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Architects Journal
Katherine Shonfield

  • Reading room

    20-Mar-2003

    aj building study
  • Katherine Shonfield

    12-Apr-2001

    As all the world knows, architecture has had a chequered relationship with the monarchy in recent years. Yet it would be singularly unbecoming for architects to snigger behind our small but perfectly formed brises-soleil at the Firm's latest difficulties. One is, however, forced to ponder on the very different outcome had the Royal Family, in lieu of hurling monstrous carbuncles at us, had the good fortune to marry into a proper accredited profession. Could, for example, any of the ...
  • Katherine Shonfield

    5-Apr-2001

    However much we might fancy ourselves as artists, architecture differs markedly from the other contemporary arts.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    29-Mar-2001

    The 'Legible Cities' conference in Bristol raised the interesting notion of reading within a city.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    22-Mar-2001

    If you get hold of this month's copy of Men's Health , you will unearth, in between articles on 'Why your fridge makes you fat', and 'Sex: teach her a few new tricks', a piece which asserts the diametric difference between an affinity for words and an affinity for the visual. To those who are better with pictures than words, and to whom reading is 'not their strong point', it recommends architecture as a profession.
  • Pulross Intermediate Health Care Centre by Penoyre & Prasad

    22-Mar-2001

    Between the crowded GP’s surgery and the impersonal hospital lies a new type of health care building, executed here with warmth and understated elegance
  • Katherine Shonfield

    15-Mar-2001

    Foot-and-mouth has virtually done for our tourist industry, says the not-normally-soalarmist Observer . Less seriously perhaps, but more insidiously, what it definitely does threaten is the status of 'the countryside' in the lives of the urban majority.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    8-Mar-2001

    A few years ago some wag worked out that if all the stipulated subjects in the National Curriculum were adhered to, the Spanish Armada would get all of 13 seconds' coverage on a mid-week February afternoon.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    1-Mar-2001

    Each time I bounce round with a new set of holiday snaps my non-architect friend groans. It's because, she says, of my systematic erasure of everything pertaining to human interest from the images. It is as effective as if one of those 1980s bombs had just dropped - you know, the ones architects liked - that killed all forms of natural life while leaving buildings and cities pleasingly intact.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    22-Feb-2001

    It's a cliche that personalities have replaced issues during the past two decades. It is no coincidence, then, that it was decided that a single figure - a mayor, rather than an impersonal organisation - was necessary to reform London's government.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    15-Feb-2001

    According to a UNICEF report published last week, British children are some of the safest in the world. Coupled with the reduction of deaths of children on our roads during the 1990s this is, on the face of it, the best argument in favour of unsustainable, stretched-out cities and the security of the car you could hope for.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    8-Feb-2001

    It may have escaped your attention but last week Tory strategists unearthed a phenomenon to rival the original discoveries of cave dwellers and of Stone Age man.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    1-Feb-2001

    I would like to share with you one of those curious office emails that emanate from nowhere and mysteriously spread like wildfire.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    25-Jan-2001

    Two weeks ago I quoted Dan Cruickshank's provocative assertion that we may know an era by how it treats its dead. Last week's shocking photographs of bodies haphazardly spread on the floor of a hospital chapel of rest put this notion, rather brutally, to the test.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    18-Jan-2001

    Changing names, unlike Changing Rooms , is something at which people invariably look askance. The outraged reaction of Sun readers at the prospect of the makeover of the Post Office to a new improved service apparently dubbed Consignia is a case in point. Indeed, the extraordinary thing about the lucrative 'industry' of rebranding is how united all but the professionals in question and their clients are in loathing its output.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    11-Jan-2001

    The 'oo' of relief at getting rid of the 00 that signified 2000 appears pretty general.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    7-Dec-2000

    In the wake of the Hatfield train crash, somewhere sunk in among all the strategic concerns, is a largely overlooked item questioning the technical specification of the rail track.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    30-Nov-2000

