Posts tagged with "London":

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Diller Scofidio + Renfro announced as designers of London’s Centre For Music

Diller Scofidio + Renfro have bested a shortlist that included Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano, Snøhetta and Foster + Partners, winning the commission to design the Centre For Music, the new home for the London Symphony Orchestra and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.  The Centre will be located near the Barbican complex in the City of London (where the Symphony currently performs), on a site now occupied by the Museum of London—which will move to a new home a half-mile west in West Smithfield. The Brutalist museum was designed in 1976 by Philip Powell and Hidalgo Moya, 1974 winners of the Royal Gold Medal For Architecture. DS+R's Centre is set to contain a concert hall with up to 2,000 seats, as well as classrooms and training spaces. Its cost, which reports estimate at between £200 and £250 million, is to be funded largely through private donations, although the City of London earlier this year chipped in £2.5 million for a business plan. Explaining their choice in a statement, the Centre's architect selection panel said they felt DS+R "most clearly met the vision and ambition of this project, utilising their experience of creating inspiring new spaces for culture to present a proposal that delivers a world-class concert hall in an outstanding new building, as part of the re-imagination of a key area of the City of London within Culture Mile.” Other members of the design team will include Buro Happold (civil and structural engineer and building services engineer), Nagata Acoustics (acoustician), Charcoalblue (theater consultant), and AECOM (cost consultant). According to DS+R, a concept design will be submitted to the City of London Corporation by December 2018. The building will not just be a permanent home for the London Symphony, but will also host performances from the Barbican's family of orchestras and ensembles and from touring orchestras and artists. It will be a vital piece of The City's "Culture Mile," a conglomeration of nearby arts facilities also including the Barbican, Milton Court Concert Hall, and more.
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David Marks of Marks Barfield Architects has passed away

Like Paris' Eiffel Tower, the London Eye was only meant to be a temporary structure. However, 17 years after its opening in March 2000, after it had been dramatically hoisted up into place after hanging over the River Thames and unveiled as the "Millennium Wheel," the structure is now an indelible icon on London's skyline. Designed by Marks Barfield Architects, the Eye has now outlived one of its creators, David Marks, who passed away on October 6 at the age of 64. According to his firm, Marks had been ill for sometime. Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Marks grew up in Geneva, Switzerland before moving to London to study at the Architectural Association School (AA) in 1972. There, he met another student, Julia Barfield, who he married in 1981. The couple went on to form Marks Barfield Architects in 1989 and together they have contributed some of the U.K.'s best elevated views over the past two decades. The 1990s was a somewhat bombastic time for London architecture. The impending millennium gave rise to Britain's architectural heavyweights—though not quite household names at the time—to design monuments for the occasion: Richard Rogers, who once employed a young David Marks, provided the Millennium Dome (now the O2 Arena) and Norman Foster the Millennium Bridge. Both structures were swiftly derided after their opening. The Dome was costing the government $42 million a year and couldn't be sold, while Foster's bridge, nicknamed the "Wobbly Bridge" was in fact so wobbly in the wind that it had to be temporarily closed down and fixed. One other millennium-based addition to London's skyline, however, endured no such tumult. As you might have guessed, this is the London Eye. David Marks and Julia Barfield's design dates back to 1993 when it was submitted to a competition organized by the Sunday Times newspaper and The Architecture Foundation which called for a millennium landmark. The Millennium Wheel, along with every other submission, was rejected. Undeterred, Marks and Barfield remained intent on spinning the wheel into motion. Their efforts paid off when the Evening Standard told the story of the wheel's plight and just over a year later, British Airways contacted the firm about getting the project underway. Now, the London Eye is the U.K.'s most popular paid-for attraction with approximately 15,000 daily visitors embarking on the 1,392-foot-journey around the Eye's circumference at a steady 0.6 miles-per-hour. At the turn of the millennium, David Marks was awarded an MBE and a Special Commendation for Outstanding Achievement in Design for Business and Society by the Prince Philip Designers Prize. Marks Barfield's partnership with British Airways has born other fruit too. The firm's most recently completed work, the i360 in Brighton, is a rotating observation tower that rises to 531 feet along the South Coast. Opened in 2016, the structure lifts and revolves a pod, reminiscent of the London Eye's 32 pods, up and around a pole. Another elevated viewing platform the firm provided is the Kew Gardens Treetop walkway. Situated 60 feet above ground, the 650-foot-long path made from weathered steel looks over some of the world's best horticulture. The project was completed in 2008.  Last year, the firm collaborated with New York studio, Davis Brody Bond, to propose a gondola system for Chicago https://vimeo.com/165363195 Currently, Marks Barfield Architects is working on a new Mosque in Cambridge with Keith Critchlow, a professor of architecture at Cambridge University who taught David Marks at the AA.  Due for completion in 2018, the project will accommodate up to 1,000 men and women.   
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This year’s London Design Festival proved it’s not always gray in London

Bright colors, bold stripes, and geometric shapes were found in abundance during London Design Festival (LDF), which closed on September 24.

