Critical Round-Up: 2014 Serpentine Pavilion / Smiljan Radic

© Iwan Baan

Last week, the 2014 Serpentine Pavilion opened in London‘s Hyde Park. The Serpentine Pavilion program invites architects who are yet to work in the UK to create a temporary installation at the gallery’s grounds for one summer, and this year it was the turn of Chilean architect Smiljan Radic, who rarely builds outside his native country and is arguably the least well-known architect in the Pavilion’s 14 year history.

Always a highlight in ’s architectural calender, critics almost line up to write their reviews. This year, they are almost entirely unanimous: Radic’s pavilion is, unquestionably, weird. But they’re also unanimous on another judgement: it may be one of the best Serpentine Pavilions yet.

Read on after the break to find out what the critics said about this year’s design

RIBA Report Aims to Put Architecture at the Heart of Next Government’s Agenda

One proposal made by the report is to funnel transport money into ‘active transport’ routes, such as the Hackney Greenway which was created as part of the London Olympic Legacy. Image © Flickr CC User Andy Wilkes

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has published a report which it hopes will influence government policy writers in time for the general election next year. The report outlines the ’s stance on a wide variety of architectural issues, from planning policy, to school building, to designing healthy cities.

The report hopes to build on the recommendations made by the Farrell Review, which among many other things recommended the appointment of a chief architect to advise the government, as well as an overhaul of the current planning system. However, in one sense the RIBA report goes further than the Farrell Report by saying that the government should implement a defined architecture policy, pointing to the success of such policies in countries such as Denmark.

Read on after the break for more on the report’s recommendations

Video: drMM

The latest video from Crane.tv involves the -based drMM architecture studio. An eclectic mix of architectural know-how puts this practice at the forefront of innovative and sustainable design.

HOK Proposes East London Thames Crossing

© HOK/Arup

Nearly half of London’s population lives east of Tower Bridge yet they are served by only two fixed road river crossings,” says Colin Stanbridge, Chief Executive of  Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI). This is the infrastructural predicament which has sparked the LCCI’s “Bridge East ” campaign, a proposal for bridge linking Beckton and Thamesmead at Gallions Reach, which is aided by a design by HOK.

The proposal was unveiled on Monday, the 120th anniversary of the opening of Tower Bridge. Designed to allow clear passage for both ships underneath and aircraft taking off or landing at City Airport above, the bridge also features a segregated cycle path, adding a much needed - and entirely safe – river crossing for London’s growing number of cyclists.

More on the bridge after the break

Has London’s British Museum Become a “Mall”?

The Great Court / Fosters + Partners. Image © janis.photo

“They’ve got the mall. They’ve got the food court. Now they’ve got the multiplex.” Rowan Moore’s latest piece for the Guardian discusses the collaged plight of London’s British Museum as Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP) complete a large extension of exhibition spaces. Describing it as a “composite Foster-Rogers” building, Moore argues that “a strange distribution of space” coupled with “an inattention to the cultural complexities of the modern museum” have led to “a void, wrapped in a void, with another void to the side.” Although he states that “there are many things to like about RSHP’s building”, the total compilation of spaces, extensions and interventions have led to a museum more like a mall than a house of culture.

London Calling: British Modernism’s Watershed Moment – The Churchill College Competition

Courtesy of Churchill College

Fifty years ago Churchill College Cambridge opened its doors. In contrast to the historic Colleges, with their medieval Gothic and Neo-Classical buildings corralled behind high walls, this was in an almost rural setting on the outskirts of the city, modern in design, and Brutalist in detail.

The 1959 competition that brought the College into being is considered by many to be a watershed moment in British Post War architectural history. It brought together 20 names, young and old, all practicing in Britain, all working in the Modernist and more specifically the nascent Brutalist style. It was a “who’s who” of British architecture at the time, including the Smithsons, Hungarian-born Erno Goldfinger, Lasdun (then in partnership with Maxwell Fry, Jane Drew & Lindsay Drake, and formerly with Russian émigré Lubetkin), Lyons Israel Ellis and Robert Matthew (one half of the Royal Festival Hall team, who teamed up with Johnson Marshall). None of these made the shortlist of four.

