In a review of Rafael Viñoly Architects’ 20 Fenchurch Street, which is also known as the ‘Walkie-Talkie’ or ‘Walkie Scorchie’ after it emerged that its façade created a heat-focusing ray strong enough to melt cars, Rowan Moore questions London’s preoccupation with iconic buildings and its money-driven planning schemes. Using 20 Fenchurch Street as a key example, Moore argues that not only does the building seem “to bear no meaningful relationship to its surroundings,” but its Sky Garden - a terrace at the top of the building which claims to be “the UK’s tallest public park” – is a symbol of a bewilderingly unbalanced economy.
As any self-respecting world city now knows, when the time comes to change the calenders, you’d better also have an iconic building from which to hang some fireworks. With people all over the world looking out for the most impressive New Year’s celebrations, we’ve picked the most impressive architecturally-focused displays. Not surprisingly, Dubai - the world capital of ”go big or go home” – probably had the most impressive show of the year, with a combined light-and-firework show to turn the Burj Khalifa into the world’s largest celebratory canvas. However, a special mention goes to Paris‘ Arc de Triomphe, where a tasteful 14-minute light mapping display paid homage to the city’s other great architectural works, from the Eiffel Tower to the Centre Pompidou, before moving onto stylized scenes of Paris life to bring in the new year.
Continue after the break for all the videos of the world’s best New Year celebrations.
In the UK, urban issues are starting to see something of a renaissance, with problems such as the nation’s housing shortage increasingly being subjected to scrutiny in ever more public arenas – in fact earlier this year housing overtook transport as the biggest concern among London voters. All of this means that 2015 will be “a golden opportunity to fix some of the worst city problems,” according to the Guardian Cities, who have asked their architecture critic Oliver Wainwright to offer up a wishlist of positive changes that could benefit the nation’s urban centres. From councils building more council housing to a tax on empty homes, Wainwright’s four-point list offers straightforward policy advice that could truly transform the lives of British urbanites – and perhaps most promisingly, in three of these cases he explains how there are nascent movements already being made to bring his recommendations to fruition. You can read the full article here.
LIKEarchitects‘ Christmas installation, Frozen Trees, has found a new home in London’s Victory Park in East Village. Originally created by LIKEarchitects in 2011 and displayed on Lisbon’s D. Pedro IV Square, the installation will now light up the holiday period in one of London’s newest public spaces, on the site of the former Olympic Village, as its 1,296 Rationell Variera plastic bag dispensers from IKEA gently glow through the night.
On the surface, Mies van der Rohe‘s minimalist linear designs have little in common with the kitsch of vernacular architecture in the German countryside. Enter Joachim Brohm, who rose to prominence in the 1980s as one of the first European architecture photographers to work in colour, and now in a current exhibition draws an unexpected parallel between van der Rohe’s designs for the unrealized Krefeld Golf Club in Germany and the rudimentary constructions of vernacular post-war architecture.
In “Vernacular & Modern,” the latest exhibition at London‘s Grimaldi Gavin gallery, two of Brohm’s photo series are juxtaposed to create a new narrative on architectural context. In Typology 1979, Brohm documents a series of vernacular houses in Ruhr, Germany; while in Mies Model Study, Brohm enters the temporary installation of van der Rohe’s unbuilt golf club through a life-size model. Together, the two series contrast the highly aestheticized minimalist world of Mies van der Rohe with highly functional buildings of necessity in the German countryside.
Find the connection between vernacular and van der Rohe after the break
Not sure if “manic” can be classified as an architectural style, but that is what some are choosing to describe the newly discovered, hand-drawn floor plans of a grand place envisioned by King George III. According to the British Library, the King was “passionately interested” about architecture and drew plans for a future living quarters in Kew – now a district in West London – during a time when he was suffering from severe mental illness in the late 1780s. Learn more about the King’s vision for a grand palace, here.
London Mayor Boris Johnson has approved plans for the Thomas Heatherwick-designed Garden Bridge. The approval from the mayor is the third and final green light for the bridge, having previously been accepted by both Lambeth and Westminster councils. The project is now likely to begin construction within a year – in line with a self-imposed deadline by the Garden Bridge Trust that will allow them to complete the project before works on the proposed Thames Tideway Tunnel cause disruption on the site.
