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.”
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In October on a visit to London, friends mentioned that Eduardo Paolozzi's early 1980 tile mosaics in the Tottenham Court tube station were going to be demolished. I diverted a Northern Line trip from Bank Street to the Charing Cross branch of the line and and walked through the Tottenham Station taking poorly lit iPhone images of the threatened mosaics. Paolozzi was a founding member of the English Independent Group and as an important early pop artist. His tube station artworks are a colorful and bright addition to a public space that is usually generic and often downright lifeless and boring. In fact, the Paolozzi art work makes this one of the most unique and recognizable train stations in the world and the thought that it would be destroyed seems mad. But now English news sources are reporting that while major parts of the mosaics will be destroyed other parts of it will be saved. The station is being reconfigured and enlarged as part of Cross Rail, the new English national train system, being integrated into the London underground. But the English Twentieth Century Society, which is devoted to preserving modern design from 1914 to the present, pointed out that two of the stations most recognizable Paolozzi additions—a double set of tiled arches over the escalators in the main concourse and a large decorative panel at the entrance to the south side of Oxford Street—will be destroyed. They argue the mosaics could easily be retrofitted into the new station. Hawkins/Brown, the architects for the new station, pointed out that they are preserving as much of Paolozzi’s work as possible, claiming 95 percent of the mosaics will be saved using a mix of original and replica tiles. Lets hope an accommodation can be worked out for these major parts of this important Paolozzi work.
Major cities in the United Kingdom such as London and Newcastle have adopted a gentler approach to flood resilience—harnessing features of the existing landscape instead of erecting fortifications. This ethos is embodied on King’s Road, an artery of Newcastle University in the Northeast of England, where permeable paving absorbs, filters and stores rainwater, while rainwater planters re-emit this moisture into the atmosphere through evapotranspiration. Green roofs throughout the campus pull double duty, moonlighting as absorbent surfaces that reduce rainwater runoff and the carbon footprint while insulating the building against heat loss. Also a feature of the Herne Hill Highline Project in south London, where 22 green roofs run parallel to the River Effra, they have prevented flash floods that used to inundate the sewers and snarl local drainage systems. The New Derbyshire Pocket Park in Bethnal Green, London, is flood-proofed by virtue of a sustainable urban drainage system that slows surface water run-off through retention and storage, while bespoke planters dotted throughout the park also capture rainwater. In some cases, leaving nature to its own devices—with a few corrective prods from a landscape architect—is best. Built on the floodplain of the River Thames, the Barking Riverside development, which consists of 10,000 new homes, office spaces, schools and more, has relinquished part of the land to the river—better to be safe than sorry. Meanwhile, the flood-conscious landscaping provides areas for recreation, picnic zones, community gardens, and walking trails. All surface water run-off in the area is channeled towards the parkland to prevent river overflow, and is incrementally discharged into the creeks at low tide. Also in London, formerly flood-prone Church Street and Paddington Green have been primed to fend off rainfall greater than the volume of an Olympic-sized swimming pool with a 500 percent increase in trees and the installation of a rain garden, in which select plant species are configured for optimal soil infiltration to reduce run-off.
Charles, Prince of Wales, is at it again, giving his two cents regarding the current dismal state of architecture. In a new essay, “Facing up to the Future,” in Architectural Review, the British royal has come up with “10 important geometric principles” to guide future master plans, based on the sacred order of “Nature.” The Prince said he is not touting an old-fashioned approach. Yes, he is aware that the built-environment must meet the demands of a growing population, and that we must do so by embracing density and using sustainable techniques and modern technology. But why must we build all those tall generic skyscrapers made of concrete and glass? “I believe there are far more communal benefits from terraces and the mansion block. You only have to consider the charm and beauty of a place like Kensington and Chelsea in London to see what I mean,” wrote the Prince. If only!
With 2014 quickly receding into history, here's a look at what blog posts AN's readers clicked on most last month. Big international stories, many with starchitects attached, abounded in New York, London, Los Angeles, Helsinki, and Rio de Janeiro. All of December's top stories point toward the future, with many under-construction projects that will be sure to dominate additional headlines this year. Here's a glimpse at what was in the news. 1. Here’s how Santiago Calatrava’s New York City transit hub got its enormous $4 billion price tag. With the final rafter installed on Santiago Calatrava’s World Trade Center Transit Hub the New York Times has done a deep-dive on how, exactly, the long-delayed structure ended up costing close to $4 billion. Read more. 2. Bjarke Ingels joins Foster and Gehry for Battersea Power Station redevelopment. Bjarke Ingels is slated to join elder architectural statesmen Norman Foster and Frank Gehry at the Battersea Power Station in London. The multi-billion dollar, mixed-use redevelopment was originally master planned by, yes, another starchitect, Rafael Viñoly. Read more. 3. LA’s Westside Urban Forum hands Renzo Piano, Peter Zumthor Darth Vader Awards. It’s good to see some good old-fashioned roasting, and that’s what the Westside Urban Forum’s WUFFIES awards are all about. Read more. 4. One of these six firms will design the new Guggenheim Helsinki. Over 1,700 proposals were submitted in the Guggenheim Foundation’s open-call competition to design a new museum in Helsinki—and now, just six teams remain. Read more. 5. Zaha Hadid’s first Brazilian project ups the level of luxury on Rio’s beachfront. Zaha Hadid will lend her futuristic style to the strip along the Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, with an 11-story luxury condo building, dubbed Casa Atlântica—the first project in Brazil for the London-based architect. Read more.
