Robert Wakeham's Comments
Comment on: Historic England lists 21 inter-war pubs
Excellent news, and long may they flourish - I wonder if there's any progress with expediting the reconstruction of the scandalously flattened Carlton Tavern? This deserves maximum publicity, as a warning to others - in particular to citizens from elsewhere who maybe think that they can get away with enriching themselves at our expense, and as a cautionary tale to architects who should take care who they jump into bed with - and to a large contractor who seemingly doesn't check the legality of its demolition work.
I wonder if we've reached 'the point of no return' on the 'garden bridge'? Whether all the high profile participants - from Joanna Lumley through politicians, newspaper proprietors, nameless (?) financiers with deep pockets and various members of the design professions - are going to have to live with the consequences of their high-handed and anti-democratic imposition on us of this monumental bit of self indulgence. It'll be constructed at a time of drastic and sometimes very damaging cuts in public expenditure, but will rely on public finance to make it possible. There are some architects among the designers, and they must be very hungry for work to get involved in this most conceited and dishonest example of public-private partnerships.
The anticipated stepping down of Gordon Matheson from leading Glasgow City Council will hopefully clean the air, but it does remind me somewhat of the much hoped for departure of other controversial political leaders - for example, Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen, or Matheson's predecessor - Steven Purcell - which haven't turned out well for their fiefdoms.
Comment on: The Death and Life of the Architect
Perhaps, up there in Paradise, there's an EDIT button - and it'd be nice if it wasn't just for fixing comments to the AJ, if it could be used to edit buildings too.
Comment on: Tread softly for you tread on my dreams
I wonder, if the analytical skills of Suzi Hall were to be applied to the Hub 67 community centre in Hackney Wick (featured in this month's 'AJ Specification') what she'd have to say about that building? Composed 80% of materials and components recycled from the London Olympics, designed for a life of only 3-5 years, but having to comply with current construction regulations, this building apparently cost more than a new-build. Admittedly this was a pilot project, but 'writing a watertight specification which transferred the risk of the many unknowns involved in re-use to the contractor' rings warning bells here in Scotland, where the same risk averse philosophy turned the construction of the Edinburgh tram system into a financial and programming disaster area. There must surely be some hard thinking to work out how best to maximise re-use of redundant building fabric - and hopefully Hub 67 will be in use for much more than 3-5 years, or will be capable of economical re-use elsewhere.
The image suggests a pool rather more than 5m wide, but even so I'd like to know just how such a large glass floor is fabricated, and presumably jointed.
The apartment building appears to rise about nine storeys above the High Line, so the 'silver metallic fabric' is hopefully up to the job of arresting the progress of a dropped monkey wrench or whatever.
Perhaps, if architects competing for the chance to design 'iconic' buildings were at risk of diminished fees in the event of inflated costs due to contempt for the budget it would concentrate minds. But surely the competition assessors should be keeping a sharper watch on the credibility of both the budget and the design's predicted construction costs?
If there are 'several disused development sites' close to Washington Park would it be really essential for the new library to occupy part of the park, or did Olmsted allow for large buildings to be inserted in it?
Comment on: Historic England on hunt for best post-war pubs
Watch it doesn't get flattened by a spiv property company while the landlady's out.
Beam me up, Scotty.
This could inspire endless ideas - if Buck House sits empty for great portions of the year it could be given over to cross-channel refugees, with a tented encampment in the Gardens.
Comment on: Jestico + Whiles' Edinburgh hotel wins go-ahead
How about the bronze colour? the image is presumably of the building just after the protective film has been peeled off the cladding, but it surely won't stay like that unless there's a full time bronze polisher, and the 'end product' will be much darker.
Government by knee-jerk.
In this age of increasing concern for 'sustainability' in the built environment (even if challenged by the recent antics of George Osborne) surely there's also the need to question the demolition of modern buildings on the 'sustainability' principle - unless their materials and components can genuinely be recycled.
Comment on: Fighting the preservationists
I suppose it's all a matter of taste - I wonder if the brick choice for the new British Library really would have been different if Sandy Wilson had known for sure that St Pancras Chambers would survive? - architects are surely often in the habit of trying to 'fit in' with prominent neighbours (as described in the main feature in the brick magazine recently distributed with the AJ). I wonder if, in the case of the Blossom Street proposals, 'good architects' were seemingly unable to achieve the impossible, given the commercial pressures on their clients? The contrast of new juxtaposed with old in the last three images heading the architects' joint letter to the AJ today says it all. As for Tracy Emin's house - it's the artist who's intriguing; her proposed house is definitely not.
