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kevin toner



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Comments (37)

  • Comment on: 06.03.15: Argent Airport City Charrette

    kevin toner's comment 7 March, 2015 8:45 pm

    I comment from my imagination, which wouldn't even be believable enough for fiction, but worth posting anyway for the record, and to reinforce the professor’s criticism.

    Regarding p6 on the “crass urban thuggery” of the George Sq hotel planning application, should the ‘behind doors backs scratching culture’ be tolerated or more transparent for the sake of education and dissemination in public, otherwise tutors will/may have to start building “thuggery” into its built environment studies curriculum, as would amenity bodies have to learn too, which struggle as it is trying to understand honest transparent discourse.

    Architects do have tricks up their sleeves at helping get things through planning, but there are indeed the bigger ‘thuggier’ tricks, compared to this variety of small fry that beset architectural projects and bypass the architects sphere of influence altogether and that’s that hoard of things controlled between planners and the commercial world, and the big society world is next in the queue to compound the thuggery if not mere trickery of architects – I think Platt is possibly referring to the much deeper society-led trickery than the professional-led stuff if it isn’t all one at the end of day.

    For example an architect might attempt to make an existing scenario look less attractive than it is so as not to outshine the proposal, but in the larger scheme of things, a monstrous carbuncle may be approved to ironically divert public opinion on CDA/motorways cutting through or near historic city centres, not in Glasgow, which hadn’t known that trick by the time of its IRR plans, and gladly Glasgow is kind of immune to such a monstrous variety of carbuncle anyway due to its valley condition which can easily harbour even the tower block by the 100s without adverse affect on its skyline/townscapes – other cities not being so lucky have had to realise big moves to keep the historic centre intact, whether deliberate or by accidental fate...

    Platt mentions that the decent Georgian hotel is being made to look inadequate by the rear extension. Good observation, but for what end (motive) would an architect do this. All I could see is that it might get the local design review panel to erringly advise demolition of the listed building as a possible option. Planners/Client/Society then has a scapegoat group of supposed experts guiding them. One recently commented on another mag that the local review panel had indeed been summoned for this project and that their report is viewable via the planning portal documents. I’m not looking, but I’d bet my bottom dollar that it’s done inter alia at least 2 things: 1) advised demolition as an option and 2) given no strategic guidance because of being fooled for years for the expertise that they are, resulting in offering ways to tweak the design instead, which can compound, rather than solve, the design problem..., not that that will matter to the end means, which one would suspect is ultimately for planner/clients of the superblock to maximise its financial standing vis-a-vis the coming massive disruption expected form further redevelopment of the station, a superblock that is current at war with the public - as shown on page 9 of this AJ issue – regarding the concert hall steps.

    I suspect that the client has missed applying for one of the largest glass fronted hotel opportunities going nationally, merely feet away from the site on the right side of the photo, as college disposals, even despite it already replicating the clients desired aspect to overlook George Sq from slightly set back, note with no construction necessary,and therefore quite a windfall gain to be had as a satellite annex block, which can also tie in with the superblock via the existing below ground connectivity between the blocks due to not merely train infrastructure but past chasms adjacent - and if civil engineering of such a connection would be too adventurous, via the commercial mall component, then a simple lift from the station platform component instead suffices up to the potential college tower annex.

    The rail client looks cohesively part of the plot (conversely to current press on the supposed conflicts transpiring from NR’s decision to redevelop the 70s entrance building that forms a current extension for the hotel and thereby lost rooms) if the past alterations/developments through the years/decades that I’ve seen are anything to go by (worked on by the UK-stations-wide rly hotels branch of the rail network’s – formerly BR – architects) prior to privatisation, whatever privatisation really is per railways concerns, e.g. a different name, brand, &/or crowd.

    Why design something that’s already there, your very own Pan Am building?

    Where does one think I took this photo, and I didn’t even have to breach the platform line:


    So the connectivity is there via any choice of superblock client even the mall will have levels of connection through to this tower without breaching the bridging road that separates the blocks, and if all that fails then the mall/stn connections of the original hotel would allow public to rise from George Sq up to Cathedral St. without expending energy on the sloped rise to the tower – in fact it’s part of the concept that the planners approved, exposed car park block or no exposed car park block, meaning one road cross and no real impediments to accessibility as might be feared from annexing this afar.

