The clock is ticking yet again for East London’s Robin Hood Gardens, the 1972 Brutalist public housing complex designed by Alison and Peter Smithson. In a call to arms, Lord Richard Rogers and Simon Smithson, the son of the architects, have written a letter to over 300 members of the architecture and construction industries in support of the 20th Century Society’s campaign to protect the iconic “streets in the sky” buildings from being demolished. The future of the seminal social housing estate has been in limbo since former Culture Secretary Andy Burnham granted it a listing certificate of immunity six years ago, essentially foiling any landmark designations that would ensure the buildings’ survival and preservation. Now that the certificate has expired, 20th Century Society, a conservation organization for modern architecture, is urging the new Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage to add the buildings to the statutory list of buildings of special architectural and historical interest. “The Smithsons were clearly great architects: the Economist Building, completed in 1964 and Grade I-listed in 1988, is without a doubt the best modern building in the historic centre of London. Robin Hood Gardens, which pioneered ‘streets in the air’ to preserve the public life of the East End terraces that it replaced, was the next large-scale job that the Smithsons embarked upon. It was architecturally and intellectually innovative. In my opinion, it is the most important social housing development from the post-war era in Britain,” wrote Lord Richard Rogers in the letter. Composed of two long concrete blocks, the 7-story buildings in Poplar, London feature balconies that face a rolling, man-made green. Curbed reported that the goal was to “create a modern, bustling city in the sky,” but it has fallen into disrepair, beset with problems including crime and graffiti. Architects, including Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, Richard Meier, and Rogers, stand behind the controversial postwar complex, lauding its architectural significance as an exemplar of the Smithsons’ New Brutalism—characterized by exposed materials, contextual design, and the marriage of regional styles and modernism. Below is the full letter from Lord Richard Rogers and Simon Smithson: Dear Friends, I am writing to ask you to support listing Robin Hood Gardens as a building of special architectural interest, in order to protect one of Britain’s most important post-war housing projects, designed by Alison and Peter Smithson, from demolition. Previous efforts in 2009 to have the building listed failed, but the case has now been re-opened and we understand that the new Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage will be reviewing the arguments at the end of this week. The buildings, which offer generously-sized flats that could be refurbished, are of outstanding architectural quality and significant historic interest, and public appreciation and understanding of the value of modernist architecture has grown over the past five years, making the case for listing stronger than ever. The UK's 20th Century Society has submitted a paper setting out why they believe Robin Hood Gardens should be listed (i.e. added it to the statutory list of buildings of special architectural and historical interest). Two further assessments are set out below: “Alison and Peter Smithson were the inventors of the New Brutalism in the 1950s and as such they were the ‘bellwethers of the young' as Reyner Banham called them. In many ways [Robin Hood Gardens] epitomizes the Smithsons’ ideas of housing and city building. Two sculptural slabs of affordable housing create the calm and stress free place amidst the ongoing modernization of the London cityscape. The façades of precast concrete elements act as screens that negotiate between the private sphere of the individual flats and the collective space of the inner garden and beyond. The rhythmic composition of vertical fins and horizontal ’streets-in-the-air' articulates the Smithsons’ unique proposition of an architectural language that combines social values with modern technology and material expression. Despite the current state of neglect and abuse Robin Hood Gardens comprises a rare, majestic gesture, both radical and generous in its aspiration for an architecture of human association. As such it still sets an example for architects around the world.” Dr Dirk van den Heuvel, Delft University, Holland. “The Smithsons were clearly great architects: the Economist Building, completed in 1964 and Grade I-listed in 1988, is without a doubt the best modern building in the historic centre of London. Robin Hood Gardens, which pioneered ‘streets in the air’ to preserve the public life of the East End terraces that it replaced, was the next large-scale job that the Smithsons embarked upon. It was architecturally and intellectually innovative. In my opinion, it is the most important social housing development from the post-war era in Britain.” Lord Richard Rogers Last time listing was considered the views of the architectural community were ignored but we believe there is now a real chance of saving the building for posterity but only if the Minister hears, first hand, the views of the profession on the architectural merits of these exceptional buildings. Can we ask you to support the efforts of the 20th Century Society by writing right now to the Minster to support listing and saying why you believe Robin Hood Gardens should be saved? Click here to open an e-mail to the relevant Minister at the Department for Culture Media and Sport, Tracey Crouch MP: Ministeremail@example.com. For more information on the building click here, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Hood_Gardens, and for details of the 20th Century Society case, please click here, http://www.c20society.org.uk/casework/robin-hood-gardens/ For Tweets: #SaveRobinHoodGardens Also, can we ask you to forward this e-mail to anyone else you know who might be willing to help save these important buildings? Yours sincerely, Richard Rogers and Simon Smithson