    In the first volume of the AJ's classic series The Best of Architects' Working Details (circa 1952), there is a detail of a phone booth in the Royal Festival Hall. Innumerable revisions to Gilbert Scott Junior's original Red One might make one think that it is only the armature of phone booths that is of interest to designers.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    23-Nov-2000

    A prevalent feeling characterises modern life. It is that lurking sensation that you will inevitably trip over a branch of McDonald's halfway up Kilimanjaro. Until now, the US has been the undisputed Machiavelli behind the uneasy and universal sense of deja vu which gets vaguely summed up in the term 'globalisation'. But the fallout from the US presidential election has resulted in an unexpected fillip to all those architects - and others - who promote regionalism and individuality. ...
  • Katherine Shonfield

    16-Nov-2000

    The prime-time televising of the Stirling Prize is not just an isolated jamboree: weekly architectural judgements on Radio 4's Front Row and its influential Saturday Review programme evidence a huge growth in the informed audience for architecture. It would take a curmudgeon of miserable proportions to be churlish in the face of it. So here goes.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    9-Nov-2000

    The sight of John Prescott, up to his waist in the questionable effluent that passes for rainwater in this country, is the sole glad tiding that emerges from the floods of the past weeks. But amid the anxieties there is plenty of scope for gaping disbelief. On each news bulletin, as night follows day, concern for the beleaguered motorist follows concern for the stranded householder. Forget abstract mutterings. No-one in authority is prepared to state the bald fact of the case: 'You ...
  • Katherine Shonfield

    2-Nov-2000

    Using the Pets Page of the Daily Telegraph as a social gauge may seem a touch eccentric but last weekend's bullet point list on 'What to do if your pet goes missing' is an invaluable key to the paucity of middle class engagement in the urban realm.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    26-Oct-2000

    The poor old lay man. It seems good old architecture has coldshouldered him once more. His omission from the jury of this year's Stirling Prize is all the more ignominious for his substitution by one of the most well-known of self-publicised laid women, Tracy Emin. The public, it seems, will be out of 'their depth and generally overawed by the process'. Bless.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    19-Oct-2000

    The rebranding mania that is itself the recognisable brand of this government has left local authority housing departments proudly immune. They go in for relabelling instead. There is a council turquoise green, favoured by Lambeth and now Camden, which has been used to put an unmistakable stamp of possession on messages such as 'no ball games' and 'no dumping'.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    12-Oct-2000

    Out of last week's dramatic events in Serbia came an enduring lesson on how we get things wrong.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    5-Oct-2000

    If media coverage is a gauge, Ken Livingstone has made few pronouncements in the five months since his electoral victory as London's first mayor.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    28-Sep-2000

    When Graham Sutherland's expressive portrait of Churchill was attacked by an affronted admirer of Winston, the late artist confessed that it was the best possible boost to a flagging career. Is it too cheeky to suggest that last week's bomb attack on the MI6 building at Vauxhall Cross is precisely what Terry Farrell needs to bring his considerable work back to the forefront of a fickle public consciousness within the UK?
  • Katherine Shonfield

    21-Sep-2000

    For generations of GCSE and Olevel students, William Golding's Lord of the Flies has been held up as a warning of what people plonked onto a desert island do when left to their own devices. If you remember, it all ended with a savage ritualistic murder.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    14-Sep-2000

    The orchestration of Sunday night is a matter of rigid orthodoxy in the received wisdom of TV schedules. A prescribed diet of heritage interest - antiques - followed by dramas set in a luridly green rural setting, preferably Ireland or Yorkshire. The order of the day is a strict regime of escapist fantasy, pandering to the 'ifonly' tendency that is the universal prelude to Monday morning. Thus it is significant that Sunday night TV's prime 9pm spot has been occupied on different channels ...
  • Katherine Shonfield

    7-Sep-2000

    The most swingeing of many recent attacks on architects emanates from the distinguished philosopher A C Grayling in the Observer.He singles out the newly dubbed Testicle (aka the Greater London Assembly building) for the way it contests its iconic context - 'feebly, because it is just an arrangement of glass and steel which looks as if it is inspired by a lump of half-squashed Plasticine.'
  • Katherine Shonfield

