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Atticus 's comments

  • Lancaster Uni launches ‘radical’ new school for activist architects

    Atticus 's comment 27 October, 2019 2:33 pm

    It would be a radical move to teach them some basic construction knowledge so that they are competent enough to earn a decent wage when they leave. After interviewing at least 30 architects over the past 8 years I have only met 2 who could describe what a vapour barrier is and where it goes. That's an indictment on an inadequate education system.

  • Former RIBA president joins call to revoke Boris’s fellowship

    Atticus 's comment 30 September, 2019 9:24 am

    I can't think of a bigger waste of time than getting embroiled in this. Its just time wasting by the left leaning London Bubble members of the profession. I'd far rather the RIBA got on with promoting the benefits of employing an architect rather than raising this honour that's unknown in the public eye into that arena, which could end up embroiling the next presidency just like the pointlessly distracting Africa debacle embroiled Hodder's. However, let it be a lesson for the future: don't give honours to politicians, its too controversial and their standing can rapidly change, and is irrelevant to the health and prospects of the profession.

  • As it happened: the AJ’s report from the Climate Strike protests

    Atticus 's comment 20 September, 2019 10:41 pm

    To all the school kids going on 'strike' for Climate Change:
    You are the first generation who have required air-conditioning in every classroom.
    You want TV in every room and your classes are all computerised.
    You spend all day and night on electronic devices.
    More than ever, you don't walk or ride bikes to school but arrive in caravans of private cars that choke local roads and worsen rush hour traffic.
    You are the biggest consumers of manufactured goods ever and update perfectly good expensive luxury items to stay trendy,
    Your entertainment comes from electric devices.
    Furthermore, the people driving your protests are the same people who insist on artificially inflating the population growth through immigration, which increases the need for energy, manufacturing and transport.
    The more people we have, the more forest and bushland we clear and more of the environment is destroyed.
    How about this...
    Tell your teachers to switch off the air-con.
    Walk or ride to school. Switch off your devices and read a book.
    Make a sandwich instead of buying manufactured fast food.
    No, none of this will happen because you are selfish, badly educated, virtue signalling little 'princesses', inspired by the adults around you who crave a feeling of having a 'noble cause' while they indulge themselves in Western luxury and unprecedented quality of life.
    Wake up, grow up and learn to research facts and think for yourself and not blindly accept the words and thoughts of others - I don't think you formulated this action plan all by your self - suspect you may have had some influence and 'guidance' from those you trust ....a word of warning, be cautious of the influence of the 'left' because there may be a time in the future that you will be the ones left out...

  • Amin Taha wins appeal against Clerkenwell Close demolition order

    Atticus 's comment 15 August, 2019 10:54 am

    Alan Powers, did you not notice that the rough faces on the stonework have to be taken off and made smooth, being judged intrusive by the inspector. So an innovative design, which like many of Taha's is not for repeating, but as a stand alone is quirky and representative of our culture, has to be neutered because it is judged too dominant. I detect "dominant" as a euphemism for "offends a minority". In an open society some will always be offended, and they have to learn to deal with it. The planning system is becoming too intolerant and imposing mediocrity in its drive for blancmange solutions.

  • Climate strike backed by RIBA president and UK Green Building Council

    Atticus 's comment 14 August, 2019 6:25 pm

    Well said MacKenzie Architects. I an no denier, but nobody has produced the evidence other than a simplistic opinion that because the planet is currently changing at the same time as we kick out more carbon, the one must cause the other. Like if you walked down a street at the same time as a murder you must have done it. In the panic to virtue signal with the sheeple the increasing overwhelming SCIENTIFIC evidence is missed, namely that non-manmade events create most of climate change, if not all. The extent to which man is contributing is unknown. The evidence is that we should be concentrating on adapting to cope with the unavoidable rather than self flagellatingly following a cult. If you doubt me, investigate the effect of sunspot cycles, the c27000 year precession of the earths axis, and meteor/asteroid impact effects. Particularly the Younger Drias and Burckle Crater events. And on youtube, Randall Carlson and Piers Corbyn, Jeremy's far more intelligent brother.

  • ‘Inappropriate dormers’: Hawkins\Brown’s King’s Cross warehouse revamp blocked

    Atticus 's comment 13 August, 2019 1:39 pm

    Quite frankly this is an outrageous decision, showing yet again the intellectual bankruptcy of the deeper parts of the planning system. I worked on the 1980's refurb of these buildings, including the additional new blocks, with David Bickle, who became one of the 3 main original partners of Hawkins Brown slightly afterwards. He had exceptional design skill, touched by magic. The scheme was pioneering in an area not safe to walk in at night, full of pimps, prostitutes and drug dealers. Kings Cross has come a long way since then and its time to consolidate and intensify use and open the ground floor to back of pavement mixed use instead of the defensive frontage we created. Not least is one benefit that intensification provides more money to invest in good regeneration. This building is locally listed, a reason to protect its general contribution to the depth of history and diversity of the local setting. I don't think that can be argued with. But not a reason to preserve it in aspic and prevent well considered intensification and adaption to contain the increasingly diverse content of buildings in the area. Those dormers are a sensitive contemporary intervention that I and many others would judge to be excellent. Unusually the full frontal cgi is a disastrous representation and cannot have helped it. I detect the overly anti-change small mindedness of those unable to grasp design and commercial concepts as they evolve through time, instead regressing into a historic comfort zone at all costs. A good job the planning system wasn't around when London was 4 huts on a bridge. We'd still be building in mud and thatch with a maximum height of 3m and wearing loin cloths.

  • Ultra-low RIBA elections turnout is ‘wake-up call’, says former president

    Atticus 's comment 2 August, 2019 10:10 am

    I voted. But only just. The list of candidates didn't inspire. The only candidate statement I had any faith in was Alfred Munkenbeck. Also the only architect of note and worldly experience. Most of the others gave the impression of "those who do, do, and those who don't, sit for council" Over simplification and ungracious to some, but when a candidates opening words are about diversity in the profession I turned off.
    We aren’t good self-publicists and we are being marginalised and underappreciated. The general tendency for architects on council to be from marginal areas and more interested in peripheral issues than correcting those 2 factors diminishes us. Kevin McLeod has done more for my practice than anything the RIBA has done in recent years. He publicises and emphasises our benefit in a highly public arena. We need the RIBA to do this. It’s of primary importance. If we regain exposure and mass appreciation, correcting other things that marginalise will follow, often by default. I would make him honorary vice president. We need full page ads and internet advertising in mainstream media, Youtube publicity to intercept clients at an early stage, as an education programme like consumer product manufacturers do. People know more about their car purchase than their house, which costs far more.
    Most architects work in small practices without the budget to do this, and so the RIBA, as a central body, should and can. I would pay double the subscription if it did so effectively.
    Not currently interested in a deprived kid getting a shot at university when the profession is under such threat. They'd be financially better off doing something else anyway. Or equality agendas that don't carry out worthwhile multivalent analysis rather than just looking at pay. This is all internal virtue signalling missing the elephant in the room, namely the smaller practice end of the profession is going down the pan and wrt the profession as a whole, the public don't understand what we do or the value of it. End of rant, got to get back to working for nothing!