Stealing the show were London designers Camille Walala and Adam Nathaniel Furman. The former’s Villa Walala inflatable castle comprised a series of basic shapes doused with playful colors to match. Walala’s installation, which is in keeping with her previous work, couldn’t be more out of place. Situated in Broadgate’s Exchange Square by Liverpool Street, Villa Walala spruced up an area typically awash with navy-suited bankers on smart phones. The castle was perhaps much needed.

The splash of color continued on to the West. At the Barbican, Morag Myerscough and Luke Morgan designed Joy. Spanning the Barbican’s concrete wall along Silk Street were six symbols: a heart represented love, a globe represented society, a sun represented joy, an eye represented London’s openness, a star represented energy, and finally, a flower represented peace.

The same symbols could also be found at the designers’ Peace Garden and Pavilion in the West Smithfield Rotunda Garden. This piece, which was more accomplished, played with perspective and also provided shelter to visitors courtesy of drapes partially spanning the circular walkway, supported by zig-zagging columns.

More of Myerscough’s work could be found south of the river, too, though this was not part of the LDF. Emblazoned onto Grosvenor Arch, the entrance to Battersea’s Circus West Village (an area primed for vapid commercialization and luxury condos), is the word “POWER.” Just as blindingly colorful as the Peace Garden and Pavilion, the piece – known as Power Circus – makes use of marine plywood panels that were hand-painted by Myserscough and her team of artists.

If this aesthetic was to your taste, then one could head even further west to White City. Here, New York and London-based designers Craig Redman and Karl Maier transformed a former gas station. Titled HereAfter, the colorful installation was not part of the LDF but is open to the public indefinitely. HereAfter can be found on 74 Wood Lane.

It should be no surprise that with such vibrant hues being plastered all over the capital, Adam Nathaniel Furman got in on the act. Another star installation which had Instagrammers flocking to it was Gateways. Commissioned by Turkishceramics, Furman designed four 13-foot-by-13-foot tiled gates that referenced the history of ceramics in Turkish. The gates had different shaped passageways through them and were flanked on either side by shallow water that reflected the colorful tiles.

“There is no other architectural treatment that has remained as fresh, relevant and cool as ceramics has from a thousand years BC, right through into the 21st century,” said Furman.

His work, which was located at Granary Square by Kings Cross Station, fronted the Central Saint Martins art school where DesignJunction—a three-day design fair run in tandem with the LDF—was hosted in and around. Here, work from numerous exhibitors could be found, notably Turner Prize-winning architecture studio Assemble. The group showcased work from their Granby workshop in Liverpool which produced fixtures and fittings for the Granby Four Streets project which won the 2015 Turner Prize. Now in its second year, the workshop is expanding to produce tableware known as “SPLATWARE.”

Also on show at the LDF was work from British architecture firm Sam Jacob Studio. Presented in collaboration with car manufacturer MINI, Urban Cabin was a mock micro-house situated in Blackfriars where Londoners could come and swap books. On one side of the cabin, Jacob installed classically-inflected entablature crafted with a range of materials including foam board, MDF and various types of other timber and chipboard. Among a hammock and other furnishings, Urban Cabin came pre-stocked with architecture, design and London-centric books for people to take and replace – on the condition that they left a personal note about the book.

The festival continued at Somerset House. The most popular piece here was PriestmanGoode’s exhibition of interior design strategies for a hyperloop system. Here, visitors could also sit on prototype seat and feel test finishes and surfaces, look at color palettes and provide suggestions for what they wanted inside hyperloop cars.

LDF spread to Greater London, too. In Bexley, East London, Erith Lighthouse was erected for the festival. The polycarbonate lighthouse, designed by architects DK-CM and design studio The Decorators, was erected along the Thames Estuary's edge and hosted a series of food-based events. 

https://youtu.be/w3KUcQt8Yys

Sticking to light as a medium, the Victoria & Albert Museum showcased the Reflection Room as part of the festival. Created by Flynn Talbot, the exhibition used 56 custom-made stretch membrane Barrisol panels to reflect orange and blue light which emanated from Tryka LED profiles installed at each end of an enclosed corridor .

Want more? Find the full list of projects and events that were found at LDF this year here. Missed it? Maybe next year! The 2018 London Design Biennial will run from September 4 through September 24.