The images aren't labelled, but what is clear is the way in which the existing buildings are predominantly of human scale and have a variety, and richness, of detail that's absent in the new proposals - and all the brick in the world wouldn't make up for this. The architects are just reflecting the commercial pressure of their clients, the step-change in type of use and the drive to maximise floor area - but, whatever the skills of the architects, the result would be 'banalisation', and only in a febrile culture of 'onwards & upwards' could conservation be interpreted by some as a dirty word. . There's a built example of this not that far away, on the corner of Clerkenwell Road and Turnmill Street, where brick (deemed so beautiful that it recently occupied pride of place in a brick manufacturer's magazine distributed with the AJ) forms the character of a smart office development replacing a lower building, originally a multi-storey stable for the Great Northern Railway Company. The trouble is, the old stables had far more visual interest, and character (particularly at street level) than the new building - despite being of what looked like stock London brick. Apparently Islington wanted to see the old building retained, but the developer and their architect prevailed - managing to add another couple of floors - on the condition that 'the new building would make a more positive contribution than the old building in architectural and material terms'. Aye, right - there but for the grace of God goes Spitalfields.
Both Will Jennings and Chris Medland are clear about the objectionable aspects of this project - aspects that some well respected personalities in the architectural world seem oddly incapable of comprehending. This is not so much a revolutionary piece of pioneering design as an eccentric imposition on the river that - in times past - would have been built across someone's ornamental lake in their private demesne, and might (or might not) have come to attract public admiration as a curiosity, a folly.
Comment on: Maki's UK debut set for green light
Brilliant white limestone - in central London? - and what have they done to the windows?
If the steel used in the Cheesegrater bolts had all of the correct certification, but the bolts were substandard, does this mean that the certification is unfit for purpose, or the bolt manufacturing process unexpectedly modified the steel characteristics post-certification, or the certification was falsified? Does this affair have wider implications for structural engineering?
Perhaps George Osborne will issue an edict 'repealing' Julia Park.
For Paul Finch - It's not a question of 'trying to punish' - but I don't see that it is more interesting, and for Chris Dyson, are you sure that the replacement building is a thoughtful and sensitive design? It might well be much better than the previously approved design for the site, but does 'an honest reflection of the interior spatial requirements' have to result in quite such a severe exterior? 'Form follows function', I suppose, but if this results in something rather too hostile for its own good? Fortress Spitalfields? It certainly says something of today - beautiful? - a new cultural landmark?
It's a pity that there are no images of the existing building, because - if you look on Google Streetview - its listing is clearly understandable, and it's 'holding the fort' against a really crude multi storey car park on the opposite side of White's Row, and a nasty sub-Jim Stirling office block on the other side of Bell Lane.. Regardless of the undoubted care that would be taken in the detailing and workmanship of the new proposal, it's bland and cold in comparison to the character of the other, older buildings in the neighbourhood, and as such certainly isn't 'very high quality design'. Maybe this is a bit like the 'garden bridge' proposal, with people being 'dazzled' by well known names into thinking that their ideas automatically deserve approval?
I'm sure that Hans Christian Andersen would be smiling quietly to himself at such a classic example of 'The Emperor's new clothes'. Just how far will this project run, where is 'the point of no return' after which London - and national - politicians will be stuck with responsibility for the imposition of a colossal monument to their vanity? - and drain on a much abused public purse.
No interior images of what 'pocket living' might be like.
An excellent statement of the facts - and surely the planning approvals from both north and south of the river are inadequate, given the massive impact of this development on an important part of the character of the centre of what is still the capital of Britain, not just a Singapore-style city state where dissent is kept firmly on the leash. Viewed from a virtually Tory-free Scotland, this 'wonderful exercise in celebrity hype and hubris' could all too easily be used as another nail in the coffin of the UK.
'Too greedy and too destructive' , and maybe a classic example of the rising tendency to 'overstuff' sites in London with out of scale buildings - property assets being made to sweat beyond reasonable limits. The comments of the council's planning officers - and of Historic England, in favour of this redevelopment - look rather hollow.
