London’s Fitzrovia neighborhood is a bit of an architectural collage. There are 18th- and 19th-century brick homes interspersed with 20th-century concrete housing blocks and, at its far east end, John Nash’s All Souls Church. The London firm Bureau de Change was asked to create a building sandwiched between two of the many simple brick buildings in the area, and as much as the firm hoped to respect this context and legacy, the designers wanted to disrupt it too. Their “Interlock” building, a five-story residential building with a street-level cafe and a gallery below, features an undulating facade of cool gray-blue bricks that enliven the building's elongated form. “We were interested in taking these very traditional proportions and in some way subverting it,” explained co-founder and director Katerina Dionysopoulou, “like a puzzle box that seems familiar and reveals a hidden complexity that increases the more you interact with it.” Considering how a brick facade could respond to openings and fenestration, rather than just frame them, Bureau de Change designed ripples that seems to grow out of and shrink into the windows and doors. The firm modeled 14 brick types and worked closely throughout the research and development process with brickmakers to iterate forms that would fit together, successfully fire in the kiln, and remain strong when arranged. Once the final forms were decided, handmade metal molds were made and bricks—5,000 of them—were cast. In addition to the 14 “parent” brick morphologies, 30 related “offspring” bricks were derived during the modeling and testing process, for a total of 44 different brick types. “We were walking the line of what would be technically possible, but through this process, found a point that was both buildable and produced the richness and movement we were trying to achieve,” said co-founder and director of Bureau de Change Billy Mavropoulos, on striking a balance throughout conception, design, and construction. The intensive modeling process allowed the designers to control the placement of each individual brick, and installers were given 3D files so they could align each of the rows correctly, which, due to the unusual nature of the structure, required millimeter-level accuracy and specific adaptations for each region of the facade. Between the windows, steel trays were necessary to support the bricks, but installers had to expertly align them so that the frames’ edges would be hidden. Similarly, the layout had to be crafted in such a way that holes within the bricks that help with their load-bearing ability were hidden despite the many odd angles they were placed at. The bricks were made of Staffordshire Blue Clay and were fired in oxidation to create the matte finish. Building the 5,000-brick “landscape” took three months. “The fabrication team used 1:1 printed templates that set out the number, typology, and location of each brick,” explained the firm, going on to say that the 188 templates acted as a sort of “construction manuscript.” The process was defined by collaboration between Bureau de Change, the brick manufacturers Forterra, and the construction team, and, as comes with working iteratively on untested ideas, it took a great deal of trial and error.
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“Attention: The fire alarm system is about to be tested. You do not have to leave the building. When all testing is complete, you will hear a further message.” In the local council buildings in Greater London, the fire alarms are tested every Friday at 3 p.m. The seventeen associates of the independent nonprofit Public Practice have learned this by now, a few months into the nonprofit’s associates program. The participants are selected and placed at public planning offices in the region and meet up every two weeks, one hosting the rest of the group on a rotating schedule. These Fridays mean mutual exchange—of everything from recent research to the nuances of office culture. This morning they arrived at a mildly postmodern conference room at Epping Forest District Council for tea and instant coffee. Semi-rural Epping sits at the northeastern end of London’s longest tube line, six public transit zones and a brisk walk from central London. Ione Braddick, a young architect who was selected as an associate in the first Public Practice cohort a few months ago, has taken that route here every morning since. “Much of the work comes down to persuading people that a local council thinking about design is even a good thing,” she told AN. This is also the main argument behind Public Practice. It works as a broker between organizations and people. On one end are local