By continuing to use the site you agree to our Privacy & Cookies policy

Your browser seems to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser.


Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.


Architects Journal
Martin Pawley

Stories by contributor

  • New gangs of New York


    review - Sixteen Acres: The Rebuilding of the World Trade Center Site By Philip Nobel. Granta, 2005. 280pp £17.99
  • Where huge numbers of anything are concerned, money will follow


    Sixty-five years ago, when this dear island of ours was in even greater danger from continental Europe than some think it is today, with German tanks already lining the cliff tops of northern France and the French government in flight from Paris and drafting surrender documents, the British prime minister devised a mammoth gesture intended to keep France in the war at all cost.
  • Bustling tourists mask the flight of commerce from Canary Wharf


    News that the Millennium Dome could be turned into a gigantic advertising hoarding seems likely to reignite the 10-year-old debate about the scale of new additions to the London skyline - or it would if anyone still cared.
  • Read all about it: headlines reveal random glories of the millennium


    Hashing and rehashing the trends and crazes of the 21st century from the vantage point of its first five years has become the art of the commentator.
  • Historical alchemy offers a route to solving tomorrow's problems


    As a student of history I have always been fascinated by my own period - by the events that took place around the year of my birth, 1938. This was a dramatic year, whose political matrix remains the subject of heated debate among historians to this day. In Europe it takes in the reunification of Germany and Austria and Neville Chamberlain's 'Peace in our time' deal with Hitler over the breakup of Czechoslovakia. These consequences of the Treaty of Versailles either came to a head in ...
  • Travelling light


    review - Jean Prouvé - Complete Works, Volume 3: 1944-1954 By Peter Sulzer. Birkhauser, 2005. 384 pp. £72
  • How the dream of total urbanism is certain to come crashing down


    There is a pattern to all totalitarianism, whether of the Left or the Right, and you can recognise it immediately. It starts when the same goal is endorsed by everyone. To be topical, let's say it's something called 'total urbanism'. 'What about total overcrowding?' you object. 'Nonsense, ' you are told, 'for that we'll double all densities and forthwith!' Short shrift at the hands of these zealots, then, and the planners are even quicker off the mark , opening the floodgates on every ...
  • While the old move with the times, the young dig in their heels


    'The worst thing about the future, ' said a young friend of mine, 'is that it's so boring. It's always on television and, if you miss that, it's in the Sunday newspapers - what's really interesting is the past. The guys just can't get enough of it. Everyone I know is obsessed with shooting radar into the ground to find old tombs, digging up plague pits, reconstructing Roman cities, X-raying skulls, counting teeth?'.
  • Foster's towering achievement that showed Swiss Re the way


    As we all know, the percentage of schemes that make the leap from drawing board to postal address is pitifully small, but this does not prevent them from acting as catalysts in ways that are as unpredictable as they can be profound. The London Millennium Tower project was a case in point.
  • Home truths: the price of being a nation of property speculators


    Long ago a little-known commentator put his finger on the heart of our housing problem. If we go on like this, he wrote (in the mid-1980s, when by 21st century standards we barely knew what to 'go on like this' meant), houses would end up earning more money than the people living in them.
  • The failing of Ford offers history lessons for the housing crisis


    Whenever talk turns to the housing crisis, someone is bound to proclaim that millions of new prefabricated houses are the answer. 'Just like car production, old chap.' And, of course, you can compare car, or better still van, production with house building. Four Ford Transits joined together might make a decent starter home and there can be no argument about its feasibility.
  • Heritage conservation should be about more than just being old


    What is the real purpose of listing buildings? I asked this question a few weeks ago and received some inconclusive answers. But the one thing we obviously know from their survival in one form or another is that every one of our most precious pieces of historical architecture in the 500-year class must already have survived for five centuries without the aid of English Heritage and its 'knowledgeable local authority conservation officers' (as they are soothingly described in The Times ...
  • Frank Lloyd Wright's sojourn as a Modernist in inter-war Europe


    Everyone agrees that Frank Lloyd Wright occupies a unique place in the history of 20th-century American architecture, but not many would also know that it was a man named William Allin Storrer who confirmed it when he followed Ludwig von Köchel in devising a numbering system for his master's works. As a result, for the past 15 years, along with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's 'K' numbers, we have had Wright's 'S' numbers.
  • Family business


    review - Breaking Ground: Adventures in Life and Architecture By Daniel Libeskind (with Sarah Crichton). John Murray, 2004. 288pp. £20
  • Selling the family silver could send the City down the sink


    Some years ago, shortly before his death, Lord Stockton, better known as Harold Macmillan, the former prime minister, rose to deliver his last major speech to the House of Lords. At the height of the panic generated by the energy crisis of the 1970s - a time when the premier had ordered industry to work a three-day week while cabinet ministers urged the populace to learn how to clean their teeth in the dark - his was the voice of moderation. 'In times of financial stress, ' he intoned, ...
  • From Clissold closure to 'gherkin' victory in some not so easy steps


    January One of the burning issues at the start of last year was scholastic: was the City Academy project going to be unmasked as a plot to delete staff rooms from the 40 new schools? Answer: no, it was a silly misunderstanding based on the more business-like architects renaming them 'staff development centres'. Oh yes, and the Clissold Leisure Centre closure had just begun, and continues to this day.
  • The influx of Ikea has put paid to the hot seats of the past


    Nearly 40 years before the ban on fox hunting, when I was about to get married, the question of wedding presents arose. My partner, who moved in designerly circles at the time, was in no doubt about what should be the grand present: a surprise. The day came and it certainly was a big one: eight cantilever chromium tubular steel chairs - six armless and two with arms - plus a circular white melamine table of matching appearance.
  • Zaha's spiky progression owes much to the toils of Toker


    Correctly identifying the first High-Tech building is still an unsolved puzzle, so there is probably not much chance of correctly identifying the first ever Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind-style spiky project, but here goes.
  • Watchmakers set to battle it out to be the toast of Christmas time


    As I have observed on this page in years past, a sure sign of the approach of Christmas is a massive increase in advertising for luxury goods. Jewellery, expensive clothes and country houses vie with exotic cars and watches. As if by magic, Porsche becomes the most profitable motor manufacturer in the world, and Ferrari the only non-ailing branch of the Fiat empire.
  • Attack of the text message leaves 3G and the City strapped for cash


    You remember text messages? Ten years ago they were thought to be on the most distant fringe of the great developments confronting the global communications industry. An industry whose real prize was going to be 3G, the third-generation high-speed mobile net surfer and real-time sports reporter. Well, that was what everybody thought, but so far it hasn't worked out that way. Text's short message service (SMS) really took off but 3G ran into difficulties. In fact, bidding for new 3G ...
  • Home front


    review - Cold War Hot Houses: Inventing Post-War Culture Edited by Beatriz Colomina et al. Princeton Architectural Press, 2004. 287pp. £17.50
  • Labour's housing solution sees us return to the swinging sixties


    I was once invited to give a talk about the 1960s, a period whereof I can claim first-hand experience.
  • Less is more in the lessons of evolution and ephemeralisation


    Last term at my son's school his year did a project on Victorians. The net was cast as wide as that in order to admit almost anything that could be described as Victorian dress, or sung to the words of a Victorian song, or wielded like a Victorian scythe. Beyond that there was little I could contribute to the project except to calm an ashen-faced victim when he returned from a museum visit with a grim tale of how children had been sent down the mines in the century before he was born.
  • Suffocating conservation system leaves us grasping at longevity


    What is the real purpose of listing buildings? We know by their survival in one form or another that our most precious pieces of historical architecture in the thousand-year class must already have survived for centuries without the aid of English Heritage and 'knowledgeable local authority conservation officers' (as they are soothingly described in The Times and elsewhere). But there is another side to this saga of salvation.
  • Negative vibes, media spin and surviving the week that was


    Last week was one of those times when, as the now chastened Donald Rumsfeld might have put it, 'a lot of stuff happened'. In fact the 'stuff' started happening at the end of the week before, when a broadsheet newspaper announced that the boss of MI5 - one of the more visible manifestations of our otherwise invisible Military Intelligence network - had said that this country had become so volatile that it was always only four mealtimes away from a state of anarchy.
  • Creating a pedestrian city through the power of celebrity


    According to estimates, more than a billion people watched the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, in London seven years ago, making it arguably the biggest spectacle since television began. More than a million camped out in the city to watch the procession from Kensington Palace to Westminster Abbey.
  • Wheeling and dealing towards our motor homes of the future


    Vilem Flusser, the Czech-born media philosopher, died in a motor accident 14 years ago this month, leaving behind him many remarkable insights - perhaps the least convincing of them his assertion that 'as technology develops, the wheel dies out, as it did in nature'. At first sight this seems difficult to take seriously, but a lot can happen in 14 years and today there must be a much larger constituency of drivers prepared to take a second look at any theory involving wheels 'dying ...
  • Aircraft conservation leaves the art of identification up in the air


    Rebuilding old aircraft, I suppose, is no more reprehensible than restoring old buildings, and is certainly an activity just as susceptible to compromise, dilution and the laws of entropy as they might be applied to the authenticity of historical objects. Because these are profoundly interesting matters in many fields, from time to time I like to purchase a copy of The Aeroplane (motto 'History in the Air'), to watch the eternal struggle between the fundamentalists, who insist on keeping ...
  • Everybody loses in the battle of 'community'versus City planners


    'There is less to this than meets the eye, ' was one of the late Noel Coward's favourite expressions, and while there is no evidence that he ever applied it to the planning of the City of London, he certainly should have done.
  • From cultural starvation to smart robots going through the motions


    The trouble with art and science, as with all important matters, is the lack of choice that accompanies them. Today the masses are starved of cultural richness; many go through life with only two cultural reference points, Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein - one for art and one for science.
  • Why architectural replicas are really only fakes


    One of the most fascinating things about technology is its apparent irreversibility. The pharaohs had geometry, mechanical engineering and project management down to such a fine art that they could keep a workforce slogging away at a pyramid for 50 years or more using the same materials and methods. We have a problem adhering to any masterplan with a programme as long as five years.
  • Rewriting the book of terrorism - a death sentence on skyscrapers


    The publication of two preliminary reports from the Washington DC commission investigating the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on targets in the United States has not only opened a number of new insights into potential terrorist risks in the future but also greatly enlarged our knowledge of the thinking and resources behind this and earlier atrocities.
  • The ever-conflicting views of the image conscious and the ordinary