How on earth can any Westminster councillors object to this - Westminster having recently rubber stamped the Garden Bridge (just downstream from Waterloo Bridge), far more disruptive to Thames vistas but far less useful than this public pedestrian & cycle link at Nine Elms. It's a shame (and surely bad planning) that the bridge alignment will result in the northern landing biting into the Pimlico Gardens & Shrubbery - is the Nine Elms redevelopment masterplan that inflexible? It's surely no coincidence that in the AJ's online poll the most intrusive bridge design is the least popular. Compared with that the mass of the postmodern Garden Bridge design is far more intrusive..
Comment on: Shigeru Ban to make UK debut with timber scheme
So the council - the planning authority - sells a plot with 'oversail rights' to the developer to allow building over Potters Field Park? Is this a new way for councils to raise money?
I wonder at the definition of 'carefully curated' when you look at the elevation of the existing building on this site.
It's easy to sympathise with both sides of the argument - an Iconic building needing to pay its way - and surely one good move would be for two of the most prominent objectors to the proposed alterations to 'stand up and be counted'. Both Norman Foster and Richard Rogers have plenty of experience in the art of designing efficient office buildings. Their last 'joint venture' as Team Four, the Reliance Controls factory in Swindon, fell victim to changing times and was (very regrettably) flattened, and Foster's Renault Distribution Centre in Swindon has survived by change of use. What would they do, if landed with the challenge of improving the viability of Number One Poultry? Or can they suggest a new, perhaps more fitting , use for the building?
Comment on: Work begins on Libeskind’s Berlin apartments
The 'trademark angles' seem rather superficial, compared for example with the trademark angles & curves of Zaha Hadid's work. And the quote about its holistic character etc etc could qualify for inclusion in 'Pseuds Corner' in Private Eye. It's surely got as much in common with Dali's 'Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War) as with a saphire - with the analogy being that of buildings, rather than humans (or a country) being torn apart.
There's surely a case for concerted legal action by a whole range of affordable housing providers who are going to be shafted in the populist (read selfish) interests of one political party.
It would be interesting to compare the latest proposals with the abandoned efforts of Holder Matthias / CZWG / Will Alsop.
People don't seem to understand that George Osborne's short-term trajectory through the firmament is way more important than setting any long-term trajectory for national energy conservation policy and legislation.
The government's finance minister seems to be morphing into Minister of Social Engineering - as well as Minister for Silly Bridges. Perhaps he'd like to be Minister for Everything?
Really good news for this building, and Plymouth - which got a phenomenal battering in the early years of WW2, with the city centre looking like Coventry, Dresden or Hiroshima, and this building signalled the substantial completion of reconstruction, to a masterplan drawn up in 1943/4, while the bombing continued. Only two buildings in the city centre remain from before WW2 - the shell of Charles Church, now a memorial to the civilian dead, and a 'misaligned' shop (now Argos) in New George Street.
Comment on: Wilkinson Eyre wins Copenhagen bridge contest
It would appear that in Copenhagen - rather than in the London of Osborne & Johnson - they have no difficulty in assessing bridge designers on merit. But then, in Denmark they're creating an elegant, ingenious and above all useful structure that respects its setting
Comment on: Moxon brought in on Garden Bridge project
The recruitment of Moxon, with their ex-Wilkinson & Eyre partner - and Flint & Neill - will certainly help make up for the blatant skewing of the 'ranking' process that was applied to Heatherwick Studios, but it will do absolutely nothing to legitimise the sheer arrogance of imposing this development on the Thames in the centre of our capital city - and the outrageous diversion of substantial sums of public money to a vanity project by the very person who is driving through a policy of severe and increasing austerity in public spending.
'City of Culture' is, in Glasgow's case, all too easily seen as a place that's 'all fur coat and no knickers'. To add to Alan Dunlop's list of bad planning decisions and cack-handed architecture threatening the quality of George Square, Network Rail's EGIP (Edinburgh - Glasgow Improvement Programme) involves extending Queen Street Station to a new frontage looming over George Square - and the original sensitively designed glass curtain wall has now degenerated into a sloping glass monstrosityl topped with a massive eaves projection, maybe appropriate for an airport terminal but utterly alien to the setting of George Square. That the designer of this is a qualified architect beggars belief.
