Posts tagged with "London":

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Andrés Jaque, David Adjaye, and others paint a bleak vision of tomorrow in London

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.
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C.F. Møller’s mass-timber vision for Robin Hood Gardens stifled by ban on combustible cladding

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.
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Junya Ishigami chosen to design the 2019 Serpentine Pavilion

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.
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Serpentine Gallery and David Adjaye put out a call for trippy AR architecture

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.
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This 17-ton steel sculpture soars thanks to computational structural modeling

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
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Greater London Authority rebukes Foster + Partners’ Tulip tower

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.
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Diller Scofidio + Renfro reveals design for London Centre for Music

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.
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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.”