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Astragal: Irony alert as Heathrow expansion factors in climate change


Irony has gasped its final breath. It has emerged that Grimshaw’s designs for the expansion of Heathrow Airport will be informed by the principles of climate adaptation.

In a consultation document about its highly controversial plans for a third runway, the airport said it was factoring more heatwaves, droughts, storms and floods into its expansion plans.

‘If the airport design did not consider climate change,’ it reads, ‘there would be a greater chance of effects such as rainfall filling drainage, increased flooding, overheating in buildings and public spaces, failure of equipment in extreme temperatures, water shortages, operational disruption from storm events, and alterations to affected or new landscapes.’

Heathrow is expanding so that more planes can fly to and from it. The Committee on Climate Change estimates that a third runway will increase the UK’s total CO2 emissions from air travel from 37 million to 43 million tonnes a year.

Buttress’s festival buzz

Wolf+&+michael+eavis crop

Wolf+&+michael+eavis crop

The usual minimalist rigour of architects’ social media feeds was interrupted last week by a Glastonbury-inspired scattering of glitter-covered posts, as nocturnal lasers and Kylie Minogue tributes disturbed the Pawsonesque peace. 

As architects around the country let their hair down, designers, set-builders and artists were letting their imagination run wild at Worthy Farm itself. 

One particularly eye-catching installation was BEAM, a 30m-diameter multisensory pavilion by artist Wolfgang Buttress, best known for his Hive structure at Kew Gardens, co-designed by BDP. 

Like Hive, BEAM is bee-themed and uses accelerometers (vibration sensors) to measure the activity of the Cornish black bee colony living at Michael Eavis’s farm. 

Buttress glasto 3 mark hadden

Buttress glasto 3 mark hadden

These signals are sent through to the sculpture and algorithms then convert the vibrational signals into ever-changing lighting and sound effects. 

The serious message behind BEAM is to highlight the plight of the honey bee and the essential role it plays in pollinating 30 per cent of the food we eat. 

The pavilion, acoustically engineered by Hoare Lea and constructed from 7,000 locally sourced spruce posts, will now become a bee hotel and is expected to remain at Glastonbury for several years.

Olympic legacy fails to pay its way

Shutterstock olympic park

Shutterstock olympic park

Have London’s 2012 Olympics venues become financially self-sustaining, as it was promised they would once the world’s gaze had shifted elsewhere?

Apparently not. Zaha Hadid Architects’ London Aquatics Centre made a loss of £1.4 million in the 12 months to 31 March 2019 – even though entrance prices were increased, it has been revealed.

The London Legacy Development Corporation’s (LLDC) annual accounts also show that Anish Kapoor’s ArcelorMittal Orbit ran at a deficit of £58,000 during the same period.

Both were flagship structures during the games. The Aquatics Centre hosted swimming events before becoming a public leisure pool, while the Orbit has been converted from an observation tower to a twisted folly with a tunnel slide. 

An LLDC spokesperson said the Aquatics Centre was a ‘highly successful’ venue used by more than a million people last year. Ensuring it remained affordable meant it required subsidy, they added. 

‘We are currently reviewing the operation of the ArcelorMittal Orbit to increase revenue,’ they said. ‘The addition of the slide – designed by Carsten Höller – has significantly increased the number of people visiting the attraction.’ 

Meanwhile, Make’s Copper Box multisport venue, originally known as the handball arena, has also made a significant loss (£722,000 in 2018/19). 

Perhaps that needs a slide adding too. 


Readers' comments (2)

  • Just make it a planning condition that all aircraft using Heathrow's new runway are powered by rubber bands.

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  • Tax air travel out of existence, to make it an environmental crime committed only by the very stupid, with a day’s community service for every air mile travelled.

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