Posts tagged with "London":
How do you coax city slickers to really take notice of air pollution? Start selling meringues, of course. At this year's Ideas City festival in New York City, the Center for Genomic Gastronomy set up a "Smog Tasting" food cart introducing aeroir (a play on terroir for the atmospheric taste of place) meringues infused with recreated urban smog from four cities. Riffing off the fact that egg foam is composed of 90 percent air, the Center’s experiment stemmed from the question of whether batter, which captures air when whipped, could also trap air pollutants. “Smog Tasting grew out of this idea of using food as a biosensor...Perhaps this could be a way of calling attention to the problem,” Zackary Denfield, cofounder at the Center for Genomic Gastronomy, told Fast Company. The meringues were made in small smog chambers the team had designed and fabricated under the advisement of researchers at the University of California Riverside, which trapped grime and chemicals in the egg-white-and-sugar mixture. The four less-than-tantalizing recipes included the “classic London peasouper,” a sampling of the Los Angeles atmosphere circa 1950, air from a present-day air-quality warning event in Atlanta, and California’s Central Valley agricultural smog, the latter a carcinogenic cocktail of ammonia and amines from feedlot manure lagoons and other organic waste. Scientists formed each smog type by mixing different chemical precursors and “baking” them under UV light. The result was a slightly yellowish dessert which imparted a noxious aftertaste initially masked by the sugar. “Most people ask ‘Is it safe to eat?’ and we reply ‘Is it safe to breathe?’” Denfield said. “We think that when people are laughing they are thinking, and we get a lot of nervous laughter.” According to the Center, capturing smog in edible form transforms the “unconscious” process of breathing into the “visceral” act of eating. Inspiring disgust is one way of garnering attention. Conceptualized in 2012 by college students in Bangalore, the project was introduced in May to health ministers and World Health Organization delegates in Geneva. Its showing in New York City by the Center for Genomic Gastronomy in collaboration with the Finnish Cultural Institute of New York was part of the Center’s larger scheme of examining the health implications of where our food is sourced. In a post on their dedicated blog, Edible Geography, the Center wrote that according to scientists the Center had consulted with, the human digestive system is better-equipped to catalyze chemicals than the respiratory system.
The final touches have been put on London’s now-infamous Garden Bridge, designed by Heatherwick Studio with Arup and landscape designer Dan Pearson. The most recent renderings, released early this week, show exactly what the spaces on the bridge will look like by offering an up-close look at the garden-like landscaping. The Garden Bridge Trust (GBT) describes it as an “oasis of escapism.” Like New York’s High Line, the bridge is a collaboration between the architects and landscape designers, but Pearson said that “Thomas [Heatherwick] always described the garden as being the reason the bridge is there and we have a very generous space with which to make a garden.” This includes 27,000 square feet of planted green space, with ferns, grasses, 270 trees, 2,000 shrubs, hedging plants and climbers, more than 22,000 perennials, and 64,000 bulbs, according to GBT estimates. The new details of the plan include a conceptual framework laid out by Pearson and his team that includes five separate zones that make reference to the green spaces of London. They are: a marsh, a “cliff top landscape,” two woodlands, and a traditional, planted garden area. The design is the last step in unveiling the bridge to the public, which includes several skeptical parties. The approval process has been called into question, including the quick approval of former MP at the Department for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles. Others have questioned the design itself as unnecessary given the extreme need for bridges across the river in other, lower-income East London neighborhoods. Heatherwick has also been tapped to design a similar park that will hover above the Hudson River in New York. It remains to be seen if the Manhattan version will meet the same opposition as the London bridge. Part of the difference is that the Garden Bridge is being sold as a piece of public infrastructure that will connect two important parts of town, but is being heavily regulated including no bicycles, no protests, and no night walking, as Olly Wainwright has mentioned in the Guardian. Sam Jacob pointed out that the bridge raises many questions about public space in a city rapidly consumed as a territory of global capital and speculation. He probably would have preferred the city just build his version, which included the lyrics to Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind 98” etched into the stone balustrades. It's hard to fault Heatherwick for the political turmoil, however. He has delivered a beautiful piece of parkland, and we would have to believe that he is doing his best to mitigate the undercurrents of neoliberalism and inequality that are highlighted by the project. In a recent interview with AN, Heatherwick said, "I’m very influenced by the Jane Jacobs book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. It almost made me fall in love with public-ness. With the bit we share together, and the subtle chemistry existing in the social interactions in public space." Sometimes the architect is hard to blame. [via gizmag]
