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Astragal: Are architects the new fictional baddies?

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RIBA’s days borrowing a cup of sugar from the Chinese may be numbered • Artifice stops the presses • Posh pooch properties

Catching up on its Netflix backlog, Astragal was pleased to discover the recently released fourth series of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror. But what’s this? The third episode ‘Crocodile’ features a Modernist architect (pictured) indulging in a spot of murder. 

Yes, yes, she may have had her reasons, but why the disturbing trend for casting architects as the baddies in works of fiction? 

The episode follows hot on the heels of JP Delaney’s 2017 novel The Girl Before which featured – you guessed it – a Modernist architect who is a bit of a creepy guy with a very dark past. The author apparently researched the work and lives of Luis Barragán and Claudio Silvestrin – to gain an insight into his character’s architectural style rather than anything more sinister, we hasten to add.

And there were definite homicidal tendencies displayed by one architect in BBC1’s The Replacement last year.

We can only be thankful that these depictions are an improvement on Peter Ackroyd’s 1985 novel Hawksmoor, featuring an 18th-century architect who dealt in human sacrifice.

RIBA’s days borrowing a cup of sugar from the Chinese may be numbered 

Building of chinese embassy in the portland place in london, june 2013 (2)

Building of chinese embassy in the portland place in london, june 2013 (2)

Who would not want to have the RIBA as a neighbour? The Chinese Embassy perhaps, if the rumours are true that it is homing in on a site for a new London home.

Its current base, at 49/51 Portland Place, is opposite the institute in a 1970s building behind a retained 1785 façade by Robert and James Adam. But it is understood the ambassadorial staff and senior officials want a larger site on which they can also construct a major cultural centre.

One plot being repeatedly mentioned behind closed doors is the Royal Mint Court – a prime redevelopment site scattered with historic buildings overlooking the River Thames and the Tower of London. 

The speculation makes sense in many ways – the site is walled, large enough for an embassy and cultural offer and sits between the centre of London (and Chinatown) and the huge Chinese-backed development at the Royal Docks in the east. 

If proved true, this would spell the end for the current Delancey-backed plans for the plot, being led by Sheppard Robson, with Morrow + Lorraine among the other architects on the team.

However the deal is not yet signed, sealed and delivered, and moles reckon there are another two plots in the north and south of the capital which are still being contemplated by the Chinese. It is unclear whether any architects have been brought in yet either.

Artifice stops the presses

Worrying though it may be, Carillion’s liquidation is not the only business failure affecting architects at the moment.

It appears several practices may have been left high and dry by the collapse of north London based Artifice Books and its partner company Black Dog Publishing.

The publisher, whose previous titles include Architecture and Beyond, and Architects’ Year Book Symposium, went into liquidation in January.

Winchester-based practice Design Engine had just held a launch of its Artifice-published Building Stories tome, and is now selling the book itself while it tries to resolve distribution problems. 

It is unlikely to be an isolated casualty. Former Artifice staff have told Astragal that various practices from the UK and abroad had paid thousands up front towards book projects that have not been completed. 

On Astragal’s Amazon wish list are forthcoming titles from Evans + Shalev, Scandi-giant White Arkitekter and Barcelona-based Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura – all eagerly anticipated but now increasingly unlikely to emerge from Artifice’s presses.

Posh pooch properties

Spark pet crop

Spark pet crop

With all the problems in the world right now, it can be easy to forget there are actually dogs without their own tiny designer houses as well as a large numbers of animals in urgent medical need. 

Thankfully, animal charity Blue Cross and the Florida-based Outdoor Arts Foundation have devised a way of helping both the over-indulged and the sincerely poorly. Its BowWow Haus London contest invited architects, designers and artists to design and build ‘one-off, unique’ kennels.  

Among the entries received so far, highlights include: a bizarre igloo made from recycled plastic bottles (above) by Spark Architects; a colourful cube by Denizen Works, Cantifix and Arrant Land; an onion-domed offering from Russian for Fish; and a mini St Pooch-Haus station (below) by Christina Fallah, Sterling Studios and Lightplan. 

The creations will feature in a St Pancras International exhibition from 19 March to 26 April before being auctioned off for the charity. Next year, cat litter trays for world peace?

Christina fallah, sterling studios and lightplan st pooch haus lego bricks

Christina fallah, sterling studios and lightplan st pooch haus lego bricks

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