Cause Of Glasgow’s Mackintosh School Of Art Fire Revealed

Scottish and Rescue in the aftermath of the . Image © Stewart Attwood

The Glasgow School of Art (GSA) have revealed the unfortunate series of events that led to the school’s iconic Mackintosh library, alongside a large collection of student work and archives, devastated in a fire in May of this year. According to BDOnline, who have spoken with Tom Inns (Director of the GSA), “final-year students were setting up their degree show projects in the basement and holes in some pre-built foam panels were being filled with the spray foam.”

The flammable gas used as a propellant in the canister was sucked into [a nearby] projector’s cooling fan, setting it alight. A foam panel directly behind the projector then quickly also caught light. “The flames quickly spread to timber panelling and through voids around the basement studio and then into the library two floors above and up through the rest of Mackintosh’s 1909 masterpiece.” To add insult to injury, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) reported that “a fire suppression system was in the latter stages of installation at the time of the fire but was not operational.”

Is Heatherwick’s Garden Bridge “Nothing But A Wasteful Blight”?

Courtesy of Arup

After a fortnight of highs and lows for Thomas Heatherwick and British celebrity Joanna Lumley’s campaign for a garden bridge stretching across London’s River Thames, of The Observer has meticulously described the project as “nothing but a wasteful blight.” Although he acknowledges that support for the bridge “has been overwhelming,” he argues that Heatherwick – though an “inventive and talented product designer” – has a past record in large scale design which “raises reasonable doubts about whether his bridge will be everything now promised.”

RIBA Future Trends Survey Shows UK’s Confidence Is Rising Exponentially

Courtesy of

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)’s Future Trends Survey for October showed that confidence is very high among UK architects, with the workload index up rising substantially to +37 from +29 in September - the second highest ever workload forecast balance figure. This positive figure was spread right across the country with the most optimistic reports coming from Scotland, with a workload index figures of +80, and Wales, which reported a figure of +28. In addition, the percentage of respondents reporting that they had personally been under-employed was down “considerably” to 12% – the lowest since the survey began in January 2009.

Will The Traditional Museum Survive?

The question of whether the traditional museum survive in the digital age has been bounced around since the dawn of digital art and archiving. In an article for The Independent, Christopher Beanland examines the issue of a global “museum boom” (especially in China where a new one opens every day), and how this is having an undoubtedly positive impact on people’s quality of life. For Beanland, it’s curious that “we don’t splash out on council houses or universities or hospitals any more – but we do build museums and .” Perhaps it’s because they are “a reliquary for our collective memories” and “a triumph of our collective will” or, in most cases, because they employ excellent PR and branding strategies. He notes that “despite being swamped by possessions, we’ve changed our views towards those things. In the second half of the 20th century, people defined themselves by what they had. But today people increasingly define themselves by what they do.”

Danish Embassy and University of Manchester Present “The Liveable City”

Courtesy of Kåre Gade

Imagine the ideal city—one where residents are happy, healthy, financially secure, and living in a community that is both beautiful and safe. How do we bring our own neighborhoods up to that standard? The Liveable City, a series of (free!) seminars and starting this week at the , can offer a few answers. A collaboration between the University, the Danish Embassy in the UK, and RIBA North West, The Liveable City is an exploration in urban design and planning. It invites architects, businesses, and the general public to participate in dialogue that seeks to improve the quality of life in cities in the United Kingdom and in Denmark. The schedule of events runs from November 20th to the 27th, and will take place in the Benzie Building of the Manchester School of Architecture. See more details after the break!

UK Government Confirms Protection of Title Will Continue

One of the more embarrassing examples of the ARB’s ‘mission creep’ which the review may address came in 2012, when they demanded that media organizations cease to refer to Renzo Piano, designer of the Shard, as an architect. Image © Eric Smerling

The UK government’s Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has concluded that UK architecture should continue to be governed by “light-touch regulation based on protection of title,” following the first phase of a review into the future of the Architects Registration Board (ARB). Now, a second phase of the review promises to investigate options to deliver this regulation, determining whether or not it is best achieved by the ARB.

A statement released by the DCLG says that it will now work “with all parts of the profession to identify opportunities to simplify the role of the regulator,” with BD Online reporting that the available options including absorbing the role of the ARB into that of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), or to keep the ARB as an independent body – but with the DCLG warned that “it should not be assumed that an independent regulatory body would necessarily have the same form or role as the existing regulatory body.”

