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AJ Kiosk: Introduction

Welcome to Kiosk, an exciting design event devised by The Architects’ Journal for Turkishceramics

It’s a simple idea: a challenge to Britain’s best architects to create a contemporary kiosk for London, but one that dispenses water, rather than newspapers or tickets or whatever else you associate with this overlooked building type.

Why water? For a couple of reasons: One, as a nod to our partner, we wanted the architects to consider the long history of kiosks in Turkey - kiosk in fact is a Turkish word - where the building type is a common neighbourhood landmark that more often than not incorporates public drinking water fountains. In November last year the architects selected for the challenge travelled to Istanbul to study some outstanding examples before creating their own schemes. And two, because The Architects’ Journal believes there is a wider debate to be had around how we use our public spaces and the services cities should offer residents and visitors. At the very least, the provision of free drinking water would seem to be the mark of a civilised society.

Who did we ask to participate? Architects with a proven flair; those with a rare energy, distinct from each other but united by an untrammeled passion for craft - Zaha Hadid Architects; Hopkins Architects; Allford Hall Monaghan Morris; Adam Architecture; Eric Parry Architects and Studio Weave.

The challenge came with a few caveats. We asked that each kiosk incorporate ceramic details - as many traditional kiosks do - and that the designs reflect the artistry and craft exhibited in the typology’s rich heritage. We suggested three busy central London sites: on the South Bank, in Soho, and on Exhibition Road, and asked the architects to show their designs in context (none chose to site their kiosk on Exhibition Road, however).

We hope you find the wonderful designs, published here for the first time in full, as inspiring as we do. The Architects’ Journal believes water kiosks have the potential to be attractive communal landmarks amid London’s pulsing townscape as well as a useful public resource in terms of their ability to bring people together and offer a healthy public service. These designs more than prove that. But they pose a tricky question too: how did we drift from being a society happy to provide free water to its citizens (once there were free public drinking fountains in every British town and city) into one where we choose to buy bottled water and lug it around with us? Crazy.

Rory Olcayto, AJ acting editor

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