Posts tagged with "London":

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London’s Penguin Pool should be “blown to smithereens,” says architect’s daughter

The London Zoo's Penguin Pool, an international symbol of modernist architecture, should be destroyed, claims the architect’s daughter. The pool, designed by architect Berthold Lubetkin and structural engineer Ove Arup in 1934, is a world-renowned monument to modernism for its ground-breaking use of curvilinear, self-supporting concrete slabs. The crisp, white, interlocking ramps hover over an elliptical pool, transforming the penguin sanctuary into a dramatic, entertaining, and aesthetically pleasing display for visitors. While the design is undoubtedly eye-catching, the penguins left the pool in 2004 after the birds contracted a dangerous bacterial infection called “bumblefoot," as the enclosure’s concrete ramps formed scrapes and abrasions on the penguin’s feet. Lubetkin had worked with biologist Julian Huxley on the installment to ensure that the design suited the Antarctic penguins' needs, but his efforts were rendered useless when the zoo swapped the species out for South American Humboldt penguins that prefer to burrow and could not do so given the structure and layout of the sleek, modernist structure. When the zoo announced that it had no future plans to utilize the now derelict space, Lubetkin’s daughter, Sasha, told local paper the Camden New Journal that the pool should be demolished to preserve her father’s integrity. “It was designed as a showcase and playground of captive penguins, and I can’t see that it would be suited to anything else,” she told local reporters. “Perhaps it’s time to blow it to smithereens.” The penguins now reside on Penguin Beach, the largest penguin pool on the European continent, fully equipped with a rocky, sandy beach, cozy nesting areas, a 4,000-square-foot diving pool, and a penguin nursery where baby chicks can learn how to swim. Since the penguins moved to the more accommodating enclosure some 15 years ago, the original Penguin Pool has been withering in a run-down section of the zoo. While the fate of the crumbling Penguin Pool is unknown, other modernist Lubetkin buildings still stand in north London, including the Finsbury Health Centre and the Highpoint housing blocks.
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Patrik Schumacher claims he was forced to drop Zaha Hadid’s name from ZHA

A fuller picture of Patrik Schumacher’s battle with the three other executors of the late Zaha Hadid’s estate has come to light courtesy of a series of legal documents obtained by BDonline. In the 20-page document, Schumacher lays out a series of allegations against his co-trustees, including claims that he was “forced” to drop Hadid’s name from her practice and that he was barred from speaking at her 2016 memorial service. The divisions between Schumacher and the other trustees of Hadid’s $90 million estate—her niece Rana Hadid, friend Brian Clarke, and developer Lord Peter Palumbo—first emerged on November 14 of last year. Schumacher, a principal at Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA), had gone before London’s High Court and issued a claim asking that he be authorized as the estate’s sole trustee. His fellow executors and colleagues penned an open letter in response, claiming that Schumacher was operating in his own interest, not that of the estate. In a follow-up, Schumacher took to AN’s comment section to defend himself, claiming that his detractors weren’t aware of the full story. Now more of his claims have come to light. Schumacher claims that the other three trustees “forced” him to remove Hadid’s name from her eponymous practice. He also alleges that the studio, referred to in the documents as Zaha Hadid Limited (ZHL), was forced to move $9.8 million to a holding company owned by the other executors. Schumacher writes that he was coerced into going along with the will of the executors under the threat of being removed from ZHA. His continued participation in the firm’s business was included in a “letter of wishes” written by Hadid at the same time as her will in April of 2015, although Rana Hadid claims that Schumacher received that concession by barging into a meeting between Zaha Hadid and her lawyers (a claim he denies). In an excerpt from the documents held by BDonline, Schumacher wrote: “ZHL is a major asset of the estate. It is evident from the ‘letter of wishes’ that Dame Zaha intended it to be transferred to Mr Schumacher and its employees as a going concern. Rather than honouring that wish, the defendants have delayed the transfer and have acted and continue to act in a manner detrimental to ZHL. They have transferred cash and other assets to ZHH [ZHL's parent company] and the foundation despite reducing ZHL’s capacity to carry out business. “Further, they have sought to undermine Mr Schumacher’s ability to lead and control ZHL as envisaged by the ‘letter of wishes,’ and have taken steps to control ZHL directly by means of taking control of its sole shareholder ZHH. “Given Mr Schumacher’s role in ZHL, the defendants’ personal animosity towards him has coloured their decision-making with regard to ZHL and has resulted in their taking decisions that have been manifestly to ZHL’s detriment.” For their part, the other executors have claimed that they’re only acting in good faith, writing in November that they were personally chosen by Hadid to represent and further her best interests. A statement from Zaha Hadid Architects on the matter was provided as follows: "We hope this matter can be settled quickly and amicably, to the satisfaction of all parties. After another successful year, the practice goes from strength to strength and our business is unaffected by the subject matter of the dispute. We remain focused on serving our clients and building on the achievements of Dame Zaha."
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Damien Hirst’s future London studio shines with iridescent glazed brick