Bjarke Ingels is slated to join elder architectural statesmen Norman Foster and Frank Gehry at the Battersea Power Station in London. The multi-billion dollar, mixed-use redevelopment was originally master planned by, yes, another starchitect, Rafael Viñoly. Ingels' firm, BIG, joins the bunch after winning a competition to design a public space for the project called Malaysia Square. Why is it called Malaysia Square? Because, lest the Brits forget, the project is backed by a Malaysian development consortium. BIG's plan for Malaysia Square goes beyond the name; it takes its form and design from the caves of the country's Gunung Mulu National Park. The Battersea developers describe the space as a “two-level urban canyon.” To that end, Malaysia Square is clad in limestone, granite, marble, sandstone, gravel, and has dolomite striation. The square's natural materials are sculpted into a dramatic design, but don't necessarily make for the most comfortable place to stretch out. Before unveiling Malaysia Square, London Mayor Boris Johnson addressed criticism that the Battersea Power Station development has too few affordable units and will just be another investment opportunity for wealthy foreigners. (15 percent of the plan is currently "affordable.) “I think 600 affordable homes are better than no affordable homes," Johnson told the Guardian. "If you didn’t do a deal of this kind you couldn’t get either the transport or the affordable homes so that’s the reality." The mayor also said that the development comes with two new Tube stations and the first extension of the system in a quarter century [h/t Dezeen]
The Serpentine Galleries has announced that Spanish architecture firm SelgasCano has been selected to design its 15th Serpentine Pavilion in London's Kensington Gardens. While the pavilion plan won't be unveiled until February, here's what we know about the firm that won the coveted commission. "SelgasCano’s work is characterised by a use of synthetic materials and new technologies, often rarely applied to architecture," the Serpentine said in a statement. "Taking inspiration from Luis Barragan and Richard Rogers, the architects use distinctive colours and references to nature throughout their designs." SelgasCano was founded in Madrid in 1998 by José Selgas and Lucía Cano and has worked primarily in its home country. The firm teaches a class called "Nature and Climatology" at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and participated in the 2010 Venice Biennale. "This is an amazing and unique opportunity to work in a Royal Garden in the centre of London," SelgasCano said in a statement. "Both aspects, ‘Garden’ and ‘London’, are very important for us in the development of this project. We are in the middle of a garden, a ‘Royal’ garden indeed, once divided in two and separated by a Serpentine. That garden clings in the middle of London. Garden and London (which best defines London?) will be the elements to show and develop in the Pavilion. For that we are going to use only one material as a canvas for both: the Transparency. That ‘material’ has to be explored in all its structural possibilities, avoiding any other secondary material that supports it, and the most advanced technologies will be needed to be employed to accomplish that transparency. A good definition for the pavilion can be taken from J. M. Barrie: it aims to be as a ‘Betwixt-and-Between’." Previous pavilion designers include Frank Gehry, Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei, Rem Koolhaas and Cecil Balmond, Daniel Libeskind, and Zaha Hadid. Check out some of SelgasCano's work in the gallery below.
International outdoor advertising and street furnishings firm JCDecaux and Zaha Hadid Architects have proposed a new billboard design for a busy London intersection. The Paris-based JCDecaux has quite the history of collaborating with high-profile architects and designers—Peter Eisenman, Robert Stern, Gae Aulenti, Philippe Starck, and Lord Norman Foster among them. From an improbable aerial view, the project looks promising. But on the ground, its aesthetic traction is questionable. The design is a retread, both in its resemblance to defective tires and with regard to Hadid's canon of mobius-like creations. The pedestrian experience—no pun intended—doesn't look to be enhanced, either, even though the proposed structure is narrower than the existing advertising kiosk. Could a case be made that such eye-catching, animated structures might contribute to distracted driving? The answer to that question depends on who you ask. The U.S. Department of Transportation conducted a study that concluded digital billboards are no more distracting than stationary signage. But an investigation by the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute came to a very different finding, which led to the removal of all such advertisements.
