Robert Wakeham's Comments
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.
There's a degree of underlying arrogance in the belief that this project is without doubt a great asset and in no way a disruptive imposition - and the notion that 'London has treated the Thames as an obstacle to breach' is simplistic in the extreme With work proceeding beyond the design stage, I wonder who's paying for it - is the joint commitment of £60m of public money, by Boris & George (at the same time that George is demanding the nation's books be balanced and pulling the rug from under large areas of the welfare system) already being drawn down?
How about 'the emphasis' at pavement level - what appears to be a solid (brick?) wall, utterly out of character with the rest of the street.
It's interesting to compare the new facade with those of the flanking buildings - despite the undoubted care taken by good architects to try and design in sympathy with the surounds, it really is banal in comparison. There's no image of the two office buildings being replaced, but Google Streetview shows the right hand (northerly) one to be a piece of mid 20th century banality, but the other - much older looking - building would appear to be far more in character with the street than the new proposal. Does this type of development need to be pastiche to avoid degrading the street? Surely not, it should be possible to design a new building that's neither banal nor pastiche - especially when the architects are as skilled as these.
When 5 Broadgate is 'delivered' next year it'll be interesting to see what impact this megastructure has on its surrounds.
Comment on: Foster wins Cardiff bus interchange contest
Good thing he's not a brilliant female architect, from Iraq.
New London Architecture are surely unwise to be involved with the Mayor of London when he's associated with what appears to be a rigged selection process for the designer of the proposed 'garden bridge'.
Comment on: Hall McKnight's contentious Strand plans dropped
It's important to be fair to everyone involved, but it leaves the question of whether 'meeting the brief' is sometimes followed too slavishly by those supposedly qualified to know better.
Comment on: TfL boss orders Garden Bridge review
As Heatherwick Studio's experience in bridge design is apparently limited to just one project - the 'hedgehog' novelty footbridge produced to add interest to the Paddington Basin development - presumably either Heatherwick employs architects with extensive bridge design experience from elsewhere, or it's not so much his studio as his structural consultant who has the relevant experience. Whatever the facts, at least he's not up there with Mr Johnson in the asinine riposte to Caroline Pidgeon. I'm not sure whether Mr Johnson's attitude to beauty bears close examination - and his stellar career path is beginning to display some unfortunate parallels with that of the affable Mr Blatter.
Comment on: Revealed: Gensler’s £300m Shoreditch tower
Architecture? - stacked boxes?
Comment on: Design competition urged for HS2 viaduct
Another case where the notion of a bridge as tourist attraction is being punted - but this time there's a good deal more utility, and sense, to it. Even if it's unlikely to be up there with the Millau wonder by Foster & Virlogeux.
Comment on: Expert slams Garden Bridge business case
I know what Scotland will make of it - it's really no more than a bare-faced scam, but then with Boris Johnson's involvement that's not altogether surprising. What is surprising is that some otherwise well informed and very well respected personalities in the British architectural firmament seem to have been blinded to the seamier aspects of the affair - perhaps dazzled by novelty?.
Comment on: Rogers: 'The Garden Bridge will be a jewel'
Opening up new perspectives? Surely doing more harm than good when it comes to perspectives, and it beggars belief that the rather clod-hopping 'landings' of the bridge will actually require the eradication of a good number of trees. It's surely clear that the function of a bridge providing a useful and reliable link for people across the river is in direct conflict with the restrictions imposed on access to a garden that requires protection, careful maintenance and closure at night - and when required for private garden parties. Hardly a 'vital new connection', and the argument - however seductive - that it'll be another Manhattan Highline is not comparing apples with apples.
Sorry, 'Historic England'.
So far so good, but just how dysfunctional is English Heritage?
I just wonder about the bridge trust's 'projected annual revenue surplus' and their 'robust business plan'. That, plus the blatant double-speak from the mayor's office, makes me suspect that the real scenario would have the 'commercial activities' crowding out the public access to the point where the bridge would really only be a very, very obtrusive private pleasure garden. And the taxpayers' very considerable commitments would create not so much a safety net for the bridge as a trampoline for Boris.
I just don't understand how seasoned politicians like Boris Johnson and George Osborne can continue to root for a very high profile 'boutique' project that offers little more than novelty value when it involves their committing £60 million of public funds while at the same time rooting around squeezing the lifeblood out of public services to reduce the national debt. They seem to share the notion that the bridge will be a tourist attraction, and an advertisement for British design ingenuity. They might also like to consider the implications of what seems to be a blatantly dishonest procurement process and profligate use of scarce public funds to create an essentially private folly. This is such a glaring faux-pas that it might just be the 'straw that breaks the camel's back' as far as the 'United' Kingdom is concerned, given the widespread contempt in Scotland for what some call 'Wastemonster'.
Looks as if 'the emperor's new clothes' have at last been rumbled.
Comment on: Corbusier: the architecture and the man
The reference to William JR Curtis's mention of 'messy contracts and estimates' touches on the (untold?) history of just how Corbusier's more exotic works came to be costed, tendered and actually built. I once asked the manager of the shop at Ronchamp whether there'd been much difficulty in finding a builder for the church - not only did she not know, it was clear that she'd never been asked that question.