  • Mayor rejects ‘unwelcoming, poorly designed’ Tulip

    Atticus 's comment 15 July, 2019 4:26 pm

    As Paul Finch rightly points out, this is a suspiciously political and not an urban design vote based on sound aesthetic and other applicable principals (which Paul notes the mayor has proven by previous example that "he", ie his advisors, haven't got). The historicist lobby would always rather see London preserved in aspic, and not attractive for the future, which to some extent has a valuable input into the debate. Fortunately town planning control only appeared as late as 1948 or they would be campaigning for it to remain as 3 mud huts on a bridge "because anything bigger would be out of scale". I detect shallow virtue signalling by the climate change snowflakes.
    Rant deflection shields deployed!

  • Building study: Glasgow flats by Graeme Nicholls Architects

    Atticus 's comment 13 July, 2019 11:36 am

    Grim. Another bleak-house from the current crop of colourless hairshirt architects. This kind of stuff only serves to further alienate the profession from the public's respect and patronage. Not a humanising detail or visually rich material in sight. Please photograph it on a dreary wet and windy Glasgow day when tear shapes of soaked brick emanate down from the inadequate roof overhangs. This is graphic design not architecture. The insides look like an end of life prison or Soviet Gulag. Not impressed, when Glasgow has such a heritage of great urban architects, the likes of Salmon, Mackintosh and J.J.Burnet, who grappled with and succeeded in creating a humanist expression of the façade, and in particular Alexander "Greek" Thomson who mastered the tenement façade, which this claims to be a successor of.
    The so-called inspiring representational "narrative" is feeble to the extreme in realisation. Better to concentrate on the design and forget the BS justification.

  • Barking blaze: Fire experts had warned balconies were ‘significant hazard’

    Atticus 's comment 21 June, 2019 10:22 am

    Robert Wakeham: Major housebuilders and other developers save on architects fees by employing them to do the bare minimum and leaving subcontractor, often without design responsibility, and their own design managers to maintain continuity. If the initial architect was impoverished enough by the process they will have put in their specs/prelims that their work is design intent only, is not a final solution for construction and it is the responsibility of others to ensure regulatory and other requirements are met. Because their work is not as highly skilled as a full design service they will have also used cheaper and less experienced staff. This fragmentation and de-skilling looses the thread of an overall strategy for matters such as fire, if it was established in the first place anyway. We have worked as subcontractors designer in a major development and found that the process missed out what used to be stage E where strategy was defined. The client had refused to pay for it. We inherited a mess and as conscientious professionals our analysis and influence had to be exerted way beyond the package we were detailing, with an enhanced appointment, to be able to do that. This doesn't always happen, and gaps in thinking occur. The "blame" in our instance lay between the major client, who wouldn't pay for stage E, and the contractor who wouldn't do likewise at the beginning of his work and was under financial imperative to start on site imediately. Not having an equivalent to the old RIBA stage E in the current scope of works does not help. This is a regular occurence, and Building Control bodies don't wade in to demand it.
    Strictly speaking timber is an unsuitable material externally where fire resistance is required, because there isn't an available treatment that can be guaranteed not to deteriorate with weathering. Most building control officers accept treatments. Only a few are sticklers and will not. Weexhaustively tried to find a product and could not.

  • ‘Without instant action the Architects Declare paper promise is meaningless’

    Atticus 's comment 13 June, 2019 9:14 pm

    Notwithstanding I agree with Walter Menteth, this is a typical AJ virtue signalling campaign, missing rather than hitting head on the really big issues. As usual its China. So although setting an example by "little acorns" in the UK may be good, why not campaign for a carbon tax on all Chinese imports and investments, to bring them in line with the carbon tax targets of the west? This graph shows how UK CO2 emissions are but a pimple on the elephantine CO2 output of China.
    Go stand in Tiananmen square and protest, or at least do it in front of the Chinese Embassy, rather than virtue signalling by blocking Regents Street. Or at least rally a pressure group to get our government to do that.

  • Residents call for removal of timber cladding after fire at Barking Riverside

    Atticus 's comment 11 June, 2019 10:11 am

    ps, the last line of my comment above is from 2017, being the end of that quote.

  • Residents call for removal of timber cladding after fire at Barking Riverside

    Atticus 's comment 11 June, 2019 10:08 am

    Re Sam Webb’s pertinent comment in the article, on 14/08/2017 I wrote the following. It still appears that fear of blame is holding up sensible measures, not least checks on ALL cladding types already installed. Particularly that only surface spread of flame was required, not incombustibility, if a fire resistant backing wall was present. And that for many reasons culpability probably lies, as the Webb notes, with a series of ministers and their advisers. My comments are not just about Grenfell type cladding, but about the whole issue of the Building Regulations, fire and the building envelope.
    “14/08/2017:-Your article notes that "some aluminium composite cladding complies with Building Regulations". It’s about time the AJ got its facts right. The cladding panel used on the Grenfell tower meets the CURRENT Building Regulations because it was certified class 0 by Warrington. The test certificate was available on the internet. The regs are so badly written that the term "filler" was not generally interpreted to, and probably not intended to, apply to the cladding panel, but only the cavity behind. The panel only needs to be class 0 rather than non-combustible. When the Association Of Building Control officers issued an advisory note on this several years ago they inadvertently changed the wording to correct the regs without drawing direct attention to it. Over 6 years ago the minister was asked in the strongest terms to change the regs and refused to treat it as an urgent matter, see below. The AJ dedicated to the Grenfell fire did not confront this salient and primary matter. Culpability lies there with the minister. The Building Regulations continue to allow the flammable panel to be used, (14/08/2017), several months after the fire, even though everyone now knows the panel’s shortcomings.