    What do ordinary people think of the architectural drawings, computer-generated images and photographs of buildings that are increasingly appearing in the newspapers? Do they find them helpful in understanding the projects and buildings that are portrayed? Well, not exactly. It is my suspicion that their immediate reaction springs from the broad spectrum of ideas that link the deeply suspicious to the profoundly hostile, and settles there.
  • High-Tech's high drama bridges the scepticism and symbolism divide


    About half a century ago the Russians launched a rocket called Lunik II that landed on the Moon. It placed there metal pennants bearing the emblem of the Soviet Union and the date. Although universally seen in the West as the prelude to a manned mission, the Russians insisted that they had no immediate project to land a man on the Moon.
  • Forget the cities - our country paradise is ripe for development


    So now it has happened, entirely as predicted in this column years ago. The super-high-density city proving unpopular - as well as horrendously expensive and as unwieldy as a juggernaut to steer through the planning process - we have reverted to nibbling away at the Green Belt. And so 'protecting the countryside' retreats from being an inviolable principle to an empty slogan backed up by newspaper stories about outraged or distraught country-dwellers gazing out for the last time over ...
  • The urban revolution of Cold War conversions is a battle in itself


    The bomb-proof hangars of the RAF base at Upper Heyford in Oxfordshire can be seen from a great distance. On the skyline they look like children's toys willfully scattered about in a tantrum. Closer to, they turn into giant sun-bleached carbonated drink cans, half-buried in the ground. Altogether there are 56 of them, each named after an American fighter pilot, and each sealed up as tight as a Pharaoh's tomb.
  • Census snapshot leads the way to the population revolving door


    A few years back the infatuation with all things urban was raging like a forest fire. Competition to be the first to agree with everybody else about it was causing sleep deprivation on a massive scale. Of course, there was nowhere for this obsession to go but into the slush pile of disappointment, but that never stopped anybody from riding a trend to the bitter end. So done and dusted was the obsession with having everybody live in Friends-type, New York-style loft apartments that many ...
  • Of a peer-to-be and a guru's car, of economists and wives of kings


    People say that celebrity is a matter of luck, but I think it is pure judgment.Take the case of me. In the 1960s I lived next door to Jeffrey Archer (as he then was) in a cobbled Paddington mews. His wife Mary even looked after our cat, General Motors, when we went away on weekends. I have never revealed this interesting fact before.
  • Of a peer-to-be and a guru's car, of economists and wives of kings


    People say that celebrity is a matter of luck, but I think it is pure judgment.Take the case of me. In the 1960s I lived next door to Jeffrey Archer (as he then was) in a cobbled Paddington mews. His wife Mary even looked after our cat, General Motors, when we went away on weekends. I have never revealed this interesting fact before.
  • Predictions sometimes prove a mere bump in the road of history


    Most people confine their predicting behaviour to the month of January, as though they were required to by law. It is unclear why January was chosen as the month of reckless license. It was probably to do with New Year's resolutions, which in turn are inextricably tied up with desk diaries, those epic works of fiction that have such a poor record of dealing with next week, let alone next year.
  • The alarmingly short distance from brilliant idea to burn-out


    It is hard to believe but the first man landed on the moon 35 years ago. Even harder to believe is the speed with which he was succeeded by the last man on the moon. Right now NASA has no plans to go there again. Does this mean that manned space travel was just a dead end?
  • A terminal solution to close the book on our library of problems


    News that the British Library needs extensive repairs after only five years has provoked the usual hysterical response from the reading classes, most of whom cling forcefully to the belief that the solution to all architectural problems is, as Quinlan Terry once put it, 'a stout slate roof on four stone walls'. Given that the Scandinavian-esque British Library comes pretty close to that definition in any case, it does come as a bit of a shock to find that the so-called 'extensive repairs'mostly
  • Memories of war shame today's tentative terrorist measures


    News that Britain's emergency homeland officials and transport agencies have been working on plans for the evacuation of all or part of the population of London in the event of a major terrorist attack first appeared in the International Herald Tribune last month and was followed by a story with a slightly different slant in London's Evening Standard two or three days later.
  • An insult to infrastructure and the onset of architectural correctness


    I sometimes think that infrastructure must have been a 19th century idea, because at the turn of the 21st century it clearly isn't working. Long-term, long-life construction projects under the control of cash-strapped governments whose policies change every week are a disaster - the present transport crisis is a good example. What we really need today is not more cycle paths (hurry over to China if you want to see a vanishing nightmare on two wheels) but urban motorways.Can we get them? ...
  • A desktop audit uncovers the answers and a whole lot more


    A lot of stuff ends up on your desk over 30 years. Everything from a tousled copy of The Roosevelt Years to an account in the International Herald Tribune of the execution of an American IT contractor in Iraq. Nor does it stop there. There are other books and other cuttings too, hundreds of them - some are bin-filed in a large plastic drum en route to the recycling centre to be cheerfully dumped into landfill, whatever it says on the tin.
  • Nuclear versus solar - the great miracle fuel rematch


    Half a century ago, in the aftermath of the Second World War, it was widely believed that the energy problems of the world had been solved. Atomic energy had been tested in war and had brought total victory.Now it was expected to don civilian clothes and go to work on the great task of reconstruction. It was confidently believed that the electricity generated by atomic energy would be so cheap that utilities would not even have to bill consumers for it.
  • The search for security means a new approach to building


    Somewhere it is written of Buddha that, suspecting the motives of one of his most zealous disciples, he asked what he most desired in the world. 'Wisdom', replied the aspirant immediately. But this answer did not please the prophet.Grasping his disciple round the neck, Buddha made as if to strangle him.Then, when the pupil was on the brink of suffocation, he asked him the question again. This time the disciple gasped: 'To breathe! To breathe!'
  • Never satisfied


  • The triumph of the megacity is no more than a myth


    'In the country were neither means of being clothed nor fed.
  • The closing of physical transport could open the door to the future


  • HP's tiny advance will have a huge impact - so why no interest?


  • How Middle England was spared the dark satanic shopping malls


  • James Gorst, James Gorst Architects


  • Limitations and protests prove an ill wind for the Wright stuff


    Q & A
  • America's search for 'closure' at Ground Zero cannot be hurried


  • Building societies as safe as houses? Well, not any moreà


    One of the oddest things about the housing problem - another being the uneasy fact that nobody really wants to 'solve' it, or not entirely anyway - is the way that it has turned into a money-lending and money-borrowing business that never gets any nearer to building houses than those little pictures of them that frame the soaring house-price graphs in the newspapers.
  • Time to design a high-class watch - the recession-proof luxury


    Q & A
  • The Prince is in the tower again - does this mean more carbuncles?


    It is sometimes comforting to remember that there has always been architectural criticism of a sort, most memorably perhaps in the heyday of the Prince of Wales when the heir to the throne had great suc - cess with such witticisms as: 'It looks like a municipal fire station with a sort of tower for the bell', and 'It looks like an assembly hall for secret policemen'.
  • Biodiversity pays the price as the practice of pupillage goes to pot


    Once upon a time there were hundreds of different ways of doing things, every one of them mapped out with initiation and graduation ceremonies, rules and regulations, proven competence and high professional standards. There were institutional guilds in the Middle Ages that still survive in the City of London today, and regimental hierarchies for the army that are still being torn to pieces after 50 years. In those days, the law was administered according to precedent and not, as it ...
  • Going to plan


    Industrial Strength Design: How Brooks Stevens Shaped Your World By Glenn Adamson. MIT Press, 2003. 219pp. £29.95
  • Urban eternal or rubble inevitable: who wins the wardroom argument?


    I listened to a debate last weekend.Nothing trivial of course, more the sort of thing that in the British Navy used to be called a wardroom argument. A bald assertion followed by a flat denial and personal abuse. On this occasion the subject of the 'debate'was terrorism, and in particular what chance there was of any urban renaissance continuing in spite of it.
  • Technology has yet to overcome the transport obstacle course


    In the past 150 years the development of communications technology, from the telegraph and telephone to satellite and GPS, has been progressively annihilating distance. It is already old hat for business persons to teleconference around the world, meeting only in cyberspace, but although we know this, we seem unable to follow the same line of technological evolution to its rational conclusion - that the tremendous success of the mobile telephone marks the beginning, not so much of mobility ...
  • At times of electrical emergency, the power is not all that is lost


    Six years ago this month, an all-but-forgotten power crisis arose in Africa that should have taught the developed world a lesson. One man - planning to cut it up into bracelets to sell to tourists - unbolted a steel strut from a 27-metre mast holding up part of the power line connecting the Kafue Gorge hydroelectric power station in Zambia with the southern African electricity grid. As a result, the mast collapsed, bringing down two more masts and starting a chain reaction that eventually ...
  • Today's information overload that spelled the end of an interface


    I grew up in the information age. Not necessarily the knowledge age, I agree, but certainly the age of data. I can distinctly remember the smouldering argument over how the word 'data' should be pronounced, and whether it was singular or plural. To say DAHTA in those days was to be determinedly patriotic, whereas to say DAYTA was to be currying favour with the Yanks. As we all know, the Yanks won in the end, which was only fair as they invented the typewriter, the first word processor.
  • Clued-up thinking should make capital immobile in time of crisis


    Six months ago or thereabouts I recorded in this column my enthusiasm for a page in the Sunday Times devoted to the proposition that railways were out of date and, instead of spending £33 billion on bringing them up to the state they were in back in 1914 - when (railway buffs assure us) everything worked perfectly, Thomas the Tank Engine-style - we should tarmac over the tracks and rely on minibuses instead. A subsequent edition of The Times took a similarly bracing line with a ...
  • Japan brings back the salarymen to revive the spirit of a generation


    Every day, in every way, Japan is becoming more and more fascinating. The second biggest economy in the world may still seem to be stuck on the rocks of deflation, but even the European newspaper articles that try to convince us that we are not heading in the same direction simply make us more and more certain that we are. What with the Nikkei index of Japanese stocks at a 20-year low, trading at less than a quarter of the volume that the bubble reached as long ago as 1990, the Japanese ...
  • Fanning the flames of the housing market will leave us all burned


    Sometimes, gazing around the pulsating bars of the Slug and Lettuce, one is struck by the sangfroid of the drinkers there. They seem the least troubled collection of individuals you could ever hope to see. Guilelessly seeking pleasure and relaxation, you would not think to look at them, even to talk to them, that a death sentence had been passed on the world as they know it.
  • How the failings of Ford highlight the limits of prefabrication


