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In pictures: architects gather for AJ Kiosk crit

After months of research, sketching and model-making, all six concepts for the AJ Kiosk design project came under one roof for a packed crit yesterday

In a two-tier event Adam Architecture, AHMM, Eric Parry, Hopkins, Studio Weave and Zaha Hadid presented their designs in a closed no-holds-barred crit at the Building Centre in Central London.

As well as defending their designs and answering probing questions from Mayoral adviser Daniel Moylan, critics Charles Knevitt and Jay Merrick, Daisy Froud of the AOC and architect Russell Curtis of RCKa, the debate threw up bigger issues such as the environmental damage caused by plastic bottles and whether health paranoia would stop people using public fountains.

With the crit over the architects regrouped at the Building Centre for a party, the centre-piece of which was an exhibition of the kiosk entries complete with highly detailed laser-printed models and drawing.

Then, in front of an enrapt audience that was clearly taken aback by the effort and respect afforded by the architects to the challenge, the architects rattled through a series of free-flowing pecha kucha-style presentations.

Paul O’Connell, a trustee of the Drinking Fountain Association and founder of pressure group findafountain.org, said the event underlined the need for more public drinking fountains.

‘This event is a real start. There are not enough fountains, people don’t know where they are and if they are there they are too often in the wrong place,’ he said.

Kiosk, which was devised by the AJ for Turkishceramics, will be on display at the Building Centre, Store Street until 14 March.

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Zaha Hadid Architects’ Kiosk design

The Crit

While the Pecha Kucha was a celebration of six designs that showcased work from practices at the top of their game, the earlier crit threw up some tough questions, and swords were frequently crossed in a surprisingly candid debate.

Jay Merrick kicked off his appraisal of AHMM’s utilitarian design by wondering if he heard ‘the whine of a dentist’s drill…’

But London Matyoral adviser Daniel Moylan countered: ‘Rather than the dentist’s chair; with its single foot, offering up a single arm it has an R2D2-friendly human aspect to it. ’

All present were agog at the intricacy of George Saumarez Smith of Adam Architecture’s handmade linocuts for his tiles which featured deep blue silhouettes of plastic water bottles and drops of water; but AOC’s Daisy Froud wondered if the design could be mistaken for ‘a monument to the death of public service.’

Coming to the defense of Smith, critic Charles Knevitt said ‘This one I would avoid (referring to AHMM’s design which won the AJ’s online pole), but I find [Smith’s design] much more attractive to use. ‘

Knevitt then dropped a bombshell by wondering if many of the designs had failed to meet the brief: ‘Kiosks should be enclosed,’ he said.

Moylan was having none of it though: ‘I think you are being very cheeky Charles… be a bit more positive, it is perfectly obvious what they are.’

Next up were Eric Parry and Hopkins’ Ken Hood.

Parry’s shimmering block-like kiosk with its space for a retailer, fountains, benches and protection from the elements contrasted sharply with Hopkins’ bloom-like design; the profile of which Hood likened to the gentle curve of a tube station wall or doner meat on a rotating spit.

Merrick liked the oily red and black tiles on Parry’s ‘bold’ design: ‘In a world where wood is like plastic and plastic is like wood and bricks look unearthly you have ramped up the sensuality of the surfaces.’

‘I am in favour of this,’ he added.

And Knevitt agreed: ‘We’re getting closer to a sense of enclosure; it is an interesting reinterpretation of Islamic tradition.’

But Froud said she feared that Hopkins’ design, (shown on the South Bank), could be guilty of ‘grandstanding’ and ‘imposing in a land grabbing way.’

Moylan though said both Parry’s and Hopkins’ designs were beautiful, with the latter allowing ‘more people to drink at the same time…separated by the flute, but still able to keep peripheral eye contact’.

Prefaced by a speech that included the startling fact that a plastic bottle bought today would take until 2414 to decay, Studio Weave’s Maria Smith then presented the practice’s ‘watering pole’ before Saffet Bekiroglu of Zaha Hadid Architects took to the stage to explain his firm’s shell like form.

The critics liked Maria’s take on the watering hole of old transmuting into a modern watering pole, or as Nevitt described it, ‘an urban totem pole’ and Froud applauded the design’s ‘lack of fuss’ and there was unanimous approval of Bekiroglu’s emphasis on the importance of being able to hear the water flowing in the fountain.

Parry, who singled out the ‘clarity of industrial design’ in AHMM’s concept described the event as a ‘rare opportunity to see close up the work of five other teams which come from very different positions’.

‘It has been like a first year project,’ said Parry, ‘there has been something fantastic about it,’ he added.

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