    20 June 2017 London Loves Business Article:
    “The BBC has seen letters that show four separate government ministers were warned that fire regulations were not keeping people safe.
    The leaked letters show experts warning that those living in tower blocks like Grenfell Tower were “at risk”.
    At least 79 people are dead or missing presumed dead after the fire last week.
    Panorama has also learned that firefighters put out the initial flat fire in Grenfell Tower - but couldn’t stop the flames spreading outside.
    Leaked letters
    The letters show experts have been worried about fire safety in tower blocks for years.
    Following a fatal fire in Lakanal House in south London in 2009, a series of recommendations were made to keep people safe.
    They were ignored. The government promised a review of regulations in 2013, but it still hasn’t happened.
    Panorama has obtained a dozen letters sent by the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety and Rescue Group.
    Informed by experts, they warned the government they “could not afford to wait for another tragedy”.
    Four ministers received letters but didn’t strengthen the regulations.
    Ronnie King, a former chief fire officer who sits on the group, says the government has ignored repeated warnings about tower block safety.
    “We have spent four years saying ‘Listen, we have got the evidence, we’ve provided you with the evidence, there is clear public opinion towards this, you ought to move on this’,” said Mr King.
    After six people were killed at Lakanal House in 2009, the coroner made a series of safety recommendations for the government to consider.
    Ministers promised a review in 2013, but it was soon delayed.
    In March 2014, the parliamentary group wrote: “Surely… when you already have credible evidence to justify updating… the guidance… which will lead to saving of lives, you don’t need to wait another three years in addition to the two already spent since the research findings were updated, in order to take action?
    “As there are estimated to be another 4,000 older tower blocks in the UK, without automatic sprinkler protection, can we really afford to wait for another tragedy to occur before we amend this weakness?”
    After further correspondence, the then government minister - Liberal Democrat MP Steven Williams - replied: “I have neither seen nor heard anything that would suggest that consideration of these specific potential changes is urgent and I am not willing to disrupt the work of this department by asking that these matters are brought forward.”
    The group replied to say they “were at a loss to understand, how you had concluded that credible and independent evidence which had life safety implications, was NOT considered to be urgent”.
    “As a consequence the group wishes to point out to you that should a major fire tragedy, with loss of life occur between now and 2017, in for example, a residential care facility or a purpose built block of flats, where the matters which had been raised here, were found to be contributory to the outcome, then the group would be bound to bring this to others’ attention.”
    The letters were written before the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower.
    Former cabinet minister Eric Pickles received a letter about fire regulations from the parliamentary group in February 2014.
    He had also been asked to look at fire safety in February 2013 and March 2013 by two separate coroners, investigating two tower block fires.
    In December 2015, the all-party group wrote to the former Conservative minister James Wharton, and warned about the risk of fires spreading on the outside of buildings with cladding.
    “Today’s buildings have a much higher content of readily available combustible material. Examples are timber and polystyrene mixes in structure, cladding and insulation…
    “This fire hazard results in many fires because adequate recommendations to developers simply do not exist. There is little or no requirement to mitigate external fire spread.”
    Further calls for action were made to former Conservative minister Gavin Barwell, now Theresa May’s top aide, in September last year.
    In November 2016, Mr Barwell replied to say his department had been looking at the regulations, and would make a statement “in due course”.
    The fire experts asked for the government statement to be brought forward.
    In April 2017, Gavin Barwell wrote to say he did “acknowledge that producing a statement on building regulations has taken longer than I had envisaged”.
    The government today said there was still no timetable for a review.

  • House extension rules made permanent to cut ‘time-consuming red tape’

    Atticus 's comment 29 May, 2019 8:51 am

    Bryan Davies, completely wrong. In the green belt around Guildford, Woking and Mole Valley, town planning has become totally intellectually bankrupt in its approach to extensions in the green belt. When a house has previously been extended to the maximum allowed in the Green Belt, Permitted Development Rights often remain and enable householders to build extensions which would otherwise be refused. Such refusals are made on floor area alone, even when they may be hidden from all angles by being, say, in the inner angle of an "L" shaped plan, and thus not "harmful to the openness of the green belt", one of the principal policy reasons for refusal. Guildford have even rejected a basement, completely concealed beneath the house, because it was deemed "harmful to the Green Belt", which bis absolutely not the case, hence my argument that Town Planning officers are now intellectually bankrupt, have lost the spirit of green belt policy, and are enacting extreme interpretations without applying reasonable judgement. Therefore PD has become an essential element to side-step their lack of reason. For those working in the above areas we are now being refused planning applications for extensions within the Green Belt Max floor area and completely acceptable, because PD rights remain elsewhere on the property and would, if built after approval of the applied for extension but before its construction, extend the house beyond the Green Belt proportional maximum. Approval conditions to remove PD rights are not considered as counter-measures because removal has virtually never been upheld at appeal.

  • Weekend roundup: Hawkins\Brown – no more Mr Nice Guys

    Atticus 's comment 18 May, 2019 9:16 am

    ps, I think its such a crass headline, you owe an apology.

  • Weekend roundup: Hawkins\Brown – no more Mr Nice Guys

    Atticus 's comment 18 May, 2019 9:13 am

    The AJ's comment "no more Mr Nice Guys" is quite frankly disingenuous and outrageous and expresses completely the depths into the "Woke" and SJW culture that the AJ has sunk.
    These guys are running a business, a very successful and humane one. As businesses grow there are points in time where the needs change radically and a different range of skills are required. In order to continue, change has to take place or the business will falter. It isn't always possible to foresee that and have a perfect plan ahead of time to ensure it all goes smoothly without such consequences. So grow up AJ and get world-wise instead of Woke-dim, shooting cheap headlines out without proper research and reasoning. And most of all without being fair to the accused. I recall when Fosters went from a small practice with in house consultants to a big practice, and all the in house electrical and mechanical engineers were shed at once, and large external consultancies took their place. Those engineers were good, so they set up new businesses and became successful themselves. Its life, get used to it AJ and report it with due respect.

  • Scruton sacked as chair of beauty watchdog over ‘unacceptable comments’

    Atticus 's comment 10 April, 2019 5:27 pm

    McKenzie Architects are correct.
    This is basically oppression of free speech. And we should all know where that slippery slope has lead in the past. Tyrannical regimes that in the last century killed over 250m people. Who is to judge and how are the boundaries between what’s "acceptable" and "unacceptable" defined. That’s a very dangerous one to attempt to answer.
    This is not hateful speech.
    His statement about the Muslim Brotherhood is factually correct. His statement about Hungary, Soros and Victor Orban is factually correct. His statement about the Chinese is an amusing personal point of view that can be accepted or discarded without having to be “triggered” or "offended".
    Freedom of Speech is not just another principle. It's the mechanism by which we keep our psyches and our societies organized, and we have to be unbelievably careful about infringing upon that.
    The generally negative comments represent an elitist media caste that is obstructing a great populist revolution. This caste is spectacularly ignorant of what constitutes a progressive civilisation. They reduce human interaction to tedious name-calling between the “woke” and the “red-pilled”, awake to the truth of reality.
    It cannot be said too often that the first amendment to the United States constitution was adopted with the explicit purpose of protecting minority opinion. Though we have no such jurisprudential protection in Britain, and we – like most democratic societies – curtail speech that is libellous, incites imminent violence or whips up racial hatred, our inherited presumption in favour of free expression is more important than ever. A pluralistic, diverse society needs more free speech, not less. It needs fewer safe spaces and bans, and more civility and resilience.
    Now, I know what some of you are thinking: what right does a white, middle-class, straight, cis male like Scruton have to say anything about this? And the answer is: he should say what he likes, within the law, and so should you.
    Object that “speech is violence”, and I reply: tell that to the 262 reporters who, according to the Committee To Protect Journalists were imprisoned last year – a record high. It has become fashionable to claim that the wrong kind of words can cause damage to our “neural circuitry”. To which I say – really? Are we really going down the road where speech is included in the same category as fists and batons? Because once you allow that philosophical elision, you essentially ditch the Enlightenment – which, speaking for myself, I still find quite handy to have about the place.
    Of all the delusions that grip our fractious era, one of the worst is the confident belief that greater restriction of speech will necessarily serve progressive ends. I see no logic in that whatsoever. Everyone finds something objectionable or upsetting. It would be a moment of maximum peril if the primary test applied to expression became its capacity to offend. Why assume that those setting the rules would necessarily support the powerless or the disenfranchised? The injunction “You can’t say that” leads just as plausibly to Margaret Atwood’s Gilead or to Oceania.
    To be a citizen is to engage, and as an intellectual Scruton is a model of that engagement. Unless you believe that history has a self-evident direction – and it really doesn’t – you must accept that almost all progress is achieved by the hard grind of negotiation, tough debate and busy pluralism. The aphasia of “no-platform” and the bedlam of the digital mob add nothing to the mix. To quote the great African-American scholar Henry Louis Gates: let them talk.