councils, planning authorities, transportation agencies, regional actors, and publicly owned development companies, and on the other are a new generation of designers looking to work in public planning. The first cohort of seventeen associates was picked and placed in new, strategic roles in April 2018. After a year, the hope is that they have gathered unique experiences, and also have built collective knowledge and networks between planning institutions. When Public Practice was founded around a year ago by Pooja Agrawal and Finn Williams, it was on a basis of a series of clear observations: Four decades ago, 49 percent of all architects in the U.K. worked in the public sector. Today, only 0.7 percent do. Since the financial crash in 2008, local budgets for planning and development have dwindled. Planning authorities are struggling to stay relevant counterparts to strictly commercial interests. Nearly half of them have no in-house design capacity at all. Epping Forest was one such authority, until Braddick was placed here as a pioneer for the yearlong program. Some of Braddick’s new Epping workmates have joined in around the table. Veneered walls and a lavender carpet frame the conference room window, which overlooks the far end of High Street, with a Tesco Superstore, a gas station, an Indian restaurant squeezed between coffee franchises, and a gothic revival church farther down. One block away, terraced-houses line private cul-de-sacs and at the horizon sit a dozen golf courses and a royal forest. Much of what is happening here since Braddick arrived is happening for the first time. “You realize one of the things we architects are worst at is explaining why design is important,” she said. Braddick used to work at a small architecture firm and enjoyed it. She led housing schemes from sketch to the construction site, instructed on the placement of bricks and the depth of mortar joints. But she found herself thinking: “Of all the things in architecture, buildings were maybe the one I was least interested in.” She was more drawn to the ways people use the city and its structures. At her new workplace in Epping Forest’s public sector, she leads the council’s new “Implementation Team,” negotiating and reviewing larger projects, which in Epping’s case means 50 units or more. Plans for the expansion of Harlow and Gilston Garden Town are now on her table. “It’s like jumping into an entirely new career. Not only, as with any new job, trying to learn to use the printers and who everyone is and what everyone’s name is. You’re also trying to learn about whole democratic processes, decision-making and get a strategic understanding of an area that you, quite often, don’t know very well.” Public Practice’s cofounders Agrawal and Williams, who share a background at reputable architecture schools and award-winning offices, themselves left the private sector to work for local authorities a few years ago. They would like to see more architects follow suit. And, more importantly, they have noticed that the British public sector struggles to attract—and maintain—the competence and knowledge that urban planning requires. They thought they would have to work very hard to get local councils on board, but they have already received more inquiries than they can handle from all over the country. To the planning and development industry, Public Practice offers a resource pool that the field could not otherwise reach and at a lower cost than the go-to temporary consultants. For the associates, the program offers a prestigious and hands-on role with a huge potential impact alongside a tight-knit community of like-minded colleagues. The Public Practice cohort meets regularly and spends a tenth of their time on common research and development. The project is supported financially by regional and national actors, private as well as public. That the associates are placed in a wide spectrum of contexts, from Epping to the City of London and everything in between, is part of the idea. It is also a precondition for the exchange that everyone can visit each other without spending half a day traveling. Public Practice is looking to branch off to other regions with enough critical mass but, for the first cohort, London’s outer ring road is more or less the limit. For Ei-Lyn Chia, another associate in the cohort, the London metropolitan region is also as far as her design work stretches. She used to do strategic planning with a private firm working on schemes which, she points out, ended up on a shelf. “I wanted to get things done. That’s why I applied here,” she said. She is now getting used to the view from City Hall’s glass cocoon by