Mario Palanti: Architect of Rome’s Skyscraper That Never Was

Adam Nathaniel Furman, architect and winner of this year’s Blueprint Award for Design Innovation, is currently undertaking his tenure as the recipient of the 2014/15 Rome Prize for Architecture at the British School at Rome. His ongoing project, entitled The Roman Singularity, seeks to explore and celebrate Rome as “the contemporary city par-excellence” – “an urban version of the internet, a place where the analogical-whole history of society, architecture, politics, literature and art coalesce into a space so intense and delimited that they collapse under the enormity of their own mass into a singularity of human endeavour.”

In this short essay inspired by the work of Dietrich C Neumann, an architectural historian at Brown University (Providence, RI USA), Furman examines what would have been “the tallest building in the world [...] housing ’s new Parliament, lecture halls, meeting rooms, a hotel, library, enormous sports facilities, lighthouse, clock, astronomical observatory, telegraph and telephone stations, [reflecting] sunlight off its acres and acres of white Carrara marble.” In the shadow of Italian Fascism, Mario Palanti saw an opportunity to transform the skyline of the Italian capital by pandering to the egotistical ambitions of a dictator. Ultimately the extent of his vision was matched only by his failure.

BIG Tapped to Design Public Square for Battersea Power Station

Masterplan. Image Courtesy of

BIG is set to make its debut. As reported by the Architect’s Journal, the Danish practice has been selected from an international shortlist to design a public square for Battersea Power Station. Though no formal announcement has been made, the “Malaysia Square” scheme will be a key element in the Wilkinson Eyre-designed masterplan, serving as the development’s “front door.” It will connect the masterplan’s first three phases, just south of the listed landmark, which include Frank Gehry and Foster + Partners’ proposed “Electric Boulevard.”

Five Teams Shortlisted To Design Bristol Arena

Vision of the masterplan (commissioned in 2007). Image Courtesy of Bristol Temple Quarter

Five practices have been shortlisted to put forward designs for the Bristol Arena, a cultural and sporting hub which is set to have a 12,000 seating capacity and is due to open towards the end of 2017. The city’s Mayor, George Ferguson (who is himself an architect-turned-politician), has said that “we now have five very capable and talented design teams with a wealth of experience between them drawing up proposals” that will contribute to the regeneration of the city’s Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone (a site close to Temple Meads Station). The five shortlisted multi-disciplinary design teams are consortiums experienced in delivering major cultural venues in the or overseas. A team led by Populous, who completed the London 2012 Olympic Stadium, are running in collaboration with Feilden Clegg Bradley, who were shortlisted for the 2014 RIBA Stirling Prize. They are competing against teams led by Grimshaw and Wilkinson Eyre, who recently installed a cable-car across London’s Millennium Dome.

See details of the five teams after the break.

Renzo Piano Gains Planning Permission for Shard-Adjacent Residential Tower

View from Guy’s Hospital Quad. Image © RPBW

Renzo Piano Building Workshop has been awarded planning approval for Feilden House, a 26-storey residential building at London Bridge Quarter, directly adjacent to the Shard. Designed to complement the Shard and Place Buildings, the third piece of Piano‘s Bridge Developments will add “generous public realm amenities” to the area at ground level.

Are Monuments And Memorials Intrinsically Introverted?

© Richard Lea-Hair and Historic Royal Palaces

The Observer’s “accidentally got swept into a tide of humanity at the weekend, or to put it another way, couldn’t move for crowds.” In memorial of the start of the centenary of World War One, of which today marks the anniversary of the armistice (11.11.1918), the Tower of London have installed a sea of 888,246 ceramic poppies in the former moat. The artwork, created by Paul Cummins and Tom Piper, and entitled Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, ”has caught the national imagination.” For Moore, however, “it is deeply disturbing that a hundred years on from 1914, [the UK] can only mark this terrible war as a national tragedy.” He argues that “the spectacle of all these red poppies is emptier than that. [...] It is a deeply aestheticised, prettified and toothless war memorial.” Read the article in full here.