  • Proctor & Matthews ‘disappointed’ to be replaced as Thamesmead goes D&B

    Atticus 's comment 23 March, 2019 10:49 am

    A note to Paul Finch. Unless the employers requirements in the contract are sufficiently strong in defining what is required, usually a full old school stage E set of prototype detail requirements, and the contractor has not been allowed to circumvent or dilute them in his contractors proposals at tender stage, there will be insufficient contractual requirements to enable an Employers Representative Architect to have adequate control and influence. They can only work within the terms of the contract.

  • Proctor & Matthews ‘disappointed’ to be replaced as Thamesmead goes D&B

    Atticus 's comment 23 March, 2019 10:28 am

    What seems to be misunderstood in the comments is that whether its Proctor Matthews novated or Fourpoint working for the contractor, the imperative on quality in D&B is with the contractor rather than the client.
    Its highly unusual in such scenarios for an adequate Employers Requirements to have been provided to enable adequate control, as the client will not wish to pay the original architect to do a full, old school, stage E. And the contractor will not have been required to submit the equivalent of Stage E in his tender contractors proposals to enable standards to be negotiated and fixed in the tender. I hope I'm wrong in the this and the converse is the case. Durkan will have had to dumb down in order to win the tender and then later to put a profit back on it. You cannot fault them for this, its the scenario Peabody's naivety has set in motion.
    So it all ends up like Churchill placing Montgomery under Rommel's command on the eve of El Alamein. Pure insanity. Peabody have entered a lottery. They will get the result they deserve. Good or, more likely, not as good or bad. Unfortunately for Peabody very few if any housing architects have the skill to achieve the detailed design quality that Proctor Matthews consistently achieve when they continue through all stages of design realisation.

  • RIBA drops International Women’s Day cookery class after backlash

    Atticus 's comment 4 March, 2019 9:38 am

    Dear RIBA,
    My practice is 50-50 male female, with pay on merit. What we do need is for the RIBA to promote the value of architects to potential clients in the loudest way possible in the mainstream media channels. This way we may command better fees to be able to pay better salaries to all. Get to the root causes and not just pay. And stop just looking at equality in the workplace through the singular analysis of pay. Its far more complicated and needs a thorough multivalent analysis.

  • Architects being ‘pressured’ into opting out of Working Time Directive

    Atticus 's comment 2 March, 2019 9:47 am

    Paul Lewis is on the right tack.
    Once again the AJ's shallow SJW warrior journalism looks at penalising for the symptoms rather than burrowing down a few layers for real ways to stop the cause of this problem.
    I run my own small practice. I employ quality staff and pay them a decent wage. Most potential clients see us as a commodity and take the lowest bidder. We don't do that work. We market ourselves as adding value, reducing risk and start early to try and build such "can only go with you" compulsion in a client that we get +better valued and can charge more. The problem is the lack of appreciation of what architects value is to a project. As a small practice we cannot change the perception of a nation, neither can a trade magazine like the AJ.
    But the RIBA can. I would double my subscription to the RIBA if it embarked on a national campaign in all the most visible media to educate potential clients out there the value of architects and the need to pay well. If you go to Foster and Partners and want Norman on your job you pay a large premium.
    So for a while RIBA, less concentration on SJW campaigns and more effort on the root cause of those symptoms, directed towards educating the client base out there in the most visible ways possible. Just like car manufacturers do about their products. McLoud has done more for our business with Grand Designs programme and magazine than the RIBA have done in the 40 years I've been a member. I vote McLoud for RIBA president next time round.

  • Weekend roundup: A broken political system

    Atticus 's comment 23 February, 2019 10:34 am

    The Grimshaw building is grim, a blight on the public realm at pavement level where it presents no active or attractive frontage, only tat, wire fence and barbed security measures, more appropriate to the back of an industrial estate. for an excellent critique on such affronts to the public realm watch this. https://www.ted.com/talks/james_howard_kunstler_dissects_suburbia?language=en

  • Gender pay gap 2019: Foster + Partners reports small improvement

    Atticus 's comment 24 January, 2019 11:28 am

    This continual showcasing of a single factor, pay, is lazy journalism and meaningless without a multi-valent analysis of all the factors involved. Women make different life choices and as a whole have different aptitudes and skillset potential than men, although everything is nuanced and nothing is a 100% rule. I suggest the AJ carry out a detail analysis and updates across many influencing factors. That would be a really useful tool in, eg, helping to stop the marginalisation of women trying to get back into architecture after having young children, and determining what proportion of roles in architecture are suitable for each of men and women. It may find out that there are less suitable roles in the profession for the MAJORITY of women, not withstanding some will be better than men in the more "masculine" roles. Admit it, men and women are different. There, I've opened a hornets nest, but the default rejection of this without scientific evidence is getting tiresome. ps, our practice is 60% female at present, slightly under resourced in technical skill, and pay is by skill not gender.

  • Brexit deal defeat: Profession left ‘in an impossible situation’

    Atticus 's comment 16 January, 2019 6:46 pm

    Well said Paul. Our 2 European employees, one Sardinian, one Greek, are totally unfazed and glad to be here instead of in bankrupted Euro currency land. The Greek one hasn't a good thing to say about the EU, who are the cause of her exile to the UK to gain work. Less of the hysterical poorly researched rantings of the South East bubble inhabitants and more dispassionate in depth analysis, including reporting about the wider issues of Brexit please AJ.

