2014 London Festival of Architecture Explores the Theme of “Capital”

The 2014 London Festival of Architecture opened this week, with over 200 running throughout the city in the month of June. This year’s theme is “Capital”, an intentionally ambiguous theme which allows an exploration of the culture, people, economy and built environment of London. Some of the key topics to be interrogated will be the housing crisis afflicting London and the recent boom in the construction of tall buildings.

Read on after the break for more on the festival and some of its headline events

How Will Architecture Respond to a “Boom” in UK University Spending?

Courtesy of University of Manchester

With the recent news that Dutch practice Mecanoo, along with Penoyre & Prasad, have been selected for a £200 million new engineering campus at the University of ManchesterAmanda Baillieu of BDOnline argues that they ”need to set their ambitions a whole lot higher.” Alongside’s Manchester’s announcement, universities in Sheffield, Newcastle and Oxford also recently announced a big investment in their campuses. The trick, Baillieu suggests, will be in ensuring the architecture is not “safe and office-like” (which fits universities’ “business-like” mindset). As we enter a “golden age” in university capital investment, educational architecture will be playing a central role. Read the article in full here.

Glasgow School of Art Begins to Pick Up the Pieces

The wreckage of the School of Art Library. Image © Scottish Fire and Rescue via BBC

After the tragic fire that tore through Charles Rennie Mackintosh‘s Glasgow School of Art last week, thoughts have now turned to the future of the building and the process of restoration. It seems that many people in the profession are in favour of a faithful restoration: John McAslan, who has previously worked on restoring one of Mackintosh’s buildings in Northampton, saying that “it is not the time and place to interpret Mackintosh”, and former GSA student and ex-director of FAT Sam Jacob commenting that the building “hadn’t been turned into a museum piece” and therefore “a faithful restoration is exactly the right thing to do.”

Though there has been one dissenting voice from George Cairns, a professor at Melbourne‘s RMIT who completed his PhD thesis on the building in 1992 and believes that a faithful restoration is impossible. In any case, this is what the Glasgow School of Art has resolved to do, and they have received a number of offers of help. Read on after the break to find out what’s being done, and what you can do to help, after the break.

Norman Foster Reasserts Belief in Thames Estuary Airport

Courtesy of Foster + Partners

In response to the UK Airports Commission’s call for evidence, Foster + Partners has released a detailed feasibility study supporting their plans for a new airport on the Isle of Grain in the Thames Estuary. Their plan proposes a four-runway built on a 35 square kilometre platform constructed partially in the mouth of the Thames. The scheme is popularly called “Boris Island” thanks to its most prominent supporter, Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

Norman Foster said “Since the Airports Commission submission a year ago, the need for increased airport capacity has become even more urgent. It is time to get serious about the issue of airport capacity. Britain needs an effective long-term solution, not the usual short-term fix that is Heathrow’s proposed third runway. London today needs to follow in the footsteps of its nineteenth-century forebears and invest boldly in infrastructure. Only long-term thinking will properly serve the demands of our future generations.”

Read on for a breakdown of the information contained in the report

Fire Breaks Out at Glasgow School of Art

UPDATE: The Glasgow School of Art Media Centre reports ”With the incident under control indications are the firefighters’ efforts have ensured more than 90 per cent of the structure is viable and protected up to 70 per cent of the contents – including many students’ work.”

A serious fire has broken out at the Glasgow School of Art, Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s 1909 masterpiece. The extent of the damage is unclear at the moment, but BBC News is reporting that the fire is believed to have started in the basement, and has spread to the upper floors, where it is breaking windows and smoke is billowing from the building. Images, reactions and updates from twitter after the break.

RIBA Future Trends Survey Shows Confidence Remains High

Courtesy of RIBA

The results of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Future Trends Survey for April show that confidence among UK practices remains high at a Workload Index of +35, the same as in March. The positive figures came from across the board, with practices of all sizes and from all regions of the UK predicting increased workloads in the near future. However, after last months’ survey showed Scotland as the region with the brightest outlook, the balance of power has shifted back to London, where architects reported the highest index of +45.