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In London, a new exhibition speculates on the future of Rome

On view at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in London is When in Rome - A Collective Reflection on the Eternal City. The exhibition combines two previous shows, Re-Constructivist Architecture, which was at New York's Ierimonti Gallery, and Unbuilt Rome, which was on view at CAMPO in Rome. Both shows closed earlier this year, but are re-opened together in this show. Curated by Jacopo Costanzo, Giulia Leone and Valentino Danilo Matteis, When in Rome exhibits 22 projects from 19 architecture firms and designers from around the world who have all plunged into Rome's past to reframe an architectural future for the city. As a testament to their united vision, the two previous exhibits' convergence at RIBA allows two strands of speculative approaches to architectural intervention in Rome to be viewed in unison. It becomes evident that fundamentally they speak the same language—be it an abstraction or adaptation of the past or a reaction to it. Fitting in 22 projects is no mean feat. Like Re-constructivist Architecture did at the Ierimonti Gallery, projects fill the three walls. However, RIBA's "Practice Space," where the exhibition is located, does so on a larger scale. The extra space means that models—some of which could not be shown in New York—are afforded more room, though they cannot be viewed in the round. While the exhibits in New York and Rome placed the projects' accompanying texts at eye level, in the RIBA show, sometimes viewers are forced to crouch or craning their necks to read them. Aside from this, the means of conceptual representation in When in Rome sheds light on emerging trends in architectural representation. Collages and similar graphic methods are favored by most, with the projects from Re-constructivist Architecture using classical motifs or settings to engender a sense of identity and historical connection within new Roman architecture. In When in Rome, classical art and architecture is often abstracted to reimagine locales, producing artwork that riffs on this classical frame of reference. This can be seen with the work of Portuguese studio fala atelier, French firm jbmn architects, and False Mirror Office from Italy. Seeing the projects together makes it clear that the two exhibitions this show derives the work from converge well together. Projects such as Supervoid's adaptation of Adalberto Libera's never-realized Augustus Mausoleum and Shrine to the Fallen soldiers in East Africa and La Macchina Studio's Triumphal 17 fit well with the manifesto of Re-constructivist Architecture, despite both originally being for Unbuilt Rome. Despite the similarities between the works and themes in Re-constructivist Architecture and Unbuilt Rome, the projects are displayed separately, but without any markers separating them. The projects from "Unbuilt Rome" are bound together by Jacopo Valentini' photographs of the nine sites that never saw the presented projects constructed. Co-curator Jacopo Costanzo told The Architect's Newspaper (AN) that both of the exhibitions used Rome "as a theatre." He believes the array of projects could be seen as a sign of contemporary trends rather than as a unified movement. "The show at RIBA can present a sort of contemporary map of what it's going on in the generation of architects born in the 1980s," Costanzo added, noting that many architecture studios featured in When in Rome are young practices, with many based either in Italy or with experience working in the country.  When in Rome - A Collective Reflection on the Eternal City RIBA Practice Space 66 Portland Place, London, W1B 1AD Through October 8.
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This is Britain’s ugliest building of the year

"A hideous mess," "crass," "over-scaled," "[an] assault on all your senses from the moment you leave the Tube station." The judges were unsparing in their criticism of PLP Architecture's new London development, the Nova Victoria, which emerged the winner of the Carbuncle Cup, architecture's least wanted trophy. This is the sixth year in a row a London project has been crowned Carbuncle-of-the-year, annually awarded by Building Design (BD) a British architecture publication for the ugliest building to have been completed in the U.K. over the previous year. Among the six firms nominated for this year's Carbuncle Cup in the U.K., the largest studio, London-based PLP Architecture, walked away with the prize. Situated in the heart of London, PLP's Nova Victoria is one of the first set of structures people see when exiting Victoria Railway Station. And the sight that welcomes those unfortunate commuters, if they can see past the ongoing construction work, is a gargantuan up-turned arrowhead that is as red as the architects' faces might be today. Lee Polisano, president at PLP, told The Guardian that the building's color "is a reference to Victoria being an important transport interchange, so we chose a color that’s synonymous with transport in London." The developer behind Nova Victoria is Land Securities (LandSec) and this project is their second worthy of the Carbuncle Cup. Rafael Viñoly’s car-melting Walkie-Talkie building was the first in 2015. Nova, LandSec's most recent architectural clunker, houses offices, restaurants, and 170 apartments starting at $940,000. The $500 million project is described on its own website as "ultra-modern, beautifully engineered and architecturally daring. A statement for living amid the grandeur of Westminster and Belgravia." This apparent "statement," it seems, has not worn well on many critics. "Nova should have been good as it’s a prestige site. It makes me want to cringe physically," remarked judge Catherine Croft who is also director of the C20 Society in the U.K. The scathing didn't end there, either. Fellow judge David Rudlin lamented: "There’s no variety and you can’t read the floors." Speaking of the arrowhead, he added, "It’s got the same proportions as Salisbury Cathedral. For me the spire gives it carbuncular status–otherwise it’s just a bad building." BD editor Thomas Lane said also poured on the scorn. "The architect appears to have been inspired by the fractured, angular shapes beloved of stararchitects like Frank Gehry and Daniel Libeskind and applied these to a run-of-the-mill spec office development," he said. For all of Nova Victoria's flaws, it could have been worse. It's hard to imagine, but as The Guardian's Oliver Wainwright noted, three 40-story towers were proposed to Westminster Council in 2007. This was rejected, and rightfully so, for the project would have cast its Victorian surroundings in shadow. Worth noting too, is that views of and from Buckingham Palace would have been somewhat spoiled.
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Demolition begins on the Smithsons’ Robin Hood Gardens