the Thames. Her morning commute goes to Greater London Authority (GLA), run by Mayor Sadiq Khan. Braddick jokingly describes where Chia works as “the brain of London.” Chia agrees that the job deals with the city on a macro scale, but added: “Local councils are the real experts, who really understand local conditions. But ideas have to be carried through policy level and political decisions and Braddick fills in, urging for design skills to be present at every stage of planning, also, when projects are proposed, procured, reviewed, executed. That is not the case today.” Along with two other Public Practice associates, Chia spends her research days exploring how industrial intensification can coexist with things like offices and housing. “Since the topics you work within the public sector are so multifaceted, it allows you to reach out to people in different disciplines, without it being weird,” she said, adding, “We’re allowing conversations to happen between people who wouldn’t otherwise have spoken to each other.” That also applies to dialogues within, and between, the public sector’s different actors. One of the advantages of Public Practice, they have realized, is that seventeen people from different authorities regularly get together in the same room. It is a rare thing. Most of the roles in which the associates have been placed are also positioned in between two different departments of an organization—which is intentional, said Chia. “With one foot in each door, that person, in effect, allows teams to transfer information in new ways. Most of the associates have an architecture background and are at the start of their careers, with a stray example of one with 25 years of experience in local planning. Some have expertise in strategic planning, others in digital infrastructure or placemaking and public relations. What they all have in common is that they were drawn to the Public Practice model and, in tough competition with ten times as many applicants, have been placed where they can contribute the most during a year. In a similar way, the organizations they now work for also applied to be part of the network. It is not a matter of just filling vacancies. Epping Forest and the GLA both had to present a case for a new role that they saw a strategic need for and were willing to offer resources for. On an intense day last spring, two hundred applicant architects and almost forty aspiring partner organizations gathered for workshops, talks, and interviews. According to Agrawal and Williams, it is this rigorous selection and matching process that is the key to the initiative actually working. Almost all 32 London municipalities say they need more urban design and planning expertise on the payroll, but have difficulties recruiting them. That is the gap that Public Practice is aiming to address. And what they are looking for in the applications, apart from talent and training, is humility, and the capacity to listen and to learn. “Attention: All testing and engineering work on the fire alarm system is now complete. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.” “I’m hoping to stay,” Braddick said, knowing what she would like to get out of her one-year placement. To see what she can contribute takes more than twelve months. And she hopes Epping Forest District Council sees the value in making a role like hers permanent. People around her are already talking about how things are designed, not just about parking quotas, profitability, and unit ratios. “‘Does it have a sense of place?’ people would ask, out of habit,” she said. “Well yeah, somewhere really shit can have a sense of place—but we want it to be a good place, don’t we?” Already trying to define what “good” is, is a successful start, she argues, and worth the effort. Two weeks later, someone else will have the group visiting them at their workplace. The participants say it is thanks to the Friday meet-ups with their Public Practice colleagues that they had a smooth transition to a new working environment. When they see each other, they exchange new knowledge and concrete tips, but also share their experiences open heartedly. “Sometimes it’s all about leaning against someone and going, ‘Ah, what a week…I need a drink!’” Braddick and Chia said, “and the next time, it’s, ‘Something happened—it’s amazing!’” A new cohort of Public Practice Associates will be starting placements in April 2019 in London, the South East, and the East of England. In the near future, the model is set to be expanded to other UK regions—perhaps also abroad. This is a translation of an article previously published in Arkitekten, the news magazine of Architects Sweden.
