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Transcending the factual

NEWS

Having abandoned London in the recession,and fought against the arch-conservative forces driving the reconstruction ofBerlin since the demolition ofthe Wall,Sauerbruch and Hutton seem finally to have established a firm foothold for the practice in Berlin as a constructor ofbuildings.

Not only that,but they seem to have found themselves a trademark in the use ofcoloured facades, to the extent that their recent Photonic Centre,an amoeba-shaped building where the whole spectrum is represented,has been featured in a German TV advertisement.

Ironically,the couple have a particular aversion to the prevalence ofimage-led architecture,which they believe has 'contaminated ... one's concept ofthe environment.'They took the platform at the AA last week to elaborate on their views,and mark the opening ofa new exhibition oftheir work - WYSIWYG - in the front gallery.

Mattias Sauerbruch described how the development ofcladding techniques had served to emphasise superficiality ofsurface,and lack ofdepth in buildings.But,unlike those architects who have countered those developments with a renewed emphasis on space and planning,and thereby retreated into the 'ghettos ofnon- communication',Sauerbruch and Hutton have accepted the two-dimensional surface ofthe glazed, curtain-wall facade as 'the screen ofour perception',and embarked on finding ways ofworking with it,generating a 'freedom to refine and redefine the space in front ofand behind the surface.'

The use ofcolour provides a strongly contrasting technique to,say,Herzog and de Meuron's use ofprojected images on a facade.In the form ofcoloured shutters behind the glass,or coloured glass itself,it stimulates a primarily sensory response.Louisa Hutton says the aim is to 'combine the sensuality ofmaterials and form',to achieve a 'distinct character and atmosphere'.

Colour allows 'a transcendence ofthe factual',and ultimately it is 'the well-being ofthe individual', both physical and psychological comfort,which is the main concern in the design process.

Hutton suggests that all ofthis is embraced in the parameters ofan 'ecological'programme where ecological awareness is not simply about technical services,but is the basis for a more sensuous approach to architecture.The GSW headquarters building,which is now almost finished,should achieve a 40 per cent reduction in energy costs.The design ofthe narrow,slab-shaped tower facing east-west creates a stack effect for natural ventilation,incorporating a thermal flue on the west facade to draw air through the space,assisted by a 'wind roof'on the top ofthe building.The narrow plan maximises penetration ofdaylight into the space,while thick concrete floors provide thermal mass.But the GSW tower,coloured in subtly graded shades ofred,is also an elegant profile and a poetic landmark on the horizon for a new Berlin designed to harness the energy ofthe city embedded not only in materials,but also in its memories.vital statistics

Fourteen million households in England (69 per cent) owned their own homes in 1998-9 while 21 per cent rented from the council or registered social landlord,and 10 per cent privately.

The DETR 's housing Statistics Summary also revealed 2.4 million households (12 per cent) had moved in 1997-8,and 2.5 million households were headed by someone over the age of75 in 1998-9 compared with 1.6 million in 1977-8.

Sixty per cent ofhouseholders said they were very satisfied with their accommodation and a further 31 per cent said they were fairly satisfied.Twofifths ofrenters were oneperson households with a third ofhome owners being solo.

Each autumn there are around 100 million that butterflies migrate 2500 miles from breeding grounds in the US to Mexico.

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