John McAslan: Community Design, From Haiti to Tottenham

Tottenham High Road, Where John McAslan + Partners plan to open their new office. Image © Flickr CC User Alan Stanton

John McAslan + Partners, already known for their involvement in humanitarian issues thanks to their work in Haiti, are now turning their attention to Tottenham in London, as reported by The Guardian. The practice hopes that by opening a new office on the high street of Tottenham, the area notorious as the crucible of the riots that spread across the UK in August 2011, and by engaging with the community, they can help to make a change. Read the full story here.

Mecanoo’s Francesco Veenstra on “Sustainability as Social Responsibility”

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, one of six partners at the Dutch practice Mecanoo and Lead Architect on a number of major projects in the United Kingdom, recently spoke to Mies. UK about the practice’s approach to design and their unique take on sustainability. Having recently completed a major public building in Birmingham (which was put to the vote and won the AJ’s 2013 Building of the Year), and with more in the pipeline, the practice’s international outlook is growing. How has the practice’s design methodology and core ideas influenced this success? Read more after the break.

AD Interviews: Ben van Berkel, UNStudio on London’s Canaletto Tower

Ben van Berkel. Image © Inga Powilleit

ArchDaily recently spoke to Ben van Berkel, co-founder and principal architect at UNStudio, an international network of specialists in architecture, urban development and based in the Netherlands. The office, which was founded in 1988, has completed projects around the world ranging from Rotterdam’s Erasmus Bridge to the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart. With over 81 built projects, and 54 currently in progress (including Raffles City in Hangzhou and Scotts Tower in Singapore), London’s Canaletto Tower (which is due to be completed in 2015) marks the practice’s first major project in the .

Roger Stephenson: “Using Craft in a Contemporary Way”

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Mies. UK recently spoke to OBE, Managing Partner at based stephenson:ISA Studio, about his award winning practice’s approach to “using craft in a contemporary way”. The office most recently completed an addition to Chetham’s School of Music, winning the 2013 RIBA Regional Building of the Year Award, RIBA National Award, and the RIBA Regional Award. This project is the latest in a long list of innovative buildings that are part of a ”rigorously coherent, contextually progressive architecture” that has made the practice one of best known regionalist design offices in the UK. 

Read the interview in full, and watch a three minute tour of Chetham’s School of Music, after the break.

London Cinema Challenge Winners Announced

Third Place: Peep(le) Show. Image Courtesy of / Combo

The London Cinema Challenge, organized by Combo Competitions, challenged participants to design a new cinema located on Newman Street in central London which should “reflect the participants’ ideas of the cinematic experience in the near future.” The scope of the proposal, along with the extravagance of the idea, was decided by the individual competitors with the only criterion being that the design provided a space to watch movies. In addition to the cinema, each proposal had to include a “unique feature helping to serve the main purpose” of the building. Whether “an intimate screening room for indie films, or a commercial multi-storey cinema complex showing blockbusters,” the winning proposals demonstrate an array of unique ideas.

Foster + Partners’ Thames Hub On the Chopping Block

’ Proposal for Thames Hub. Image Courtesy of

The prognosis does not look good for Foster + Partners’ plan for an airport hub in the Thames Estuary. The Guardian reports that the Independent Airports Commission has released an interim report, revealing a shortlist of potential options for the UK – and the Thames Hub (with an estimated price tag of £112bn)  isn’t on it.  Yet hope (however slim) does remain for the proposal, as its persistent defender, mayor Boris Johnson, has managed to convince the commission to revisit the idea in early 2014. Get the whole story at The Guardian.

Stonehenge Visitor Centre Opens its Doors

© Peter Cook

After a tortuous 21-year process Stonehenge, the stone circle that is one of the world’s most important neolithic artifacts, finally has the visitor centre it deserves. Denton Corker Marshall‘s design, situated 2.5 km (1.5 miles) to the west of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, has opened its doors and is preparing to deal with the site’s nearly 1 million annual visitors.

The new design features a museum, educational facilities, a cafe, shop and a ticket office. These spaces are brought together by a perforated oversailing roof supported on 211 narrow angled columns.

Read on for more about the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre

The Crystal Palace Architectural Competition

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Architects have been invited to submit expressions of interest in designing The Crystal Palace as a new cultural destination for in the spirit, scale and magnificence of the original. Plans to invest £500 million in rebuilding The Crystal Palace and restoring the surrounding public park were announced in October by ZhongRong Group, with the support of the Mayor of London and the Bromley Council.

The new culture-led exhibition and employment space will sit at the top of the 180-acre Crystal Palace Park in south London. It will incorporate the listed Italian style terraces, and other Victorian heritage within the park, fully restored for the public. The project is expected to create more than 2000 permanent and temporary jobs as well as attracting wider investment into the local high streets and the wider economy.

A Bad Month for Frank Lloyd Wright Fans

The SC Johnson Administration building, featuring Wright’s (now controversial) desks. Image © Jeff Dean

December has been a month of disappointment for fans of Frank Lloyd Wright: first, a plan to build a house designed by Wright and adapted for the English countryside has been rejected by Wraxall Councillors (Bristol Post), who believe that Frank Lloyd Wright “can’t be that influential”. This was followed by the news that SC Johnson, the company for whom Wright designed the famous Johnson Administration Building, is trying to stop the high profile Sotheby’s auction (ArtInfo) of a desk and chair designed for their building – claiming that the items were in fact stolen from them way back in the 1950s. More on the rejection here and the Sotheby”s controversy here.