Alison and Peter Smithson, James Stirling, Eduardo Paolozzi, and then some: The Whitechapel Gallery's This is Tomorrow show had an all-star cast when it was unveiled in 1956, not that the audience was necessarily acquainted with these fresh-faced artists and architects (yet). Bold, radical, and surefooted—as the name suggested—This is Tomorrow turned heads as visitors flocked to the then-genuinely edgy East End of London to see the show that was welcoming a new artistic movement, Pop Art, to Britain. Is This Tomorrow? a show now at the same Whitechapel Gallery in the same, now banker-friendly part of London, recalls the exhibition of 63 years ago. Instead of being laced with new ideas fuelled by the optimism of a country finally free from food rationing, Is This Tomorrow? takes a more pessimistic view of what the future may be. Ten teams, of mostly architects and artists, have been assembled by curator Lydia Yee. From the start, audiences are confronted by metal sheep pens courtesy of British studio 6a and Argentinian artist Amalia Pica. This is clearly farm equipment and having to move through the narrow contraption in single file as a human is hardly fun, but dark humor punctuates the work; objects like buoys for seals to play with raise questions about how we treat animals. Maybe too, this is how it feels for some in migrant detention camps. An engaging and provoking start is followed by less moving exhibits on the gallery's ground floor. Adjaye Associates and Canadian artist Kapwani Kiwanga's Sankofa Pavilion is meant to be a place for intimate conversations, but the star-shaped installation, which uses dichroic glass to partially reflect light, is more fun for taking pictures in. Thugz Mansion by London firm APPARATA with Glaswegian artist Hardeep Pandha also falls short. The premise of addressing "what happens to architecture when political systems collapse or become outmoded?" sounds deliciously anarchic but the reality is is that Thugz Mansion lacks any real potency. The final installation on the large, open ground floor is a welcome return to the dismal yet engaging promise of 6a and Pica's work. Spirits Roaming the Earth from architect Andrés Jaque and artist Jacolby Satterwhite, both based New York, posits "highendcracy," while bringing up air-rights dilemmas, designer babies, pollution, fracking, gay porn, queer space, and the placement of 432 Park Avenue renderings in Russian luxury hotels. It's rich in content and remarkably coherent, even with so much packed in. If you can't sit through the eight video episodes which explain how the world is fucked by the aforementioned subject matters, a leafy pulsating tower that rises above fumes and a jungle featuring rooms hosting sex parties and topped by two men kissing distills everything nicely. Above, the second floor is a similarly mixed bag of installations. An interim space glosses over the 1956 exhibition with newsreel footage from the British Pathé archive and an assortment of relevant books. Beyond that, the Mexican match-up of artist Mariana Castillo Deball and Tatiana Bilbao results in what appears to be a melted Mecano set; it's meant to symbolize communal connections and the Mesoamerican calendar. Is This Tomorrow? has been promoted alongside a photo of Bait Ur Rouf Mosque in Bangladesh by Marina Tabassum Architects. The firm, with fellow Bangladeshi, artist Rana Begum, has exhibited Phoenix Will Rise—simply an oculus with a crinkled, colored lining, in an inverted trapezoid structure. A weak reference to what is a wonderful building. Thankfully, two much stronger works follow. Duck down and enter The Salvator Mundi Experience from British duo David Kohn Architects and artist Simon Fujiwara. The work accommodates only one person at a time and offers a 360-degree panorama of 1:24 scale scenes depicting experiences of Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi—the painting that broke records when fetching $450 million in New York two years ago. Kohn and Fujiwara's work investigates the commodification and marketability of art and art experiences, focusing on the public relations campaign from marketing agency Droga5, and depicts an auction room, the Dubai Louvre where da Vinci's piece was set to be exhibited, a creepy "interactive chapel," fake replica artwork donation center, a restoration room, and more. All scenes feature CCTV cameras, but of course, the viewer is the real Big Brother. After these miniature metaphors, Borders/Inclusivity from Iranian-born architect Farshid Moussavi and French artist Zineb Sedira ensnares audiences at human scale (the installation isn't for those with claustrophobia). Borders/Inclusivity is a procession of turnstiles that turn different ways and force visitors to awkwardly negotiate the course. Meanwhile, motion sensors set off sirens and sounds of border patrol over the radio. The installation is simple but fits nicely with 6a and Pica's treatment of humans as animals and it'd be a fitting end to the exhibition. However, Brits Rachel Armstrong and Cécile Evans signal the end of Is This Tomorrow? with a piece that somehow dovetails microbial cells and a fog curtain with a fluttering bird projection, all within 140 square feet—London's smallest living space. And that's it. Maybe the Whitechapel Gallery is showing its age—once young and full of hope, now it's moaning about how bad everything is and how much worse it will get, and not doing it too eloquently either. The original, the emphatic, This Is Tomorrow endures more than half-a-century on; the pessimistic, Is This Tomorrow? might not last so long. Despite offering genuine moments of intrigue and asking tough questions, one leaves wishing it was 1956 again.
