re pleased that Mr. Taha has finally admitted that the building did not benefit from planning permission. We are also pleased that the inspector has required 15 Clerkenwell Close to be modified to include more employment space, in line with Islington’s development plan. The Inspector also concluded that the building should be modified to mitigate the harm caused to local heritage assets. “We’re of course disappointed that the inspector did not agree with the council’s view that the degree of harm the building caused to the Clerkenwell Green conservation area and the setting of nearby listed buildings warranted further modifications to the building. “The council looks forward to the removal of the unauthorized and visually harmful solar chimney, changes to the roof garden, and alterations to the limestone columns and beams facing Clerkenwell Close, as set out in the Inspector’s conditions. “We’re also pleased that there will be a £420,000 payment towards badly-needed affordable housing, in line with Islington’s planning policies.” Additional notes: Par 1 of the Inspector’s Appeal Decision says: “… the appellant considered that no planning permission exists for the building as erected” Par 24 of the Inspector’s Appeal Decision says: “The appellant has been extremely critical of the failure of the Council officers to resolve apparent inconsistencies in the drawings at the appropriate time, which clearly should have been done. However, the appellant must also share a significant degree of responsibility for the errors made as it was his practice that submitted inconsistent plans in the first place.”
Cycle or stroll along the Regent's Canal in northeast London and you'll find a new addition to a mad-hat menagerie of quirky architectural interventions populating the water's edge. The Potemkin Theatre, designed by London-based studio Maich Swift, is the third Antepavilion—a yearly competition run by the Architecture Foundation and Shiva Ltd. The Potemkin Theater sits atop a warehouse and looks north over the canal. At 27 feet tall, its prominent position means it can be seen from far down the canal, rising against the post-industrial landscape like a skinny timber Torre Velasca. However, the timber intervention only truly reveals itself as you get much closer; the slender yellow structure's canal-facing facade comes into view and displays a green checkerboard pattern made from gesso-treated canvas panels. Spanning three stories, the building will serve as a performance space, with the structure itself able to be used as a prop as well as a backdrop and theater gallery for performances. The pavilion's name comes from Grigory Potemkin, a Russian who in 1787 supposedly painted the facades of buildings in a Crimean village to impress Empress Catherine II upon her visit. Maich Swift adopted the same notion, taking interest in the way the internal structure can be hidden behind a lively and colorful frontage. "We thought early on that the structure could be accessed by both an audience and performers," said Ted Swift, who cofounded Maich Swift in 2016, speaking to AN. "We wanted the structure to be something that was as flexible as possible," added fellow co-founder Paul Maich. "Stuff like this is slowly disappearing in Hackney." Maich Swift was founded in 2016, with both architects coming from the London-based practice Caruso St. John. Along with Grigory Potemkin, the pair said they were inspired by Monsieur Hulot's home in Jacques Tati’s 1958 French film, Mon Oncle, drawing on the highly visual circulation space exhibited in the film. Behind the canvassed facade, a stair linking the pavilion's three levels is clearly visible between the laminated veneer lumber structural frame. The theater was assembled in just 25 days for a mere $30,000. "We knew we had to build it ourselves (with the help of volunteers) so it had to be practical," said Swift. Furthermore, the pavilion is designed to eventually be unbolted, though before that happens, a two-month-long program of performances, discussion, and events as been planned throughout August and September. In winning the Antepavilion competition, Maich Swift beat out 187 other entries. "Not only were the jury impressed by Maich Swift's quirky design and eclectic references, but we were particularly drawn to Potemkin's potential to become a new cultural venue," said Chloe Spiby Loh, who chaired the judging panel. "This showed the maturity of their approach, which projected a future for the pavilion beyond the commission." An opening party for the pavilion was attended by more than 1,000 people, though the structure has yet to be put through its paces as a performance space; capacity is for ticketed events is 180 people. "Hopefully we'll be surprised by the way people use it," said Swift.