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Architects Journal
Clare Melhuish

Stories by contributor

  • Not so sweet Thames explored


  • Building the promised land


    Joachim Schlor's talk in the rca/Reaktion Books Topographics series explored the fascinating phenomenon of Tel Aviv, without evoking a fascinating city. Founded 90 years ago this year, it is the unusual case of a city deliberately conceived and designed as a home for and by a highly specific ethnic group, which would provide a spatial and material embodiment of its religious and cultural values. Even more intriguing is the fact that this was a group that was culturally very diverse, ...
  • Transcending the factual


  • Hailing the brave new e-world


    'Many Internet years ago' - in 1995 - Bill Mitchell published his inspirational City of Bits - a 'first sketch for some of the questions we ought to be asking about the digital world', as he put it in his talk at the aa earlier this week. He has now updated it with a new volume, E-topia, an 'agnostic' sort of title, he says, which seems to mask a great sense of optimism about the 'soft transformation' of the environment which he envisages.
  • Late blooming of cultural concepts


    The most astonishing moment of Gordon Benson's talk to members of DOCOMOMO and the public last week was his assertion that only halfway through his career in practice with Alan Forsyth did they grasp the concept 'that buildings could be conveyers of cultural ideas'. The moment of awakening came when, struggling to reinvent themselves during the Thatcher years, they were asked to design a clocktower in Japan, and offered instead to do a building that had 'something to do with time'. ...
  • Tripping the light fantastic


    Jane Gosney's talk, hosted by Art and Architecture at the Gallery in London's Clerkenwell, was designed to show that 'a lighting designer is probably a good friend if you'd like to make an exciting building.' Gosney was speaking in her capacity both as head of wsp Lighting and as a member of Art and Architecture, and a contributor to its quarterly magazine of the same title. Her audience seemed to be a mixed bag of mainly youngish fine artists and architects who have probably come under ...
  • Tschumi still devoted to ideas


    Bernard Tschumi made a somewhat triumphant return to London last week, brandishing a fistful of buildings near completion or complete. His insights into the idiosyncrasies (and idiocies) of the construction industry seemed offered almost as proofs of his initiation into a world far removed from the conceptual realm of Manhattan Transcripts.
  • Embracing new graphic space


    Within three months of winning the competition for the design of a new civic, commercial and cultural centre in Melbourne, Australia, known as Federation Square, Don Bates and Peter Davidson, or Lab Architects, witnessed the start of work on the substructure for the site They had received no official brief, and only did so four months later.
  • Natural capitalism is coming


    Forget about waste reduction. As Amory Lovins put it so succinctly in his lecture at the Royal Society of Arts, we need to eliminate any concept of waste from our social and economic system. Doing so will not only end the human war against the planet, but also cure the disillusion in Western civil society which is the cause of crime and violence.
  • Violence and delicacy in the city


    Jeremy Dixon's talk to the Urban Design Group on the Royal Opera House revealed how far rapidly changing city conditions can affect a large- scale architectural project. The roh redevelopment, which has been in gestation for 17 years, and is due to be finally revealed when the building reopens on 6 December, was presented as a 'town-planning project', conceived mainly in response to its environs rather than as a catalyst for development.
  • Paint housing green, says sera


  • Le Corbusier's beautiful scapegoat


    As the discussion about new housing models for the twenty-first century rumbles on, it is worth revisiting the most influential prototype of this century - Le Corbusier's Unite d'habitation in Marseilles, now a historic monument some 50 years old, simply known as Le Corbusier.
  • Turrell trips the light fantastic


    James Turrell was in Cornwall for the solar eclipse, creating an artwork specially for it, but the experience taught him never again to depend on British skies in his work, for heavy cloud cover ensured the failure of the piece as a walk-in pin-hole camera through which to view the event.
  • Rem Koolhaas: skewing the real


    Despite Mark Cousins' efforts to locate Rem Koolhaas and his work within an intellectual context, the architect's lecture at the Royal Geographical Society seemed more concerned with graphic effects, and somewhat flippant in tone. It is perhaps this quality of his work which lies behind Cousins' assertion that it embodies present-day 'unease about what an architect is, or what architecture might be', and (citing Nietzsche) a manifestation of 'the actual' as 'a skew of what is thought ...
  • Ugh ... those crass Roman malls


