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: Ministerfirstname.lastname@example.org. 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 "Richard Rogers":
In 2010, director Wim Wenders created a 3D video installation at the Venice Architecture Biennale about the Bolex Learning Center in Lausanne, Switzerland, called If These Walls Could Talk. The ability to visually explore the building and simulate being inside the space that the medium affords inspired him to team up with Robert Redford to create a 3D series called Cathedrals of Culture, which will be shown at the IFC Center in New York beginning on May 1. And talk they do. There are six half-hour films, all by different directors, shown in two programs, and five of them are narrated by the buildings themselves. Each is given a voice, which describes the feelings and observations of the structures. So we hear in the first person from the Berlin Philharmonic (Hans Scharoun), the Oslo Opera House (Snohetta), Halden Prison (EMA), The National Library of Russia (Yegor Sokolov), and the Centre Pompidou (Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers). Only the Salk Institute (Louis Kahn) doesn’t employ this technique and is the most successful program. At Salk, it's the perfect melding of brief and building, science and art, the two sparking each other off to make magic. It is now complemented by a like-minded film. Directed by Robert Redford and with stunning cinematography by Ed Lachmann and music by Moby, the film captures the essence of the building and molds the spaces. Kahn’s structure clearly affects the work of the scientists, who speak about "genius loci," the spirit of place. There’s a wonderful image of the staff assembled in a circle and then fanning out across the plaza, like a living organism. We see and hear both Jonas Salk and Louis Kahn, and learn that they raised each other’s game and made a better building; Salk insisted Kahn throw out the first design, and Kahn rebuts that the client isn’t an architect. Then Salk says "eventually Lou Kahn became quite a biologist, and I came to appreciate the importance of aesthetics…to bring out the spirit and soul of man." The campus is filled with light, which hits home when Edward R. Murrow asks Salk who owns the patent for the polio vaccine?: "The people," he replies. "Would you patent the sun?" In the same program is the Centre Pompidou by Karim Ainouz, a Brazilian filmmaker who studied architecture. He spends most of the episode inside the building, maximizing 3D by floating through tunnels, galleries, elevators, back-of-house spaces and the main hall which is treated like an airport arrival and departure lounge. The shot of a window washer gliding up the clear glass-walled escalator holding a sponge in one hand followed by a squeegee in another and letting the upward glide of the moving staircase do the work is pure ballet. The voice of the building is Deyan Sudjic, Director of the Design Museum in London and former editor of Blueprint magazine, who intones "In a digital century, a world of flickering pixels… a machine for culture that I am, which once seemed so violent, so threatening, has the nostalgic charm now of a steam engine." IFC Center. http://www.ifccenter.com Part 1: The Berlin Philharmonic. Director, Wim Wenders The National Library of Russia. Director, Michael Glawogger Halden Prison. Director, Michael Madsen Part 2: The Salk Institute. Director, Robert Redford The Oslo Opera House. Director, Margreth Olin Centre Pompidou. Director, Karim Ainouz
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.