Rowan Moore is on the right track - there's a well known problem with constructing filling stations anywhere that groundwater is not far below the surface, whereby - if the new underground storage tanks aren't filled with water before a concrete ground slab is cast over them - there's the very real possibility that they'll float upwards, breaking out of the backfill. So you'd think that the Farnsworth house doesn't really need elaborate hydraulics in the foundations, just carefully designed closed-cell rigid foam footings just below ground with minimal separable fill above.
Comment on: Chancellor urged mayor to fund Garden Bridge
For a Chancellor of the Exchequer to describe this bit of ill advised froth as 'iconic' suggests to me that he's been casting around for supposedly populist causes - and has perhaps succumbed, unwisely, to some rather questionable siren voices. The 'Northern Powerhouse' is one thing, but the 'Garden Bridge' is something else - and in egging on his Bullingdon pal Boris to participate in this jape he's surely stuck his neck out a good deal further than is prudent.
At first sight both Foster and Farrell's comments seem to make a lot of sense - in the context of London. But if you've ever been stuck at Schipol for half a day because London City is closed by fog, or if you've suffered from your plane ingesting a bird on take-off - or you just like estuary birds - Foster's project is unrealistic. A Thames estuary airport would likely be even more difficult of access from most of the rest of Britain (unless you fly) than Gatwick is. Gatwick's transport connections with London are not as good as Heathrow's, but adding another runway would appear to be a lot less damaging to the locale than adding one at Heathrow. Does London really need more airport runways, or is the existing capacity struggling to cope with too many transfer passengers who don't really need to go anywhere near London - or maybe even Britain?
Comment on: Ivor Smith: What makes a house a home?
I too thought that the Smithsons had a 'total disregard for humanising anything' - but was then intrigued to see their domestic interventions (in their later years) for their friend Axel Bruchhauser in his garden in Germany - the witch in his Hexenhaus looks to have been suspiciously human.
'The project is really just two planters which sit in the river' - I can't help thinking that there enough planters sitting on London pavements, demarcating outdoor eating & drinking space, without sticking a couple in the Thames - but it does lead to tempting thoughts of planting Boris & George (plus a few others) in the Thames, as a Gormley-style art installation (but biodegradable).
Comment on: RIBA and ARB ethical codes attacked
When one of the members of the ARB has all his architect partners listed as board members on his practice information you can be fairly sure that the organisation is in need of a little gentle kicking.
Helsinki is nothing like Bilbao, and although both cities share the experience of 21st century redundancy and re-invention, in Bilbao it was the heavy industrial raison d'etre of the city that was melting away, whereas in Helsinki it's the migration of shipping activity from the original 'downtown' waterfronts out to the new harbour to the east that has left a relatively small, but prominent, void in the city's built fabric. Helsinki just doesn't need a Guggenheim intervention in the way that Bilbao did, and the city councillors are absolutely right to question the impact of this proposals - I'm surprised if no-one raised the overall darkness of all the cladding - the forms are reminiscent of the Mareel Arts centre in Lerwick, at the same latitude - bur there the architects had the good sense to resist the current fashion for overall drab.
Comment on: Ivor Smith: What makes a house a home?
'Expression of the whole dwelling rather than the repetition of separate windows can order the scale of a large building' - this helped greatly to 'humanise' Park Hill, as can be seen when the deck access elevations are compared with the opposite, 'human', side. The Park Hill elevations are surely rather more successful than those of the Smithsons' Robin Hood Gardens - and if you wander around the back of King's Cross the new Saxon Court / Roseberry Mansions blocks by Maccreanor Lavington show what happens when rigorous repetition and order rule the day (at least, on the street elevations) and the influence of Louis Sullivan is obvious. But then, he wasn't designing homes for people in Chicago - and it's intriguing that the mix of housing types and communal facilities at King's Cross are in fact not that much different from that at Park Hill.
Reassuring to know that TfL's awareness of what it can do to help develop London extends beyond a very contrived vanity project - although developing its property portfolio will see money flowing in, rather than out. But I wonder what's meant by 'game-changing' - affordable housing maybe? No mention of this, and with the government determined to see social housing being flogged off cheap to tenants/developers, maybe the arithmetic wouldn't stack up and we'll see more and more residential property bought purely as an investment, to be left empty and to hell with London.
Comment on: Profits up at Urban Splash
Good to see a really inspirational developer bouncing back from the hard times of recent years, and very good for the likes of the city of Plymouth.