Scottish Charity Aims to Resurrect Brutalist Icon

© Flickr CC User Stuart Caie

The Scottish arts charity NVA is looking for an architect to carry out the restoration of St Peter’s Seminary in Cardross, designed by Gillespie, Kidd & Coia in 1966. The building is an icon of post war brutalism; the Grade-A listed structure was voted as the best modern building in Scotland by readers of Prospect Magazine in 2005, and is likely to feature heavily in Scotland’s show at the 2014 Venice Biennale. However despite this adoration, the building had a very short functional life and has been in a state of ruin ever since it was abandoned in the 1980s.

NVA is looking for an architect “highly skilled in the conservation of modernist buildings” to take on the £8 million restoration, which will see the sanctuary and refectory preserved in a “semi-ruinous state”, and a nearby 19th-century greenhouse converted into a visitor centre.

Read on after the break for more on the restoration

Has Prince Charles “Shut Down Debate” on UK Architecture?

The extension to the National Gallery by Venturi Scott Brown replaced the design by ABK which was scrapped after Prince Charles’ criticisms. Image © Nick Weall via e-architect

To mark the 30th anniversary of Prince Charles‘ famous “Carbuncle Speech”, last week the RIBA held a discussion focusing on the speech’s impact on British architecture. The speech in which the prince protested the design of a proposed extension to the National Gallery has been seen by some as expanding the debate around architectural quality, but the panelists on the night disagreed with this view: Owen Hatherley said “The idea he broadened the debate is curious. He shut it down.” Similarly, Charlie Luxton commented “He turned the debate from one of quality to one of style – and architecture suffered.” You can read more of the panelists’ views on BD Online.

Major Defects Uncovered at Homes Designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

© Flickr CC User Oxley Woods Photos

A report uncovered by the Architects’ Journal has revealed that an experimental housing project by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners has developed major problems just seven years after construction. The low cost factory-built Oxley Woods scheme won the RIBA Manser Medal for housing in 2008 but a report commissioned by the scheme’s developer has shown faults in the detailing are causing some parts of the construction to rot. Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners have distanced themselves from the defects insisting that it was “Taylor Wimpey and Wood Newton responsible for the final detailed design”. You can find out more about the controversy at the Architects’ Journal and the Financial Times.

Concerns Over Privacy as Shard’s Hotel Offers Guests Unexpected Views

© Flickr CC User Patrick Collins

Since opening to the public last week, guests at the Shard‘s Shangri-La Hotel have been discovering that the building offers crystal clear views of more than just London. At night, the glass panels which extend beyond the edge of the floor plates and give the building its characteristic crystalline appearance act as mirrors, offering views into neighboring rooms. The Financial Times reports that when they visited, “guests in the neighbouring room were clearly visible as they prepared for bed.” You can read more on the story (and see proof of the effect) on the Financial Times.

RIBA Regional Awards Spotlight Best of Southern UK

Mary Rose Museum / Wilkinson Eyre Architects. Image © Hufton+Crow

The winners of RIBA Regional Awards have been announced for the South, South East and South West regions. Among the awards were further successes for Wilkinson Eyre‘s Mary Rose Museum, and Adam Richards Architects‘ Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft, both of which were also recently featured on the UK Museum of the Year Shortlist

The award winning projects will join winners from other regions to be considered for the 2014 RIBA Stirling Prize.

Read on after the break for all the winners from the three regions

Milan Expo 2015: Sculpture to Construct Virtual Beehive for UK Pavilion

“BE”. Image Courtesy of UKTI

A team led by Nottingham-based artist Wolfgang Buttress has been selected over seven other architect-designed proposals to construct a “pulsating” beehive for the ’s participation at the 2015 Milan Expo. Entitled “BE,” the “virtual hive” will highlight the plight of the honeybee and offer an “immersive sensory experience” that leaves visitors with a “lasting flavor of the British landscape.”