    Back to the ‘playing cards’ & motives then:-

    1) demolition/redevelopment as an option as opposed to the partial redevelopment as planned, possibly backed by a design review panel (you’ll need to check for the report yourselves) thereby increasing site value for where the mall client wishes to draw the £ line with the car park extents vis-a-vis recouping lost rental value from its hotel concern; &/or
    2) increased site value from gaining [presumably] design review panel backed masking of car park for planning approvals/consents, i) surely not to allure acquisition by other hoteliers that may not want to pay the inflated value of the site’s original worth for the privilege of a ransomed top spot – NB an unwanted/ransomed site will deem the keeping of the Listed Building even more dubious as ‘viability’ will drop enough to permit demolition via SHEP and thereby increase its value and opportunities beyond hotel use, which if not to be capitalised on internally can be [more easily] sold off to the world, which might all be justifiably planners-led, friendlily/honourably colluded, etc. provided, oops nothing:

    I can find no way to commend or understand this. Except maybe if they’d expressed interest in the adjacent glass tower not as an annex but as a standalone acquisition come slight relocation, then yes I’d maybe tenuously/reluctantly accept the granting of the Listed Building’s re-extension to simply leave the site to the market at, inventively, not too low a value to recoup losses, leaving the morals over the retention of a grand hotel for the market to contemplate, i.e. whether it will pay the extra for the site in order to: 1) bring it back to its former glory; 2) repeat the supported partial redevelopment proposal due for planning approval if got to within the 3 year expiry date (NB it’s not 5 years anymore in Scotland since 2009); or 3) outright redevelop if the block’s client/s had no vested interest in doing this itself.

    I don’t know if the line drawn on the car park extents is clever or otherwise as I suspect NR and planning may wish to retain the station’s connectivity to the east so that it’s accessible on all three sides as at present (as with any metropolitan city centre station), hence possibly collusion to over-inflate the site value for itself to help render the Listed Building as unviable/retainable for hotel use, which would conspiringly check out provided that the currently hotelier will sit on the site, like a male penguin over its egg for months, during the panning out of the station redevelopment and the bigger ideas that NR and the superblock of few clients will brew up or have in mind.

    Listed buildings can be sticking points and I wouldn’t be so surprised if the public has had the wool pulled over its eyes over this.

    Design review panels cannot be fooled by such tactics or they will deem themselves as corrupt as the deception that keeps such panels alive, and in place, by using them and their heralded supposed expertise against them.

    Society needs a restored profession of architects – rather than the club it’s inflating into - inter alia other professional organisations and community bodies etc. to come together in helping to steer development/conservation properly - The Farrell Review has taken the words right out of my mouth, but without trying to offend the club/s that won’t want to know about it, but rather complimenting it where possible (i.e. it’s hinted at recognising the club’s desires for that elusive ‘Protection of Function’), but nonetheless has probably offensively [to the club] recognised the ‘assistant architect’ as part of the foundation of our architecture – as it acknowledges the Associate class in advance of RIBA moves to subscribe it an affix (an affix that will sit beside qualification letters that hitherto have been unable to be declared except through the ambiguity of being the same qualifications as that of architects). [ps an aside: Protection of Function can/will come if we 1) go promoting or searching for the talent before it gets to the Architecture Schools; & 2) we increase architectural school provision so that none of the current class of students are ousted.]

    A club society element in profession has always fed off the assistant model when times are good and then dumps them when times are bad; and promotes its pedestal without acknowledging assistants (rightly in the past when assistants could progress, but wrongly when assistants are expected not to), a pedestal that’s due also to gain another category of affix (Fellow), a distinguished variety of architect, that may’ve also offended the majority of the club (I call it a ‘society-over-profession’ tendency of the institutes rather than ideally vice versa). What’s gone wrong is due to a clash of mixed up political courses throughout the recent past – one such course being one of Thatcherism proving unworkable without totality, e.g. the notion of ‘competition’ may well have worked based on a nourishment rather than a contrivance of the architect-assistant mould (aka a mould that may come to be known as the Fellow-Associate mould later on after reform under the newer [offensive to some] affixes planned), where nourishment would occur by putting class distinction and other social orders/privileges aside in the search for our future pools of talent, something Tory supporters put into action prior to our penultimate recession in 1991, hence the likes of myself being searched for – in socially deprived areas - before I even get to an architecture school.