C.F. Møller has designed a swath of social housing for an upcoming development called Blackwall Reach atop east London’s famous Robin Hood Gardens, a demolished series of brutalist blocks designed in the 1960s by renowned British architects, Alison and Peter Smithson. Initial plans released in 2017 indicated that the Danish firm would create a 330-unit complex featuring cross-laminated timber (CLT), a resourceful construction method that’s been gaining wide acceptance in the United Kingdom. But a recent government ban on combustible cladding materials has put plans for the engineered product in jeopardy, reported Architects' Journal. The new legislation, which was enacted late last December, was introduced after the Grenfell Tower fire of June 2017 in which one of West London’s tallest residential towers burned down, claiming 72 lives. After a pressure-filled campaign from Grenfell United, a group of survivors and victims’ families, the U.K.’s Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government introduced a new building safety code last summer that would prohibit the use of cladding materials holding a European fire rating of less than A1 or A2. Per the ruling, architects and developers cannot use such products in the external wall construction of schools, high-rise homes, hospitals, and care facilities, reported AJ. The ruling also calls for local municipalities to begin removing unsafe aluminum composite material (ACM) cladding on existing structures taller than 18 meters (about six stories). Though CLT is not an ACM and has been proven to perform well under fire load, it contains wood and is being cited as hazardous to lawmakers. CF Møller’s affordable housing design for Blackwall Reach is phase 3 of a larger, controversial regeneration plan of Robin Hood Gardens, which the London-based practice Metropolitan Workshop is overseeing. Phase 1b and Phase 2 includes the build-out of 268 homes across four buildings designed by Haworth Tompkins and Metropolitan Workshop. These structures, currently under construction, are slated for completion this year and in 2021. Phase 3 construction is expected to start following the move-in of residents to the new buildings. Overall, the 20-acre Blackwall Reach project is set to replace 250 high-rise homes within the area with a total of 1,575 new units. Swan Housing Association, a community development and management organization, is developing the site alongside the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and the Greater London Authority. While this is only one project suffering a design setback thanks to the new ban on combustible cladding materials, it signals what could become a major issue with the use of CLT products on future tall buildings in the U.K. and across Europe. Already a world leader in mass timber manufacturing and construction, it’s unclear how the U.K. will now move forward in creating large-scale projects using the material. The ban has recently received major criticism from industry leaders like the Timber Trade Federation and architects who worry about the environmental cost of restricting timber in large construction. The Royal British Institute of Architects came out in support of the ban in November but recommends it only apply to specific cladding applications.
The 2019 Serpentine Pavilion has found its architect. Junya Ishigami, the Golden Lion winner at the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale, has designed a monolithic stone canopy to rise on the grounds of London’s Serpentine Galleries. Ishigami’s pavilion will open on June 20 this summer alongside the gallery’s augmented reality collaboration with Google, Sir David Adjaye, and a prospective design competition winner. “My design for the Pavilion plays with our perspectives of the built environment against the backdrop of a natural landscape,” said Ishigami in a statement, “ emphasizing a natural and organic feel as though it had grown out of the lawn, resembling a hill made out of rocks. This is an attempt to supplement traditional architecture with modern methodologies and concepts, to create in this place an expanse of scenery like never seen before. Possessing the weighty presence of slate roofs seen around the world, and simultaneously appearing so light it could blow away in the breeze, the cluster of scattered rock levitates, like a billowing piece of fabric.” Ishigami, born 1974, previously worked at SANAA until 2004, when he left to form Junya Ishigami + Associates in Tokyo. The firm’s work has often been described as minimalist, yet still active and in dialogue with surrounding landscapes, and the 2019 pavilion seems like it should be similar. Ishigami has proposed layering slate tiles to form a single cavelike structure and that will recontextualize the roofing materials into something that appears both natural and contrived. The contemplative, naturalistic pavilion appears to share themes, materials, and colors with last year’s perforated installation from Mexican architect Frida Escobedo. The Serpentine Pavilion, now in its 19th iteration, will be open to the public from June 20 through October 6 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. A slate of programming has been lined up as part of the annual Summer at the Serpentine series. The gallery has commissioned site-specific films, dances, art pieces, written work, and more to accompany the pavilion on select Fridays. The pavilion will be sponsored by Goldman Sachs for the fifth year in a row.