Winners Of The 2014 RIBA President’s Awards for Research Announced

Tom Bridgen: ‘The Protected Vista’ – Commendation – RIBA President’s Award for the Outstanding PhD Thesis. Image Courtesy of RIBA

The RIBA President’s Awards for Research, established to “promote and champion high-quality research and encourage its dissemination to the profession,” have announced the 2014 laureates. Spanning four categories – Master’s, PhD, University, and Practice-Located Research – the winning theses and projects highlight the need for research across the profession to nurture innovation and strategic thinking. Ruth Morrow, chair of the jury and Professor at Queen’s University Belfast, commented on the judging panel’s “disappointment” at the lack of entries submitted from outside London.

The disparity between the six London based schools and those in the rest of the UK (of which there are more than forty high-calibre institutions) continually makes itself manifest in RIBA student . In spite of this, half of the and commendations given this year are for students studying at schools outside the capital; the remaining half were awarded to students of The Bartlett (UCL). Morrow hopes that “next year, in the 10th anniversary year of the awards, that more universities and practices from across the nations and regions will submit entries.”

See this year’s winning and commended projects after the break.

UK’s First Frank Lloyd Wright House Blocked by Planning Inspector

The design produced by Frank Lloyd Wright for Dr and Mrs O’Keefe. Image © The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation via www.savewright.org

A plan by Stephen Brooks Architects to build the first Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home in the UK has been blocked at the appeal stage by a planning inspector, reports the Architects’ Journal. Based on a 1947 design by Wright for the O’Keefe family in California, the project was the brainchild of Dr Hugh Petter, a Frank Lloyd Wright enthusiast who negotiated for eight years with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation before gaining permission to build the unrealised design in Tyntesfield Springs near Bristol, thousands of miles from its intended location.

Does Devolution Hold The Key To Greater Investment In The Built Environment?

Town Hall (Alfred Waterhouse)

The British city of Manchester, often seen as the ’s second city alongside Birmingham, will become the first metropolis outside of London to be given greater local autonomy over budgets and city planning. The devolution deal, which will also see the city receive the right to directly elect a Mayor (in line with large cities in the US, for example), will furnish the city with “a new housing investment fund worth up to £300million.” As it is understood that the first Mayor of Greater Manchester will be elected in 2017, there’s time to discuss how this new political environment in the UK might help boost building in what has described as a “Northern Powerhouse.”

Investigating A Radical Future For Our Urban Waterways

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In the third and final installment of their micro documentary series on architecture and waterEllis Woodman and a team at the Architectural Review (AR) have collaborated with architects, developers, urbanists and thinkers to examine the latent connections between water and our built environment. Taking a journey by narrowboat through , the film explores the radical ideas which may offer the keys to unlocking the potential of the urban waterway. Through recreation, interaction and radical ideas such as floating parks, amphibious houses and new public wetlands can the river become a living part of the city?

Foster + Partners Reveals Cardiff Central Square Masterplan

Millennium Walkway. Image Courtesy of City Council

The City of Cardiff has unveiled plans by Foster + Partners to redesign the city’s Central Square, close to the Millennium Stadium, adding over a million square feet of office, retail and residential buildings organized around a new civic square. Explaining that it is “the key gateway to Cardiff” for many visitors, City Council leader Phil Bale said that Central Square’s ”role in providing a positive image for Cardiff and Wales cannot be underestimated,” adding that Foster + Partners’ design is “reflective of the City’s ambition to be amongst the most ‘liveable’ cities in the world.”

More on the plan after the break

Preston Bus Station to Become a Youth Centre Under New Proposal

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A proposal to ensure the future of Preston Bus Station could see part of the structure converted into a youth centre, as part of a £23 million renovation. The proposal by the building’s owners, Lancashire County Council, involves halving the number of bus bays used by the structure to 40, freeing up the western end of the building for other uses, including a sports hall, climbing wall, art centre and outdoor sports pitches.

In addition to the youth centre, the £23 million budget covers renovation to the existing structure and improvements to the surrounding highway. Funding for the proposal will come partly from the council and partly from Youth Zone.

More on the proposal after the break

‘The Rom’ Becomes Europe’s First Listed Skatepark

© Played in Britain

English Heritage has awarded a Grade-II listing to “The Rom,” a skatepark in Hornchurch on the outskirts of London. Built in 1978, the Rom was one of the UK’s first wave of purpose-built skateparks, and probably the most complete example found in the UK today. The listing makes the Rom the first protected skatepark in Europe, and just the second in the world after Tampa‘s “Bro Bowl” was added to the USA’s National Register of Historic Places last year.

More on the listing decision after the break