  • Budget 2018: Hammond set to further loosen permitted development rules

    Atticus 's comment 30 October, 2018 10:37 am

    This is an ugly sticking plaster solution to the severe problem arising with the intellectually bankrupt planning system. Left to evolve naturally, conurbations intensify as the population increases. Where intensification occurs, an "invasion and succession" process of core uses replacing peripheral uses takes place, usually at much greater densities. On the other hand planning policy, and the manner in which it is tied up in local politics, increasingly flies in the face of this due to short term-ism and local political expediency. The planning system and its guiding policy does not adequately acknowledge this, instead increasingly tries to preserve a status quo. An intellectual bankrupcy and lack of appropriate oversight on the part of the planning system. Solving this by the blunt device of PDR is not appropriate. The way policy is evolved needs an overhaul. For instance, in the image above of possible sites, I lead the renovation of a building on the camera side of the piazza in front of Westminster Cathedral. There was no way the local planning dept would let us extend upwards, yet its shown as having a blue 2 storey uplift. I would say it should have more. Hence why I opened saying the blunt weapon of PDR to overcome the inappropriate local planning response is a sticking plaster not a solution. A more reasoned and intellectually considered approach is required, to encouraging or even demanding intensification when a building is renovated after 60 years of existence, to match population demands for the following 60 years

  • RIBA Stirling Prize reaction: ‘The money wins it’

    Atticus 's comment 11 October, 2018 9:21 am

    I wholeheartedly agree with Phil Parker. The mean mouthed social justice warrior reviews chosen above by the AJ and RIBA establishment, to the exclusion of others, does nothing to celebrate the spectacular things that architects can achieve that others cannot. The creation of a design company that can orchestrate such a building is not born overnight and it takes a determined and single- minded profession-leader to do it. So celebrate it instead of showing bitching envy. I think the pier was most unappealing and had none of the design bravura of a great Victorian pier. It didn't create a memorable icon and went un-noticed to the broader public nationally, and in that sense didn't have the ability to act as a flagship to show the public that architects should be used instead of the rag tag of others who are invading our role with less inspired outcomes. A tad harsh, but if the RIBA is to front the BUSINESS of architecture so that we can all prosper, it needs to seriously re-consider how it can affect the level of mediocrity in the areas where the bulk of the profession work: monster cottage private housing and dreary workplace buildings. Areas that are sneered at by the overtly left leaning sjw architectural media and institutions. However, I would applaud some of the above reviewers such as Alan Dunlop who straddle the divide with good outcomes.

  • John Pardey appeals after New Forest Council refuses lakefront house

    Atticus 's comment 10 September, 2018 11:22 am

    We are encountering the same issues. Planning policies intended to protect for instance the "Openness" of the Green Belt, ie urban sprawl and ribbon development as it manifest itself in the 1930's, now being interpreted to prevent sensible intensification by enlarging existing properties. This has reached its ultimate absurdity where Guildford have rejected a completely buried and hidden basement as being damaging to the greenbelt. There are many rural 1930's bungalow estates which could be intensified without damaging the green belt, yet enhancements are refused on the basis of proportional increase alone rather than subjective assessment. Planning officers have become jobsworths, applying rules like a script, without any rational basis other than to protect themselves from criticism. This is not helping the housing crisis or mobility of labour. In this regard the planning proffession has lost its way and become intellectually bankrupt, delegating decision making to appeals that are often awarded against the councills decisions (ref recent AJ article citing the huge number of residential planning approvals won at appeal). Having attended planning committee mtgs recently I have been astounded by the inadequacy of the members to understand the complex issues they are dealing with and to make decisions based upon personal bigotry and political bias rather than acting as custodians of a fit for purpose planning system. All the result of the govt opting out of responsibility and leaving NIMBYsm to take too high a profile in decision making. A complete dichotomy of central government mindset considering that the UK population is increasing by 1m every 3 years, 85% due to immigration (govt's own statistics).

  • Fletcher Crane submits plans for black cement bungalow in Surbiton

    Atticus 's comment 4 September, 2018 10:01 am

    Great plan. Perfect synopsis of contemporary clients ideal living requirements. Great job. Rising stars. Watch this space...……………...

  • Why I felt I had to quit BDP after maternity leave

    Atticus 's comment 3 September, 2018 9:49 pm

    I was purposefully provocative and wrote from personal experience. Nobody could be any more accommodating than me. What the snowflakes on here have missed is that my practice goes to great lengths to accommodate parenting architects, male and female, but in the end too many of those who we try to accommodate with contrivances of flexibility just dump us in the poo. And its usually unavoidable from their part. But we still end up in the poo. A point that none of the self righteously myopic "have it all" respondents have acknowledged. Whats interesting is the fathers who have worked tight hours to do the school and nursery runs for wives with more distant commuting jobs, have all made up any time lost to inconvenience and child sickness by making up later in the evening or weekend on our remote access computer network. To a one, the women haven't. This is just fact, not a fictitious slight against women. Jordan Peterson bears this out by quoted statistics. Men tend to work harder and have greater conscientiousness. And as one respondent noted, I was careful to qualify with "some women". I've known extremely conscientious women architects who've outpaced their male colleagues and risen to the top because of it. You get out what you put in. Its a meritocracy, not a socialist state legislating for equality of outcome and all the unproductive consequences that entails.
    PS, the AJ survey of equality of employment based upon pay alone doesn't pass first base as a scientific study because it doesn't take into account all the complex issues at play in its topic. So as to end in a constructive note, it would be really interesting if a survey of a comprehensive list of issues that influence equality in the architectural workplace were to be carried out. That may throw light on how the profession can best help...or not... But I fear that would be too "logical" as facing up to logical arguments seems to be avoided at all costs by the liberal / feminists on here. It might lead to a Cathy Newman/Jordan Peterson style "Gotcha" moment.

    Ps, the arrogance of the previous comment is unbelievable " Clearly BDP's flexible working is not that flexible unless it works for them." Well why else would they do it? Because it doesn't work for them? Get real.

  • RIBA to make members take post-Grenfell health and safety test

    Atticus 's comment 31 August, 2018 10:54 am

    Corblimer. Completely agree.
    This is just virtue signalling, notwithstanding an understanding of H&S is required. It would be a far better approach to H&S if the RIBA in its certifying role of Colleges insisted that students are taught some elementary building science and how to design even basic but credible construction information. All the ones I interview couldn't detail a dog kennel and none have the slightest clue as to what a vapour barrier is, let alone having had any guidance to kick them off down a lifelong interest in the potential hazards associated with building design.

  • Grimshaw working on new Eden Project in Morecambe

    Atticus 's comment 28 August, 2018 10:30 am

    "Eden in Morecombe". Is that a euphemism for oxymoron?
    "a rhetorical device or figure of speech in which contradictory or opposite words or concepts are combined for effect".