    Whenever talk turns to the housing crisis someone is bound to proclaim that millions of new prefabricated houses are the answer. 'Just like car production old chap.' And of course you can compare car, or better still van, production with house building. Four Ford Transits joined together might make a decent starter home, and there could be no argument about its feasibility. Fifty years ago the Bristol Aeroplane Company was turning out modular aluminium dwellings at a rate of one every ...
  • The best surprise is a roll-out surprise for go-ahead Holiday Inn


    Holiday Inn has led a sheltered life but also a relatively short one - so much so that it seems like more than 50 years since Kemmons Wilson opened his first hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. In fact it seemed to surprise many of the guests attending last year's muted celebrations that the reason for them was that Holiday Inn had clocked up its first half century. These days you could still believe that 'The World's Innkeeper' was somewhat older than that, and its motto, 'The best surprise ...
  • Old building, new identity as the digital age stimulates the senses


    The opposite to a plan is an outcome. If we put a number of outcomes together we can predict the future without planning it. In this sense today's planning applications are requests for outcomes, because outcomes render plans unnecessary and are themselves the true structures of the future.
  • Jonathan Manser - The Manser Practice


    martin pawley Q & A
  • Frank Lloyd was always Wright - even from beyond the grave


    Once upon a time - 17 October 1956 in Chicago City Hall to be exact - mayor Richard Daley presided over an unusual ceremony. He declared that from that day forth, 17 October should be known as Frank Lloyd Wright Day. The eponymous Wright, not to be outdone by the mayor, used the occasion to explode a bombshell in the world of architecture by unveiling a huge model of his now famous Mile High Illinois skyscraper - a project for a giant 500-storey, 1.2 million m 2tower complete with helicopter ...
  • Look back to an age of slaughter to see how much has changed


    Iraq is still in an uneasy stalemate and the anticipated rate of reconstruction of infrastructure is very slow, despite the early letting of contracts.The present state of prolonged 'asymmetrical'warfare was not the anticipated outcome.Why?
  • Free up the 'equity' in housing and the economy will pick up the slack


    Not many people realise it, but we are on the verge of a very important anniversary. Six years ago, give or take a day or two, the then Tory heritage minister Stephen Dorrell told a thunderstruck audience of Leeds businessmen that the housing market was a thing of the past. 'Houses are for living in, ' he explained. 'If you want investment advice go to a stockbroker.'
  • Mrs Woolf saw it coming - now 'forcible preservation' is here


    It may be true that the world has heard enough about Virginia Woolf 's centenary by now, but there are probably still a few products of her creative vision that have been overlooked. Take the conservation of historic buildings and ancient monuments for example. As I learned from Radio 4 readings from her notebooks last week, the author of The Waves viewed this process with the scepticism it richly deserves, so much so that, following a sightseeing visit to the Chelsea home of the 19thcentury ...
  • Not-so-smart intelligent buildings should be consigned to history


    One sure sign of a recession in the property business is the way the term 'intelligent buildings'drops out of use. As a handful of historians will remember, it first came into vogue in the early 1980s, when magazines like this one started publishing technical drawings of buildings that looked like circuit diagrams. Buildings with brains seemed unstoppable after that. Their high point was 'Big Bang', when the City let it all hang out in pursuit of economic growth. In those heady days ...
  • Mobile solution is at hand to cut through transport's Gordian knot


    As many of you will remember, not long ago the Sunday Times devoted a whole page to the proposition that railways were out of date, and instead of minting £33 billion on bringing them up to speed, we should be tearing up most of the tracks and relying on minibuses instead.
  • Why forecasts for London's future are as fickle as the British weather


    Years ago, when I lived at the seaside, I was surprised to find that nearly every household there made a small fortune by camping out in their garage and letting every room in their house to holidaymakers.
  • 'Cultural renaissance' reflects spiralling levels of consumption


    Those of you old enough to remember when the term 'science park' meant something electrifying and faintly avant-garde - and certainly more than the miserable Green Belt offices with inadequate parking that it came to mean in later years - will not be surprised to learn that another terminological inexactitude is cruising for a bruising.
  • From GM crops to listed buildings explosive opposites are at work


    Last week, the panic over wind-blown contamination by GM crops turned out to have been misplaced. Why? Because the little devils have been spurning the wind and hitching a ride into neighbouring organic fields in mud that sticks to the tyres of tractors instead.
  • Farewell owner speculation, hello continental-style tenancy


    Long ago a little-known commentator put his finger on the heart of the housing problem. If we go on like this, he wrote in the mid-1980s - a time when, by 21st century standards, nobody had a clue what wild oscillations between equity and debt could lead to - houses will end up earning more money than the people living in them, and the post-industrial age of leisure will have arrived.
  • History will judge 'the greatest period of architecture' ever seen


    'We are entering a great period of expansion and we shall all be the beneficiaries of it. The 1990s will be the greatest period of architecture we have ever seen!'
  • Farrell starts the architectural redistribution of England at the top


    In his Dictionary of Political Thought, first published in 1983, the noted conservative Roger Scruton made the surprising assertion that 'in architecture the battle between Modernism and Post-Modernism encapsulates some of the deepest political conflicts of our time'. Whether he is still of that opinion I do not know, but many consultees of the dictionary over the years must have considered that he overstated his case. How could a frivolous thing like a clash of styles be described ...
  • Internet evolution gives 'obsolete' phone boxes a new lease of life


    The first law of technological development - that synergy makes all products evolve towards their own extinction - is indisputable. Which is to say that, as products get better, they also get more vulnerable to a takeover by other products.
  • Garth's on the prowl for summer school recruits and he needs you!


    Q & A
  • Evolution of the Porsche 911 is a clear case of genetic engineering


    The first Porsche car I ever saw was a 356. It was during a school trip to France, which included a visit to the Palace of Versailles. The most memorable thing about the day was that silver shape moving slowly past the visitors in the gardens. I ran to see what it was and it drove right past me, its vestigial bumpers seeming only millimetres above the ground, its wheels with their huge chrome hub caps almost completely hidden from view, its air-cooled exhaust note clattering.
  • Forget the flattery and consider the defining moment of Modernism


    Everything has its defining moment these days.
  • Planning finally starts to think big and migrates across the Channel


    One hundred years ago, the world was enthralled with the idea of planning. Nowhere, except in military circles, was there actually a planning regime in place, but the chattering classes of Europe and America were afire with the town planning ideas of Ebenezer Howard, Tony Garnier and Patrick Geddes - particularly Geddes, whose two books City Development and Cities in Evolution made the crucial connection between land use planning and radical politics - just as they were with the economic ...
  • Rise and demise of Concorde: a supersonic flight of fancy


    'Sonic geriatric.' So editorialised The Times in a leader last week, commenting on the decision to take the surviving handful of Concordes out of service after 27 years of crisscrossing the Atlantic at twice the speed of sound. Nor was the newspaper alone in not being able to think of anything more profound to say on the subject. As the flood of lastminute ticket sales has showed, Concorde is, unusually, going to be allowed a dignified retirement - as opposed to being banned from the ...
  • Death of owner occupation would herald dawn of an enlightened era


    Today, every trend that ever flourished in the hundred years from 1900 is being deconstructed, reconstructed and tuned to fit new conditions. The only exceptions are trends that have become so ingrained into our way of thinking that we no longer recognise them for what they are.One such trend is owner occupation.
  • Tracing the roots of sustainability to a less-than-glorious past


    Readers will no doubt remember the disturbance caused in heritage circles last year by Stephen Games' revelation of Sir Nikolaus Pevsner's Nazi sympathies. Best known for his epic Buildings of England series, Pevsner as a young man was a pronationalist German Jewish academic who was fired from his teaching post when Adolf Hitler came to power. Fleeing to England, his enthusiasm for totalitarianism disappeared during the Second World War when - like the rocket engineer Werner von Braun ...
  • Wild boar, talk of war and a reawakened interest in pencils


    One evening many years ago I had dinner with Count Faber-Castell, the pencil magnate, at his hunting lodge outside Nuremberg in Bavaria. In a pot on my desk I still have the brushed aluminium ballpoint pen engraved with my name that was given me to mark the occasion. It was part of a lavish soft sell of Faber-Castell pencils and drawing pens; boxed presentation sets of the latter - the then new model TG1 - were showered upon me also.
  • Is there no hope of escaping the gigantic cash registers?


    Readers may recall my complaint a few weeks ago that the great American developer Trammell Crow had never been quoted in connection with London's congestion charge. The way things look after a month, Crow's axiom, that congestion is an indicator of economic activity and is therefore 'better than recession', would have looked like a shrewd guess at who is going to end up paying the bill for this attempt to control traffic volume in London.
  • How art brings a touch of magic to the business of representation


    When he was very young, one of my sons, having watched a tractor pulling a plough in a neighbouring field, opined that the purpose of the operation was to turn up worms for the seagulls that were squabbling over the newly turned furrows. I thought then, and I still think, that this explains 99 per cent of the observable facts about ploughing while still being totally wrong. But in this it is not alone. Sooner or later all our observations have to be filtered through insider knowledge.
  • Sincere monumentalists lose out to politicians in WTC development


    Just before Christmas last year, when the seven shortlisted schemes for the New York World Trade Center site were first made public, Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave a speech in which he linked the project to the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan.
  • Picture passwords help to unlock a new layer of design meaning


    Ever forget your password? Or your pin number?
  • Congestion charging: latest round in the fight between cars and cities


    In all the massive pre-publicity given to the introduction of congestion charging this week, there was one name conspicuous by its absence - Trammell Crow - the greatest property developer of all time and the author of the highly appropriate aphorism, 'I like congestion, it's better than recession.'
  • Crow's call ends all reasonable debate on future housing needs


    Well, well, now it turns out that Professor Peter Crow was right in 1999 when he predicted that 1.1 million new dwellings would be needed in the South East by 2016.
  • Brutal reminders that technology will always fail - eventually


    Did you see the papers last weekend? The front page of Saturday's Times featured a picture of several cars trapped on the snowbound M11 in Cambridgeshire. Inside, on the first page of the 'Weekend' section, was a photograph dating from 1911 that showed three members of Captain Scott's last expedition inside a hut in the Antarctic.
  • Dispersement and decentralisation could keep the bombers away


    In a country as dedicated to archaeology as ours, it is surprising that only fashion is openly wedded to ceaseless revivals of the recent past. Whenever anything more weighty crops up, such as the periodic release of state papers under the 30-year rule, the media joins in the general amazement that any government decision of importance could possibly have been made in that vast ocean of time known to small children as the gap between dinosaurs and when they stopped chopping off people's ...
  • Could 'sponsorship matrix' be the answer to financial uncertainty?