Detailed New Rendering of Southbank Released

© Miller Hare

Earlier this month, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios released new images of the Southbank Centre, the most detailed renderings yet of the highly controversial redevelopment. Among the most significant alterations are a change to the exterior of the crowning glass box, a slight reduction in the size of the “liner” building (to preserve views of the Houses of Parliament from the neighboring National Theatre), and adjustments to various columns to preserve routes through the site.

Read on to find out more about the changes to the design..

HOK Selected to Refurbish Palace of Westminster

Palace of Westminster via Wikipedia

Correction: The HOK-team has been appointed to appraise the options for refurbishment and has not yet been commissioned for the work itself. 

HOK, in collaboration with Aecom and Deloitte, has been selected from a shortlist of five to lead the £720m refurbishment of ’s Palace of Westminster. As reported by BDOnline, the grade I listed building will now undergo a feasibility study before work begins. The plan is to modernize the mid-1800s palace, which was originally designed by Sir Charles Barry with the help of Augustus Pugin. This will include upgrading all HVAC systems and improving fire safety, as well restoring the cast iron roofs and deteriorating stone exterior.

2013 RIBA President’s Medals Winners Announced

RIBA Silver Medal: Ben Hayes. Image Courtesy of RIBA

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has announced the President’s Medals Student Awards at a special event in . The awards, known to be the world’s most prestigious awards in architectural education, were inaugurated in 1836 and are therefore the institutes oldest award (even older than the RIBA Gold Medal). Three medals – the Bronze for a Part I student, the Silver for a Part II student, and the Dissertation Medal – are awarded to “promote excellence in the study of architecture [and] to reward talent and to encourage architectural debate worldwide.”

Around 300 schools of architecture from over 60 countries were invited to nominate design projects and dissertations by their students, of which students of the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London won all of this year’s primary awards.

2013 AR+D Awards for Emerging Architecture Announced

Highly Commended: Accomodations for the Oceanological Observatory of Banyuls-sur-Mer by Atelier Fernandez & Serres. Image Courtesy of The Architectural Review

The winners of the 2013 AR+D Awards for Emerging Architecture have been announced! The , presented by The Architectural Review and now in its 15th year, have seen “projects from locales as diverse as Bloomsbury and the Himalayas.” This year over 350 entries were discussed by four esteemed judges, including , and have led to four winners who will share a prize fund of £10,000. See both the four winning entries and the ten highly commended schemes after the break…

Tunnels Under London: the Largest Infrastructure Project in Europe

western tunnels, December 2012. Image Courtesy of

Crossrail, “the largest infrastructure project in Europe, costing more, for example, than the London Olympics“, has been slowly winding it’s way beneath London for years. Getting access to the labyrinthine collection of underground tunnels and volumes, Rowan Moore of The Observer says that – despite the superficial furore surrounding it – this £5 billion undertaking will eventually be worth it: alongside the tunnels and tracks will be three million square feet (“or about six Gherkins“) of commercial development, and one million square feet of ‘public realm’.

Why Garden Cities Should Stay in the 20th Century

Town square in Letchworth Garden City, one of the ’s first. Via Flickr CC user. Image © Steve Cadman

After the Wolfson Economics Prize announced a challenge to deliver new garden cities in the UK for the 21st Century, Feargus O’Sullivan of Atlantic Cities responds, calling the attempt to bring back garden cities “misguided”. His article gives a comprehensive rundown of why garden cities were popular during the 20th century, why they are becoming popular again and, ultimately, why they are a bad idea that will not succeed this time around – finishing with some ideas from The Netherlands and Sweden that would be much more appropriate. You can read the full article here.

Can a School Ensure East London’s Olympic Legacy?

Via CC Flickr User. Image © diamond geezer

In this article for The Guardian, Oliver Wainwright reviews Chobham Academy, a new built as part of East London’s Olympic Legacy by architects AHMM. While he finds the school impressive and ambitious, Wainwright questions whether the campus, which acts as the ‘fulcrum’ between the poverty-stricken streets of Leyton and the high end flats of the former Athlete’s Village, will be able to bring the two parts of this community together. You can read the full article here.

Critical Round-Up: Tate Britain Renovation, Caruso St. John

Lower level rotunda, Tate Britain – Courtesy Caruso St. John and Tate. Image © Helene Binet

London’s Tate Britain, a partner gallery to the Tate Modern (who recently appointed Herzog & de Meuron to design a new extension), recently unveiled Caruso St. John‘s transformation of the oldest part of the iconic Grade II* listed building. The £45 million project to restore, renovate and reinterpret one of the UK’s most important galleries has been met with a largely positive critical response; read the conclusions of The Financial Times’ Edwin Heathcote, The Guardian’s Oliver Wainwright,  The Independent’s Jay Merrick, the Journal’s Hugh Pearman, and the Architects’ Journal’s Rory Olcayto, after the break…

Winners of the First Old Doha Competition Announced

Courtesy of Qatar 2013 Year of Culture

Alicja Borkowska and Iris Papadatou from you&me architects have been announced as the UK winners of the inaugural Old Prize, a competition to redesign part of the old city of Doha in Qatar

Four teams of architects have “worked intensively to develop contextual design responses to address the challenge of regenerating and maintaining the heritage of the city” as part of a British-Qatari collaborative project to “reimagine the urban landscape of old Doha.” As a city defined by its strong heritage, coupled with ambitious plans for the future, the competition aimed to discover ways of regenerating parts of the city centre in a sustainable, yet vibrant, way.