In an article for The Observer Rowan Moore examines ‘Second Home’, a newly opened “creative hub” in London designed by Spanish practice SelgasCano, who were recently announced as the designers of the 2015 Serpentine Pavilion. For Moore the project, which is the practice’s first building in the UK, offers a “lightness and grace as well as invention, and an awareness of when to stop.” The building is designed to be fluid, allowing start-up creative businesses to move in and move out as and when their business model dictates. Heavy tables can emerge from the floor, and ‘roaming zones’ facilitate creative thought. According to Moore’s review, there “are no water-coolers, no kitchenettes, [and] no microwaves.”
David Chipperfield, Stanton Williams and Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios are among six teams that have been chosen to move forward in the final round of the “Olympicopolis” design competition. The shortlisted competitors, which also includes Rick Mather, Allies and Morrison and Baumschlager Eberle, have been asked to develop proposals for a new culture and education quarter on the Stratford Waterfront at the gateway to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London.
“What makes this shortlist so exciting is the diversity of design disciplines represented with established architects working in collaboration with new and emerging practitioners,” stated Martin Roth, director Victoria and Albert Museum. “We are confident that this shortlist of national and international designers and architects will ensure a wonderful new building for London.”
The complete shortlist, chosen from 43 submissions and 123 international architects, after the break.
The London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is set to pass new legislation aimed at curbing the spate of large basement extensions in the area. The trend for these “mega-basements” is a result of the strict planning guidelines applied to the borough’s many historic buildings, forcing the area’s wealthy and space-hungry residents to extend downwards instead of upwards or outwards. However, with a ten-fold increase in the number of basement extension plans since 2001, work on these complex underground projects was becoming a nuisance, causing Kensington and Chelsea Council to freeze the planning applications of 220 basement proposals while it sought a resolution.
Crossrail, “the largest infrastructure project in Europe (costing more than the 2012 London Olympics) has been slowly winding it’s way beneath London‘s streets for years. Now, as the tunneling efforts begin to draw to a close, Crossrail have released a series of fascinating photographs demonstrating just how complex this latest London subterranean labyrinth is. There are currently more than 10,000 people working directly on Crossrail at around forty separate construction sites, who have now completed 90% of the total tunneling. This brings the entire project to two thirds of the way there.
See the complete set of photographs after the break.
The London Borough of Wandsworth has launched an international call for architects and engineers interested in envisioning what could be the second pedestrian bridge to rise near the Battersea Power Station development. The two-stage ideas competition, whose announcement comes shortly after the recent approval of Thomas Heatherwick’s Garden Bridge, believes that the bridge could potentially become “one of the most expressive and visible landmarks in London.”
Though the competition cannot guarantee that the winning design will be built, partial funding has already been budgeted for the bridge’s future construction and it is hoped that the winning design can be used to attract further interest and funding. Continue reading to learn more.
The latest designer of the prestigious Serpentine Gallery Pavilion has been named as SelgasCano, the Spanish practice known for their use of the latest synthetic materials and new technology. The Serpentine Pavilion, which has grown to become one of the most visited annual architecture attractions in the world, aims to provide architects who have never built in the UK their first chance to do so. In the past, this has led to pavilions by globally-recognized names such as Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Oscar Niemeyer, and Peter Zumthor, but in recent years the Serpentine Gallery seems to have changed course a little, instead bringing lesser-known, emergent stars to a much wider audience. This was true of Smiljan Radić and his 2014 pavilion, and will likely prove true for the duo of José Selgas and Lucía Cano.
Although designs for the 2015 pavilion will not be released until February, SelgasCano have promised ”to use only one material… the Transparency,” adding that “the most advanced technologies will be needed to be employed to accomplish that transparency.” This coy description perhaps calls to mind the design of their own office, a partially sunken tube of a building with one side made entirely of curved glass, which won them widespread recognition in 2009.
To give a better idea of the design style that SelgasCano will bring to the 2015 Serpentine Pavilion, we’ve rounded up a number of their major projects for your viewing pleasure, after the break.