London’s Serpentine Galleries are going high-tech for its 2019 summer installation. Together with Google Arts & Culture and Serpentine trustee David Adjaye, the arts institution is soliciting augmented reality (AR) architecture proposals to run alongside the 2019 Serpentine Pavilion this summer. Serpentine Augmented Architecture is taking entries from all over the world until February 25. According to the brief, applicants are expected to “propose imaginary city spaces and speculations on the built environment to be developed and experienced” in AR onsite at the galleries. The jury, composed of writers, curators, designers, technologists, and architects, is evaluating proposals on three different categories: How can the city be augmented or reinvented through AR? How can AR recontextualize our spatial relationships, given that the challenges and limitations of designing in the physical world are nonexistent in digital realities? Finally, each submission needs to be at least somewhat site-specific, as the Serpentine Gallery sits within an ecologically-sensitive park and welcomes up to 12 million visitors a year. Most importantly, because AR is in a relatively nascent stage, despite the tech being readily available to anyone with a smartphone, the boundaries and rules for its use have yet to be written. Any creative uses of augmented reality, including those that evolve over time, will be accepted. Entrants who are selected for the two-stage competition’s shortlist will move ahead to the second round and will be given a stipend of $1,000 to further develop their idea. After that, one winning proposal will be realized on the gallery’s grounds in July, and the winning team will receive approximately $3,800 for travel and accommodation expenses. Interested in applying? The full guidelines can be found here. The Serpentine Galleries are leaning heavily into tech this year, and Marina Abramovic will be staging her own AR installation in the main gallery space from February 19 through 24. While the architect of the 2019 Serpentine Pavilion hasn’t been announced yet, that information should become available any day now, giving applicants a better idea of what their work will be shown alongside.
This past fall, artist Lee Simmons unveiled a massive 50-foot intervention in London’s Marylebone neighborhood, completed over a four-year collaboration with Bath, U.K.–based Format Engineers. Titled Quadrilinear, the project is an assemblage of five layers of laser-cut steel that climb four stories through a private clinic designed by ESA Architects. Simmons worked with the architects, engineers, and fabricators to help bring the sculpture, which was commissioned by Howard de Walden Estates, to fruition. The stainless-steel column is based on deconstructed maps of historic Marylebone abstracted and collaged together. The intent, according to Simmons, was to engage with the “context and rhythm and fabric of the facade,” but in such a way that the sculpture could “have a life outside of the architectural canvas” it was built within. The hope is that Quadrilinear might be more than just an architectural accent and that it will become a “gateway” to the historical road. For Simmons, the work is partially a reference to historic cornerstones that demarcate the built environment and introduce buildings and their histories. Format Engineers realized the technical aspects of Quadrilinear with the fabricators Littlehampton Welding. The airy sculpture is made of thin filigree steel sheets just under a quarter of an inch thick clamped together by 1,200 stainless-steel rods—the minimum that Format Engineers could reasonably use while maintaining structural integrity. By compressing the lattice sheets in this manner the structure mimics a Vierendeel truss with bolt tension counteracting the rotation of the joints. The whole free-standing structure has a slight curve that allows it to seem suspended almost weightlessly within the building’s frame despite its nearly 17-ton weight. Format Engineers relied on computational scripting to evaluate the most efficient ways of distributing stress and laying out the sculpture, and the bolts are, according to the firm, “clustered in a pattern reflecting a pure mechanical logic.” This approach minimized fabrication costs and simplified construction while maintaining the visual complexity of the piece. In the end, all of this engineering resulted in a structure that, in Simmons’s terms, evinces the “symbiotic way” that art and architecture have worked together in the built environment throughout history. https://vimeo.com/290294269