    To restrict the search for talent rather than canvassing it is one of the roots of the problem: it is one hijacking episode followed by another followed by another and so on... Having the present practice culture compete with itself in this way could unfortunately yield a professional disaster after recession if it begins to become too self-reliant. Even if it’s easy to do so during recession, guarding the ‘below average’ at the expense of protecting the ‘above average’ may well lead to further damage. These affix changes will not be liked by the 1000s of Joe Soaps that have been given a passage to bypass their assistant-hoods as quickly as possible, but they’re there to help them, and if I were the profession I would go one step further: to establish a FriendOf (FO?) style affix for the majority that have no real tie/s or connection with either fellows &/or assistants, and further have them not show their architecture school qualifications after their name (as assistants have been expected to do, the ones that really deserve to show their qualification letters in gold), or rather no: because getting ones’ own medicine would neither be productive. Unfortunately it’s the other way around though for the moment, and that’s not in society’s interests. Being transparent however will be.

    If an FO category of architect could be introduced then I’m sure the F “Fellow” category will once again be able to be put on the back burner. The friends-of basically have to support and not hinder or capitalise off the genuine talent pools – and an FO cat. of architect would basically re-establish trust in the profession so that the architect-apprentice/assistant can once again thrive as a perpetual model rather than as a frozen one supporting the FOs during times of plenty.

    I’m sure the Fs in waiting will be looking forward to the As in waiting because some kind of distinction is long overdue that begins to explain the category of architect behind the architectural school qualifications that are shared across all 3 categories: the assistant (Associate) / architect(Fellow) / architect (Friend-Affiliate). None of the 3 is inferior within the current system, but the latter of the 3, in being the majority and seen by society as a mirror of itself, are not societies moles/proles per se as one might think, but rather than the profession’s social link to society that they become, they risk becoming the louder voice of the profession ergo my ‘society-over-profession’ slant. It will all seek to reverse this for eventual honour, but this can’t be done by hijacking esteems, it has to be done by honouring esteem and therefore giving credit and unrestricting the passage to restriction: it’s all as restricted already without more: any profession that restricts a path to restriction is calling for trouble and reform.

    Woman Architecture coverage of late, and the recent past, is great to see and hopefully it continues, but women will be expected as much as men to adhere to [arguably] the more important underlying reforms necessary to take the leadership of a profession forward: it’s something that both genders must embrace. The current set up is no place for upcoming lovely ladies to go following in their lad counterparts footsteps – they too must not be averse to the reform needed. Again, the societal side of the profession (my imaginary Friend-Affiliate category uninterested in assistant-hood/fellowship) will come to be made up of a 50/50 male-female workforce that will account for a majority of around 50% in my cynicism/optimism, the other 50% aiming towards the architect-assistant (Fellows/Associates) model, of in my optimism will be 50/50 male-female equally paid across the board.

    This possibly 50% affiliate-ship is the binder between assistant and fellow. Some small practices (even sole practitioners) might of course be their own combination of Fellow/Associate/Affiliate and must thereby show society this by et viola using affix most associated with itself, which stands to reason. Remember we’re here to help clients navigate competition not to have them chasing their tails: e.g. a client may prefer an affiliate biased practice as opposed to a fellow/associate biased, vice versa, or a balance of all, and so forth. It will all become apparent through time. Otherwise the profession is misleading en-masse or so it will become to be construed if reforms are too late. Let’s make a client’s first step a welcome one bearing confidence, one that through time begins to properly inform the course of development/conservation planning. Use the above architect of the hotel proposal as an example – is it say the affiliate orientated brand of architects guising under the associate/fellow roles that would be needed to realise the project, knowing that the job won’t come along, or vice versa an associate/fellow heavy architectural workforce that will realise a build quickly. Without knowing the affixes behind each employees’ BArch (or MArch depending uni.), BSc, DipArch (or pg Dip ditto) or research MSc, etc. there will continue to be a mystic as to what all of the scramble actually means. If we don’t know what we mean to ourselves then how can we expect society to?

    NB: A current Linked In thread, prompted by the recent AJ article https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/daily-news/report-universities-not-equipping-architecture-students-for-real-world/8677848.article is debating this as we speak, and where my own comments are not being well received within the group. There’s not 1No. “Like” in 1000s of words I’ve written – not even a top-contributor this time around! There’s no shame in where we’re at at the moment, but there will be if reform is not considered to counter the status quo.