A full project description from the creators after the break…

Boris Johnson Enlists 3 Practices to Envisage the Future of Heathrow

Richard Rogers’ Terminal 5 at Heathrow. Image © Flickr CC User NewbieRunner

London Mayor Boris Johnson has enlisted the help of three architects, Hawkins\Brown, Rick Mather Architects and Maccreanor Lavington Architects to design a new town on the site of Heathrow Airport. The move is designed to encourage support for Johnson’s plan to build a new airport in the Thames Estuary, jokingly dubbed ‘Boris Island’ by some. If the Estuary Airport were to go ahead it could mean closing Heathrow, currently one of the world’s busiest airports, freeing the land up for the new development. You can read more on the story at the Architects’ Journal.

2014 RIBA London Awards

© Hufton+Crow

The winners of the 2014 RIBA  Awards were announced in a ceremony last night. The awards recognize the RIBA London Architect of the year and 2014 RIBA Emerging Architect of the Year (Haworth Tompkins and RCKa, respectively) as well as a host of project awards which join other regional awards to make up the longlist for the 2014 RIBA Stirling Prize.

Among the winners are Zaha Hadid‘s Aquatics Centre, which becomes the final Olympics project to shoot for the Stirling Prize now that its seating wings have been removed; the Shard; the renovation of the Tate Britain by Caruso St John; and the transformation of King’s Cross by John McAslan + Partners. Read on after the break for a full list of winners.

Maggie’s Centre Cardiff Receives Planning Permission

Courtesy of Maggie’s

A design by Dow Jones Architects for a new Maggie’s Centre in Wales has received planning permission. The centre will enhance the existing cancer care facilities at Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff which provides support across South-Eastern Wales. The building sits in gardens designed by RHS Gold Medallist Cleve West, and has an intimate relationship with the surrounding landscape, with rooms that open onto woodland gardens.

Read more about the design after the break

Liverpool Becomes Latest City With High Line Plans

The Churchill Flyover in . Image © Flickr CC User Arthur John Picton

Thanks to a group called Friends of the Flyover, Liverpool has become the latest city with aspirations to build its own High Line-style elevated parkway. The group have raised over £40,000 on the civic crowdfunding website Spacehive to conduct a feasibility study on the elevated Churchill Flyover, with the aim of creating a park, events space and cycle route. Liverpool Council currently has plans to demolish the flyover at a cost of £4 million – however they are said to be open to the proposal by Friends of the Flyover, who hope to show that they can deliver a better solution for around half the cost. You can read the full story on the Independent.

RIBA Finds Architects Rely Too Much on Single Sector

Courtesy of

The RIBA has found that many UK practices rely too heavily on a single sector, or even a single client, putting them at risk should work in that sector suddenly dry up. These statistics are among the findings of the RIBA’s annual Business Benchmarking Survey, the only mandatory survey of all chartered practices in the .

The benchmarking survey estimates that a maximum of 40% of a practice’s income can safely come from a single sector, but it found that 60% of practices with 20-50 staff and 54% of practices with over 50 staff failed to meet this rule of thumb. Furthermore the survey found that 90% of practices with fewer than 20 staff relied on just a single client for over 40% of their income.

Read on after the break for more results of the RIBA Business Benchmarking Survey

RIBA’s Future Trends Survey Reveals Small Drop in March

Courtesy of RIBA

The Royal Institute of British Architects‘ (RIBA) latest Future Trends Survey indicates a small drop from February’s index, “down to +35 from its all-time high of +41.” Despite this, “confidence levels about an improvement in future workloads for architects remain very solid.” All types of practice size, ranging from those with fewer than 10 employees to those with over 50 staff, are “reporting positive balance figures.” The strongest future workload forecasts came from and the North of England, suggesting that “the recovery in confidence levels is now widespread across the UK and has spread beyond and the South East.”