How Can We Hold On To Heritage Skills?

© James Taylor-Foster

In an age when 1:1 3D printed buildings are becoming ever more commonplace from the Netherlands to China, it’s important to pause and assess the existing built fabric of our cities, towns and villages. If we want to maintain and preserve them whilst protecting the inherent craft imbued in their construction, the importance of nurturing and promoting these skills should be recognised.

In the UK, the Heritage Skills Hub (HSH) push to see ”traditional building skills, conservation, restoration and responsible retrofit” included within all mainstream built environment courses. In a recent conversation with Cathie Clarke, CEO of the HSH, we discussed the obstacles faced by an organisation dedicated to conserving and teaching skills like stonemasonry, roof thatching, glass making, traditional brick construction to a new generation.

Does London Really Need the Garden Bridge?

© Arup

In an interesting analysis in the Guardian, Olly Wainwright draws attention to the questionable process by which of Thomas Heatherwick‘s Garden Bridge proposal has gained such strong support from the British government. It is, according to Wainwright, the product of “one voguish designer, one national treasure and one icon-hungry mayor” – however he contends that compared to other more needed potential bridges over the , the Garden Bridge may just be ”a spectacular solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist,” and a terrific waste of infrastructure funds. You can read the article in full here.

Beachfront Observation Tower Confirmed for the British City of Brighton

Visualisation. Image Courtesy of Marks Barfield Architects / i360

British practice Marks Barfield Architects, famous for designing the London Eye, are a step closer to realising their latest urban observation structure: the i360 Brighton. This week the international team who created the London landmark were reunited on Brighton beach as as loans of more than £40 million have been agreed to begin the tower’s construction. Bringing together companies from the UK, France (Poma), the USA (Jacobs Enginneering) and the Netherlands (Hollandia), the project has been described as “truly unique.”

Leading Architects Come Together for London’s Summer Exhibition

The Architecture Room. Image Courtesy of Royal Academy of Arts

The Royal Academy of Arts’ annual Summer Exhibition is the world’s largest open submission exhibition providing “a unique platform for emerging and established artists to showcase their works to an international audience.” From 12,000 total works of art, spanning a complete range of disciplines, 140 architectural works have been selected and hung by Royal Academician and Architect Eric Parry, after some early dialogue with former RIBA President Sir Richard MacCormac. Work featured this year includes a model by Thomas Heatherwick and prints by Louisa Hutton of Sauerbruch Hutton, alongside Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid, Nicholas Grimshaw, Richard Rogers and Eva Jiřičná.

Crystal Palace Rebuild Runs Into Delays

Aerial view of the outline proposal by the developer. Image Courtesy of ZhongRong Group

The plan to resurrect London’s Crystal Palace is encountering delays, as talks between the Chinese Development group ZhongRong and Bromley Council have stalled. With a shortlist announced in February of six high-profile practices competing to design a project with “the spirit, scale and magnificence of the original” – including Zaha Hadid, Richard Rogers, David Chipperfield and Nicholas Grimshaw - it was expected that a winner would be announced later this summer, with a scheme submitted for planning permission by the end of the year. However, all of these deadlines are now at risk thanks to the delays.

Read on after the break for details on what is causing the delay

RIBA Future Trends Survey Demonstrates Continued Stability

Courtesy of

The results of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBAFuture Trends Survey for May show that the Workload Index among UK practices was slightly down in comparison to April (from +35 to +33) with the recovery in confidence levels remaining consistently “very strong” across the country. Although last month’s survey showed London as the region with the brightest outlook, confidence levels reported by architects in Wales and the West topped the index with a balance figure of +49. Workload forecasts in the private sector, public sector and community sector have all significantly increased.

What Can Be Learnt From The Smithsons’ “New Brutalism” In 2014?