East London–based ad agency AnalogFolk recently tacked some extra real estate onto its main headquarters in the British capital, a high-ceilinged loft turned industrial workspace where reclaimed artifacts are repurposed using modern technology. The extension spans over 2,131 square feet and consists of a new reception area, an open bar zone, large meeting room, and open work space. Meanwhile, the interiors are designed to reflect AnalogFolk’s values of thirst for information and the proliferation of new channels technology represents, as well as the art of harnessing digital to make analog better. The heart of the concept was to architecturally connect the new space with the existing offices through the element of light. Like its existing offices, the furnishings consist once again of reclaimed items from One Savings Bank modeled into unique forms, such as a ribbed plywood ceiling and walls, which visually elongates the space and adds dimension. Conceptualized by young London-based architectural practice Design Haus Liberty, the space was an experiment in how to use traditional materials to transform the future of the advertising agency’s work environment. The interiors integrate perfectly with the existing office space below it, where whitewashed reclaimed doors serve as meeting room tables and an undulating chandelier made of recycled glass bottles titled Finding Nemo speaks to the teamwork and familial corporate culture for which the ad agency stands. A spidery light installation overhead consists of naked light bulbs encased in jam jars that are hung from wires tacked onto the ceiling.
The Harvard Graduate School of Design has announced the three potential awardees of the 2015 Wheelwright Prize, a travel-based architectural research grant valued at $100,000. Each year, one architect from approximately 200 applicants bags the prize. Established in 1935 at a time when foreign travel was limited to an elite few and then known as the Arthur C. Wheelwright Traveling Fellowship, the prize used to be awarded solely to GSD alumni. It has now become an international competition welcoming early-career architects (within 15 years of earning an architectural degree) from around the world to bring in new blood, fresh ideas, and cross-cultural exchange. The number of countries represented has grown from 46 the previous year to 51 this year, including Bosnia, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Poland, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Zimbabwe and more. The seven-person jury of architects has selected three finalists to present their research proposals at the Harvard Graduate School of Design on April 16, with the winner to be announced at the end of the month. To inspire the next generation of Wheelwright prizewinners, the winner of the 2013 Wheelwright Prize, Gia Wolff, will present "Floating City: The Community-Based Architecture of Parade Floats," reporting on her research on over the past two years on carnival festivals. "The idea is not just about travel—the act of going and seeing the world—but it is about binding the idea of geography to themes and issues that hold great potential relevance to contemporary practice," said Harvard GSD Dean Mohsen Mostafavi in a statement. The three 2015 finalists are as follows: Erik L’Heureux, Assistant Professor at the National University of Singapore, presenting: “Hot and Wet: The Equatorial City and the Architectures of Atmosphere.” Malkit Shoshan, founder of think tank, FAST (Foundation for Achieving Seamless Territory) Amsterdam, presenting: “Architecture and Conflict: Pre-Cycling the Compound” Quynh Vantu, Award-winning Architect, London, presenting : “On Movement: The Threshold and its Shaping of Culture and Spatial Experience.”
The Serpentine Galleries has unveiled renderings for its 15th summer pavilion which it described as an "amorphous, double-skinned, polygonal structure." The interactive and certainly bright installation is designed by the Madrid-based SelgasCano and comprises translucent, rainbow-colored panels woven into a webbing system. Visitors are encouraged to enter the pavilion and explore its "secret corridor" and "stained glass-effect interior." "We sought a way to allow the public to experience architecture through simple elements: structure, light, transparency, shadows, lightness, form, sensitivity, change, surprise, colour and materials," SelgasCano said in a statement. "We have therefore designed a Pavilion which incorporates all of these elements. The spatial qualities of the Pavilion only unfold when accessing the structure and being immersed within it. Each entrance allows for a specific journey through the space, characterised by colour, light and irregular shapes with surprising volumes. This is accomplished by creating a double-layered shell, made of opaque and translucent fluorine-based plastic (ETFE) in a variety of colours." After people have explored the colorful space, they will find an open space cafe sited at its center. Over the summer months, SelgasCano's pavilion will become the stage and centerpiece of Serpentine’s Park Nights—a cultural event held every Friday evening. Previous pavilion designers include Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Jean Nouvel, Oscar Niemeyer, Peter Zumthor, SANAA, and Toyo Ito with Cecil Balmond. Architectural Digest recently reported that last year's pavilion by Chilean architect Smiljan Radic has been moved to the gardens of Hauser & Wirth Somerset a few hours outside of London.