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Located on a corner site within London’s historic Soho district, a neighborhood long associated with the arts, 40 Beak Street is an animated four-story structure clad in iridescent glazed brick with cast aluminum window surrounds and soffits. The nearly 28,000-square-foot project was designed by London-based firm Stiff + Trevillion and is currently undergoing interior work by artist Damien Hirst who recently purchased the building.
  • Facade Manufacturer St. Joris, Ibstock Kevington, Ancon Building Products, Shuco
  • Architects Stiff + Trevillion, Veretec (Executive Architect)
  • Facade Installer Henry Construction Alucraft (windows)
  • Facade Consultants Price & Myers
  • Location London
  • Date of Completion June 2018
  • System Concrete structure with brick cladding
  • Products Schuco FW50, custom St. Joris brick & glazing, Ancon Building Products steel frame
At the inception of the design strategy, Stiff + Trevillion determined that a heavyweight building with a brick facade was the clear choice for integrating into the surrounding context. Soho, like much of London’s West End, is composed of Georgian and Victorian architecture of low to medium-height, laid out over a narrow network of streets. After setting the basic pattern of fenestration—nearly full height, double-fixed windows spaced evenly—the team dived into certain facade details such as the inclusion of projecting piers approximately every ten feet to conceal movement joints and further the verticality of the overall mass. According to Stiff + Trevillion, the design team “initially anticipated that the facade would be constructed using precast modules clad with glazed brick slips” due to the degree of repetition found in their facade pattern. Ultimately, the inability of the precast units to be fabricated within the predetermined cost constraints led the firm to incorporate hand laid bricks into their design. For the fabrication of the facade, the firm looked across the North Sea to St. Joris, a glazing specialist based out of Beesel in the southeastern corner of the Netherlands. The bricks, all roughly measuring 8.5 inches by 4 inches by 2.5 inches, were harvested in the centuries-old clay pits of the nearby Westerwald mountain range. The clay deposits found in this region are noted for their density of minerals, including quartz, illite, and kaolinite, providing a high threshold for firing stability, a useful trait when baked at temperatures bordering 1200 degrees Celsius. In total, St. Joris produced 100 special brick formats, a result of differing shapes and variations on which face the brick was hand glazed. Glazing for the project consists of two colors: a dark blue at the base of the building (handy for concealing grime associated with street level commotion) which brightens to a lighter blue-green moving upward. The bricks are arranged according to a stretcher bond layout, exposing the longer face of each brick on both the facade and interior spaces. "The facade was constructed with the brickwork acting as a rainscreen, and using secondary steel framing provided by Ancon Building Products as the inner leaf, faced in cementitious board," said Stiff + Trevillion Director Lance Routh. "The bricks are fastened to the frame by a course of stainless steel shelf angles that run continuously at every floor level." Between every brick course the contractor applied an approximately 1/4-inch application of black mortar to blend with the darker hue of the glazing. Where the design breaks away from its brick-and-mortar context is with unique corner window surrounds and soffits designed by British artist Lee Simmons. Composed of cast aluminum, the lustrous asymmetrical detail shifts away from the relative formality of the brick-faced construction, while falling in line with the more exuberant Victorian architectural details found throughout Soho. This secondary facade element is fitted to the "inner leaf" via armatures extending through the brick curtain, and sealed with a breather membrane and EPDM. The fit-out of the interior, which features a double-height space with a mezzanine deck, is expected to be complete at the beginning of 2019.
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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.