  • Why I felt I had to quit BDP after maternity leave

    Atticus 's comment 24 August, 2018 10:02 am

    Barry Valley/Industry Proffessional. The Jordan Peterson is a worthwile starting point for any debate on equality in the workp[lace. If you could watch it and say what you disagree with it would be worth discussing. For my part I agree with all of what he said. If you believe him to be aright wing ajitator, you cannot have watched much of his content, as he is distinctly a-political, and basing his points of view on fact born out by experience, research and a very perceptive mind. For my part, I agree with all he said in the interview, as do many others. Ifhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMcjxSThD54&t=33s

  • Why I felt I had to quit BDP after maternity leave

    Atticus 's comment 23 August, 2018 7:39 pm

    We have employed a lot of women, on equal pay, and like their contribution. Women are different than men and it enriches us.
    Just one example that should be factored in is the greed of some mothers who want to have it all, putting work commitment the last in their list of priorities, forgetting that its work that funds their lifestyle and desires. For previous generations without such a welfare state safety net work had to take precedence, no matter how much it screwed them around.
    Millenials require all manner of accommodations once they have children; the feminists want to have it all and shudder at the thought of being a stay at home mum, notwithstanding housing cost making them have to work anyway. They demand wage parity with male workers who in contrast stay late at work until the job is done. We are usually on a fixed fee with minimal margins and at pressure points or if it goes wrong, we have to expand the hours in the day without overtime pay to get by on the same costs or on time. The mothers may work a clean 7.5 hour day 4 or 5 day week, going home every afternoon in time to pick up their children from childcare or school. Unlike men who remain on the job for the duration and shun sick leave entitlements, the mothers often use up all of their sickies with bugs caught from the childcare or caring for sick children and are almost never available when most needed, ie, to drag a job back after hours or to cover when the pressure occurs in the mothers day off in her 4 day week (our clients don’t pause in that day and don’t expect us to either). Phone calls to manage the child increase, distraction often occurs and errors in the work increase. We have only ever judged, employed and paid people by their ability. But quite frankly it just costs us and wears us out having to step into the breach to get responses out in time or to give cover on the days off. Rare is the mother who has so much commitment that she will put put in hours late at night or at the weekend on remote access to catch up. To manage this we have to expect less from mothers, irrespective of ability. A recent occurrence, a Friday deadline. The child had to be taken away from Nursery 3pm Thursday. It was sick Friday. The mother had to stay with it (husband abroad on work). We very nearly lost the job. In a small practice on competitive fees we have little tolerance for such events. Yet we are not allowed to ask about family plans or commitments at interview. Or about the intentions of childless women to have children. So we occasionally get suckered, because in a small business there are no “less-critical roles” that women can be employed in. Unfortunately, to get the same pay as a man, your work needs to be equivalent to a man’s.
    For an interesting insight into this, watch the Jordan Peterson – Cathy Newman interview on YouTube.

  • #MeToo flashmob upstages Venice Biennale

    Atticus 's comment 26 May, 2018 5:42 am

    Tha AJ has promoted an overexposed and oversimplified campaign on this topic, particularly gender pay gap. For a more holistic and balanced understanding watch some Jordan Peterson et all and start here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMcjxSThD54

  • AJ survey reveals 1 in 7 women architects have experienced sexual harassment

    Atticus 's comment 8 February, 2018 2:26 pm

    This is a very interesting interview, which all should watch,
    and then watch the analysis in youtube, particularly this one:
    These show that the gender differential problems are not as simplistic as many would want us to believe, and that the discussion needs to be widened to involve different fundamental traits in men and women.
    PS, when can we have an AJ issue dedicated to men in architecture, and a men-only architecture award. Only having a women in architecture award without a mens is definitely divisive and discriminatory.

  • Gove: 'I regret scrapping Building Schools for the Future'

    Atticus 's comment 28 November, 2016 11:13 am

    To paraphrase Bob Dylan: "Politicians seldom do what they believe in. They do whats convenient and then repent". Gove is an opportunist of the highest order. Soiled goods. This should not rehabilitate him.

  • Ministers urged to overrule decision on Jestico + Whiles’ Edinburgh hotel

    Atticus 's comment 14 August, 2015 1:01 pm

    Typo: St James Place!

  • Ministers urged to overrule decision on Jestico + Whiles’ Edinburgh hotel

    Atticus 's comment 14 August, 2015 10:57 am

    Alan Murrays Multrees Walk plan is a stroke of genius in the way it repairs and reconnects the urban spacial structure, destroyed by the existing St James’s Place’s insensitivity, internalisation of the public realm and tendency towards inflexible mid-century megastructure. The use of the drum set in the focal space enables the shift of axis from Multrees Walk towards Leith Walk to be made. The “background” buildings in the scheme create continuous active facades around interestingly shaped streets, with an intended style of its age yet well fitted to Edinburgh architectural heritage. His Missoni Hotel is the best so far. Just as the New Town introduced a style of its age in contrast to the Medieval style of the Old Town, so this introduces a new quarter of its age whilst retaining the golden rules of streets with facades just described. It’s a masterplan of its time equalled only by Paternoster in London, and if well executed could be even better.
    All good urban plans have their “one-off” centrepiece buildings, visible in full round as works of stand alone sculptural form, in contrast to the continuous facades of the background buildings that create their setting and line and create the walls of the streets. Such buildings create a complex of spaces around themselves. The Pantheon in Rome, Bath Abbey and the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford are such. So such a building has to be “special”, of its age. The new Southgate scheme in Bath creates such a complex, but is in the end dull because it lacks such a centrepiece, and because the architecture is a second rate pastiche of a previous age, inevitably irreconcilable with 20th century technology, construction practices and lack of artisans on low enough wages to allow it to be adequately embellished. It has the feel of a dull set piece, or as the French appropriately say “Nature Morte”. If its architects wanted to be classical designers, why couldn’t they at least be good ones. (I would say the same of the other “traditionalists” who currently make so much noise in the media for their skills to used. They operate stylistically in a very limited market and none are worthy of such a commission. None have the interpretive genius of Adam, Cockerell or Playfair, or even JJ Burnett in his early transition from classical to the seeds of contemporary.)
    And so Alan Murrays scheme succeeds in creating a setting and intent “off its time”.
    So what of Jestico And Wyles scheme? The argument that in the context described above it is not appropriate for Edinburgh is completely destroyed. It is absolutely appropriate that a modern icon should be created, and should poke up to join the famous Edinburgh skyline. But as the main man at Pixar has said “All our movies are very poor when we start off. It takes the collaborative effort of all of us, given a great deal of time, to make them great”. So instead of nit picking at the initial concept, involve a small number of highly regarded non-starchitect non pri madonas to represent Edinburgh interests, (Alan Murray for starters) and don’t let it be built until its designers have been give adequate time and fees to make it really great.

  • Former BDP chief attacks Rogers over Robin Hood Gardens rescue bid

    Atticus 's comment 17 July, 2015 4:22 pm

    I should have said "This style of modernism......", which Byker is most certainly not, being a democratic style evolved from close collaboration with the community, that has proved to be an enduring success.