    Architects confronting a recessionary future should maximise their skills, cast their net wide and not just stay in the cycle lane. As I have remarked before, there are more unconventional businesses coming into existence than there are conventional firms going out of business.
  • Heritage - taking possession of the present in the name of the past


    Readers of this column who remember my last diatribe against the purchase of Tyntesfield (AJ 5.9.02), the Dallas-sized, known-only-to-locals home to the late Lord Wraxall, will doubtless have hurried home from work to see Dan Cruickshank's rapturous assessment of the treasure house on television the other week.
  • Why we can thank infrastructure for the victory of the avant-garde


    Over Christmas I have found that twice as many drunken people lurch over to me at parties with a straight question than at other times. Their question goes something like this: 'How can it be that all sorts of weird buildings are being put up nowadays and nobody ever protests when 20 years ago all hell broke loose if you so much as mentioned putting up a small office block in the City of London?'
  • There is no more to culture than the consumption of the obsolete


    In November 1983, I bought an electronic typewriter for £1,100. It was an Olympia Supertype, a business machine the size of a desk, the latest in a long line of German typewriters built like guns and intended to last forever.
  • Watch out - longevity is no longer the key to promoting a profession


    One sure sign of hard times is the appearance of huge advertisements for luxury goods. Jewellery, expensive clothes and houses vie with exotic cars and watches. Already Porsche is the most profitable motor manufacturer in the world, and Ferrari the only non-ailing branch of the Fiat Empire. As for watches, everything about them is strange. While posh cars are a love match and expensive houses are bought because of where they are, costly watches lead a bizarrely cosseted life of their own.
  • Could the Japanese economy be saved by the intelligent toilet?


    Every day in every way Japan is becoming more and more important. The world's second biggest economy may be stuck on the rocks of deflation but even the newspaper articles that try to convince us that we are not heading in the same direction make riveting reading.
  • A red-letter day for the UK's vanishing pillar box population


    A few years ago the AJ published a revealing conversation between Berthold Lubetkin and Gavin Stamp in which these unlikely bedfellows united in deploring the disappearance of the red telephone box.
  • Has the battle against high-rise developments already started?


    Despite Mr West's contention that it is 'bizarre, not to say mad' (AJ Letters 26.9.02), I still believe that the analogy between the current controversy about the future of tall buildings and the 20th century debate about the usefulness of battleships can be fruitful and predictive - even without bringing the Pax Britannica or Pax Americana into it.
  • The architectural wonders that are apparently 'Streets of Shame'


    Many years ago, when I was a first-year student at what was then the Oxford School of Architecture, the staff used to teach us architectural history by taking us on walking tours of the City.
  • Battleships hold the key to the future of tall buildings it seems


    Frank Lloyd Wright once said that inferior minds work by comparison while superior minds work by analogy. As an aphorism this matches Buckminster Fuller's better known one about the task of design being to do more with less, so that even if resources dwindle, there can still be more for everyone, but in either case, the use of analogy to tease out technology is a gift from the gods because it really works.
  • Appliances feel the strain in our technologically advancing world


    There is an odd pattern to technological evolution.
  • Turbulence in the aviation industry makes nonsense of airport plans


    Probably the most potent image in the environmental debate, the one invariably chosen to illustrate features on noise, threats to the countryside, plane crashes or terrorist outrages, is the picture postcard of an 11th-century church overshadowed by the monstrous shape of a Boeing 747 lumbering into the air.
  • Two for the future: City Hall and Eden Project point the way ahead


    It was the French philosopher Gilbert Simondon who best understood the significance of the ephemeral object under conditions of continual change.
  • It's time to prepare yourself for the last great English land grab


    So now it has happened, entirely as predicted in this column years ago. With the super-high-density city proving unpopular - as well as horrendously expensive and as bulky and slow as a juggernaut to steer through the planning process - we are to revert to nibbling away at the Green Belt. Thus 'Protecting the countryside' retreats from an inviolable principle to an empty slogan, backed up by newspapers full of photographs of outraged or devastated or distraught country dwellers gazing ...
  • The monstrous outbursts of evil that weigh down human ingenuity


    I had an idea about a dozen years ago. It was during the Strangeways Prison riot. Night after night, it was on the news. The inmates had taken over the prison. The authorities were powerless. The governor of Strangeways was interviewed on the news.
  • Beware the great tide of waste that is coming to engulf us all


    This month's RIBA Journal contains a more than usually interesting article. The magazine has questioned 127 architects on their use of innovative materials, and more than half of them have denied using any new materials at all. Without going too deeply into the reasons given - high cost, insurance problems, failures, lack of technical back-up - all of which are undoubtedly sound, it is nonetheless an astonishing result.
  • The curse of the in-trays and a treasure trove of 'useless' trivia


    Nowadays, when every architectural magazine that is not about suspended glass facades is about the keyworker housing problem, it is time to strike out in a different direction entirely.
  • Country houses or hospitals? It is simply a question of priorities


    It was the Czech artist Karel Teige who coined the aphorism 'Buildings should be instruments, not monuments'. But that was in the 1920s when at least some people must have believed it. Were Teige to rise from the grave today, he would be appalled at the supremacy of monuments in the contemporary scheme of things.
  • Contradictory Lord Rogers is a candidate for a new third way


    Just as his 1992 book A New London (co-authored by Mark Fisher) led to the Reith Lectures of 1995, and just as the Reith Lectures of 1995 led to his second book on cities, the 1997 Cities for a Small Planet, so did Cities for a Small Planet lead Lord Rogers inexorably to leadership of the Urban Task Force. This in turn led to responsibility for its 1999 bible, Towa rds an Urban Renaissance, the volume that can now be seen to have marked his own confrontation with the fate of all those ...
  • The time has come to let the motor industry solve the transport crisis


    Perhaps the wisest thing that former transport minister Stephen Byers ever said was vouchsafed to the Parliamentary Transport Select Committee two days before his resignation. In a blinding flash of insight into the real nature of the transport crisis, he broke ranks with political correctness and said: 'It would be a fundamental mistake to ignore the fact that 80 per cent of journeys are taken by people in their cars.'
  • Here is the news: now pick and choose what you want to believe


    Sometimes news items appear in the media that seem to have no connection with reality. Indeed, so unprepared are we for the way they drastically cut across conventional wisdom that we have to leave them alone, in the hope that they will go away as mysteriously as they arrived.
  • British Library fails to meet the challenge of the Internet age


    Of all the great English architectural tragedies of the last century, the greatest by far must be the British Library. It may be in use, but it is far from being the established British institution it was intended to be. Designed by Colin St John Wilson, the library stands on and dives beneath what was a Victorian goods yard adjoining London's St Pancras Station. It was, when completed in 1867, the largest clear-spanning structure in the world. Wilson's library is an equally massive ...
  • Architectural salvage appears to be answer for desperate NASA


    News that NASA has been trawling the Internet in search of old computer parts to keep its ageing fleet of space shuttles operational must come as a bit of a shock to the generation that grew up thinking they were the be all and end all of advanced technology.
  • Why there's no place like home when it comes to making money


    Long ago, a little-known commentator put his finger on the heart of our housing problem. If we go on like this, he wrote (in the mid-1980s, when by 21st-century standards we barely knew what to 'go on like this' meant), houses would end up earning more money than the people living in them.
  • UNESCO recognition could signal cool down of 'urban regeneration'


    What an adaptable discipline architecture is! Only a couple of years ago, Peckham was its darling, in the forefront of the coming urban renaissance, having been 'turned around' by its distinguished library.But then something went tragically wrong, a boy died and, just like that, Peckham disappeared from the renaissance radar screen. True, it flickered back into life briefly last week with shots of the new low-rise housing that had replaced the Stakhanovite slab blocks where the boy ...
  • Conservation? Start by looking at the bottom of a frozen lake


    Sometimes one stumbles on a parallel universe.
  • When opportunity comes knocking, a tide of untrained opinion floods in


    News that the United States Office of Homeland Security (the Federal body established in the wake of 11 September), has been inundated by so many security ideas that their inventors are having to wait five weeks just for an acknowledgement, has prompted interest in the fate of ideas in the hands of governments for the first time since the end of the Cold War. In America, the Pentagon, too, has had to take on extra staff to help evaluate 12,000 ways to defeat terrorism sent in by the ...
  • You could make a career out of building absolutely nothing at all


    In America you compete by building; in Britain you compete to build. That used to be the big difference between the two countries in the old days when British architects and planners were invited to lecture the Americans on public housing and New Towns. Now it is even worse, what with CABE and Health and Safety on the UK side, and the lecturing trend going into reverse. If you are pretending to be designing an airport for the next 10 years, the best thing you can do is to get yourself ...
  • Crisis in housing means it's time to break the green belt taboo


    It's no surprise that some people fear the chancellor might not after all remove VAT from refurbishment contracts in the Budget, and might not even juggle with the percentages - despite the bluster of the urban renaissance lobby.
  • Gosford Park - the meaning and purpose of life in a country house


    When ordinary folk troll round the visitor circuit at stately homes such as Blenheim or Longleat, they usually purchase a guidebook or pick up a leaflet that tells them what they are there to see. These guides are generally swallowed whole (as it were), even though the information they contain is useless in the context of everyday life.
  • Be on your guard for the curse of the infamous slide projector


    In America you can make a career out of lecturing on presentation. I remember listening enthralled to one man who explained that it was almost impossible to trust any arrangement of slides in a carousel.
  • Country living is destined to stay within the pages of Country Life


    It is always riveting to leaf through the pages of Country Life in a doctor's waiting room, so much so that one often dreads the summons to see the doctor will come before one has finished the pages of houses for sale, let alone read the leader or rifled through the features.
  • Are our tall buildings simply going to become uninsurable?


