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.” ’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 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 , 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 Thames, 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 / 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

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 RIBA

The results of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBAFuture Trends Survey for May show that the Workload Index among 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 ’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 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 RIBA 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 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

© Alvar Aalto Foundation

This summer, the art, architecture and design of Finland will be celebrated in . 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 modernism. 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 & 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

Joseph Rykwert and Stanton Williams Included in Queen’s Birthday Honours

Joseph Rykwert. Image © Pawel MazurI CC Krakow

Architecture critic Joseph Rykwert has been rewarded for his services to criticism by the Queen, receiving a CBE in this year’s birthday honours list. The honour continues a good year for Rykwert, after being awarded the RIBA Gold Medal in September. Also included on the birthday honours list were Alan Stanton and Paul Williams, founders of the 2012 Stirling Prize-winning Stanton Williams, who each received an OBE.

Pop Up Studio Explores Participation Design at London Festival of Architecture

Courtesy of

As part of the London Festival of Architecture, Cloud Architecture is conducting a participation-based research and design project from a pop up studio in Old Spitalfields Market in central London. Running until June 20th, the project aims to engage visitors to the market with the ideas and process of architectural design studios, which members of the public rarely get to experience first-hand.

At the same time, visitors to the studio will be encouraged to take part in a project to redesign the Old Spitalfields Market, based on data collected on site and the participatory input and opinions of those who use it.

Read on after the break for more on the studio and some of the results from the first week of research

London Skyline Debate Taken to City Hall

The Norman Foster-designed City Hall with the Shard in the background. Image © Flickr CC User alh1

The debate over the future of London‘s Skyline stepped up a gear on Tuesday, as the issue was taken up by the London Assembly’s Planning Committee in City Hall. The London Assembly is an elected watchdog which is tasked with examining the decisions and actions of London’s mayor, and is expected to apply pressure to mayor Boris Johnson over the issue of skyscrapers in the capital.

The committee heard from leading architectural figures in London including former RIBA president Sunand Prasad (of Penoyre & Prasad), planning and conservation director for London Nigel Barker and former City planning officer Peter Rees.

More on the London Assembly debate after the break

“Live Work Play”: An Exhibition of Local Award Winning Architecture from South England

Courtesy of Live Work Play

Live Work Play, an exhibition organised as part of the Hampshire Festival of Architecture 2014 (), showcases over 100 projects from “within the country, the , and beyond.” Featuring a range of “thoughtful, robust, elegant and ingenious designs”, the show will include designs from local practices such as PAD Studio, Design Engine, AR Design Studio, Design ACB and John Pardey Architects. The exhibition will be open seven days a week between the 14th June and the 16th July. Find out more from RIBA Hampshire.