The winner of the Monier Redland/AJ Design a Roof competition imagines a home for London mayor Boris Johnson atop St Paul’s
Anna Gibb’s winning proposal for the Monier Redland/AJ Design a Roof competition, launched in February, is a new home for London’s colourful mayor, Boris Johnson, in place of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Gibb has designed an elevated, throne-like base from which Johnson can survey his city, much like the emperors who resided on Rome’s Palatine Hill, or the politicians of ancient Athens who gazed upon their citizens from the Acropolis. Drawing on Johnson’s love of cycling, Gibb extended the brief to include a new cycle route linking St Paul’s with City Hall. It’s a wonderfully madcap idea, combining the surreal fun of a Monty Python animation with the irreverence of a Louis Hellman cartoon.
‘My interest in Boris is not political. Rather, it stems from an affection for his amusing “Boris-isms”,’ says Gibb,
a Part 2 graduate working for Graham Mitchell Architects in Aberdeen.
Gibb’s design was one of many that caught the jury’s eye. ‘It’s great to see so much interest in the competition and the quality, diversity and humour in the entries,’ says Graham Faulkner, product manager with Monier Redland. ‘This was a unique opportunity for Redland, which will hopefully help strengthen our links with the architectural community.’
Entrants to the competition could also reimagine the roofs of Cesar Pelli’s One Canada Square at Canary Wharf or Didcot Power Station in Oxfordshire – or choose another building altogether. Gibb’s prize is an architectural tour of Istanbul in Turkey, the city of domes and 2010 European Capital of Culture.
Winner: Anna Gibb
Boris Johnson’s new house sits on the footprint of the dome of Christopher Wren’s St Paul’s Cathedral, which has been removed. His living pod is suspended above the church floor by large steel trusses, allowing it to be elevated or lowered. The pod is the end of a new route through London, the Boris Highway, which leads to City Hall, the mayor’s workplace. This route is primarily for cyclists, generating electricity from their movement along it.
A new glass roof is placed over the entire main space of St Paul’s, with trees and landscaping creating a new garden for the city. The public can ascend the Boris Highway as it wraps around the exterior of the cathedral and, at its conclusion, they can meet Johnson in his wood-panelled drawing room.
Beyond this room, through a secret door, is Johnson’s state-of-the-art apartment, where he can escape the weight of his responsibilities and survey his domain.
“What was fascinating about this proposal was the sheer audacity of the idea. The thought that Boris Johnson’s new home should replace the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral is a wonderful juxtaposition of leadership, culture and religion. And that Johnson has his own cycle route to get to work is equally preposterous, yet fascinating. Glazing the roof of the nave just adds to the theatrical concept.”
Ken Shuttleworth, founder, Make
“The winning entry sums up the ethos of the competition. It turns St Paul’s Cathedral into a modern manifestation of the new religions – politics, power and consumerism – with both humour and skill. At first glance it seems simple, but there is depth to the piece, with nine alternative visions of how the site can be re-roofed – exactly what we were hoping for.”
Andy Cassie, managing director, CIB Communications