    Long ago, at a City Forum meeting last autumn, chastened by the recent destruction of the World Trade Centre, a gathering of the great and the good met to decide what effect the event would have on the future of tall buildings. After some learned presentations and a discussion, the participants decided that no conclusion could be reached beyond the fact that two diametrically opposed opinions held sway. Half the participants were inclined to support the prediction of former City planning ...
  • EH and CABE come out fighting as tall buildings debate rumbles on


    Visiting the Houses of Parliament is rather like boarding an airliner for a long flight. Strict security at every turn and a seven-mile trudge down a long passageway before you get to the departure lounge - or rather the committee room, as was the case in last week's winding up of the urban affairs subcommittee inquiry into tall buildings.
  • Dramatised demolition is the only answer for the Grimshaw ice rink


    A dozen years ago, I advanced the theory that dramatised demolition was a better fate than blanket conservation for superannuated modern buildings - citing Memento Mori , Peter Mitchell's poignant record of the demolition of Quarry Hill flats as proof.
  • Perpetual revolutions


  • Heritage still has a part to play in the quest for the final frontier


    Man with clipboard: 'Excuse me sir, can you spare a moment? The lives of people yet unborn will be affected. Please take a deep breath and think hard about the future, then tell me what you think would be the best line of business for today's graduate to be in for the next 50 years. What will it be? Aerospace? Electronics? Computers? Energy?'
  • The Internet building boom of the '90s that never really happened


    Last week, Amazon - 'Earth's Biggest Bookstore' - announced that it had made a profit for the first time since its website was launched in 1995. This seeming miracle received a mixed reception. 'New economy' commentators, still licking wounds inflicted by the collapse of technology stocks two years ago, began to whisper that they had been right all along. But 'old economy' downsiders were having none of it. They mocked yet another false dawn and pointed out that it has taken no less ...
  • Only way to levitate office workers is to liberate them from the office


    Once upon a time in America, gazing out over a sports stadium a hundred times the size of the Baths of Caracalla, I asked the architect who designed it what would have to be done to attract investment on this scale into the design of an ordinary office building. To my surprise he replied without hesitation: 'Leverage the value of the ordinary office worker to the level of the celebrity athlete.'
  • An eye-opening opportunity that is not merely pie in the sky


    Forty years ago, when Marshall MacLuhan published his classic Understanding Media, he coined the phrase, 'The medium is the message'. A terse formula which, although it was parroted by intellectuals for years, was seldom truly understood.
  • One over the eight: reflections on the ghosts of Christmas past


    As veteran readers are well aware, and new recruits may be outraged to learn, this column has been running for nearly eight years. With this slim excuse, and for a wide range of other reasons, the writer would like to reveal the inside story of his seven previous Christmas columns.
  • A sphere with a message: planets hold lessons architects can learn


    Last week's news from outer space seems to suggest that architecture, which has enjoyed occasional flirtations with science ever since the astronomical experiments of the ancient world, might be heading the same way again.
  • Driven architecture: as the wheel dies, the live-in car comes of age


    Czech media philosopher Vilem Flusser, who died in a tragic motor accident 10 years ago this month, left behind him many remarkable insights.One of the most tantalising was his assertion that 'as technology develops, the wheel dies out, as it did in nature'.
  • Chasing the elusive connection between 'good' and 'design'


    These days we are bombarded with exhortations about the power of good design. Top-level talks find it high up on the agenda. Bottom-level talks cling to it as the last refuge of the scoundrel (now that use of the word 'sustainability' has been banned).Good design, it seems, can make everything OK, from the planning application right through to the Stirling Prize. It can even make you rich on the way.
  • School of thought says it's time to close down Huddersfield - again!


    One day years ago, when I was the editor of an architectural magazine, I was taken to lunch by the publisher and the managing director. Over starters I was invited to spell out my plans for the publication. I replied by enthusiastically outlining my strategy for the complete destruction of our nearest rival by sucking away all its classified advertising, headhunting its much-admired cartoonist, and bribing valuable members of staff into leaking the secrets of its feature schedule. I ...
  • An unjustified fear of electronic images taking over from reality


    The most impressive arguers are those who start with a tremendous blow to the conventional wisdom and never lose the initiative.
  • Asking consumers to think small in the big world of microgeneration


    Derek Ezra has been involved with the formation of energy policy ever since he joined the National Coal Board, not long after its formation in 1946. He rose through the ranks to become its chairman shortly before the energy crisis of the 1970s, and was made Baron Ezra of Horsham on his retirement in 1983.
  • Dreaming of utopia and freedom on the unopen road to nowhere


    'Every time I learn something new it pushes some old stuff out of my brain!' So exclaimed Homer Simpson in desperation. And how right he was.
  • Defiant talk follows panic - but the risk to tall buildings is nothing new


  • The build-high brigade is set for a drubbing in the City of London


  • Architecture: it's not rocket science - or is it?


    The first space rocket fired from Cape Canaveral was an old German V2 rocket with a US Army WAC Corporal missile mounted on its nose as a second stage.
  • Radical housing speech elicits wave of politeness from planners


  • The re-evaluation of high-rise buildings: the cost to civilisation


    Every opinion has a function, and it did not take long for the shock and horror of last week's suicide attacks on New York to convert itself into an outpouring of opinion. This was reminiscent not of Pearl Harbour, as is claimed but, according to the historian Andrew Roberts, of the sinking of the Titanic.
  • Buildings may be lost in the murk but every cloud has a silver lining


    There is a lot of research going on into clouds these days. At one level, we have New York architects Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio, who are experimenting with a prototype building that could look like a cloud: something that they hope to have working in time for the opening of Expo Switzerland 2002. By then, if all has gone well, their Blur Building, as it is known, will be hovering over the waters of Lake Neuchatel, disgorging and receiving visitors through its own artificially ...
  • The design of the euro banknotes does no favours to architecture


    Complaints about the dull and soulless design of the new 'conceptual architecture'euro banknotes do not go far enough. Overshadowed by the mixture of football triumphalism and foot-and-mouth anxiety that surrounded their appearance last week, the seven euro notes, like the opening notes of an ominous symphony, offered a grim intimation of things to come.
  • Plans to sell off the UK's treasures will soon return with a vengeance


    Whatever happened to the scheme for covering London's streets with reflective paint to reduce the need for air-conditioning? It was my favourite millennium project, but the commissioners turned it down.The same thing seemed to have happened to the 'National Asset Register', my choice for book of the millennium. This 550-page inventory of national treasures was at one time going to be the catalogue for the government's mammoth sale of public assets - a £300 billion auction-room ...
  • Why the merits of the Heron Tower are so blindingly obvious


    So great is the media prejudice against tall buildings that it has become more or less impossible to write in favour of KPF's Heron project without prefacing one's words with a lengthy restatement of the advantages of tall buildings in general - rather like being forced to explain the principle of the internal combustion engine before road-testing the new Mini. Nonetheless, I did my duty in this respect a fortnight ago and now I want to get into the meat of the case for 110 Bishopsgate.
  • Stop this Heron Tower nonsense and make a rational decision now


  • Did Zaha Hadid and Daniel Libeskind have a precursor?


    Correctly identifying the first High-Tech building is still an unsolved puzzle, so there is probably not much chance of correctly identifying the first ever Zaha Hadid or Daniel Libeskind-style spiky project, but here goes.
  • Why it's time to give urban regeneration the big heave-ho


    martin pawley
  • Eden experience dulled by traffic problems, queues and few plants


    martin pawley
  • There's no turning back the tide of technological 'advancement'


    martin pawley
  • Euro pressure on equity means UK homeowners face their Waterloo


    Now the general election is over and our government's batteries are recharged we can open a new can of worms: 'will joining the euro affect our property values?'
  • Japanese junk shopping disproves Moore's Law of continual growth


    martin pawley
  • IT evolution will speed 'electronic dispersal' from low-level London


    martin pawley
  • Election brings not just crooks and idiots but a range of UFOs


    martin pawley
  • Building more new houses is the only way to stabilise house prices


    Does anyone out there read Country Life? Well, not so much read it as gaze in awe at its 120 pages of full colour advertisements for manor houses, castles and cottages that are as out of reach for most people as a holiday in an orbiting spacecraft.
  • Security concerns have impinged upon our everyday freedoms


    Back in the early1970s a competition was held for the design of a new parliamentary building. It was won by the young partnership of Spence and Webster.The proposed structure, which beat 246 entries from all over the Commonwealth, was uncompromisingly modern. It made little if any concession to the style of the Houses of Parliament, Old Scotland Yard, or the ramshackle buildings on Bridge Street it was intended to replace. But instead of being built there and then for a ludicrously ...
  • Government organizations have a bad attitude to tall buildings


    I have written here before in disparaging vein about the English propensity for erecting a series of inquiries, hearings, panels, committees, regulators, watchdogs and sleeping policemen in front of every enterprise put forward by persons of ambition. Clearly the object of this obstructionist behaviour is, first, to ensure that the largest possible number of pairs of feet can be got under the tables set out for the great and good, (aka the inert and craven); and second to make certain ...
  • Wembley? Forget financial drain, let cable take the strain


    Last week two more ambitious plans for new heavy infrastructure ran into the same sand trap as the Dome and the London Underground. First came the new Wembley Stadium, whose estimated cost has soared to a prohibitive £660 million. The Football Association, which only four months ago agreed to bail out the project after the banks had refused to finance it, and was only too pleased to sign a three-year £400 million television contract based on the assumption that it would go ...
  • Bad design - an arrestable offence in a world full of commissions


    It all started the day when Thomas Muirhead announced that he had decided to set up the Thomas Muirhead Commission for Architecture.
  • Rising cost estimates? Architects got there way before dot. coms


    As a freelance architectural critic I find that I am often asked the question: 'Martin, what is architecture all about?' To which I generally reply: 'Abdul, architecture is like the stock market. Nobody knows what it is about. It just keeps going up or down or standing still all the time.'
  • Motor museums exhibit industry's shame: a record of failure


    In her 1909 book Woman and Car , Dorothy Levitt concluded a list of dos and don'ts connected with the new pastime of motoring by reminding ladies going on a motor trip 'not to forget to carry a small revolver'. That advice has, of course, long since been forgotten, but there are still undercurrents to the history of the motor car that bring the use of a revolver to mind.
  • When the capital's in crisis, Lord Rogers' presence is an irrelevance


    'Fury as Ken appoints Rogers at £1,625 a day, ' shrilled the London Evening Standard a couple of weeks ago. Then last week it tried again with: 'Sex has its place in public: Lord Rogers'.
  • 'Trophy' architects' protestations show missing sense of proportion


    Interesting, isn't it, that practically all the prominent supporters of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment's scheme to bypass clients by making architects the effective owners of the schemes for which they have obtained planning permission are architects who have been associated with big cost overruns.
  • Peace in our time - Blue Shield says no more shooting at statues


    History is something you make, not something you keep. This is a useful axiom to bear in mind when all about you are tut-tutting at the Taleban's demolition of Buddhist statues in Afghanistan. They should be reminded that history boils over with examples of the destruction of religious symbols, from the atheistic excesses of China's cultural revolution, through the vandalism of the Bolsheviks in Russia, to the smashing of medieval stained glass by the iconoclasts in our own English ...
  • A fantastic day out - thanks to zips, Pollock and rocket science