    This superblock is certainly yielding times of plenty, but this unusual burst of redevelopment activity first began on West Nile Street one block away, surrounding 180deg around a flat that I’d bought (a flat I’m needing to give up through an enforced neg/equity after 2yrs of marketing because the highest offer is 2/3s market value on an already discounted luxury flat), and it’s not all complete yet. It all began ironically upon my recession-driven redundancy in 2008... Whether the stn block will plague George Sq with anywhere near the same disruption/noise/etc. for as long as I’d been plagued with the aforesaid continuum of demolition and construction operations will remain to be seen.

    There won’t be the same urge, I’d imagine, to effect noise.

    Planning appear to have okayed the massive superblock mall/rly-stn scheme that attaches to this incidental hotel affair on the SE corner of the superblock, the sort of blocks that become the mainstay of all zombie movie satire on culture/society and it’s I suppose coincidental that WWZ’s possible decrying of Noisy B*s in Glasgow come near war zones afar with their equally noisy buggers summoning the dead – is perhaps a newfound satire : I read it as a decry against riotousness during peace – and it’s a riotousness that exceeds the noise levels of war zones – buses pull away braking a screech if they’re not happy to pull in with one if it doesn’t last at least 1/2min (accompanied by multiply hissing let offs multiplied by a 1 minute service of the blighters) escorted by shoals of cars/etc. with modified exhausts, and piercing council vehicles reversing come 10-point-turning at 1mph to prolong h&s alarms; or wanting to re-sweep/re-hoover/re-grit/etc at equally slow speeds, and unlike NY’s habitual taxi horn per 20sec per driver to maintain their realities, this being all far worse – a musical student will do well to go to a war zone for peace.

    Why shouldn’t I conclude on Glasgow’s actual thuggery (typically UK*) seems to chant down to below C baritone, but anytime that I snatch the lowest of these telepathised thug notes, and transfer it to an instrument that tells no lies, I’m reading the open top light string of a guitar, [sic.] notes that most men find difficult to reach I’d assume, and higher than the average girl’s [an aside: I won’t find C1-C7 range a problem and can extend an octave beyond that each way without training/practise, meaning that if these thugs really tried to be Freddies instead and telepathise the other way around, then they’d potentially make a C5 to beyond range sound mentally above C7 and beyond, let alone breaking male/female records of range if they’d try. The first nations peoples across the Atlantic can of course make relatively high note chants sound higher in execution: the higher the note the manlier the chant – we’ve got it the wrong way round in the UK, and thank goodness for that, for the time being! I’m now in the mood for a little Queen II B-side, ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah

    [*I detected from recently filmed news on UK yobbo activity abroad, one of the deeper sounding chanters revealing I’d say a deceptively sounding baritone C3, but when I went to my guitar to gauge it, it was the proverbial racist-style tone/chant tuned level with the open high E string of a guitar. I’ve got to laugh when I hear, hopefully not too regularly, the deep sounding chanters unconsciously hitting soprano C6 and they’re not all young lads whose voices haven’t broken – half of ‘em are grownups as the police footage will show on the news. The “I’m Going Slightly Mad” vocal does seem to make a fool of the style by intermingling the actual hi & lo “ooh ooh aah aah ooh ooh aah aah”, at before”... I’m knitting with...”]

    duh, I forgot what I was going to say to get back on track on the topic

    Apologies my ad lib approach - or any inconsistency as unedited - and must therefore end here/there or I’ll retreat into madness myself, if not there already!

  • Comment on: Dynamiting homes as a TV stunt sends the wrong message

    kevin toner's comment 14 April, 2014 12:13 pm

    One more thing regarding whether or not the “...TV stunt sends the wrong message”.

    Such a stunt might well send a, madly right, message that the world indeed cares desperately for those whom it’s failed, who’ve perished, through falling prey to social circumstance in quite the wrong context; and not merely by mishap and the occasional disaster, which happens anywhere.

    Blowing up 5 famous examples together for show across the world won’t make amends, but will allow us to commemorate and reveal our compassion for inter alia those we continually fail.

    If we grasped such an opportunity to reveal this compassion, such as “dynamiting” Red Rd - you said it first - then those we fail might be more likely to give ‘despair and survival’ a second thought at that crucial moment.

    Having a second thought can save a life!

  • Comment on: Dynamiting homes as a TV stunt sends the wrong message

    kevin toner's comment 13 April, 2014 7:42 pm

    The article is proverbially anti-council!

    In respect of the George Sq debacle, I’d be the first to rubbish replacing the red tarmac with a grey version and two extra zones of grass – a big disappointment as I've said previously, but nevertheless very welcome as an alternative to the controversial competition.