The Robin Hood Gardens public housing complex in East London has finally met the wrecking ball. After years of protests from locals, architects, and critics, local authorities at the Tower Hamlets council chose to ignore pleas for the Peter and Alison Smithson–designed project and demolish it to make way for a new development. Built in 1972, Robin Hood Gardens was the realization of the illustrious pair's "streets in the sky" concept. A Brutalist icon, its demolition was protested by architects Richard Rogers, the late Zaha Hadid, Robert Venturi, and Toyo Ito, as well as numerous critics including Jonathan Glancey who argued that the building should be turned into student housing. The Twentieth Century Society, too, also campaigned tirelessly for its listing which Heritage England rejected on the grounds that it was not architecturally significant. Situated by East India Quays, the housing complex was just a stone's throw from Canary Wharf, London's financial hub. In many ways, it was a fitting counter, stylistically and programmatically, and was a symbol of resistance. From inside the Robin Hood Gardens' green space—located between the two concrete blocks—the glass towers of Canary Wharf (such as One Canada Square ) could be seen poking over the housing units. Financial capital was seemingly stopped short of knocking down social housing. Except it did. Developer Swan Housing Association will be building Phase Three of "Blackwall Reach," a new housing complex that will see 1,575 new homes added. Three firms—Haworth Tompkins, who won the 2012 RIBA Stirling Prize, Metropolitan Workshop, and CF Møller—are involved. The new scheme will keep the grassy mound that defined the previous project and the new units will be "affordable" dwellings. In the U.K., however, "affordable" is a loose and often redundant term as it means units can be priced at up to 80 percent of the market rate. This means some apartments can cost $1,855 per month. Instead of destroying the Smithson's work, a better option would have been to emulate what Urban Splash did to Park Hill Estate, another Brutalist social housing icon in Sheffield. Here, units were spruced-up and drastically improved, while the local area maintained its post-war heritage. Alas, it is too late. Robin Hood Gardens is no more, and with it goes another icon of the egalitarian post-war principles that shaped Britain and London.
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Heatherwick’s London bridge falls, but his London collaboration with BIG gets approval

This week, designer Thomas Heatherwick saw his studio's Garden Bridge project for London officially scrapped as the trust backing it closed down. However, in a turn of fortune, Heatherwick Studio, which is working alongside the London office of Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has been given the green light for a design for Google's headquarters at King’s Cross. After a highly controversial process, the Garden Bridge, which was initially backed by former London Mayor Boris Johnson, never came to fruition after incumbent Mayor Sadiq Kahn withdrew tax payer–backed financial support for it. Prior to this stage, some $48 million had been plowed into the project which was touted to cost more than $260 million. "Sadly, we're winding up. Without backing from [the Mayor of London] we cannot make the dream of the Garden Bridge a reality," tweeted the Garden Bridge Trust earlier this week. Others, notably the ardent opposition Twitter handle "Folly for London," weren't quite so dismayed. Bad news, it seems, had a habit of following Heatherwick around. In January, Khan canceled orders on the double-decker London bus he designed due to costs. In March, his Pier 55 project—a 2.75-acre garden over New York’s Hudson River— was stopped by a federal court ruling, though it received a reprieve in June. More solidly good news, though, came from the London borough of Camden where Heatherwick Studio and BIG's Google headquarters scheme was approved this week. The 869,900-square-foot building occupies a slender site by Kings Cross railway station, following the tracks down toward a canal. Hosting more than 5,000 employees—and capable of housing up to 7,000—Google's $780 million new headquarters neighbors the David Chipperfield–designed One Pancras Square which boasts Aldo Rossi overtones with its moulded cast iron columns. The clunky classicalism of that building is not emulated by BIG and Heatherwick's work, and in further contrast, the Google headquarter's design emphasizes its horizontality through timber mullions which double-up as louvres. The ground level will house retail and the eleventh floor will support a heavily-vegetated green roof. An 82-foot swimming pool and 660-foot running track will also feature within the scheme. Speaking to Richard Waite of the Architects' Journal (AJ), Heatherwick—whose studio is based out of Kings Cross—said, "Strong support for an ambitious building in an important part of the city is more proof that London is not afraid of its future. We’re excited to start building." Bjarke Ingels, meanwhile added: "The unanimous planning approval of our first project in the U.K. is obviously great for us and our London office—but more importantly Kings Cross will get a very lively new neighbor and the U.K. Googlers will finally be united." Across the pond, Heatherwick and Ingels are also collaborating on another Google project, the tech giant's Charleston East campus, in Mountain View, California. (It should be noted that Google's main headquarters will remain in Mountain View; the Heatherwick and BIG collaboration is just a London headquarters.)
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Gehry, DS+R, Snøhetta, Piano, Foster, and Levette compete for a new concert hall in London