What do the English have against works produced by members of the Independent Group? The loose post–World War II group of artists, architects, writers, and critics produced public art, gallery installations, and even architecture. On this side of the Atlantic we always think the Brits save their landmarks—unlike the American tendency to tear them down before they can be landmarked. But early this year Transport for London destroyed Eduardo Paolozzi’s playful and colorful mosaics that stood over the entrance to the Tottenham Court Road tube station. Now it seems that local authorities will destroy one of the countries best-known housing developments-Alison and Peter Smithson’s 1972 Robin Hood Gardens in Tower Hamlets near the Docklands development in London’s East End. Housing authorities in the English capital have been trying to demolish the 213 unit affordable housing project for many years and despite lack of maintenance in the project since 2000 and several high profile attempts to save and preserve the project it still seems doomed. But now another last minute push is being made to save Robin Hood by the lobbying group the Twentieth Century Society. They have challenged the listing—or landmarking—process as “flawed” and thus the building should be saved. According to British magazine The Architect’s Journal, Richard Rogers has thrown his support behind the effort to save the complex saying, “Robin Hood Gardens is one of a handful of great low-cost housing estates. It was a world-shaking building but it’s been looked after appallingly. Whatever anyone says, I don’t know of better modern architects than the Smithson’s: they were certainly outstanding.” Lets hope this significant housing project can be saved.
Conceptualized as a “cross-functional village” built entirely from shipping containers, the POP Brixton project by Carl Turner Architects offers fertile ground for entrepreneurial endeavors. Aesthetic appeal or lack thereof aside, the interconnected containers will collectively serve as “a community campus for startups, small businesses and entrepreneurs.” Think coworking spaces where creatives commingle and cross-fertilize—only with cultural and educational activities such as workshops, live events, film screenings, and performance arts. Meanwhile, public spaces such as retail outlets, cafés, kiosks, and a speculative hotel are also included in the plan to attract traffic and revenue streams to the South London district of Brixton. The low-cost, low-energy containers are available in 20 foot and 40 foot dimensions, each one tricked out with high-speed internet access, power points, insulated walls and double-glazed windows. As a self-touted coworking space, POP Brixton will, above all, be a platform for training, business, and employment more than a retail haven, but the containers will be configured around a public square and various planted walkways, and the hosting of events open to all promises to foster community spirit. Integral to the transfer-of-knowledge-and-skills concept is the requirement that tenants partake in a one-hour training program per week for startups, managed by Lambeth College and Brixton Pound. POP Brixton will serve as a pilot project of sorts for its upcoming larger-scale Future Brixton Project. Though not involving shipping containers, it is a community revitalization and job creation initiative that extends to the surrounding Somerleyton Road, Brixton Central, Town Center, and the building of a new Town Hall. Construction of the POP Brixton commenced in January 2015 and is scheduled to open this year.
As we've been reporting, there are some pretty big urbanism proposals being pushed in London right now. Next month, the city is expected to break ground on a massive cycle superhighway that will give cyclists about 20 miles of new protected bike lanes. Mayor Johnson is also supporting a plan to bury parts of major thoroughfares to boost walkability and development. But now, something even bigger is brewing in the London suburbs. People for Bikes reported that the city's regional government is investing $140 million into cycling, which could be "the biggest municipal bicycling investment in the history of Europe." This amount, which represents 10 percent of Transport for London's (TfL) ten-year bicycle infrastructure budget, will be used to turn three suburbs into what the agency calls "mini-Hollands." The goal in each of these three 'burbs (Kingston, Enfield, Waltham Forest) is to get people out of their cars and onto bikes—especially for short trips. To bring Holland to outer London, TfL is proposing to redesign town centers, build new suburban Cycle Superhighways, and create "Dutch-style roundabouts and rail superhubs." The TfL sees huge potential for bike transit growth in these areas where mass transit tends to be less convenient than what is offered in denser urban environments. "More than half of potential cycle journeys in London are in the suburbs," said the agency on its website. "This programme will aim to target these journeys, moving significant numbers of short car trips to bike." The agency said the boroughs are currently working on detailed designs and timelines for their plans.
