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Bluewater's place in joined-up planning

When he calls Bluewater 'the cleverest town centre in all the land' (aj 25.03.99) Martin Pawley is almost right. However, the first example of building an out-of-town shopping centre then constructing a town around it is actually 30 years old and called Milton Keynes. At the Llewelyn- Davies office we realised that the only way to get facilities in ahead of the population was if the region already needed them. Which it did.

This notion was picked up by a visiting American developer called Klutznic who had completed a ring of malls around Chicago. He'd be ****ed if he'd let another bunch of mothers pick up the equity around his next layer of mega-malls. At Libertyville (sic) we designed a new town centre for him.

The irony is that, invited upon my return to speak about the Cribbs Causeway proposal on a bbc tv West panel, I forecast (not difficult) the depressing effect it would have on Bristol, and also the need to avoid filling up swathes of fields with monocultures of houses or sheds. They don't do that there anymore I said. But of course they did, and the rest is history. A history of chaos and fragmentation, developed by our financing mechanisms, steered by our planning professionals responding to our democratic representatives. Suffered by all the citizens. Who now hardly bother to vote.

As Martin Pawley hints, joined-up planning could be evolving through New Labour corrections to some Thatcherite mechanisms, but this is a very high-friction approach. In the same aj, Paul Hyett is so right when he notes that Barcelona's architectural success is dependent on social, political and economic processes. Terry Farell has suggested that to change the culture of urban design we need a more grass-roots champion that the new Architecture Commission will provide. To produce such a person I would suggest the following:

a. At least one weekly Thought for The Day slot

b. A situation soap called Yes Councillor

c. Core gcses and A-levels in planning and architecture

d. Reeves and Mortimer in Never Mind the Bollards

e. National 'Try To Find Your Birthplace Day'

f. Public access cctv in the washrooms of all multinationals and masonic lodges

g. And finally, no more jokes about you-know-where please.

Mike Macrae


Concept House is doomed to fail

I fully endorse Paul Baker's criticism of Pierre d'Avoine's winning design for 'Concept House' (aj 25.3.99, page 6). I believe that, when built, the houses will fail for the following reasons:

1 Sound transmission within and from without

2 The 7m height of the living room

3 Footballs through the courtyard from roof playground

4 Lack of multi-purpose room for granny or teenager, as an office or for homework as required by the conditions of the brief (sound-isolated too)

5 No shed for storage/workshop, and nowhere to grow vegetables

6 Unusable circulation space and corridor-like environment

7 This is social housing - and I have done 12 years of it. Where do you kick off your football boots, change out of overalls, have a 'tiff' in private or do your 'courting'?

The scheme by Alison Brooks, which came in second place, provides outward- looking south-facing rooms throughout and avoids the claustrophobic corridor effect most cleverly, but she just can't get the people through in time. Pierre d'Avoine's house can get half a million through in 28 days! An exhibition condition!

Richard Brown

Poole, Dorset

Collaboration for sport buildings across Europe

As boundaries for work are being pushed open in Europe, and sporting procurement bodies learn from the experience of other countries, we have sought to find organisations which can help in this process.

For some years now, we have been members of iaks, the International Association for Sports and Leisure Facilities, and, in common with existing members in other countries, have been asked to set out what this organisation does. Putting it simply:

iaks offers a regular major public forum for emphasising the importance, and publicising the dynamics, of design with management.

Every two years, iaks and the International Olympic Committee make awards for exemplary sports and leisure facilities which successfully marry design and function. The entries themselves contain important information on management approaches and trends in facility design and procurement: they provide an update and overview of facilities throughout the world.