Alison and Peter Smithson (year unknown)

Sheffield born Alison Gill, later to be known as Alison Smithson, was one half of one of the most influential Brutalist architectural partnerships in history. On the day that she would be celebrating her 86th birthday we take a look at how the impact of her and Peter Smithson’s architecture still resonates well into the 21st century, most notably in the British Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale. With London’s Robin Hood Gardens, one of their most well known and large scale social housing projects, facing imminent demolition how might their style, hailed by Reyner Banham in 1955 as the ”new brutalism”, hold the key for future housing projects?

RIAS Announces this Year’s 13 Best Scottish Buildings

The Inn at John O’Groats / GLM. Image © Pip Rustage

The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) have announced the winners of the 2014 Awards. Selected from the 83 entries, these buildings represent the best in Scottish architecture from the past year. This year Glasgow buildings make up significant number of the 13 winners, demonstrating the positive results of the city gearing up to host the 2014 Commonwealth Games later this summer.

The RIAS Awards are held in parallel with the RIBA National Awards, with submitted projects eligible for both. This year, 4 RIAS Award winners were also RIBA National Award winners. See the full list of winners after the break.

RIBA Announces 2014 National Award Winners

King’s Cross Station / John McAslan + Partners. Image © Hufton+Crow

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has announced the 44 buildings in the UK and 12 EU projects to win 2014 National Awards. The list includes instantly recognizable projects such as The Shard by Renzo Piano and Mecanoo‘s Library of Birmingham, but also rewards plenty of well-crafted smaller projects, for example Lens House by Alison Brooks Architects.

From this list of National winners, the RIBA will select the shortlist for the RIBA Stirling Prize, which will be revealed next month. See the full list of winners after the break.

UK Architecture Unemployment Falls to Pre-Crash Levels

© Rene de Wit

The number of unemployed architects in the UK has fallen to its lowest level since before the financial crisis, according to the Office of National Statistics. This is based on the number of architects claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance, which fell to just 310 in May, a figure that has almost halved since May 2013 when 615 architects were claiming.

These statistics are backed up by observations revealed by the RIBA Future Trends Survey for May, released later this month, which reportedly shows a 10% increase in workload among UK practices.

More on the recovery of UK architecture after the break

Sam Jacob & Wouter Vanstiphout on Curating “A Clockwork Jerusalem”

The Mound. Image © James Taylor-Foster

The British Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Biennale takes the large scale projects of the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s and explores the “mature flowering of British Modernism at the moment it was at its most socially, politically and architecturally ambitious but also the moment that witnessed its collapse.” The exhibition tells the story of how British modernity emerged out of an unlikely combination of interests and how “these modern visions continue to create our physical and imaginative landscapes.” To those who know the UK‘s architectural heritage, this cultural and social history is delivered in a way which feels strangely familiar, whilst uncovering fascinating hidden histories of British modernity that continue to resonate in the 21st century.

We caught up with Sam Jacob, co-founder of FAT Architecture (of which this exhibition is their final project), and Wouter Vanstiphout, partner at Rotterdam-based Crimson Architectural Historians, outside the British Pavilion to discuss the ideas behind, and significance of, A Clockwork Jerusalem.

© James Taylor-Foster

Exhibition / Reason & Intuition: Alvar Aalto & Ola Kolehmainen in Soane

© Foundation

This summer, the art, architecture and design of Finland will be celebrated in London. Reason & Intuition – Alvar Aalto & Ola Kolehmainen in Soane is a new exhibition bringing together the finest works of an acknowledged great of international modernist architecture and design and three collections of images by an acclaimed Finnish photographer.

Alvar Aalto (1898-1976) was a central figure in international . His sculptural, and highly functional, furniture produced in the 1930s remains influential and very popular.

Reason & Intuition will feature around forty Aalto creations, including chairs, tables, lights, glassware and textiles, as well as rarer pieces, such as a collection of original designs and plans for some of Aalto’s 500 buildings and glassware designed by his first wife and collaborator, Aino.

Title: Exhibition / Reason & Intuition: Alvar Aalto & Ola Kolehmainen in Soane
Website: http://www.ealing.gov.uk/info/200893/pm_gallery_and_house/686/exhibitions/2
From: Fri, 04 Jul 2014
Until: Sun, 24 Aug 2014 
Venue: PM Gallery & House
Address: London, UK