    Two students dressed in black stand in front of a packed house. They are presenting their project.
  • Infrastructure at the speed of fright - all vision but no action


    Another train crash, another witch hunt, another tall building kicked into touch. England is not a good country for visionary projects. Not that you won't get any publicity - you will get lots. You just won't get anything done. That is why we stay in the realm of ideas and don't try to connect them up to reality. That is why we have so many visionary architects - safest way to practice, no professional indemnity - and such a flood of entries for every architectural competition - even ...
  • Lavish, visionary architecture puts the user in the driving seat


    Just when the motor car has finally fetched up at the OK Corral, forced into a dead or alive shoot out with 10,000-shot computerised speed cameras, inflatable sleeping policemen, astronomical petrol prices and zero-tolerance speed cops, along comes a stack of books dealing with car architecture as though it were the most normal thing in the world. Now that they are closing down in their thousands it is suddenly OK to open the gates of art history to the petrol stations, multistorey ...
  • The arty side of ugly shipping containers can justify any use


    It was the corrosively optimistic Reyner Banham who once said: 'Architecture is only a cultural answer to the problem of enclosure.' By that he meant there could well be many other answers, as indeed there have been. There have been caves and tree houses, system-built flats, straw bale walls, rammed earth, rubber tyres, tins and bottles, oil drums and even design and build, all uncultured answers to the problem of enclosure.
  • Serving up fast track construction for whopper office projects


    It is a truth universally acknowledged that anyone in search of a justification for dabbling in architecture - other than a mad desire to take a drink from the firehose of art history - must be in search of a seriously commercial firm. By seriously commercial is meant a firm with offices in the City - not in Hoxton, or on the river - a firm where the senior staff wear identical suits; where the sliding glass doors open and close by themselves; where the only reading material in the ...
  • The US: mission critical 24 hours a day, seven days a week


    The best thing about a trip to the US is boosting one's vocabulary. There are always new words, expressions and axioms and all of them, it seems, born since you were last there. This time it's not only words but numbers too. For example, it isn't long before you start to believe that every job in the US, from driving to doing homework, is done '24/7' - 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As for new expressions, the demise of the 'Quick burn' dot coms has had a silver lining for architects, ...
  • A doubling of efforts to save London from the density drain


    What are we doing to put things right, and how far have we got? Well, for a start, almost 30 per cent of central London is now 'certified full', according to the 106 'signs of life' criteria of the Urban Task Force inspectorate. At the same time, another 20 per cent will be 'comfortably into the cramming red zone' in time for a May general election. In fact, apart from a little mopping up operation that we will come to shortly, London as a whole is on track to being able to bid for ...
  • Why a deserted Dessau belies the optimism of the Bauhaus


    It is an experience to walk through the former east German town of Dessau from the moribund Hotel Prince Leopold to the Bauhaus. The hotel reeks of the old DDR and has more employees than guests.
  • As one monument tumbles, the whole country crumbles


    News that Stonehenge is about as authentic as a pair of silicon boobs was received with remarkable aplomb at English Heritage last week. Ducking and weaving under heavy questioning, the quango's spokesperson stuck like glue to the line that 'the people who look after the past' (as they like to be known) had always intended to attach a 500-page appendix detailing every alteration made to the monument since Roman times to the 26-page official guide book, but through pressure of work had ...
  • Wells' predictions on target for Urban Task Force-style future


    In January people make predictions for the coming year. They do this despite the fact that they are generally unsuccessful - predictions being subject to the rule of synchronicity which says that foreseeing an event before the means to bring it about exists, does not count.
  • The freedom of the high seas - being able to say you are sorry


    Against every expectation 2000 has ended up being a year for failures. A year that started with a doomed shindig at the Dome on millennium night and a rather wet 'river of fire'. A year that made its way through the heart-stopping erection of the London Eye. A year that endured the squabbling over the wobbling bridge; and wound up with chaos on the railways and the biggest racing catamaran in the world being abandoned in the North Atlantic after it started to break up.
  • From prize-winner to pariah - the degeneration of regeneration


    There are already different ways to think about Peckham Library. A week or two ago there was the Stirling Prize way - the assessors called it 'the centrepiece of Peckham's spirited efforts at regeneration', a place to which 'the young people of Peckham flock every day', 'a building to make you smile', and more in a similar vein. Then there was the appearance of this same Peckham Library in last weekend's newspaper accounts of the death of one of those same 'young people of Peckham', ...
  • No political party to rescue us from this national breakdown


    It did not take long for the cheers that greeted the publication of Our Towns and Cities to be replaced by groans over worsening rail chaos and uncontrollable traffic congestion. Or for these groans to frighten the government into bringing forth promises of public money for train operating companies, and inventing 'fast-track implementation strategies' for all the bypass roads they had so gleefully scrapped in 1997. Or, in the end, for all the wild promises of £50 billion here ...
  • We are all Londoners in this age of anywhere technologies


    In Mario Carpo's brilliant study Architecture in the Age of Printing , in which he traces the origins of modern architecture back to Gutenberg and the invention of moveable type, Carpo makes the point that publishing and printing are two different things and have not always been connected. There was publishing before printing, he says, and now there is, through electronic information technology, publishing after printing.
  • An ode to a supermarket - perfection and reality in one


    Getting down to work with a set of art historical tools on the unexploded bomb of architecture is the miracle regularly performed by the architectural critic. Never mind that the architecture regularly turns out to be the politics of development in disguise. Compared with building, criticism may be as futile as trying to make your car go faster with a whip, but it has the force of tradition behind it.
  • Housing could really get motoring if car makers would take it on


    If God really was an astronaut and sent down an angel to sort out the housing problem, the celestial visitor would waste no time. He or she would demand copies of the Egan report, thrust them into the hands of the leaders of the motor industry, and tell them to get on with solving it. Only then would the angel have moved on to deal with BSE, the Dome, petrol prices and other serious matters.
  • The white portico and what it might mean to future generations


    It is 2 November 2100. A guide is showing a troop of London schoolchildren around the British Museum. Beneath the spidery roof of the Great Court she signals the party to stop and sit down facing some tall stone columns.
  • Arguing the case for space versus speed: did we get it wrong?


    Years ago I used to dream of running a seaside boarding house. Not the kind with a nosy landlady and notices everywhere about turning off the lights, but a hi-tech, self-catering, fast-throughput, miniaturised, unisex, one-class-only boarding house accommodating twice as many people in half as much space.
  • Learning lessons from dot coms' multimillion-pound branding spree


    At the beginning of this year I wrote in this column about the impact that the dot com revolution was having on the workload of commercial architects in New York. Times there were tough, but also rewarding, with everyone working long hours converting buildings of all types for clients with no taste but plenty of money and a deadline six weeks away.
  • Frankenstein fear and euphoria as we freewheel into modified future


    Perhaps not everybody knows that in an orchard in western Canada there are already genetically enhanced fruit trees that kill insects on contact.
  • When does a building cross the heritage time line?


    English Heritage certainly has taken a new direction under its new management. Having stopped wasting £5 million on the wrong sort of public private partnerships, it now comm -issions public opinion polls to find out whether the public prefers its heritage artifacts before 1950 or after - as if conservation policy could be ordered up like a dish in a restaurant.Where there used to be meta-wisdom at work, consenting and refusing with all the exalted mystery of the selection of a ...
  • Antique furniture versus work capsule- the decor debate goeson


    Perhaps it is just the time of year, but the old twocultures problem is showing up again. Two images are enough to give it away. One, in a property supplement, shows the corner of a pale blue room with a stuffed armchair, an alcove with shelves displaying a row of Spode serving plates, an open door showing a glimpse of bare floorboards, an old stand up radiator, and an antique clock on the wall.The other comes from an in-flight magazine. It is dominated by a glistening kryptonite kitchen ...
  • Barnacles show the way for the urban megastructure


    In an effort to speed the urban renaissance, London is in the midst of a binge of gap-filling. Every last piece of railway land, warehouse, bomb site and backlands patch is being turned over to town house and apartment building. There has been nothing like it since the '60s, and then it was a simple matter of 'knocking through'. Today's frenzy is more ambitious, and more difficult to explain.
  • A wobbly bridge is not something that should be treated as a joke


    Some time next week Ove Arup and Partners is due to issue its action report on the Millennium footbridge, three months after the briefing held in June to report on progress. On that occasion the designers and engineers were present in force and no doubt gave as good an account of themselves as the circumstances permitted. I was not present but I was invited, and what struck me as searingly interesting when I opened the envelope was the letterhead used for the notification. At the top, ...
  • Negative equity on wheels - the results of government intervention


    Many people would be shocked to learn that it costs nearly £200,000 to buy an average London house, and even more that negative equity had jumped the species barrier and caused a serious outbreak of mad car disease on garage forecourts.
  • Traffic congestion and confusion herald a new age of immobility


    The great American developer Trammell Crow, who created modern Dallas, once said: 'I like congestion. It's better than recession.' It sounds like a flip remark, but Crow was right. Congestion isn't a problem, it's the political opportunity of the twenty-first century.
  • Prescott is for turning on the greenfield homes front


    It is gratifying to see the future taking shape before one's very eyes, and with sublime indifference to the headlines as well. By the future, I do not mean the ever-extending local authority green paint on the roads so much as the irreversible retreat of a practical politician from the fantasy of an urban renaissance, and the inexorable advance of consumer technology, coming to the rescue of the suburbs and the countryside.
  • Contemplation of geometry yields more than attempts to explain


    At last it is August, time to leave the tribulations, trials and triumphs of sustainability and think about something completely different for a change. Crop circles, perhaps? I first encountered crop circles one summer evening, driving across Salisbury Plain on the A303. As I approached Stonehenge (tut tut, millions spent, still nothing done), I noticed on the opposite side of the road a large number of parked cars and a sizeable gathering of people in a wheat field nearby.
  • Roche plans in the shadows with Dublin dock skyscraper decision


    Just as London has fallen in love with towers, Dublin seems to want no more to do with them.
  • The last word in the sustainability debate - for the time being. . .


    Back in the 1970s there was a thing called the energy crisis. It started with an oil embargo and ended with the Thatcher boom. It is worth remembering this and its outcome because these days another energy crisis is upon us. Only this time the fear is not that we will run out of energy so much as exhaust the resources of the planet so that future generations will find the cupboard bare. As Prince Charles pointed out in his Reith Lecture a couple of months ago: 'We know that trying to ...
  • The ghost of Hitler's architect Albert Speer casts its shadow


    Popular images of architects change over time.One hundred and fifty years ago, Gustave Flaubert, author of Madame Bovary , included the image of the architect as 'a dreamer who always forgets the stairs' in his dictionary of received ideas. And so he remained for a century or more until Ayn Rand's Howard Roark turned him into a women's magazine hero, young, handsome and hoping for nothing more than a crack at the new town hall.
  • Midsummer madness packs in the punters at the Dome, but why?