    31-Aug-2000

    Some of this summer's especially squirm-inducing offerings are those Saturday night TVprogrammes dubbed 'I love 1971' with variations referring to the rest of the decade. To those unfortunate enough to have been sufficiently sentient the first time around, it was obvious then that this was a bummer of an era. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the rubbish passed off as televisual entertainment. Likewise, the fact that this August the nation has been stirred from its habitual lethargy ...
  • Katherine Shonfield

    17-Aug-2000

    An odd similarity looks set to emerge between now and the 1930s. The legacy of that period of mass building stays with us in the suburban form of the privately financed single family house which is spreading over the remaining gaps in south-east England. Despite an era of more sophisticated government posturing, the sole cause of any substantive change between the '30s and the present day is successful penny-pinching by the mass housebuilders.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    3-Aug-2000

    Nominations for the RIBA's Annie Spink Award will by now be closed. This unique prize will be presented in 'recognition of an outstanding individual contribution to architectural education'. The intriguing thing is how a judging panel can arrive at such an assessment. Those 'quality-assurance panels' that plague academic departments at regular intervals are currently awash with criteria by which students can judge the effectiveness of their teachers.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    27-Jul-2000

    Typologies, as we who were trained in the early '80s know, abound through life, and building openings are no exception. At the moment there are three dominant forms:
  • Katherine Shonfield

    20-Jul-2000

    Oh how we love an architectural panacea. It is actually quite sweet the way architects are so like kids: we inhabit a world where a spot of judiciously-applied building ointment can make everything disappear for ever.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    6-Jul-2000

    It's curious how frequently the time element in Sigfried Giedion's classic architectural history, Space Time and Architecture, gets left out. Last Monday's discussion on architectural time, organised by Artangel, the public art sponsorship body, sought to redress this.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    29-Jun-2000

    The Uneasy Streets of Garry Winogrand (reviewed by Tom Emerson 'Surveying the City' AJ 22.6.00) is, as Emerson says, an obsessive recording of the life of the New York streets during the 1960s and 1970s: Winogrand left more than 40,000 rolls of undeveloped film on his death.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    22-Jun-2000

    Last week was marked by a memorable leading article in London's Evening Standard . In it, the writer stated categorically that 'everybody hates architects' - and this despite the assertion of this magazine's editorial of a couple of weeks ago that architecture is the new gardening. According to the article, architects are, moreover, the quintessential universely loathed dinner party companion - which is news to this particular one, since it is at least four years since I have even received ...
  • Katherine Shonfield

    15-Jun-2000

    Can art prove that it is contemporary through a rereading of the past? Or does it inevitably have to usurp the past by demolishing it? Cambridge recently announced that it was dropping its Shakespeare paper.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    8-Jun-2000

    Who is setting the agenda for the next election and the next government term? Education has Blunkett, law has Straw, medicine has an increasingly impressive Milburn: who do we have? Prescott.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    1-Jun-2000

    Was the Trojan Horse the first object building? It had the same irresistible attractions of the familiar writ large: an overscale toy which you could also get inside. It arrived overnight, it was an apparently benign architectural insertion, and it went on to successfully scupper the reigning regime. As in the case of the Greek Heseltine who deposited his Dome on departing to the back benches, the puzzle is that nobody has really asked why the object was left behind.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    25-May-2000

    Prince Charles asserts that the world's great religions have at their heart an environmental ethic. It might be a headache for him, therefore, that the USA, where around 40 per cent of the population attend a religious gathering at least once a month, is probably the most messianic perpetrator of environmental pollution on the planet.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    18-May-2000

    Indulging in sour grapes is an accepted role of the columnist.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    11-May-2000

    The transfer of ships into buildings is a long-established myth of Modernism. The equivalent swap of building typologies into boats has a less respectable history. Anyone who has experienced a Thames 'pleasure boat' or a cross-Channel ferry will tell you that the shift of the architectural types of nightclub and supermarket respectively from dry land to water is more liable to induce the screaming heebie-jeebies than aesthetic admiration.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    27-Apr-2000