  • Former BDP chief attacks Rogers over Robin Hood Gardens rescue bid

    Atticus 's comment 17 July, 2015 4:15 pm

    "Listing is about architectural and/or historic interest, not preservation"...The interest here is that Modernism has become indelibly associated with failed social housing sink estates in the national psyche. Ironically because architects got their biggest opportunities in the public / social sector. By a combination of form inappropriate to tenure and lack of maintenance it became aversion therapy to modernism as a housing form. Only relatively recently has modernism styled housing begun to be rehabilitated in expensive private housing and apartments, particularly in London. Therefore the possibility of a universal democratic form (style) hoped for by the Smithsons and the critics at the time of its construction could only be conceivable in either an idealised classless society or one which does not employ goods and the physical environment to signify its social structure. If the tenure can be changed to upowardly mobile middle class, and the open access can be changed to concierge, it may just become a smart trendy ghetto for architectural savants like the Goldfinger towers. But if it is to remain in the realm of social housing with its less opulent programmes and need for more robust and viable building forms to cope with tenants more inclined to neglect, disrespect and abuse their environment, no end of refurbishment will rescue it from the psychological and degrading physical stigma I have described. It may be better to film and record it as an interesting but failed experiment and then add it to the rubble under the grass mound in the garden. The jury is still out on Park Hill., which is a much better form to begin with.

  • Council rejects Grafton's contest-winning Kingston University scheme

    Atticus 's comment 24 March, 2015 12:28 pm

    Once upon a time long ago Kingston was a few huts on a river crossing. Then the population grew and buildings intensified. The natural evolution of Towns responding to population growth.
    This is the occasional redevelopment of an urban site, and it should be a crime not to intensify it as much as possible. A philosophical point of view not accommodated in the Nimby culture the governments move towards localisation encourages. I hope the appeal inspector is more cognisant of the fact that the population is still growing. The Green belt should not be further threatened by this kind of inept outcome.

  • Report: Universities not equipping architecture students for real world

    Atticus 's comment 2 February, 2015 11:36 pm

    I asked our architects if any had been taught at college what a vapour barrier is, and exactly where it goes, and some other key aspects of technical understanding. None had. That’s as absurd as a school of medicine not teaching anatomy. A terrible indictment on the state of architectural education.
    The cost of housing forces newly qualifieds to need to generate a good income. The schools leave them between a rock and a hard place, many without adequate marketable skill to command a good income for many years. And an unnecessary liability to practices who have to raise them from such untrained depths.
    As one commentator notes, most practices, particularly small ones, run lean, without the excess income to train to the extent required. Year out students are often used as cheap CGI button jockeys, which gives virtually no useful training. The current boom and skill shortage may see a change to more intense training of part II's in practice to compensate for the deficit they inherit from the schools. But the schools should not leave them so ill prepared.
    The key deficit is in technical ability, to enable them to create construction detail and co-ordinate complex technical input into a concept. And to create construction documentation.
    A view coming across in the comments is that students would best gain their wider practical construction/ technical/ communication experience, and the ability to create holistic meaningful design, in practice.
    All this can be taught in college. It should be a significant module of education, starting with something as simple as say a dog kennel and by the end of the course endowing an understanding of first principals and the ability to create a credible construction package for, say, a small house or office. All with the purpose of teaching first principals as well as current techniques.
    Schools need to be prestigious to attract the best. RIBA Silver Medal placings are a key barometer of their standing. The medal’s emphasis on presentation, and often precocious irrelevance to practice (other than showing creative potential), must be key in generating the current deficit. The emphasis in the Silver Medal and RIBA list of requirements for course approval could be changed, driving a more holistic and useful agenda. At least 60% of a project fee is spent on technical delivery and co-ordination. Courses should perhaps reflect such an emphasis in training. Many schools may have to change the profile of their staff to facilitate this excellence in technical training, and limit the emphasis on extremely time consuming presentation and diversions into realms that are not relevant in practice.
    This broader agenda could combine with course streaming into specialised skills selected for different student aptitudes, whilst retaining some general training. Specialisation could start at college, acknowledging the “jack of all trades” architect is a thing of the past.
    David Lees, Silver Medal winner from a time when technical training was, apparently, given more importance.

  • Micro-homes: part of the solution or part of the problem?

    Atticus 's comment 15 January, 2015 10:35 am

    Making flats smaller will be self defeating. It will not reduce dwelling prices for the occupier. Housing is (mostly) market lead. The market takes each buyer to the limit they can afford. All micro units will do is to mean that that limit will not buy as much. So scarcity and price will remain the same, but the consumer will get less, and land values will be the winner, taking a massive hike as more can be put in the same plot area.
    Legislation for minimum size dwellings is the way that will ensure reasonable size homes are provided.
    This simple intervention in supply and demand economics, via the town planning process, is already proving its benefit in London Boroughs that have adopted it.
    The other issue that will enable more housing to be provided is allowing higher and more dense buildings, to give greater density. Not necessarily high rise. Too often the planning and NIMBY process prevents a building being replaced with a more dense solution. This is the natural process of the evolution of cities, invasion and succession by greater intensity of use, to cope with a growing population. The Town Planning profession needs to get its intellectual house in order and create policies to accommodate intensification both now and with long term plans into the future. To say a building is out of scale with its ancient neighbour is to deny the implications of population growth and the natural evolution of cities.

  • AJ poll: 40% of architects working more than 10 hours overtime a week

    Atticus 's comment 20 November, 2014 7:22 pm

    Our work has become more complex, particularly in the face of rampant escalation and unnecessary duplication of legislation, but he who moves first to raise fees to accord will loose out against others who do not. So raising the bar is difficult, particularly in times of work famine, which we have just been through. Angela Brady's comments about learning how to calculate fees completely miss the point, which is that in times of work glut, such as now, the profession could become more aggressive with fees and turn work away if appropriate fees are not accepted. But that runs against the ingrained worry about turning work down. In the end a free market creates a downward spiral in income for those working in areas where our services are seen as an inconvenient necessity to be bought for the lowest price.
    The only way out is to excel and be able to charge for the added value. And for unnecessary legislative burdens to be reduced. Therefore it is essential that an RIBA campaign grows to embed the benefits of a good architect in the minds of potential clients. And the true cost of such a service.

    Architectural education needs to teach a far greater technical skill level so that we can perform efficiently. Even Patrik Schumacher, who surely has the pick of the best, has chastised schools for this lack of emphasis, both in selection of students with appropriate aptitude in the first place and outcome at the end..
    Re the ever increasing complexity and duplication created by rampant proliferation of new legislation. Is the RIBA doing all it can here? Where has the "red tape reduction" campaign gone? For instance, we still have the unrationalised Code for Sustainable Homes, with its rampant and unnecessary duplication of much other legislation, and its idiocy such as having to tell clients where to buy Organic food and give them bus timetables.

  • Should the ARB be kept? Last chance to put your opinions to government

    Atticus 's comment 17 November, 2014 6:58 pm

    RIBA=CONFLICT OF INTEREST, implanted in an organisation already over diverse and conflicted in purpose.
    ARB=keeping the name of Architect in high regard and stamping out bad practice, discretely and in the background, and with a sole purpose that means its achievable.