An analysis of the Foster + Partners–designed “Tulip,” the 1,000-foot-tall observation tower first proposed for Central London in November of last year, has revealed that the as-is scheme would clash with the London Plan. In its 15-page report, the Greater London Authority (GLA) had “significant concerns with the design approach” and the potential impact on the public’s ability to see the Tower of London. The London Plan, a strategic planning resource for development across the metropolis, lays out economically and environmentally sustainable development criteria that preserve the city’s heritage. The plan is also a framework for the mayor to consider when considering strategic planning applications submitted to the mayor's office. As the plan notes, responsibility for reaching the goals therein is shared between the Mayor’s Office, London’s 32 boroughs, and the Corporation of the City of London—with the GLA set up to administer the plan. In their January 14 review of the Tulip’s strategic planning application, the GLA voiced its concern that the tower failed to comply with the London Plan. The authority pointed out that the scheme conflicts with London Plan Policy 7.7, which mandates that tall buildings set aside a free-to-enter public space (it’s presumed that the Tulip will charge for entry to its bulb-like observation area). As for the design, which would balance the solid concrete shaft and glass observation topper above a two-story retail podium, the GLA wrote that: “officers have significant concerns with the design approach. The height appears unjustified and the introduction of significant expanse of solid and inactive building frontage would appear incongruous in the existing faceted context of the Eastern Cluster, drawing significant attention in this heritage sensitive location.” The report goes on to note that the planning application made use of pedestrian numbers from 2015 as opposed to a 2025 forecast, and that as such, “The proposals are considered to result in a poor quality, unwelcoming, unnecessarily confined pedestrian environment contrary to Policy 6.10 of the London Plan and Policy to D1 of the draft London Plan. The proposals would not reflect the Healthy Streets approach detailed within Policies T2 and T4 of the draft London Plan. The level of cycle parking would not accord with draft London Plan Policy T5.” The Tulip’s impact on the sightlines for historic buildings was also called into question. This isn’t the first time official concerns have been raised over the building, as the London City Airport requested that construction be postponed until it could study how the gondola pods on the observation bulb’s exterior would impact its radar systems. In response to the GLA report, Foster + Partners released the following statement to the Architects’ Journal: “We are pleased to see that the mayor of london considers the use of a visitor attraction as complementing the City. “We welcome the detailed technical comments by GLA officers and, as part of the ongoing planning process, we will continue to work closely with the City of London Corporation and the GLA to resolve those matters raised and to improve the package of public benefits associated with the Tulip.” If construction proceeds as scheduled, the Tulip is expected to break ground in 2020 and open to the public in 2025.
After winning a competition in 2017, Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) has released new renderings of its conceptual design for a London Centre for Music. The new building is backed by a group of local institutions, including the London Symphony Orchestra and the Barbican. The £288 million structure will rise like a twisted block on the site where the Museum of London now stands. The new building reinterprets the idea of a vertical campus that DS+R used in the Vagelos Education Center for Columbia University in New York City. Performance and rehearsal spaces are stacked with lobbies and other public areas mixed in between, and a staircase with seating will wrap around the building to tie it all together. Many spaces are swathed in uniform wood paneling, as in the firm's design for New York's Alice Tully Hall, and many rooms are oriented toward a window wall displaying a view over the city, similar to the computer space in Boston's ICA, also by the firm. The exterior finishes are abstracted in the renderings, giving the building a largely transparent appearance, but there are apparent hints at slatted wood siding and a twisted glass facade. Work on the new building can only begin after the Museum of London vacates the site in 2023, and construction is expected to take a further four years after that.
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.
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."
Brought to you with support fromLocated 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.
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.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