    There is currently a conspiracy theory circulating that the Tourist Board is in cahoots with the government, and has sprinkled a bumper crop of bank holidays as far from any potential good weather as it can. The fiendishly Machiavellian reasoning is this: good weather means you do especially fun things - like lying down in the sun - that try as 'they' might a) don't involve tourist 'facilities' and b) do not entail parting with any cash.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    13-Apr-2000

    Last Saturday David Blunkett was widely reported to have declared the 'school run' responsible for one-third of all polluting traffic on the roads. He, like many others, thinks bikes, buses and walking are the answer. Yippee. Does he propose wiping out this problem at a stroke by providing schools worthy of the name within walking distance of all? Sorry, no. In the education secretary's world, the abysmal apology for schooling generally on offer has nothing to do with why people should ...
  • Katherine Shonfield

    6-Apr-2000

    News
  • Katherine Shonfield

    9-Mar-2000

    Road safety is a subject no-one would have the nerve to admit is boring despite the fact that the words irresistibly conjure up well-meaning and cringeworthy public announcements redolent of Harry Enfield.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    2-Mar-2000

    The jury is not out on the Millennium Wheel as an object: it came rollicking in months ago with the unanimous verdict that it is a Good Thing. The Wheel as an experience is equally intriguing.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    24-Feb-2000

    The tales of persistent child abuse that have emerged are too serious an issue to be dismissed as just another news item.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    16-Feb-2000

    While the Vatican was apologising to the world for assorted past errors last weekend, it was also busy with another, far more gratifying project: the first beatification ever of an architect.
  • Katherine Shonfield

    27-Jan-2000

    Anyone who doubts the general perception that there is a crucial interconnection between form and government should check out the current mutterings attributed to Jaques Delors et al. The rumour is that an expanded eu should be rejected as fundamentally impossible because there is an optimum number that fit round a table.
  • The current trouble at the arb is only to be expected

    20-Jan-2000

    Any organisation whose only visible expenditure over the course of the last two years has been the provision of a lilac-coloured, scented envelope in what Woolworths used to describe as 'Vellum' deserves whatever it gets for such a monumental lapse of taste.
  • Seductive stories

    27-May-1999

    Asking, Looking, Playing, Making by Mike Tonkin with Anna Liu. Black Dog Publishing, 1999. 72pp. £12.95
  • Erratum

    11-Feb-1999

    letters
  • Brad Pitt opinion on architecture

    7-Jan-1999

    In Britain, the year begins with a renewed sense of pessimism that nothing of worth that we set out to achieve will ever come to fruition. What should be the greatest symbol of what architecture can do, the Millennium Dome, is set to become another monument to the thwarting of the imagination of the great by the pettifogging of the nondescript.
  • KATHERINE SHONFIELD

    22-Oct-1998

    The Welsh Assembly win by Richard Rogers is by all appearances a wonderful design. It does however bring the urge to demand that the Labour Government now nationalise that practice On Behalf of the People. Or they could simply form OffRog, a regulatory body made of the usual suspects.
  • KATHERINE SHONFIELD

    22-Oct-1998

    The Welsh Assembly win by Richard Rogers is by all appearances a wonderful design. It does however bring the urge to demand that the Labour Government now nationalise that practice On Behalf of the People. Or they could simply form OffRog, a regulatory body made of the usual suspects.
  • KATHERINE SHONFIELD

    15-Oct-1998

    The bold-as-brass initials of Countess Elizabeth, Bess of Hardwick, stamped in black against the sky over Hardwick Hall, make one of the most memorable sights in British architecture. Few clients have so successfully laid claim to their commission, and with such panache, literally covering it with their own signature. Even now Hardwick Hall's attribution to the architect Robert Smythson is not 100 per cent certain. Bess has been the unchallenged leader in client chutzpah for the past ...
  • KATHERINE SHONFIELD