    Archaeologists are increasingly making their presence felt in the way cities are organised and developed, since it is now a condition of planning permission that archaeologists are allowed onto a site before construction starts. For those involved in the construction industry, particularly developers, the prospect of a major find is a potential nightmare which could seriously delay the construction process.
  • History keeps breaking out


    According to Peter Ackroyd, the highly successful author of Hawksmoor and other historic novels and biographies set in London, the new loft developments of Clerkenwell do not work and will probably prove to be a mistake: so beware, investors. Speaking at the Metropolitan Bookshop, as part of the Clerkenwell Literary Festival last week, he suggested that 'the spirit of the area is not conducive' to residential development - unlike Islington, 'which has a history of hospitality'.
  • There goes the neighbourhood . . .


    A recent seminar on 'Social Exclusion and the Future of Cities' provided the occasion for an interesting discussion of the Urban Task Force report which was clearly focused more on America than Europe, notwithstanding the award of the riba Gold Medal to Barcelona.
  • Looking back without nostalgia


    As architect hta resigns from the so-called 'Greenwich Millennium Village' project in protest against the conservatism of the development consortium, David Matless' talk, 'Near and Elsewhere', at the Photographers' Gallery, totally undermined the basis of the prevailing, nostalgic, 'Little England' attitude towards architecture and the environment. It is telling that one of the partners in the Greenwich consortium is a company called Countryside Properties. The Millennium has been packaged ...
  • Hasegawa goes with the flow


    The Ninth Annual Royal Academy Architecture Lecture, sponsored by John Wiley, was given by Itsuko Hasegawa this year, fortuitously coinciding with a London visit in connection with the invited competition to redesign the environs of the Tower of London. Hasegawa's architectural career, stretching over more than 25 years, has a good deal of relevance to the competition, being particularly concerned with waterfront redevelopment.
  • Urban villages or big city fantasies?


    The concept of the 'urban village', ubiquitous in discussions about urban design in London over the last 15 years, was given a slightly unfamiliar slant by Julian Stallabrass in his discussion of the 'urban pastoral' at the Photographers' Gallery last weekend.
  • Escape from mythologised space


    Writers invent and evoke worlds of the imagination, but they also play an important role in constructing and defining the identity of the real-life, physical places they write about. The increasingly ubiquitous Iain Sinclair is one of a number of contemporary British authors who have established reputations for their writing about, or inspired by, the physical fabric of London and its history, and he has even been credited with having some responsibility, through his books, for the ...
  • Nature and artifice


    A degree of ambiguity about landscape design's identity and purpose is revealed in the amount of literature on the subject which appeared during the 1990s. In England, the trend continues to be towards the naturalistic, contrasting with a bolder exploration of artifice in France. And while the English tradition exerted an enormous influence on European practice for a long time, French ideas are beginning to infiltrate across the Channel. The arrival of 'painter, poet, professor, and ...
  • Balmond takes your breath away


    Cecil Balmond is a structural tightrope artist who engages in feats of apparently breath-taking daring. One senses that the architects in league with him, including Rem Koolhaas and Daniel Libeskind, have made a big and frightening commitment, well expressed in Koolhaas' cryptic faxed comment: 'Hoping for a smooth hovering...'
  • Recalling a university challenge


    There are few opportunities to hear a public appraisal of a building by its architect, generally considered to have had a seminal influence on the subsequent history of architecture. Manfred Schiedhelm, speaking at the aa last week, was a lead collaborator on the Berlin Free University project (first phase completed 1973), with the practice of Candilis, Josic and Woods. He took responsibility for the construction programme, and his own practice later extended the complex.
  • bossing the bartlett


    people: Christine Hawley is an inspiring leader who is also keen to build more. On 1 July she will become dean and head of school at the Bartlett by clare melhuish. photograph by shaun bloodworth
  • Seeing through the illusion


    Rolf Sachsse, who lectured at the AA last week, is one of a fairly rare breed: a former practitioner turned theoretician. He originally trained and worked as an architectural and advertising photographer and now holds professorships in photography and electronic imagery; art history and media theory.
  • Putting the global in perspective


    Globalisation is an academic concept which aims to define real and complex economic conditions in which architects and planners have to operate. At the 'Globalisation and World Cities' conference held at the aa last week, political scientist Paul Hirst provided a measure of that complexity with his denial that globalisation actually exists, at least in its commonly assumed form as a dissolution of national economies and their replacement by a world economy of global transactions and ...
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