    It was actually none of the entries that were expressing a love to retain the square’s full statuary, the council merely provided the privilege of a ‘clean-slate’ brief, so as not to restrict the design experts, which the most lucrative entries inter alia took too much advantage of; one in particular with such a severe kitch as I've said previously that it was fortunate to be shortlisted...

    This year, as with the last year’s square, I am once again witnessing the macabre: the reaction against reason, particularly from our architectural community yet again.

    The extremely honourable and very clever ‘light-bulb’ moment and idea that Red Rd should bite the dust at the opening ceremony, is something I’m very jealous of (for not thinking up myself) as a sociably conscious architectural graduate. I hang my head in shame!

    I could imagine the likes of the Prince’s Foundation not failing to dream such a plot up though, for more reasons than I would have had!

    I've nothing personal against a well architected/tenanted high-rise, whether of the utopian gardens-in-the-sky variety (in Toronto you can be on an open balcony 66 up); or of otherwise safer equivalents.

    However, the former type has suffered a cataclysm of some quite horrendous stories concerning lives lost, throughout the last few years, for social reasons rather than by mishap. Glasgow is bearing the brunt of having some of the most infamous. I hadn't realised by quite ‘how much’ until I Goolgled for the infamous Glasgow ‘mother & son’ case - that my generation of architecture students were told of during Built Environment studies - to find way too many examples worldwide.

    Notwithstanding a keen interest in the architectural possibility of high-rise as with any other typology, I was nevertheless still going to respond using the single lectured case source alone.

    Directing this not to the lack of ‘commemoration’ in the petitioners’ plea per se, in my opinion, but rather towards the cold academia that’s put architectural sensibility and related passion above that of commemoration and compassion. Especially as it’s not the correct year in which to sideline, exclude, stifle, or protest over particular deeds of commemoration! My language would have been much stronger had I actually ever resided in a high-rise.

    We need to know when and when not to support various social concepts at the right time.

    An architect and architecture school are now on record for shooting themselves in the foot by being too unflappable over its own advocacies at the expense of others’ once in a lifetime ones.

    2014 was not the time to be meddling in what would have been one of the most heartfelt acts of commemoration in the world. Even without the architectural stance against it, the highly lamentable concept of the proposed Red Rd explosions would have been a Commonwealth related act and therefore not to be full-heartedly supported by everyone in the UK.

    The architectural community needn't have bothered inciting, if not spurring, Glasgow’s would-be compliment of activists against this heraldic act.

    2014 is as much to do with mourning as it is to do with celebration, especially in Scotland. If we can’t blow up our failures when is best the time to do so, in such spectacular fashion as is feasibly the case here (despite the blockbuster-film connotations) then who are we kidding?

    Ps I wish I now hadn't tweeted to RIBAJ that “... will a legacy-acumen [also] filter into the redevelopment of Red Rd, which the games want spectatorially razed?” in relation to the “nice” athlete’s village.

    Perhaps ‘cold feet’ has set in on too many fronts to mention. As readers may now know, the Games organisers have pulled the plug on the idea hours ago. Safety concerns from staging amongst activists being the contributory factor, or so it is said.

    I don’t think any activists would try to spoil the show if the standpoint /declaration as to the purpose of the proposed stunt were better communicated. Glasgow 2014 now won’t take the risk and expense: for the emotiveness that it failed to deliver or put over to the public.*

    Had it done so, critics would be fewer (they've had a heyday as it stands) and real activists wouldn't have bat an eyelid.

    [*Even Jonathon Meades on the concurrent AJ article - in order to slam it as a Brutalist sympathiser - cleverly hinted in advance that Glasgow 2014 wasn't selling the plot well enough.]

    Ps Apologies for the long post and for not proofing or editing it down! I call it chatting by myself – no one replies these days.

  • Comment on: Last chance to fill out the survey: Should the title of architect be protected?

    kevin toner's comment 18 March, 2014 1:20 pm

    The £0.5M worse off that I am currently - having not managed to transfer from being an assistant to an employed ‘architect by title’ as yet - will have been in vain if ‘title protection’ were to be abolished!

    2017 is a long way away, in terms of [expensively] working towards my objective, meaning further wasted earning potential yet to come, in spite of my experience.

  • Comment on: BBC slammed for ‘bias’ after Patty Hopkins is sidelined in TV show

    kevin toner's comment 8 March, 2014 1:14 pm

    Happy International Woman’s Day today, themed ‘inspiring change’!

    No men in this following article here, “The women who built the world”


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