When a huge piece of a starchitect-designed building comes crashing to the ground, the architectural world tends to notice. We are of course talking about the recent reaction to the 176-pound piece of concrete that fell off Zaha Hadid's Library and Learning Centre at Vienna University of Economics and Business. Making matters worse for Hadid, this is the second time the building has shed a piece of its skin. But Zaha is not alone; shed(-ding) happens. As we wait to hear what exactly happened in Vienna - an initial report suggests the issue stems from "defective installation" of the facade - we put together a list of some other starchitect buildings that have, let's say, lost a little bit of themselves. First, let’s go back in time—back to 1970s Boston when Henry Cobb's Hancock Tower is straight-up dropping 500-pound glass panes (at least 65 of them) onto the city below like in some sort of horror movie where buildings have rejected their human creators. Terrifying stuff. In a Pulitzer Prize–winning story, the Boston Globe reported on what exactly caused the building's window system to catastrophically fail:
Each panel was a sandwich: two layers of glass with an air space between, all held in a metal frame. To cut the glare and heat of the sun, a coat of reflective chromium was placed on the inside surface of the outside pane of glass. (This layer of chrome was what gave the building its mirror effect.) The window frame was bonded to the chrome with a lead solder. During the testing, it was noticed that when a window failed, the failure began when a tiny J-shaped crack appeared at the edge of an outside pane of glass. What was happening was this: The lead solder was bonding too well with the chrome—so well, so rigidly, that the joint couldn't absorb any movement. But window glass always moves. It expands and contracts with changes in temperature, and it vibrates with the wind. So the solder would fatigue and crack. The crack would telegraph through to the glass, and the cycle of failure would begin.Next we turn to Santiago Calatrava–the Spanish architect with a penchant for creating soaring buildings that are often accompanied by soaring budgets; for more on that, just Google Santiago Calatrava. Great. But right now let's focus on his Queen Sofía Palace of the Arts that opened in Valencia in 2005. The structure, which CityLab perfectly described as a mix between a bird's skull and a stormtrooper's helmet, had to be repaired because pieces of its tile mosaic facade were blowing off in high winds. And then just last year in London, two steel bolts the size of human arms dislodged from Richard Rogers' Leadenhall Building, which is better known as the "Cheesegrater." Thankfully, nobody was injured from the incident. But that's not the end of the Cheesegrater bolt story. As recently as last week, it was reported that a third bolt had fractured on the building. British Land, a developer of the building, said in a statement that the broken piece was "captured by precautionary tethering put in place last year." That's good. After some tests, it was concluded that "bolts had fractured due to a material failure mechanism called Hydrogen Embrittlement." Many bolts are now being replaced, but the developer insists there is, "no adverse effect on the structural integrity of the building." Now, let's head back stateside to Chicago. Do you remember that time the glass coating on the Willis Tower's observation deck cracked? If you were the tourists standing on the SOM-designed attraction 1,353 feet above the city you probably do. Sure, while everyone was fine and nothing was structurally wrong, just imagine being the people up there when that happened—just imagine that. Of course this list of high-profile architects would find its way to Frank Gehry. A while back the most famous architect of them all was sued by MIT for supposed flaws in his $300 million Stata Center. While pieces of the building didn't fall off, it was said to have leaks, cracks, and drainage problems. “These things are complicated,” Gehry told the New York Times after the suit was filed, “and they involved a lot of people, and you never quite know where they went wrong. A building goes together with seven billion pieces of connective tissue. The chances of it getting done ever without something colliding or some misstep are small.” And now let's end this list where we started it, with Zaha Hadid. Just a year after her dramatic Guangzhou Opera House opened in China, it began showing problems—lots of problems. In 2011, the Guardian reported that "large cracks have appeared in the walls and ceilings, glass panels have fallen from [Opera House] windows, and rain has seeped relentlessly into the building." In fairness to Zaha, the Wall Street Journal noted that when it comes to construction practices in China, architects have little say.
It’s a battle of the starchitects in Mexico City—and the Brits are leading the pack. Out of the seven finalists short-listed to design an expansion for the capital city's airport, Benito Juarez International, four hail from the UK: Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, and Pascall+Watson. They are joined in the final round by Teodoro González de León with Taller de Arquitectura X, SOM, and Gensler. All of these teams are being led by Mexican practices, and construction could begin later this year. The multi-billion dollar expansion should accommodate 40 million annual passengers at over 70 new gates. The airport's current cheese-grater-like facade in Terminal 2 was completed by Serrano Arquitectos in 2008. The envelope's many circular windows are used to maximize natural daylight within the terminal year round. [Via Architects' Journal]
In a short film from Nowness, director Matthew Donaldson pulls us through Italian-born British architect Richard Rogers’ front door to explore his converted Georgian terrace in Chelsea, London, which he shares with his wife and restauranteur, Ruth Rogers, of the legendary River Café. With a stunning brick facade and symmetrical multi-pane windows, the vast and bold interior spaces are rarely seen, though could only befit Mr. Rogers himself, who is renowned for his modernist and functionalist designs. Bursting with works by Andy Warhol, Philip Guston and Cy Twombly, the townhouse’s main living area, which the Rogers refer to as a piazza, features a dramatic staircase and an extensive mezzanine library.