Comprising quite the shortlist (described already as boasting the "starriest of starchitects"), Amanda Levete, Norman Foster, Renzo Piano, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Frank Gehry, and Snøhetta are all vying for the commission to design a new venue for the London Symphony Orchestra and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Known as the "Center for Music," the venue—despite protests from Leon Krier—will be located in what is currently the Museum of London, which was originally designed by Hidalgo Moya and Phillip Powell in the 1970s. In a close-knit reshuffle, the Museum of London will be moved to a new location in West Smithfield, only a stone's throw away from its original site at the Barbican. (The new Museum of London has a construction budget of $185 to 210 million and Bjarke Ingels Group, among others, is in the running for that project.) As for the new Center for Music, the roughly $322 million project will require a "state-of-the-art building of acoustic and visual excellence." Originally, the government had planned to provide some funding, but after austerity cuts, its proposed $6.4 million contribution was withdrawn and replaced by the City of London Organization, which is supplying $3.2 million. The venue is due to offer a 2,000-seat concert hall and spaces for teaching too.

The shortlist for the Center for Music in full is as follows:

  • AL_A (U.K.) and Diamond Schmitt Architects (Canada)
  • Diller Scofidio + Renfro (U.S.) and Sheppard Robson (U.K.)
  • Foster + Partners (U.K.)
  • Gehry Partners, LLP (U.S.) and Arup Associates (U.K.)
  • Renzo Piano Building Workshop (France)
  • Snøhetta (Norway)
“It is hugely encouraging that so many leading architects from around the world have responded enthusiastically to the challenge to develop a concept design for the Centre for Music," said Catherine McGuinness, policy chairman at the City of London Corporation, in a press release. "For them, it represents an exceptional opportunity to help realize the plans for this truly remarkable concert hall—outstanding in design and open to all—in the heart of the Square Mile. For the key partners behind this project and the City of London Corporation, this important announcement brings everyone a step closer towards one of the most widely anticipated and significant developments in the Square Mile’s vibrant cultural hub.”

The aforementioned architecture firms and their teams will provide designs in the coming months. A winner is expected to be announced in the fall.

The current concert hall in the Barbican has also seen recent work done to it—or rather underneath it—in the wake of CrossRail, a new rail line that connects East and West London. In order to reduce noise, special spring-loaded rails are being installed to dampen vibrations which reverberate loudly in the tunnels, potentially disturbing performances. Engineers have not been able to test the idea, but are hopeful of its success.

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London tower block fire occurred due to countless ignored fire safety warnings