With his 1,016-foot-tall glassy skyscraper, aptly dubbed "The Shard", towering above London, and his 17-story office tower, nicknamed the "baby Shard" open nearby, it's only fitting that Renzo Piano wants to complete the Shardian Trilogy. This week, he came one step closer to accomplishing that with unanimous approval for a 26-story residential tower called "The Shardette." No, that is not at all the real name. For the record, it is called the Fielden House project. The UK-based Building magazine reported that the project was given the go-ahead after Piano's team updated its design. According to the publication, planners had flagged issues with cladding materials, rooftop design, public space components, and sightlines to the historic Southwark Cathedral. New renderings show that behind the tower's glassy, very Piano-style exterior, is masonry cladding which differentiates the structure from the superlative tower next door. At the street level is a public plaza and a two-story glass and steel podium that contains space for retail. “The proposed new public spaces and landscaping to be delivered by this mixed use development, were strongly supported and praised by the councillors in the meeting,” Renzo Piano Building Workshop said in a statement. “The public realm improvements will have a significant contribution to the area and when completed in 2018, together with the new London Bridge station, will complete the regeneration of London Bridge.” Construction is slated to start on the project by the end of next year with completion in 2018.
The UK-based firm Knight Architects has created a pedestrian bridge in London that opens and closes like a Japanese folding fan. The Merchant Square Footbridge is comprised of five steel beams that sequentially open with the help of hydraulic jacks. The structure spans about 65 feet across the Grand Union Canal in the new mixed-use Merchant Square development in Paddington. Knight Architects, alongside structural engineering firm AKT II won a design competition for the bridge in 2012. In a statement, Knight explained that the individual beams together form the bridge's deck and that counterweights and a hydraulic system reduce the structure's energy use. Dezeen reported that the bridge opens up every Friday to accommodate passing ships. “A fixed structure wasn't viable at that site as the constraints wouldn’t allow for the ramps necessary to get above the shipping envelope,” project architect Bartlomiej Halaczek told Dezeen. “A moving structure however would have to be maintained, and as these are usually quite significant costs, we had to keep them low by not overcomplicating the structure and picking a relatively simple mechanical system.” Not far from Knight's fan-like bridge, is another impressive, canal-crossing structure: Heatherwick Studio's Rolling Bridge, which can curl up into a “circular sculpture.”
In an effort to make math appear exciting, London's Science Museum has tapped Zaha Hadid to design its new mathematics gallery. According to the museum, the new multi-million dollar, Hadid-ian space will "tell stories that place mathematics at the heart of our lives, exploring how mathematicians, their tools and ideas have helped to shape the world from the turn of the 17th century to the present." If that doesn't sound absolutely riveting to you, well maybe some math-themed architecture can help. Good news, that is exactly what Hadid has planned for the space. In a statement, she said, “the design explores the many influences of mathematics in our everyday lives; transforming seemingly abstract mathematical concepts into an exciting interactive experience for visitors of all ages." The centerpiece of Hadid's design is a 1920s-era Handley Page airplane that is surrounded by undulating forms that appear like visualized turbulence. "The gallery's design will bring this remarkable story of the Handley Page bi-plane to life by considering the entire gallery as a wind tunnel for the aircraft," explained the architect. The gallery is expected to open in 2016. [h/t bdonline]
London's Victoria & Albert Museum is preparing to construct an art installation by Zaha Hadid. Called Crest, the oval form takes its name from ocean waves and will appear in the museum’s John Madejski garden as part of the London Design Festival, which takes place later this month. The Crest, as Hadid’s team has named it, will hover over the pond within the V&A's Madejski garden, forming a swooping arc over the body of water. The futuristic pavilion will sport a metallic surface which will reflect the sky above and the water underneath it. The contrast between these two reflected images will play on the clear contrast of the ultramodern installation against the backdrop of the 19th century museum. Despite this contrast, Hadid designed the installation to create a sense that it had always been there. “We envisioned creating a piece that would emerge from the pool which is the centrepiece of the space, both visually and in terms of social interaction,” Hadid explained in a statement. “Crest is intended to offer an exciting new perspective with which visitors experience the courtyard. It will multiply the movements of the water and the historic backdrop within which it is sited. It will capture the attention of visitors as they enter the space and draw them towards exploring the new quality of space created within.” Hadid previously stated the installation would be comprised of a very thin aluminum material, making it light and easily transported. After the London Design Festival concludes, the Crest installation will be transported from the V&A Museum to Hadid's ultra-parametric ME Dubai hotel, where it will stand as a permanent sculpture. The hotel is expected to open in 2016.