With modular homes on the rise, it seems to be time to bid farewell to long months and even years of construction and salute fast-paced, pre-fabricated systems arriving across the globe. At the Royal Academy in London as part of the Inside Out exhibition, Richard Rogers’ firm Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP) has introduced an innovative, environmentally efficient, three-and-a-half story home called the Homeshell. It is meant to inspire discussion about affordable mass housing. The flat-packed home on display contains individually installed windows and boasts a low environmental impact. Colorful facade materials enliven the closed timber frame system. Above: Construction crews raise the building from scratch to fill the courtyard in minutes, piece by piece. Constructed of Insulshell—a malleable, cost- and energy-efficient building system developed by Sheffield Insulated Group and Cox Bench—the Homeshell arrives as flat-pack panels on a single truck and takes a mere 24 hours to construct on site using tilt-up construction techniques. Within the structure, visitors can watch a time-lapse film of the construction and learn how the building system fits together. The Homeshell is open to the public until September 8, and then the installation will be disassembled and recreated in Mitcham, where it will serve as the showhouse for the YMCA South West Y:Cube Housing project’s potential tenants, designed by RSHP. According to RSHP senior partner Ivan Harbour, the Homeshell “delivers generous space, exceptional insulation, daylight and acoustics. We believe it holds many answers for well-designed and sustainable urban living and could change the way we think about our housing into the future. Having it at the Royal Academy will provoke debate about how architectural innovation might help us meet the UK’s housing needs—for everyone.”
Richard Rogers turned 80 years old this week, making him the same age as Willie Nelson. You might think that’s a pointless comparison, but the Italian-born, British, self-described “left-winger” architect and the pot-smoking Texan Outlaw Country singer have more in common than one might at first suspect. At around the same time that Shotgun Willie was changing America by uniting the hippies and the red necks through music, Rogers and his buddy/collaborator Renzo Piano were converting critics into fawning admirers and altering the face of architecture with their design for the Centre Pompidou. “We thought of ourselves as bad boys who wanted to change the world, with the funny idea that you could do it through architecture,” is the way Piano put it in a recent article in The Guardian.
Almost a year ago, reports surfaces that, without an anchor tenant, the 80-story Three World Trade tower by Pritzker-winner Richard Rogers of Rogers, Stirk, Harbour + Partners would be lopped off at seven stories. Without an anchor tenant signing up for at least 400,000 square feet of space in the $300 million tower, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey will not guarantee the project's debt. Mayor Bloomberg is optimistic, though, telling the New York Post last week that the tower is "closer than anyone realizes" to landing that all-important tenant, which could be GroupM, a subsidiary of advertising giant WPP. The Post said the company is interested in 550,000 square feet of the tower's 2.8 million total square feet. If a deal is signed and construction continues, the tower could be complete in 2015. Bloomberg also delivered the not-unexpected news that Norman Foster's 88-story Two World Trade tower will likely remain a stump for the near future. SOM's One World Trade and Fumihiko Maki's Four World Trade are expected to be finished by the end of the year. In the meantime, take a look back at Silverstein's blockbuster video rendering of the complete World Trade Center site.
After today's announcement of Norman Fosters next project in New York, a luxury condo tower at the United Nations, we just can't get enough of the British starchitect. Luckily, a stash of video renderings and presentations from the firms behind the planned 425 Park tower can provide just the fix. It wasn't too long ago that the starchitect-filled competition for the new Park Avenue tower selected Foster + Partners as its winner. Now after the design presentations at the recent MAS Summit and the release of photo renderings from all players—including runners up Richard Rogers, Rem Koolhaas, and Zaha Hadid—we can indulge in the virtual demonstrations of their designs. For more videos of the MAS summit presentations, click here.
