Robert Wakeham's Comments
So Lord Mervyn Davies thinks that there's 'huge public support' for it - forgive me - I hadn't noticed, perhaps there should be a Swiss-style national referendum to establish exactly how huge, with the costs of the referendum covered by the National Lottery, if this is such a wondrous project to enhance the setting of the Thames in the middle of our capital city and create a vital connection between north and south banks (except when closed for private junkets and during the hours of darkness) .
'The tendency for the press to put Hadid centre stage when discussing the abuse of workers in Qatar' was amply demonstrated on the BBC Radio 4 'Today' programme this morning - repeating claims of many deaths on her site (despite the BBC's own 'More or Less' programme on 6th June counselling caution in assessing the facts). Zaha denied that there'd been any deaths on her site, and was clearly appalled at the BBC's repeat of a claim that had already been discredited in court.
Comment on: Revealed: Folly for London winner
I dream of a competition for a Public Inconvenience - financed by Boris & George (courtesy of ourselves) - but it's a nightmare, because it'd probably get built.
It's interesting to compare this redevelopment with that of the St James Centre in Edinburgh's new town. In that case something drab and unprepossessing is being replaced with an eye-catching and discordant building (to put it far too politely), whereas in Manchester it seems to be almost the other way around.
Comment on: TfL grilled over ‘unfair’ Garden Bridge contest
This whole affair is threatening to become text book material for students of the power of patronage, of how a theoretically democratic organisation established in the public interest can find itself being compromised without (perhaps) realising just how pernicious the process has become. And that's just TfL - the engagement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this saga has still to be fully understood, but his enthusiasm for 'bunging' the promoters a big fat tax-break at the same time that he's putting the squeeze on tax breaks for the low paid speaks volumes. Perhaps some in the spotlight will blame the Manhattan High Line Park (and its precursor in Paris) - and the siren song of a high profile actress - for having seduced them into thinking with their hearts rather than their heads - but I doubt that the French notion of the 'Crime Passionnel' will be adequate defence.
'There's no such thing as an architect who's not on one extreme or the other' - an architect who tells a government that needs putting out to grass. Am I being 'opinionated', or is that the simple truth?
Would that there were more people like Michael Bloomberg commissioning civilised buildings - there's a desperate need in Edinburgh right now.
Comment on: TfL probe defends Garden Bridge procurement
'Lost or destroyed key documentation' - now where have I heard that before? And as for the rating of design experience, TfL is smelling of something, and it's not roses. But surely the statement that 'TfL's role in the Garden Bridge was unclear from the outset' is the killer, and if this project goes ahead - let alone if it's part financed by Boris & George looting the public purse - it'll stand as a rather naff monument to grubby government and twisted democracy.
We have a government that 'thinks of the scheme as an object' - think 'garden bridge', think 'iconic', think Boris & George, think 'what's in it for me and my pals?'
Comment on: Foster unveils plans for Rwandan ‘droneport’
If Norman Foster eventually goes to Heaven, he'll get a pat on the head from Hassan Fathy.
The history of this project surely demonstrates that the power of patronage, and privilege, are thriving - and seemingly harder to challenge in our supposedly more enlightened and democratic society than in the days of the Royal Fine Art Commission. CABE has come and gone, and we apparently have the Design Council to look to for guidance in such matters these days - they say that they conducted a design review at the pre-planning stage, but that this is not in the public domain. So, now we have a Chancellor of the Exchequer energetically promoting what he considers to be an 'icon' , and in the same breath preaching a rigorous (iconic?) brand of national austerity. He seems to think that he's inherited the mantle of the RFAC - and that deserves energetic challenge, Mr Osborne needs holding to account..
Comment on: Y:Cube by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
Interesting space planning - I wonder when Ivan Harbour last had to use a kitchenette mini sink for washing his face, outside a yacht or a caravan? - and the external stair balustrade is surely unsafe for residential access. In stark contrast the stair structure appears to be wildly over designed.
Very topical, in the current talk of rapid change on London's periphery, so are these proposals indicative of what's happening on the metropolitan fringe? The penultimate image, of the town centre as existing, indicates a pace of reassuringly human scale - and the images of the 'revamp' indicate something very different, a drastic step-change in scale that can be seen either as natural evolution in response to commercial pressures, or a massive step towards the recasting of the centre of Maidenhead as a very different place. The 'Crossrail effect'?
This piecemeal approach does seem very short sighted - and is there no thought of how to provide for a reconstructed Arch?
I see problems for the elderly and infirm, and emperors with no clothes.
Surely there's a more appropriate re-use for this fine building, or is the City of Edinburgh going to the dogs, courtesy of a complacent and perhaps philistine council? They recently ignored the advice of their planners and approved Jestico & Whiles' 'Golden Turd' in the city centre - God help Edinburgh, which deserves far more respect than some architects seem prepared to acknowledge..
Comment on: Hyde + Hyde wins planning for Welsh home
Refreshing to see images that don't assume bright sun and cloudless skies.
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?