The presentation of the awards is associated with an international conference and a professional trade exhibition in Cologne. From our own experience, we can commend this aspect of iaks for the international contacts which its conference offers.

iaks provides its members with regular technical updating on building types and technical detail. It does this mainly through its magazine sb which is published every two months. The magazine provides a forum for the publication of sports buildings. Its main languages are German and English, and there is a summary in English of articles published in other languages.

iaks was founded in 1965 and has about 1000 members (leisure directors, managers, promoters, architects, engineers, leisure specialists and trade members) in 116 countries. In addition to the points highlighted above, it also has working parties investigating various aspects of sports; it organises seminars in addition to its two-yearly conference and it is a library of basic sports data and general information for its members.

iaks is recognised by the ioc and co-operates with the International Union of Architects, the General Association of International Sports Federations and the International Council for Sports Science and Physical Education.

Its contribution is complementary to that of the sports councils in the various countries from which its members come.

As one of the very few uk members, we would be pleased to see the uk contingent grow in numbers to the extent that we could encourage iaks to organise a regular uk seminar, either as an independent meeting or to be built into the programme for the annual conferences of the established uk sports and leisure organisations.

More information is available from Professor Frieder Roskam, secretary general, iaks, Cal-Diem-Weg 3, D50933 Cologne (Mungersdorf), Germany, tel (02 21) 491 2991, fax (02 21) 497 1280, email iaks-@t-online.de

Bill Stonor

FaulknerBrowns, Newcastle

Breathing walls are not what they seem

Jonathan Hines' article on dynamic insulation (aj 4.2.99) is indeed 'a welcome breath of warm air'. His description of the physics of the technology is a very accurate and clear summary of the findings of our research on dynamic and diffusive insulation.

The Robert Gordon and Aberdeen Universities have recently completed an exhaustive three-year study of these technologies, funded by the epsrc. However, I would wish to comment on some other claims that Mr Hines makes.

He is correct in saying that dynamic insulation would make a good air filter. I and my colleague, Mohammed Imbabi, have been able to demonstrate in our paper 'The Building Envelope as an Air Filter' (Building and Environment, 34 (1999) pp 353-361) that dynamic insulation is very efficient at removing sub-micron-sized particles. Recent medical evidence shows these are not harmless as previously thought but can cause irritation and inflammation of lung tissue. However, I suspect that his claim that it would take '300 years for the clogging of the pores to become a problem' is a mistake. From tests made by Sallvik in 1988 on the clogging of air-permeable materials used in barn ceilings I would be prepared to believe 30 years. We are currently endeavouring to obtain experimental confirmation of the filtration efficiency of dynamic insulation and the rate at which it clogs up.

On a historical note I am not convinced that traditional Norwegian farm- steading is indeed the prototype for dynamic insulation. I visited Norway 18 months ago specifically to look at the examples of dynamically insulated buildings. The first port of call was the Norsk Folke Museum, Bygdoy, Oslo, where I assiduously examined all the buildings for evidence that they could have used dynamic insulation in the way described by Mr Hines.

The buildings in the museum, some dating from the fourteenth century, were removed from their original locations all over Norway and re-assembled and refurbished at the museum. None of the buildings displayed any ventilation chimneys of the type required for dynamic insulation. Furthermore, the barns and steading walls were, in general, not airtight, as would be required if air was to be drawn down through the hay in the loft. The walls were constructed using rough-hewn timbers or with more carefully prepared boards with notches cut in the edges. These notches, as well as being decorative, would permit good cross-ventilation. The museum give the very clear impression that there is not just one type of traditional Norwegian farm-steading: they are as varied as the Norwegian climate and landscape.

I also visited the Rykken Sports Centre near Oslo with Sandy Halliday of Gaia Research. In the very large main sports hall, air was being supplied from the mechanical-ventilation system from a grille in one corner of the hall at floor level and extracted at the diagonal opposite corner at a height of 3-4m. The hall was being used by only half a dozen people the lunchtime we were there. Air was leaking into the hall via two emergency- exit doors in each of the external walls of the hall. Because of the height of the hall it was not possible to observe the air movement close to the ceiling. The centre manager informed us that, during the summer, they reversed the fans so that air was extracted through the ceiling. This is just the thing to do if you want to increase the heat loss and rate of the extraction of moisture.

