It has been revealed that the theme for the 2015 London Festival of Architecture (LFA) will centre around ‘Work In Progress’. The festival, which is comprised of a series of events in and around the UK capital, seeks to “highlight the key role architecture plays in social, urban and cultural development.” The annual celebration, which will run between the 1st and 30th June, will be jointly delivered by the Architecture Foundation, the British Council, New London Architecture, and the RIBA’s London branch. Last year’s 10th anniversary festival saw over 200 events ranging from walking tours and cycle rides, to exhibitions, talks, debates and films all addressing the theme of ’Capital’.
Work has begun on the demolition of the UK city of Birmingham’s former Central Library, designed by home-grown Brutalist architect John Madin. The move by Birmingham Council to not retain the structure of the library, in spite of ideas and petitions put forward by numerous public groups (including one titled Keep The Ziggurat), has been widely met with disappointment among the architectural community. The BBC recently compiled some of the most interesting ideas for reuse which included, among others, transforming the concrete structure into a new English Parliament, an international trade centre, and an enormous space for rock climbing.
Madin, who passed away in 2012, had at least three of his major Modernist projects demolished during his lifetime. His design for Birmingham Library had been met with criticism from the likes of the city’s Director of Planning and Regeneration of the time who described it as a “concrete monstrosity.” Prince Charles famously described it as “looking more like a place for burning books than keeping them.”
See photographs of the former library under construction and in use after the break.
Following the unfortunate series of events that saw the Glasgow School of Art’s (GSA) iconic Mackintosh Library devastated in a fire in May of last year, a leading Scottish architect has stated that he is “seriously against the idea of remaking the library” as a replica of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s original acclaimed design. Talking to the Scottish Herald, Professor Alan Dunlop has stated that “there is actually no way you can replace it as it was [as] there was 100 years of age and patina that you would have to replicate.” Furthermore, he believes that it would not be something that “Mackintosh would do,” citing the expansion of “his work in the years between each part of the Mackintosh Building being built [in 1899 and 1909]” as justification. It is his feeling that “the former library had essentially become a museum [and] not a viable working room for students and staff.”
Sutherland Hussey, Faed Brown Architects, Daykin Marshall Studio, and Gibson Thornley Architects have been announced as finalists in the RIBA-backed competition for a new community hub and sports pavilion for the Sessay Cricket Club in North Yorkshire. The four shortlisted competitors, selected from over 80 entrants, will be reviewed by a judging panel on January 8. A winning team is expected to be announced shortly after.
Herzog & de Meuron is said to be collaborating with Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands to explore options for expanding the Chelsea Football Club’s Stamford Bridge home stadium in west London. According to a report by the Architects’ Journal, news of the possible expansion first broke last June, after considerations of relocating the stadium were heavily criticized by the public.
The stadium, originally designed by Scottish architect Archibald Leitch and built in 1876, has already undergone several renovations. Chelsea FC hopes to increase its capacity from 41,837 to 60,000, as well as provide a new decking over the railway line on the east and north sides of the building.
More from Chelsea FC regarding the expansion, after the break.
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.
Last weekend, the Architectural Review published an article by the Prince of Wales in which he outlined his stance on architecture, reiterating his belief that a return to traditional design principles is necessary to enable sustainable urban growth that meets human needs. In the 2,000 word essay, Prince Charles argues that “we face the terrifying prospect by 2050 of another three billion people on this planet needing to be housed,” adding that rather than ”wanting to turn the clock back to some Golden Age” as he is often accused, he is focused on the needs of the future. At the conclusion of his article, he outlines ten principles for architecture which meet the requirements of his vision.
As is often the case with Prince Charles’ pronouncements on architecture, the article has prompted a strong reaction from members of the profession, with responses ranging from Robert Sakula saying “if more people cared as much as he does we would have a better architectural culture,” to the response of Birmingham City University’s Alister Scott, who said ”there is clear evidence of elitism and his lack of empathy with the problems facing his peasantry.”
Read on after the break for more on the Prince’s article and the reaction from architects
Last week the UK Government appointed a new housing design panel, intended to “ensure that new homes are not only lower-cost but also high-quality and well-designed.” The panel will be led by Terry Farrell, classical architect Quinlan Terry and aesthetics philosopher Roger Scruton, as well as representatives from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), the UK Design Council and lobby group Create Streets. However, the profession was quick to criticize the selection of the three lead members of the panel.
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.
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)’s Future Trends Survey for November showed that confidence in workload among UK architects fell back slightly with the workload index returning back to +29. This is compared to +37 in October, which was the second highest ever balance figure. The highest balance figures were in Northern Ireland (+50) and the North of England (+46), areas with the RIBA state “were initially the slowest to indicate a return to growth.” In addition, the percentage of respondents reporting that they had personally been under-employed remained at 12% for the second month running – the lowest figure since the survey began in January 2009. Practices report that they are currently employing 6% more year-out and post Part II students than they were twelve months ago.
In the UK, the commissioning of buildings is in crisis. The government and the industry as a whole is short-sighted, putting too much emphasis on function and too little thought into what makes for a long-lasting, and in that respect sustainable, building.
What is it that prompts a person to own a classic car or a family to continue to use old silver when both involve so much hard work? Why not buy a new car or use stainless steel cutlery? By convention these possessions have reached the end of their natural life, they require careful maintenance and in many cases they don’t function as well they might – they are obsolete. Their continued use requires a conscious commitment – time and money – on the part of their owner. But then, in time, this responsibility stops being a burden and instead becomes a cause for satisfaction and enjoyment.
It is a question that could be asked of those who commission and use buildings.
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.”
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.
Stephen Hodder, the current President of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), has spoken out about a “U-turn” following the proposal of March 19th (passed under past President Angela Brady) condemning the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) for its failure to “resist projects on illegally-occupied land” in the West Bank and Gaza. According to BDOnline, the RIBA has “been forced to abandon its policy [...] after an internal report said it should never have been put to a vote in the first place.”
This highly controversial episode, which has overshadowed Hodder’s presidency, has also garnered criticism both in the UK and as far afield as the USA. Architects such as Richard Meier and Daniel Libeskind have stated that the RIBA’s actions have been “short-sighted and appear to be an attempt to simplify a very complex issue.” In the UK, Paul Finch writing in the AJ asked whether there would “be a rush to suspend the Russians because of what is happening in Ukraine? Were the Chinese suspended when they were destroying much of their magnificent built heritage, or invading Tibet?” “Certainly not”, he concluded.
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.
UK start-up company The Photon Project has announced its plan to launch the Photon Space, the world’s first intelligent all-glass living unit. Motivated by the major positive benefits that natural light can have on our energy levels, sleep pattern and overall health, the goal of the Photon Space is to create a dwelling that allows its occupants a maximum connection to the outside world.
Posited as an ideal addition to hotels, spas, health retreats, medical centres, and other resorts, the skin of the Photon Space is made of smart glass supported by curving glass beams, switching from transparent to opaque in seconds with the help of an iPhone app.