    24-Sep-1998

    To judge by the mobs baying for access to avant-garde architecture all over the capital, Open House weekend has been an even greater achievement than in previous years. Architecture Week got off to a good start last year and promises to spread this year. To the initiated observer, though, these two events would gain immeasurably by being linked. With a bit of rescheduling Architecture Week could be kicked off by two days of Open House, and forge a direct connection between our professional ...
  • KATHERINE SHONFIELD

    17-Sep-1998

    A lumbering uneasiness characterises our own mal de millennium, which makes the angst of the 1980s feel like light-hearted fun. One aspect of this is our apparent inability to look beyond the first couple of decades of the next century for fear that they might bite. Another is the way we characterise the experience of the past half century exclusively in terms of devastating rapid change. This means we never confront the apparently contradictory truth: that some things, usually ones ...
  • BOOKS Complex critique is required reading The Illegal Architect by Jonathan Hill. Black Dog Publishing, 1998. 64pp. £12.95

    10-Sep-1998

    review
  • KATHERINE SHONFIELD

    10-Sep-1998

    In the post-war austerity years spaces deemed 'public', such as swiming pools and parks, could be identified simply by virtue of their dispiriting listings of forbidden activities. People took comfort in the knowledge that 'on the continent' things were different. The Ealing film Passport to Pimlico, where an inner London borough declares itself part of Burgundy and instantly sheds all inhibitions to a rich public life, from rainfall to licensing laws,was based on just such a hope.
  • KATHERINE SHONFIELD

    12-Mar-1998

    The Lord Chancellor's assertion that wallpaper should last 60 to 70 years has interesting implications. Taken literally, internal decorations would survive beyond current expectations for the longevity of structure and external fabric. This evokes a vision of the city as Modernism-in-reverse. It reminds us that when a terrace of houses is demolished, and the decorated walls of living-rooms and bedrooms stand exposed mid-air (in suspended animation for years on end), their presence is ...
  • KATHERINE SHONFIELD

    26-Feb-1998

    Special boots for facilitating downward mobility must surely become standard issue for this government. So intent are they on climbing down, that soon they will have forgotten how they got up to the lofty heights of principle from which they are now so busy descending.
  • KATHERINE SHONFIELD

    19-Feb-1998

    You would have to wait for the year 2012 until the combined readers of every architectural publication in the UK reached anywhere near the audience numbers of Blind Date. That is why it is essential for the future of architectural education, and its public perception, that the profession seeks out with urgency the identity of 'Rodrigo', the self-avowed architectural student and star turn of last week's show.
  • KATHERINE SHONFIELD

    29-Jan-1998

    Those 4.4 (or is it 5.5?) million new homes are proving a far more effective Millennial bogeyman than any dome or tower could be. If it is a Millennial characteristic that millions of people start blindly believing something which runs counter to the evidence of both their rationality and their senses, then the apparently universal acceptance of this ever- burgeoning figure is a humdinger of a characteristic.
  • KATHERINE SHONFIELD

    22-Jan-1998

    The much-hyped new magazine for 'middle-youth' females, Red, proclaims this month 'Our fashion pages will be for women, not waifs. You won't find food that takes hours to prepare. Our home pages won't be full of absurdly minimal loft spaces.' The implicit connection made in Red's manifesto between pared-down minimalist space and bodily anorexia is thought-provoking. Both the waifs and the loft space can be understood as in retreat from the messy materiality of everyday existence.
  • KATHERINE SHONFIELD

    15-Jan-1998

    The news that Stephen Bayley has resigned due to almost continuous pmt is sad but unsurprising. The key to Peter Mandelson Trouble is that he (Peter) behaves like a typical architect. So enamoured is he of the form of the container that he has become mesmerised by the ability of its interior to be virtually anything. He acts like a waiter in Fawlty Towers. He is forever picking up that silver-plated hemisphere, beloved of mediocre restaurants everywhere, to reveal, with an increasingly ...
  • KATHERINE SHONFIELD

    8-Jan-1998

    In the first month of '98 New Labour sends a Party Whip up a Gum Tree.
  • KATHERINE SHONFIELD

    18-Dec-1997

    It came to pass that on the first of May a promise of new life for the world was announced by an angel, Peter, spinning in the sky up above.
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