    Outside there is bright sunlight, but inside it is perpetually overcast. The Zones are crowded with school children, verging on being out of control.
  • Ask Le Corbusier: architect of the last century, prophet of this one


    In a week that started with heavy doses of the problem of the bouncy bridge - structure too light - and then moved on to the price-busting Royal wardrobes that needed floor reinforcement at Buckingham Palace - structure too heavy - there seemed no alternative for a recusant Modernist but to call for a return to proper box girder bridges, and indulge in a quick re-reading of Le Corbusier, in translation of course.
  • Far-sighted Fuller contributed more than Modernism ever did


    At last, after missing the centenary of his birth by five years, a respectable exhibition devoted to the life and work of Richard Buckminster Fuller (18951983), has come to the Design Museum, where it will remain until 15 October. Consisting of original documents, artefacts, video clips and full-size structures, it is so evocative of the optimism of the recent past that it should be seen by everyone curious about the purpose of design before it was hijacked by the lottery committees ...
  • Sacrificed for art: life in the fast lane of celebrity creativity


    The architecture business isn't all glamour. While the big names set themselves up in villas and palaces round the globe, home for a young designer is more likely to be a rat-infested cellar in Hackney with no toilet - provided he or she has wealthy parents that is. Not so for Guido Spunge.
  • Thirty-year-old doodle makes fine UK transport planning map


    More than 30 years ago the computer pioneer Iann Barron doodled three diagrams of computer networks that later appeared in the book The Future with Microelectronics , which he co-wrote with Ray Curnow.
  • Going out of fashion for architects is a fate worse than death


    Paul Rudolph, who was always in some ways considered a young architect, was born in 1918 and died in 1997 having nearly reached the age of 80.
  • The countryside can be developed, but not at urban density levels


    'Imagine more than 30 houses on a football pitch. Then imagine 30 football pitches full of houses side by side. Who wants these houses?'
  • And Tony's cronies spoke: 'Thou shalt not criticise the Tate Modern!'


    It took great courage to praise the Tate Modern last week, but our corps of celebrities, politicos, critics, commentators and liggers rose to the occasion.
  • The eternal menace: back to the same tired old future


    It is sad but true that not a thing in our universe is new, not the Tate Gallery of Modern Art, not even the future.
  • Building bridges in space but roundabouts on the ground


    About this time forty years ago the Russians launched a rocket called Lunik II that landed on the moon. It placed there metal pennants bearing the emblem of the Soviet Union and the date. Although universally seen in the West as the prelude to a manned mission, the Russians insisted that they had no immediate project to land a man on the moon. Instead the flight was described as 'The first bridge in an infinite universe.'
  • It may be good enough for Jane Austen, but how much is it worth?


    All the recent excitement on the world's stock exchanges - last week the cost of renovating the Underground was wiped off the value of shares in half a day - puts one in mind of the question of true value and what it really is. Back in the early seventeenth century, Francis Bacon thought that money was the token of value in the same way as words were the tokens of ideas. Three hundred years later, Auden too plumped for money with the Night Mail crossing the border bringing the cheque ...
  • Mutant child of Bucky's vision is forming in a Norwegian shipyard


    For nearly a year now there have been lush advertisements in the glossy magazines for a ship that won't be launched until the end of 2001. It is a vessel that might be considered the missing link between the geriatric cruise liner and the concept of the moving city that ignited architectural enthusiasm in the 1960s and then, like so much that was fresh and clever at that time, got buried under a mass of neo-primitive conservation.
  • How many planning policies does it take to cause confusion in the City?


    'There's less to this than meets the eye' was one of Noel Coward's expressions, and while there is no evidence that he ever applied it to the planning of the City of London, he certainly could have done.
  • Oh brave new world which has such pricey parliaments in it


    Hooray! Railtrack wants £52 billion for renovating the railway system. Boohoo! Some £20 billion of that will have to come from increased taxation, not investment. What does that mean in real terms? Well, I could shilly-shally like other commentators, but I won't. What it means is that it will never happen.
  • Solomon's judgment cuts a Dublin masterplan into two sad pieces


    Readers may recall that last year I wrote in this space about the great commotion caused in Dublin by the largest planning application ever lodged in the Irish republic. This sought permission to redevelop the derelict dockyard and railway lands at Spencer Dock, a 20ha site on the north bank of the Liffey some 2km west of the city centre and about the same distance from the Georgian Mile.
  • Technology changes put authentic replication beyond our grasp


    One of the most fascinating things about tech- nology is its apparent irreversibility. The Pharaohs had geometry, mechanical engineering and project management down to such a fine art that they could keep a workforce slogging away at a pyramid for 50 years or more using the same materials and methods.
  • Today, fashion and architecture both involve thinly clad bodies


    A few months ago I wrote here about the extent to which fashion, a self-styled industry that is really little more than a craft, was getting so small that all its famous designer names were being taken over by big retailers. Worse still, I thought, was the way that these monopolistic retailers were starting to buy up architecture too, as a fashion accessory.
  • So, Lord Rogers, why shouldn't we build on surplus rural land?


    It seems that Lord Rogers of Seething Metropolis has abandoned all restraint on the subject of urban densities.
  • How long before the message on mindless recycling sinks in?


    In the esoteric world of car design there is a useful term called 'sink time'. This is the length of time that it takes for a new feature, like the van-like recessed hatchback detail on the Mark 4 Golf, to stop putting people off and start turning people on.
  • A billion-dollar refit is reducing the Pentagon to a police station


    One of the best quotations I have seen in a long time was from Sir Neil Cossons last week, who said of English Heritage, 'it is about the future just as much as any High-Tech company - it is about taking these (old) buildings into the future, and for that they must have some value in the future.' Quite so, I thought, but he might have added, 'and to ensure that, we have to spend at least as much money on them as they would cost to replace.' But of course, being the new chairman of English ...
  • Got any spare changes for our backward old continent?


    Just before last Christmas, when the government announced that Railtrack's exclusive option to bid for the upgrade and maintenance of three London Underground lines was to be withdrawn, the immediate consequence was a drop of almost £4 billion in the company's stock market value - more than the cost of the Jubilee Line Extension gone in an instant.
  • It may be beautiful architecture ... but does it plug into a laptop?


    Years ago one of the motoring weeklies used to have a feature called 'Fragments on Forgotten Makes'. There was a picture of an old codger leafing through prehistoric back issues and every week he would draw from them the story of some long-extinct and curious motor vehicle - rear-wheel steering, radial engines inside wheels, body made of paper, and so on.
  • The rape of old New York is a very twenty-first century ravishment


    There is tremendous building activity in Manhattan. Not so much in Manhattan as inside Manhattan. So much interiors work that the architects who proudly showed me their conversion of part of the McGraw Hill building last week didn't even know the name of its architect ('Some commercial guy in the 60s'). Clearly the legacy of the great commercial towers of the city is under review and skyscrapers are turning from corporate masterworks into stacks of lettable floorspace. Today every one ...
  • Wembley must keep its eye on the game - football, not athletics


    What was as popular 2000 years ago as it is today? What looked pretty much the same 2000 years ago as it does today? What is always ready to play host to the continuation of warfare by other means? You've got it. The sports stadium. And under the golden shower of Lottery money and millennium cash, it is certainly living up to its reputation this Christmas.
  • Konrad Wachsmann: the greatest architect of the twentieth century


    Thirty years ago the architectural historian Peter Blake wrote that it was as impossible to imagine modern architecture without prefabrication as to imagine Christianity without the Cross. Now, in the last days of 1999 with the book still open to nominations for the architect of the century, it is worth remembering his words. For most of the last 99 years Blake was right: the dream of buildings coming off a production line was always the Shangri-La of the Modernist movement; the ultimate ...
  • Waste measurements, recycling and millennium fears for the future


    One consoling thing about stepping over the precipice into a new millennium is that history tells us the fate we fear most is never the one that overcomes us.A well-known example is the predicted increase in the production ofexcrement by transport animals that was made over 100 years ago.
  • Unversed in hysterical politics, Crow flies straight into trouble


    Things look bad for former chief planning inspector Professor Stephen Crow at the time of writing. Not in the legal sense perhaps, but in the sense of having recklessly hurled himself into the 'squeamish metropolis' versus 'hunting-with-dogs' battle over housebuilding in the South East.
  • Jumping on the bandwagon of delivering verbal punishment


    Does anybody remember a time when architects agreed not to supplant or criticise one another's work? It wasn't very long ago, but today it seems as remote as a frozen mammoth in the tundra. Now even those who still tirelessly promote the idea of 'banging the drum' for architecture must be disconcerted by the speed with which all the quangos, foundations and committees that result seem to have taken to banging it on the head instead.
  • A new plot for The Archers - housing as the latest crop


    For a business that only contributes half as much to gross domestic product as the sale of ready-made sandwiches, and gets half its income from taxpayers in the form of grants, farming can certainly whip up a storm of indignation. Just mention the idea of building a million houses in the South East on agricultural land and the 'conservative tendency' can mobilise a whole army of objections. The reason of course boils down to land use and the economic consequences of changes in it. What ...
  • Fashion, retail and architecture signify the new culture


    One of the most interesting and complicated things happening at the end of our century is the way in which the fashion industry, an elite outfit that once treated the word 'retail' with the scorn designers reserve for the word 'copy', has been taken over by retailers. Even more interesting is the way that these retailers are now starting to buy up architecture as well. Most interesting of all is the final twist, in which all three - fashion, retail and architecture - are becoming the ...
  • It's no good getting in a spin about the end of the millennium


    For people of a certain age it is impossible to relate the term 'fin du siecle' to the dying months of this year. Difficult to relate it to any period except the turn of the last century, when the age of Napoleon, Jane Austen and Queen Victoria gave place to the age of Adolf Hitler, Ernest Hemingway and Fergie. That was a turning point in history indeed: one minute the tremendous pageantry of kings, emperors and empires putting the finishing touches to the environment; the next a catalogue ...
  • Bedlam in Montpellier: a meeting of architectural magazines