  • John Pardey reveals Lutyens inspired house

    Atticus 's comment 17 October, 2014 1:02 pm

    Love the way the ground floor plan re-interprets historic terms for the spaces. Don't knock it. Pardy is one of the top echelon of contemporary country house designers in the UK. He's operating in the 21st century, unlike the clients of Foggey brigade of Royal sycophant designers who would rather return to a time of "below stairs" and Downton Abbey. I often wonder why they don't travel by Haywain to match their architectural tastes. Rock-on Johnny P!

  • What is wrong with UK housing?

    Atticus 's comment 11 July, 2014 2:28 pm

    Local authorities have it in their power to drive or inhibit good housing, and are a major player not addressed in this article. We have 2 schemes, one in Camden, and another elsewhere. Camden Planners and committee were exemplary in their involvement, assistance and eventual approval conditions, all orchestrated to rapidly ensure final delivery of a quality project.
    For the other scheme, planners and councillors have opted out. No attendance at the public meeting, no perceivable effective policy other than wavering between what they perceive nimbi's and Councillors will want. The non-elected amenity group have been left to be the conduit for dialogue, arbitters and final judge. Although helpful and well meaning in many ways they have a vested interest of Nimbyism at odds with policy that exists, and more importantly achieving housing targets. These latter factors are not adequately represented by the Council's officers to balance the dialogue. To please the amenity group, a 2 to 3 storey apartment scheme, mostly lower than the Victorian neighbours, will be built in a town centre where the process of renewal should respond to increasing population by increasing density and height. It has been a tortuous process, long drawn out. The result of this inadequacy is an authority whose record for meeting housing targets is woefully inadequate and falling behind at a compounding rate year on year, and the aesthetic / urban design quality of what generally gets built is lamentable.
    Wayne Hemingway's link above has an astute summary of this. I quote:-
    "There needs to be planners and elected planning committee members who understand good design, are trained in place making, can recognise when they are being hoodwinked or steamrollered and are empowered to stop house builder in their tracks and then work with them to deliver something fit for purpose.

    We need a younger profile to our elected members of local councils, anyone can stand - you just need to sacrifice some time, easier said than done when you have family and work commitments. The demographic that is being hit hardest by the housing crisis is the young; they need to find a voice.
    It can be too easy for house builders to use their legal and financial weight to overpower the planning system.

    We need more political, more skilled and creative planners and we need a career in planning to be considered every bit as desirable as architecture and design when it comes to education. We surely should be shouting more about the importance of place making to the quality of life. There is an argument for making it easier to enter the planning further education."

  • London skyline ‘trashed’ by wave  of speculative towers, says Rees

    Atticus 's comment 11 April, 2014 10:12 am

    Peter Reece has been to the City what the Medicis were to Florence and Federico da Montefeltro was to Urbino. He has overseen nothing less than a Renaissance of great architecture and spaces in the heart of the capital. He held the design of buildings in his patch under an almost despotic grip, dictating who the architects should be and that nothing less than world class would do. Woe betide a developer who didn’t choose the best. The execution could be summary, brutal, and private. By working the system to his advantage. The strength of the City was that it was able to cede control in such a way and to give Reece unfailing support.
    Which supports my view that Development Control is a process of dialogue between enlightened individuals. Political correctness, scoring, and Design and Access statements are manifestations of a system that has failed to recruit people who are fit for purpose to understand, judge, and more importantly drive and influence the shape of our urban environments.
    Peter Reece for Lord Mayors design champion. That should sort it.

  • AJ Exclusive: John McAslan's Smithfield overhaul plans revealed

    Atticus 's comment 26 October, 2012 7:37 pm

    The General market facades are no great work of Architecture, but they are important in maintaining the unity of character of the “island” of market halls between Farringdon Road at this end and Lindsey St at the other. Most of them by the hand of Horace Jones. This uniform rectangular “superblock” is the ground against which the crumble-townscape of the area anchors itself. The large halls in the block centres are so vast in total that no romantic restoration could fill them with tenants like a Covent Garden or Leadenhall (both tiny by comparison. The Central Market alone is 3 acres in plan). The City has always wanted to get rid of the central market completely, and as the area gentrifies it becomes increasingly incongruous to bring dozens of artics with meat from Aberdeen into the city centre every night. So some foresight is needed if the much more magnificent main market building is to have a sympathetic re-use for its hall in the future rather than it all being taken up by the halls up for renewal now. It has a far more worthy hall hidden in its heart than the General Market.
    So you either retain in one style, or take the lot down and build a new superblock all in one style. But that could never possess the richness of the current enfilade of buildings with its layering and palimpsest gained in its 150 year life. Nor could it happen.
    And you still have to find a use for the core of the buildings.
    The General Market’s central hall is the week sibling, so no great loss.
    McAslan’s scheme is an ingenious play on a “lantern” theme that generates a narrow alley loop behind the façade buildings, with a “lantern” of offices above mimicking the monitor rooflights of market halls. It’s a pity the centre isn’t filled in behind this alley, compressing and intensifying this interesting alley space, rather than leaving it open with a faux brick relieving arch ceiling under a blatantly contemporary building. Rather incongruous. It’s also a pity they have seen necessary, or more likely been encouraged by timid planning, to incongruously step the lantern skyline. It would be much better as a singular bold level topped block, rising relatively as the surroundings drop, to announce the Superblock it crowns; rather than whimpering down to Farringdon Road like a puppy with its tail between its legs. Cities can have one scale at street level relative to those spaces, and a greater scale for the skyline, rising from a set back behind a street parapet, as New York proves. Compounding this weakness, the exposed flanks of the cores do not sit well when revealed. They would be more comfortable thus concealed.
    The main lost opportunity is the removal of the Market Superintendent’s office tower on the corner of Farringdon Road and Charterhouse St, to create a developers naive idea of an inviting view in. The loss of the tower should be resisted. It’s needed as one of a family that sign most of the other main corners of the superblock. Its loss is a (townscape) denial of the corner. Also, the new “lanterns” should be seen over a building, as a backdrop. They could go higher than the tower (like the slab blocks behind St Patricks Cathedral in New York). They are too simple to be successful as the landmark corner feature in the low level vista. A far better solution would be to authentically restore the corner intact, but with a completely abstract and massive rectangular chunk including structure removed at ground and possibly first floor level, running back from each corner, like Hertzog and de Meuron did in their Caixa Forum in Madrid.
    Perhaps this could even use ramps to access basement and ground levels simultaneously, again as Hertzog de Meuron. The new top on the Caixa Forum also foretells this new top on Smithfield, but without the compromise.
    SAVE would do better to campaign with a real future vision, not their currently intellectually impoverished protest that seems stuck on treatment of façade artefacts and to simply object to change for changes sake, because of a lack of visionaries in their ranks.

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