The fitness-room ceiling can be examined closely by climbing the wall bars. There appeared to be damp streaks on the cloth lining. Air was supplied to the fitness room from a duct running down the centre of the room. Air from the duct could still be felt at the side of the room underneath the ceiling. Attempts to detect air movement perpendicular to the ceiling using smoke were hindered by the strong horizontal air currents. Nevertheless, the fact that air is introduced into the room by four horizontal jets does lead one to question how uniform is the air flow, if any, through the insulation - an essential condition for dynamic insulation to work properly.

In the diffusively insulated old-folks home at Stiftelson, Sollvek, it was alleged that as soon as one walks through the door one's immediate reaction is how fresh the atmosphere is. On entering the reception I was struck by how stale the air was. Also, contrary to what I was led to believe, there was no visible evidence of dynamic or diffusive insulation construction techniques. A mechanical-ventilation system supplied air to reach residents' rooms and was extracted from the bathroom. Doubtless devotees of dynamic and diffusive insulation will argue that the mechanical-ventilation system was responsible for the stale atmosphere.

Paradoxically, the building which did give an immediate feeling of freshness was not dynamically insulated at all. It was an old farmhouse where we, accompanied by Trygvae Graee, were invited inside for coffee. The interior design undoubtedly contributed to the fresh air feeling. All the interior floors, walls and ceilings, as well as the furnishings, were wooden. The Rikken sports hall was also fresh but then it was a very large building with few people using it in contrast to the old-folks home. I suspect that is why the air in the McLaren Community Leisure Centre gave the impression of 'being noticeably good' rather than anything to do with the dynamic insulation.

The technical and user feedback on McLaren Community Leisure Centre to be obtained from the two-year monitoring project will be very welcome. There are still a number of myths and pseudo-science about dynamic insulation being peddled.

Bruce Taylor

Faculty of design, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen

Our professional codes must be adhered to

The article by Gracia and Louch of James R Knowles regarding adjudication (aj 18.03.99) makes the statement that 'there was no written agreement between the architect and the employer, invariably the case at the early stages of a project where the architect undertakes work 'at risk'.' Aside from the question as to why, if the architect's work was 'at risk', fees were felt to be due, this statement, if true, is unsettling.

The arb code (and riba code) states that architects should manage work carried out by their offices responsibly, and that this requires that no work should be undertaken unless a written contract between client and architect has been agreed. This contract must state the fee, or method for calculating it, and the method for termination of the contract. In the context of work which an architect decides can be carried out genuinely 'at risk', the method for calculating fees would state under what conditions payment would or would not be due for the services.

What is the point of professing a professional status if the basics of our professional codes are 'invariably' ignored? Will the developer, having lost the adjudication, approach the arb with a complaint regarding professional conduct?

Tim Gough

Austin Winkley & Associates

London SE1

Are these interiors a danger to the public?

I have recently received a copy of your Interiors Review 3 publication, and would congratulate the architects on some fine designs.

However, I would be grateful to hear how they can often ignore the Building Regulations with impunity. For example, the staircase on page 71 has a handrail but no balusters, while the spiral stair on page 29 does not even have a handrail. Both these stairs must be in contravention of the Building Regulation which specifies a maximum baluster pitch of 100mm.

The glass partition on page 49 does not appear to have any markings to warn people that there is indeed a glass wall there.

Surely all these situations are a danger to the public or to the building users?

Andy Barton

By e-mail

Cat access conundrum continues to captivate

Surely the cat flap, or Katerklappe, was invented by the famous Pussian architect Walter Gropuss, when he was director of the Miaohaus?

Louis Hellman

London W3


The final paragraph of the letter from James Lewis (aj 25.3.99) should have said that vso reports a surge of participants from the construction industry into its voluntary programme . . .

Elden Croy is an originator of Makeover at Schools (aj 25.2.99) and continues to be a fully participating partner in the project.

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