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Astragal: Heatherwick finds that water and architecture can mix, sometimes

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ARCHITECTURAL CAMPAIGNER TURNS CANDIDATE • GARDEN MUSEUM DIGS UP GRISLY DISCOVERY • WHILE HOTEL FIND IS MORE PLEASANT • SPENCE’S HELICOPTER SPIN-OFF • CALATRAVA CREATES DOCTOR WHO’S NEW FOE

Heatherwick Studio will have been heartened to see the first pieces of its installation The Vessel arrive at KPF’s Hudson Yards regeneration project in New York last week. 

The interactive 16-storey viewing platform, comprising 154 flights of stairs and 80 landings, features a structural steel frame, imported by boat from Italy.

The Garden Bridge designer has not had much luck with water-related projects lately. The latest to run into trouble is its proposed park on stilts (below) at the Hudson’s nearby Pier 55, a project some may feel bears a certain resemblance to another struggling river-based Heatherwick design. 

Heatherwick pier 55

Heatherwick pier 55

Last month, a judge halted the project, ruling that the US Army Corps of Engineers had breached the Clean Water Act by issuing it with a permit. 

The corps is deciding whether to appeal against that ruling.

Architectural campaigner turns candidate

George turner crop

George turner crop

The Garden Bridge should not, however, be a point of contention for the candidates contesting the Vauxhall constituency in next month’s general election. It  is opposed by both Labour’s pro-Brexit Kate Hoey and her Liberal Democrat challenger. 

The latter comes in the unlikely form of architecture campaigner George Turner, who previously campaigned against Squire & Partners’ redevelopment of the Shell Centre in Waterloo, unsuccessfully taking court action. 

Turner told the AJ: ‘The Labour party in Lambeth have been responsible for the most extraordinary architectural vandalism on our beloved South Bank.’

Garden Museum digs up grisly discovery

Five archbishops

Five archbishops

Elsewhere on the banks of the Thames, builders working on Dow Jones Architects’ extension of the Garden Museum have unearthed a macabre surprise: the remains of five archbishops of Canterbury.

The redevelopment team came across a hidden crypt containing the remains – and 30 lead coffins – when they started to remove the church’s flagstones. 

The discovery was made last year, but only revealed after work finished. A glass panel has now been installed so that visitors can peer into the crypt below. 

… while hotel find is more pleasant

Sunbathers collage

Sunbathers collage

Readers may remember a striking 1960s photograph of a bespectacled gentleman peering out from between two halves of Barbara Hepworth sculpture, which graced the cover of the AJ in January last year – marking the listing of 41 post-war public artworks. At the time Historic England called for the return of other examples lost to the nation. 

That initiative has now borne fruit. A Festival of Britain sculpture (pictured) known as The Sunbathers, by Hungarian émigré artist Peter Laszlo Peri, has turned up in the rather unlikely setting of the Clarendon Hotel on the edge of Blackheath village in south-east London after being spotted by a clued-up couple. 

Historic England is hoping a crowdfunding campaign will raise the £15,000 needed to restore the sculpture and get it back to its rightful home on the South Bank. To donate, visit crowdfunder.co.uk/sunbathers.

Spence’s helicopter spin-off

Spence sideboard crop

Spence sideboard crop

Another figure to have made a major contribution to the Festival of Britain was Basil Spence. In an unrelated development, a rare furniture piece designed by Spence has recently been acquired by National Museums Scotland. 

The modernist Allegro dining suite was manufactured in plywood by Glasgow firm H Morris and Co in the late 1940s and is now on display in Edinburgh thanks to a donation from the Art Fund. 

The suite was inspired by wartime innovations including techniques of laminating and shaping wood to make helicopter blades. But the cost of manufacture was so high that only 10 were ever made. 

Calatrava creates Doctor Who’s new foe

Dr who valencia

Dr who valencia

Viewers of last weekend’s Doctor Who may have been wondering about the identity of the futuristic building stumbled upon by the time-traveller and his new companion, Bill. It was in fact Santiago Calatrava’s City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, Spain.

In the episode, ‘Smile’, the building had been created by millions of nano-robots, tuned to react to the emotions of human colonisers. Alas, a programming glitch meant that if anyone showed signs of sadness, nearby parts of the building would fly out and reduce the unhappy earthling to dust and bones.

It’s not the first time the Spanish architect’s creation has appeared on screen. It was also a key location in the 2015 feature film Tomorrowland, starring George Clooney, where it formed part of an imaginary ideal city.

Astragal looks forward to Calatrava’s proposed glass tower scheme for Greenwich Peninsula being a similarly popular film location.

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