In West London, a devastating tower block fire has claimed the lives of 17 people. The fire appears to have spread via recently-installed cladding to the block, known as Grenfell Tower, which was originally built in 1974. That cladding was applied last year to the tune of $11 million; it was installed to insulate the 40-year-old structure and to appease the view from nearby conservation areas and luxury flats. Planning documents from 2014 obtained by The Independent read: "Due to its height the tower is visible from the adjacent Avondale Conservation Area to the south and the Ladbroke Conservation Area to the east.... The changes to the existing tower will improve its appearance especially when viewed from the surrounding area." The documents also included: "The re-clad materials and new windows will represent a significant improvement to the environmental performance of the building and to its physical appearance." The cladding project was part of the Grenfell Tower Regeneration Project carried out by design consultant Rydon for the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organization (KCTMO), who consulted the London firm, STUDIO E LLP, whose name appears on plans. The spandrel wall panel system used an ACM cassette rainscreen with an aluminum composite material covering polystyrene insulation. Polystyrene, according to the German flammability and combustibility rating system, is highly flammable or "Easily Ignited." Subsequently, it is banned from being used in any exposed installations in building construction if the material is not flame-retardant. When the facade work was finished, Rydon issued a statement saying the "rain screen cladding, replacement windows, and curtain wall facades have been fitted giving the building a fresher, modern look." "The issue is that, under building regulations, only the surface of the cladding has to be fire-proofed to 'class 0,' which is about surface spread," said Arnold Tarling, a chartered surveyor and a fire safety expert in The Guardian. "The stuff behind it doesn’t, and it’s this which has burned." Speaking to The Architect's Newspaper (AN), a London Fire Brigade Firefighter said that the structure's cladding "made it act like a chimney." The cavity behind the panels, he explained, allowed smoke to travel up the building and heat up the new facade before setting it on fire. "If the cladding hadn't been there then the fire definitely wouldn't have spread that quickly. Usually, in tower fires, the concrete levels act as a sealed lock to contain the fire, but this has not happened here." The Firefighter added that people who had their windows open during the hot weather could also have been a factor: this allowed the fire to reach more fuel such as furniture. Despite the reported number of deaths, he said he wouldn't be surprised if that rose to 100. Another London firefighter told AN that there are "a lot more [fatalities] than they have announced." Could this tragedy have been prevented? Many think so. There were repeatedly reported concerns to KCTMO, a private company in London's wealthiest borough. These concerns, made by residents, raised issues of fire safety yet were ignored. In numerous blog posts that explicitly warned of a fire "catastrophe," the council—instead of helping—replied by threatening legal action. Furthermore, 90 percent of residents signed a petition calling for an investigation into the organization that runs the building. However, the council turned it down. In addition to this, a fire action notice put up by KTCMO in the tower told residents to stay in their flat in the event of a fire. If that wasn't enough, a fire at another London tower block (at Lakanal House, in 2009) which resulted in six fatalities appears to have been ignored. Findings in the resulting analysis discovered that inadequate fire risk assessments and panels on the exterior walls did not provide the required fire resistance. The local council was, however, fined $727,263 for its negligence. After such a tragedy, one would expect fire safety standards for buildings to be updated. It appears that was not the case. Though amendments were made in 2007, 2010 and 2013, none addressed the specific issues raised by Lakanal House. In 2016, seven years after the fire, Housing Minister Gavin Barwell said that the government will review part B of the UK's Building Regulations, a section which covers fire safety. This year, Ronnie King, Honorary administrative secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group, said the building regulations "haven't taken account of the Lakanal House fire inquest, or updated recent accredited research." STUDIO E LLP's work for KCTMO was approved in 2012, before Barwell's announcement of a review into a fire which happened in 2009. The incompetence and apathy regarding building fire safety are shocking, but this tragedy is the result of deregulation in the housing sector and removal of red tape that supposedly allows developers more freedom to build. Instead, it leads to worse and less safe housing conditions. And amazingly, the story of willful ignorance of experts continues. A survey from 2015 by the Fire Sector Federation, which discusses fire and rescue organizations, found that 92 percent of members thought that regulations were “long overdue an overhaul,” stipulating that they do not cater to modern day design and construction methods. In 2013, then London Mayor Boris Johnson of The Conservative Party told a Labour opponent to "get stuffed" when he was questioned about cuts to the fire service. More recently, in March this year, experts warned that the (Conservative) government's delay in reviewing building regulations could be "endangering tower blocks throughout the UK." Roughly 4,000 British tower blocks are in danger because of the outdated regulations. “We are still wrapping postwar high-rise buildings in highly flammable materials and leaving them without sprinkler systems installed, then being surprised when they burn down," architect and fire expert Sam Webb told The Guardian. As a result of the fire, Grenfell Tower's displaced residents are now without a home, and that's a tough thing in Kensington and Chelsea where the average house price is $1,748,158. During the final stages of the housing bill in the Commons in early 2016, a Labour amendment to ensure landlords were required to keep homes in a liveable standard was voted down by 312 votes to 219, voted for by nearly the entire incumbent Conservative party. At that time, 39 percent of Tory MPs were landlords. To cater for the displaced and newly homeless residents, many are kindly offering their homes out for people to stay. Meanwhile, there are 1,399 empty homes in Kensington and Chelsea, more than anywhere else in the UK. The UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, has ordered a full public inquiry into the event.
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London is a playground for Pritzker Prize winners, as this book demonstrates

“Context,” “vernacular,” and “reference” were the architectural buzzwords of choice that critic Owen Hatherley, at the start of 2017, used to recall the Architectural Review’s “Townscape” campaign. Here, he postulated that enhancing the old can be achieved by celebrating the new and serve as a deterrence to bland homogeneity. In London, viewing architecture without actually experiencing it in person is dominated by two abstract frames of reference: Instagram and flying things.

The former has helped to articulate a trend of austerity nostalgia and pastiche faux edginess, all bound by a medium that aestheticizes a bygone era and conveniently filters out context. It is, however, a deeply personal medium. The latter, meanwhile, depicts architecture within the cityscape and typically from above; lashings of context, yet devoid of any personal meaning seeing as very few of us can afford to travel by helicopter, and even fewer are birds.

New Architecture London, refreshingly and succinctly, makes no allusions as to what it's about through its title—not London looking nervously over its shoulder through rose-tinted spectacles, nor blind developer-driven optimism, this is the city as if were you to wander it right now.

Across 163 pages, photographers, Agnese Sanvito and Richard Schulman present a perpetually changing London in the “now;” a city, evidently rich in history, but not bound by it. For Schulman portraits of architects—and not just their buildings—is a hallmark of his work. While no portraits are featured in this book, it operates at a personal level with Schulman and Sanvito's lenses curating a pedestrian perspective of the city’s contemporary buildings.