Park Avenue in Manhattan is ready to grow taller, and a starchitect-filled competition won by Lord Norman Foster revealed the first of what's likely to be many new towers along the corridor. But what of the three runners up? Renderings from all four finalist—Zaha Hadid, Richard Rogers, OMA, and Norman Foster—have now been released by L&L Holdings and Lehman Brothers detailing four distinct visions for the future of the New York skyscraper. Foster's final winning design will be presented at the Municipal Arts Society's Summit for New York City, which begins on Thursday, October 18 (Foster will present on Friday at 9 a.m.). Also during the two day summit, an exhibition displaying the work of all four finalists' designs will be on view. Proposal by Zaha Hadid Height: 669 feet; Stories: 40 “The design challenge for 425 Park Avenue lies in producing a structure of timeless elegance, yet with a strong identity that reflects the complex and sophisticated age in which it was created and mirrors the exceptional setting in which it is placed. Our approach has been to unite the four fundamental qualities for the project — Function, Design, Culture and Value — and fuse them into a single seamless design which incorporates these characteristics in a harmonious and unified architectural concept. “With its breezy views up and down Park Avenue and breath-taking vistas of Central Park, the new building is quintessentially “New York” in its very definition. Its sleek verticality breathes the very essence of the city, while its gentle curves evoke a new dynamism of form which is both distinctly contemporary and ageless. This harmony is equally reflected in the building’s openness, flexible design and technological efficiency, providing an adaptable architectural context that allows it to accommodate its tenants’ requirements and desires." - Zaha Hadid Proposal by OMA Height: 648 feet; Stories: 38 “Our current aesthetics oscillate between nearly exhausted orthogonality and a still immature curvaceousness. “Our building is an intersection of these two observations: it proposes a stack of three cubes —the lower one a full solid block on Park Avenue, the smallest on top, rotated 45 degrees vis-a-vis the Manhattan grid, oriented beyond its mere location in a sweep from Midtown to Central Park. “The three cubes are connected by curved planes to create a subtle alternation of flat and 3 dimensional places, each reflecting sky and city in their own way." - Rem Koolhaas Proposal by Rogers Stirk Harbour Partners Height: 665 feet; Stories: 44 “We have created a contemporary homage to the quintessential New York skyscraper, by designing a tower that will define the next chapter in their illustrious story. Our solution acknowledges the design attributes of its neighbours on Park Avenue, but brings new qualities: honest expression; generosity; efficiency and humanity. The clear expression of the process of construction is evident from the huge 43 storey steel frame down to the smallest detail, this gives the building a human scale. “In designing sky gardens, we are reconnecting workers and the city with nature, by using different American landscape ecologies, from forest to alpine, to suit the different altitudes of each garden. These spaces also offer great views of the park and the metropolis." - Lord Richard Rogers Winning Proposal by Foster + Partners [ More Info ] Height: 687 feet; Stories: 41 “Our aim is to create an exceptional building, both of its time and timeless, as well as being respectful of its context and celebrated Modernist neighbours—a tower that is for the City and for the people that will work in it, setting a new standard for office design and providing an enduring landmark that befits its world-famous location. “Clearly expressing the geometry of its structure, the tapered steel-frame tower rises to meet three shear walls that will be illuminated, adding to the vibrant New York City skyline. Its elegant facade seamlessly integrates with an innovative internal arrangement that allows for three gradated tiers of column-free floors. Offering world-class, sustainable office accommodation, the new building anticipates changing needs in the workplace with large, flexible open floor plates. Each of the three tiers—low, medium and high-rise—is defined by a landscaped terrace with panoramic views across Manhattan and Central Park. To maximize the Park Avenue frontage, the core is placed to the rear, where glazed stairwells reveal long views towards the East River, while at street level, there is potential for a large civic plaza with significant works of art.” - Lord Norman Foster
The Times is reporting that four finalists are competing to build a new tower at 425 Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan: Norman Foster, Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid, and Richard Rogers. AN previously reported an international roster of 11 firms were in the running. The new tower could be the first of many in the area, if the Department of City Planning's proposal to up-zone the area is approved.