Iowa City this week picked engineer-turned-artist Cecil Balmond to anchor an overhaul of the city's downtown pedestrian plaza. His sculpture will be the focal point of Iowa City's Black Hawk Mini Park Art Project, the first phase of an $11 million streetscape redevelopment project that officials hope to start next year. Balmond's work aims to enliven public spaces with forceful, architectural installations. His studio has strung shafts of light in Anchorage, Alaska, explored the Solid Void of sculpture with a forest of metal filigree in Chicago's Graham Foundation, and woven steel like rope to bridge a Philadelphia railway. The Chicago Transit Authority recently tapped Cecil Balmond Studio to contribute art for an overhaul of the 91-year-old Wilson Red Line station. An artist review panel consisting of Genus Landscape Architects Brett Douglas and Angie Coyer, and Iowa City staff Geoff Fruin and Marcia Bollinger selected U.K.–born Balmond over artists Vito Acconci and Hans Breder. Construction on the project is expected to begin next year.
[beforeafter][/beforeafter] In recent years, the proliferation of parks, pedestrian plazas, greenways, and bike share programs in cities around the world have signaled an important change in the culture of city-dwellers, one that values walkability, integrated and congestion-free neighborhoods, open space, and environmental health. The major thoroughfares, however, that slice through metropolises are not always conducive with this desired urban experience, and take up space that could otherwise be used for housing, office and commercial uses, and parkland. That's why London Mayor Boris Johnson is proposing to relocate portions of key road networks underground. And where better to make this announcement than in and around Boston's infamous "Big Dig" project? "Rebuilding some of our complex and aging road network underneath our city would not only provide additional capacity for traffic, but it would also unlock surface space and reduce the impact of noise and pollution. I am inspired by what the ambitious people of Boston have achieved here at the Big Dig, both in terms of reducing congestion and how they have dramatically improved the quality of life on the surface. In London we face similar challenges on our roads, but this could also be a fantastic opportunity to better shape our city and support economic growth,” said Johnson in a statement. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] After taking a look at more than 70 locations around the city, the mayor identified five areas where "the introduction of tunnels, fly-unders and decking could deliver benefits that are in line with the Mayor’s 2050 Infrastructure Plan." These areas include a mini tunnel at the A13 in Barking Riverside, decking of the A3 in Tolworth, a fly-under at the A316 at Chalkers Corner, a fly-under at the A4 in Hammersmith, and decking or a mini-tunnel at the A406 in New Southgate. In addition, the mayor says that London's Inner Ring Road is "facing increasing pressure for change" and is ready to be replaced by a new inner orbital tunnel or two cross city tunnels to ease traffic. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Beyond seeking a more livable city for Londoners, the plan is also designed to address and provide a solution for the city's significant population growth, which is anticipated to reach 10 million by the early 2030s. The "Big Dig" is a tenuous paradigm as the megaproject took 20 years to complete and was plagued with mounting costs, structural problems, criminal arrests, and a fatal accident. Even still, many have deemed it a success in terms of mitigating congestion, decreasing travel time and thus overall fuel costs, and freeing up land for a new greenway.
London is ready to one-up its bike-friendly European neighbors by building the longest, continuous protected cycleway on the continent. Mayor Boris Johnson has been emphatically endorsing the plan that would create two "superhighways" of bi-directional, curb protected bike lanes. The longer of the two paths would run 18 miles, past some of London's most iconic sites. This truly ambitious plan has been in the works for some time, but is expected to pass its final hurdle this week when it goes before the Transit for London (TfL) board for approval. If it is approved, which is expected, construction is slated to start this March with completion in 2016, according to Dezeen. The creation of the cycleway would not just be a major win for cyclists, it would significantly improve pedestrian safety as well. According to the mayor's office, the superhighway includes “22 new crossings and 35 shortened crossings and 41 crossings fitted with pedestrian countdown.” Given the scale of this plan, there of course have been some detractors—mostly drivers who don’t want to see their roads handed over to cyclists. Mayor Johnson said that the final plan takes concerns about increased car traffic into account while maintaining a continuous, curb-segregated cycleway. “We have done one of the biggest consultation exercises in TfL’s history. We have listened, and now we will act,” said the mayor in a statement. “Overwhelmingly, Londoners wanted these routes, and wanted them delivered to the high standard we promised. I intend to keep that promise.”