In his foreword to the book, critic Edwin Heathcote describes Norman Foster's 30 St. Mary Axe (known by its colloquial moniker: The Gherkin) as a "bullet emerging from a city that has been bombed three times in a century." “Now it can barely be seen,” he continues, noting the structure as a stylistic and typological catalyst for its more contemporary, Boris-approved counterparts. It’s not all heroic, however. A generation ago, as Heathcote acknowledges, London was populated by few structures by architects of international repute, but now it is a playground for Pritzker Prize winners to plonk their iconic structures.

When Renzo Piano's Shard is framed with the abstract geometry of more glass you wonder: if the U.K.'s tallest building wasn't in the picture, would we know what city we were in? On the next page, a counter: the Shard rising above a Georgian wall, amid an equally mundane, yet historically inflected setting. In both, the Shard is the only visual indicator of place, but how long will this continue to be the case? Heathcote remarks, though, “it’s not just [London’s] skyline that has seen radical changes; its streets and its public spaces are being transformed” too.

This is a precedent for the photographers' work which looks at the abstract and intimate relationship between old and new (Amanda Levette’s 10 Hills Place and RARE Architects’ Patriot Square being notable examples). It also allows London's new architecture, in light of Townscape, to frame and be framed by its context. This is achieved sometimes by letting reflections, light, and shadow alternate focal points. Other times, it is as Heathcote remarks, “glimpsed around corners… or poking above streets.”

The technique encourages you to seek the narrative of a place and imagine the moment which is presented, as Schulman’s photograph of Caruso St. John's RIBA Stirling Prize winning Newport Street Gallery demonstrates. Even if you don't know what a delayed Southwest train service destined for Waterloo sounds like, the act of placing yourself in that scene isn't hard as the skyward facing photograph frames the saw-toothed roof and train reflection in the gallery's windows. Sadly, however, this image is afforded little page space by Prestel. The same could be said for a few other images too.

The term "shot" perhaps is a disservice to the photograph. Implying it was taken sporadically in the moment (a trait intentionally and successfully articulated) hides the fact that Schulman, in fact, spent considerable time to capture the moment and essence of place—even if a particular place is lacking in just that. He typically visits sites 20-30 times before shooting. "To take great pictures, you have to be prepared to lie on your back in the middle of the street," he told me.

Or sometimes, you have to be in a gondola—the Emirates Airline to be precise—from which Wilkinson Eyre’s Emirates Royal Docks and the Crystal can be spied. A synopsis states the cable-car system “connects directly to the London Underground while granting passengers a much more absorbing visual experience.” Don’t be fooled. When the summer tourists disappear, the supposed infrastructure is a ghost town gimmick—and a costly one too.

The Emirates airline is the only transport-orientated project featured, which says a lot for London’s building priorities. It could be said today’s starchitects were beaten to the opportunity largely by the Victorians, but Norman Foster's British Museum proved great work can be done when working with buildings from this era. New Architecture London is also ordered as haphazardly as London itself. A chronological or geographical route through would have been handy.

Three brick blockbusters, O'Donnell + Tuomey's LSE Saw Swee Hock Student Center and Herzog de Meuron's Switch House, in addition to Newport Street Gallery, can be found at the end of the book and remind us that London was once a brick-built city; a gracious nod to, not fetishized fawning, of the past. Looking forward, meanwhile, is New London Architecture, presenting an honest and refreshing take on a city still working out where it wants to go.

New Architecture London Prestel $45.00

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The hidden story behind Mies van der Rohe’s unbuilt London skyscraper

A unique exhibition opened last week at the RIBA in London that compares schemes from two of the most iconic architects of the 20th Century: Mies van der Rohe and James Stirling.

The exhibition, titled Mies van der Rohe & James Stirling: Circling the Square, takes a look at the unrealized Mansion House Square proposal by the former that was succeeded 20 years later by James Stirling's newly listed No. 1 Poultry scheme. Sited in central London, Mies's modernist proposal (a stylistic antonym of what was actually erected) drew ire from the public and monarchy, though the story, up until now, has likely been a mystery to those not old enough to know of its existence.

The exhibition is the first time the public has been able to compare and contrast the two architects’ responses to a tricky site. The curators of the exhibition—Marie Bak Mortensen, head of exhibitions and Vicky Wilson, assistant curator, RIBA—have spent the last two-and-half years researching and sourcing a vast collection of photography, drawings, models, articles, and artifacts. Speaking to The Architect's Newspaper, they said their motivation behind the exhibition was to "dig behind the official story," fraught with controversy and public opinion, to expose the architecture beneath.