    Two hundred years ago, the Marquis de Sade penned his notorious work Les 120 Journees de Sodome, chronicling the project of four super- rich war profiteers to hold a large-scale Eyes Wide Shut-style orgy in an isolated castle in Switzerland. Needless to say, apart from being held in a castle, the 'First European Meeting of Architectural Magazines' last weekend bore no real resemblance to this mad project. Only its termination - a dazed crowd of some 300 fashionable persons, staggering ...
  • We are incredibly ignorant whichever way you measure it


    News that nasa's $125 million Mars Climate Orbiter fell into a black hole because one of the two teams responsible for telemetry worked in imperial while the other used metric mensuration can have come as no surprise to veterans of the construction industry's own wonder years. In the decade of decimalisation, such errors were common on building sites and widely publicised. Then, after the Metrication Board was wound up, an eerie silence fell, broken only by gasp-making episodes that ...
  • Never mind the millennium - it's time to focus on waste disposal


    While the hum of self-congratulatory Millennium madness hovers over exhibits devoted to such esoteric matters as 'the development of civilisation, culture and technology', it is easy to forget that humanity's more pressing problems will still need solutions, even after 1 January 2000. Waste disposal, for example.
  • If ever there was an authentic computer architecture, this was it


    What can one say about Microsoft that hasn't already been said? Run by the inventor of an operating system used by the whole world, its development paid for by its customers. The world's richest man with the best business book title for years - Business @ the Speed of Thought - bestrides the world like a colossus.
  • Transport battle is waged on the field of contradictions


    Transport is a funny subject, as anyone will agree who attended last weekend's 'Transport in the New Millennium' conference at the Royal College of Art. One minute the participants were swapping anecdotes about the size of their garages, the next the response time of information systems, and the next the psychological significance of 'reaching for the keys'. Clearly the subject of transport has few boundaries, so nothing can really be dismissed as irrelevant and no chair, however determined, ...
  • Beneath the veneer of that exquisite 'Georgian' jardiniere


    Interested in antiques? I have been ever since I spotted two late- twentieth-century Pozidriv screws in a sixteenth-century, two-tier satinwood etagere in the Frankfurt Crafts Museum. In those days, 'time travelling' in pursuit of higher antique prices was a trade secret, so I am sure that the museum's experts were guilty of nothing more serious than negligence. Now I am not so sure, especially when it turns out that Sotheby's has recently been selling V-reg eighteenth-century 'Georgian' ...
  • On Alfred Adler, ambition and the real meaning of lifestyle


    Ever wondered about the psychological underpinnings of your work? What makes you go, what makes you stop? In architecture such crises de confiance come with the territory but explaining them doesn't. To master the unconscious elements of success you have to throw away all those outrageous management books about learning from Genghis Khan and turn to Alfred Adler instead. Born in Austria in 1870, Adler first trained as a doctor, then became an eye specialist and eventually turned himself ...
  • Dublin turns its back on a native son and a chance of prosperity


    A month or two ago I was invited to give an opinion on Dublin's Canary Wharf, the monster 21ha development site called Spencer Dock located on the north bank of the Liffey, where it widens out to meet Dublin Harbour. At present, Spencer Dock is no more than a miserable industrial wasteland of disused shunting yards and derelict buildings - much like the backlands of Kings Cross and about the same size. Up to a fortnight ago, it looked as though it might be a candidate for a glit-tering ...
  • Racing through the 20th century, not in a Porsche, but a porch


    The sight of a road protester, reluctantly confessing to bbc2's Traffic series that he had been forced to buy a car because he could not keep up with the fast-moving world of roads protest using unreliable trains, buses and bicycles, must have been a low point in the creation of an integrated transport policy. Adding irony to irony, the protester looked old enough to belong to the generation that popped champagne corks at the opening of England's first motorway, and never dreamed of ...
  • Watch out - a secret housing boom is taking us back to the 80s


    News that mortgage lending reached £11 billion last month has not been greeted with the attention it deserves. The reports have all been downpage items - ten years ago they would have been front page news - and while several pointed out that the figure is a record, they also claimed that records only started in 1997, and dismissed any suggestion that the market might be 'poised to return to a 1980s-style boom.' Anything suspicious about that? Well yes.
  • Where air-conditioning finally meets its match . . .


    'Only connect!' Once a much-quoted exhortation to join prose and passion from the novelist e m Forster, then the motto of a mobile-phone company. Now a plaintive cry across the divide that separates art history (what things look like) from air-conditioning, safe-water plans and heat- recovery systems (how things work out).
  • Re-building the Balkans will be tougher than we thought


    There is an urgent need for a word of hope or encouragement for architects who are still looking forward to the £20 billion 'wall of money' that was supposed to fire the starting gun for the reconstruction of the former Yugoslavia. None, however, seems to be on the way. Disappointing that, because the breezy manner in which the bomb damage inflicted on Serbia was described during the war suggested that Slobbo had only to throw in the towel for nato to put its video games into reverse. ...
  • Is the countryside so precious that we can't afford to use it?


    Years ago I interviewed Richard Rogers (as he then was), at his suburban riverside headquarters. At one point I suggested that he was a true man of the twentieth century. To my surprise he did not take this as a compliment. 'I don't want to be a man of the twentieth century,' he said. 'I want to be a man of the twenty-first century.' It was then that I realised that Lord Rogers (as he now is), was a man of great ambition.
  • Don't rely on people moving back to our old cities


    Just as all successful home extensions steer clear of the kitchen, so do all successful development plans steer clear of cities. Once you start tinkering with cities it is the same as tinkering with a domestic plumbing system. Soon you have to turn off the water, re-route the drainage, muck about with the gas and fight with the electricity. Every utility gets involved and - conventional wisdom to the contrary - getting every utility involved is a recipe for ruin, not for home improvements.
  • Worried about the future of London? Try learning from Brazil


    Everything seemed to happen in London last week. As the long awaited Jubilee Line extension approached completion, the rest of the Underground network sank into anarchy. Meanwhile other anarchists stopped surface traffic in the City, invaded buildings and fought pitched battles with the police while baffled tourists looked on. Not bad eh? But not good for business either. No wonder the media played up the trains saga and played down the riots. You don't have to have Albert Einstein's ...
  • Come friendly bombs, and fall on . . . the Chinese embassy


    Just as the term 'military intelligence' has long been considered an oxymoron, so now is the phrase precision bombing. Len Deighton had a good take on it in his novel Bomber, when he had an raf pilot at a briefing ask why the target was the middle of a residential area. The pilot is told that there is a Gestapo headquarters and a poison gas factory there. In wartime such statements, however implausible, cannot be questioned. Thus, as his blood-thirsty scientific adviser Professor Lindemann ...
  • Visit the new Imax; there is plenty to learn


    The opening on the South Bank of the largest imax cinema in the uk last weekend marks a double benefit. The eradication of the toxic 'bull ring' underpass eyesore, and the promised flood of public art represents one level of gain, of course. But the other is much richer and less well understood. It is the infinite learning space of the IMAX experience itself.
  • Lessons learned from a tale of two galleries


    'The indisputable truth is that the museum is an old-fashioned triumph of Modern architecture'
  • Young curiosity meets old wisdom - in a mobile home


    'The worst thing about the future,' said a young friend of mine, 'is that it's so boring. It's in the Sunday Times every week, and if you miss that it's always on Tomorrow's World or the Discovery channel. What's really interesting is the past. The guys just can't get enough of it. Everyone I know is obsessed with shooting radar into the ground to find old tombs, digging up plague pits, reconstructing Roman cities, X-raying skulls, counting teeth . . .'
  • More country houses could use the discreet charm of neglect


    Imagine a country house built by a furniture magnate at the end of the last century on an estate of 12,000 acres. Neglected after the First World War, degraded by the military in the second, it passed through the hands of several feckless owners who sold off most of its land. Finally, in the 1970s, the house and 200 acres were bought by a famous film producer. From then on a different set of values pertained.
  • The sixties revisited - the best of times, the first of times


    The other day I was invited to give a talk at the aa about the Sixties, a period of which I can claim some personal experience having actually been alive at the time. To my surprise, tales of this bygone age not only proved to be of considerable interest to an audience of students, virtually none of whom can have been born when the events described took place, but the whole process of discussing the decade turned out to be much more complicated than I had expected.
  • Meaningless ideas are still useful in politics


    Several times a year, regular as clockwork, there comes a message of hope. Not only from the Pope or the archbishop of Canterbury, but from Lord Rogers of Riverside, patron saint of city life. The sentiment is always the same, even if there is a contradiction now and then. For instance in The Times in 1997 he announced: 'Nine out of ten Britons now live in cities, most of them communities of more than 100,000 people. This startling statistic reveals us to be predominantly urbanised.' ...
  • Celebrating the cleverest town centre in all England


    In all the hoo-ha surrounding the opening of Bluewater last week, most commentators either parroted the shopping centre's ginormous statistics, or else focused on the impenetrable question of whether it ought to have been built in the first place - this being the sort of horse-bolted-now-close-the-stable-door type of inquiry that strongly appeals to us Englanders.
  • Why critics don't like the new home for the London mayor


    Sir Norman Foster's Greater London Assembly building may not be everybody's cup of tea, but he is the world's greatest architect so - fearing an ambush - even his most determined opponents adopt an indirect approach when attacking it.
  • The time has come to give the paperless office another go


    'Today's typical office building generates a kilogram of waste paper per employee per day, meaning that paper accounts for half of all landfill'
  • London versus Frankfurt


    two cheers for Canary Wharf
  • The psychology of steel construction


    Cedric Price, long a source of innovation and inspiration for architects, designed a complete user-modifiable steel housing system as long ago as 1971. What are perhaps less well known are his insights into the psychology underlying the choice of building
  • Where the skyscapers are


    Dusseldorf is a blinding place. Not so much for what it is as for where it is. Nine million people live within a radius of 50km. The giant 'Centre O' shopping centre at Oberhausen (where you will soon be able to buy a reformed Mercedes A-series over the counter) is only 20 minutes away. Just 15 minutes away are the Foster low-energy buildings in Duisburg. Half an hour brings you to the rwe tower in Essen, and in the city itself you can walk to the Rhine or Petzinka's naturally ventilated ...
  • BOOKS A battle between Jekyll and Hyde Cities for a Small Planet by Richard Rogers. Edited by Philip Gumuchdjian. Faber and Faber, 1997. 180pp. £9.99


The searchable digital buildings archive with drawings from more than 1,500 projects

AJ newsletters

Job of the week

University of Westminster

Senior Lecturer in Architecture

£46,520 - £53,196 p.a. (incl. of LWA) (pro rata for 0.5 FTE)


Associate Director

60000-80000 per annum