Mortensen and Wilson, the original designers of the RIBA architecture gallery, have returned to design an exhibition consisting of steel, stained wood, and floating tables. A 1:96 scale model of the Mansion House scheme dominates the exhibition, which was used as a marketing tool to impress the public ten years after the passing of Mies himself. The highly detailed model of a proposal which was once dubbed a "glass stump" by Prince Charles, has been restored back its former glory. 

During its ascension into the public mainframe, the focal point of opposition to the scheme did not pertain to the scale of the 18 story tower of glass and bronze, but rather the vast public space proposed beneath and around. It is a public space which would be cherished today, yet in the 1960s it was seen as space which could incite unrest—a notion particularly toxic amid the wave of IRA terrorism in the UK. Circling the Square tells the story of the tumultuous 40-year journey of the site, culminating in the completion of No. 1 Poultry which went up in 1997, five years after Stirling's death. 

Mies van der Rohe & James Stirling: Circling the Square runs through June 25 and is on show at The Architecture Gallery, RIBA, 66 Portland Place, London.

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Ten finalist teams named for U.K. National Holocaust Memorial competition

The UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation has announced its shortlist of ten teams to design the new National Holocaust Memorial and Learning Center in Victoria Tower Gardens, adjacent the Palace of Westminster and in the heart of London. Whittled down from almost one hundred international entries, the finalists’ proposals are currently traveling on display throughout the U.K. while the foundation proceeds with the interview phase. The competition, announced in September of 2016, seeks a team to create a “sensitively-designed Memorial and Learning Centre that is emotionally powerful while offering visitors an opportunity to deepen their understanding of humanity’s darkest hour.” The brief calls for a distinct memorial adjacent to the River Thames with a subterranean education center.  The building’s construction is estimated to cost £40 million with the British government allocating £50 million in public funds to see the project through to completion (the £50 million figure also includes the creation and operation of the Centre, as well as other related education efforts). The education facility is said to “not be a conventional exhibition or teaching [center]” and will extend 2,650 square meters under the park’s lawn. The chosen architect will have to contend with a complex program that must balance with the historic nature of the site. Furthermore, one member of the House of Commons has cited concerns that construction in London’s public parkland might set a dangerous precedent for future development of the city’s open space, among other potential issues. Zaha Hadid Architects with artist Anish Kapoor A bronze monolith sculpted by Anish Kapoor and a Zaha Hadid Architects–designed structure would extend from a sunken courtyard and designate the National Holocaust Memorial as striking new landmark in London. John McAslan + Partners with MASS Design Group Drawing from Jewish traditions, this team has developed a sensitive design approach for the engagement of visitors to the site. Studio Libeskind with Haptic Architects Studio Libeskind is familiar with crafting sites to memorialize the Holocaust, having designed several such buildings across Europe. This effort recalls the similar abstraction of form and space characteristic of those earlier works.   heneghan peng architects with design agency Bruce Mau Design Proposing a structure that obscures the senses at some junctures and heightens them at others, this design focuses on the phenomenological experiences of its visitors. Foster + Partners with artist Michal Rovner This proposal is arranged as a long axial path for contemplation and sensory stimulation; visitors would descend a ramp underground before reemerging up a long flight of stairs into the park. Diamond Schmitt Architects with landscape architect Martha Schwartz Partners Using a simple ovular shape, this design integrates both the memorial and learning center into one sweeping gesture. Allied Works with artist Robert Montgomery Focusing acutely on building a powerful narrative for the site, this heterogenous team led by Allied Works includes sculptor and poet Robert Montgomery, who adds his incisive urban art-form to the proposal. Caruso St John with artist Rachel Whiteread This design focuses on the contextual elements of the site and the dramatic unfolding of space through sculptural cast glass and filtered light. Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects with David Morley Architects Located in a highly stylized landscape, the team lead by Finnish firm Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects has designed a distinct procession for visitors to experience. Adjaye Associates with Ron Arad Architects Using repeating geometric shapes to draw the visitor to the entrance of the center, the designers aim to emphasize the many layers of the British experience of the Holocaust. The jury is composed of many experts in Jewish Studies, architecture, public land use, and public works, and will select a winner later this summer to develop a final design. Jury: Sir Peter Bazalgette (Jury Chair) - Chair United Kingdom Holocaust Memorial Foundation and Chair, ITV Board The Lord Daniel Finkelstein OBE - Journalist Alice M. Greenwald - President and CEO of National September 11 Memorial and Museum Loyd Grossman CBE - Chair, Royal Parks Ben Helfgott MBE - Holocaust Survivor, Honorary President, ’45 Aid Society and President, Holocaust Memorial Day Trust Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP - Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Natasha Kaplinsky - Broadcaster Rt Hon Sadiq Khan - Mayor of London Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis - Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom Sally Osman - Director of Royal Communications Dame Julia Peyton-Jones DBE - Former Director of the Serpentine Galleries Paul Williams OBE - Director, Stanton Williams Architects Malcolm Reading - Competition Director and Advisor to the Jury