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Astragal: Is the Design Museum this year's House for Essex?

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On the topic of RIBA awards, it seems the new Design Museum is this year’s House for Essex.

Readers will recall that last year a local jury did not consider FAT’s colourful, tile-clad house worthy of a regional RIBA gong, abruptly halting its progress down the road to national honours.

Conversely, the AJ hears, this year the regional jury did not want to give any prize at all to the Design Museum scheme. The revamp of RMJM’s 1962 Commonwealth Institute includes surrounding apartments, and was overseen by John Pawson, OMA and Allies and Morrison. 

The jury, which visited the building, was overruled by the RIBA National Awards group.

But that isn’t the end of it. The Twentieth Century Society has now waded in. In a letter from the society’s deputy chair to RIBA president Jane Duncan, Timothy Brittain-Catlin has protested ‘in the strongest possible terms’ against the scheme’s RIBA regional award.

‘To put it succinctly,’ he writes, ‘the RIBA has honoured a scheme which appropriated a high-quality public asset for private speculative advantage. 

‘It is in my opinion a mark of shame that the RIBA has given an award to this project and to architects who profited from it.’

Expect this one to rumble on.

Hastings Pier is bookies’ Stirling favourite, but smart money could be elsewhere

Hastings pier 1312 francesco montaguti pressimage 3

Hastings pier 1312 francesco montaguti pressimage 3

Source: Francesco Montaguti

Groupwork + Amin Taha’s Barrett’s Grove didn’t last long as the bookies’ RIBA Stirling Prize favourite.

Within days of the shortlist being announced, William Hill had shifted its odds, making dRMM’s Hastings Pier the new frontrunner at 5/4.

It is doubtful the switch followed an architectural reappraisal of the six finalists by the bookmaker. More likely it is an attempt to balance the books after a wedge of cash went on the seafront project. 

William Hill confirmed that at least one £100 wager had been received for the ‘versatile and beautiful’ pier revamp to win the UK’s most prestigious architectural prize.

The AJ’s readers, however, are not convinced. The firm favourite according to our ongoing, online poll is 6a’s Photography Studio for Juergen Teller – a pared-back, sublimely detailed minimalist dream. 

Might punters do better putting a few quid that way – especially given it is being offered at a tempting 11/2.

Louis Kahn’s most playful creation hits choppy waters

Point counterpoint ii

Point counterpoint ii

It has been described as a ‘cross between a spaceship, a flute and a clamshell’. Louis Kahn’s 41-year-old, 60m-long Point Counterpoint II concert boat is perhaps the architect’s most unusual – and playful – creation.

Built as a wandering platform for the American Wind Symphony Orchestra, the barge has toured the States and even docked in at a number of European capitals, including Stockholm in 1989.

But the shiny metallic boat, with its circular doorways, on-board art gallery and opening roof, looks set to have made its final flute-like floating voyage.

According to the local press, the vessel, now moored at the Illinois River in Ottawa, is heading to the Louisiana shipyard to be used as a crane barge unless a cash-rich saviour can be found. 

Cellist Yo-yo Ma has been campaigning for the boat to be saved, but so far there has been only minor interest – from activists in Kingston on the Hudson River.

Will there be a final encore for Kahn’s open-air, offshore oddity?   

The only true way to express your love for a building

Two tattoos

Two tattoos

Architectural tattoos have been around for a while, but the craze recently exploded on to social media. A designated hashtag, #architecturetattoo, began trending on Instagram last month. The social network has been awash with inkings of Classical cornices, Renaissance domes and Gothic detailing. 

Highlights include a rose window from Notre Dame tattooed on a woman’s belly; a sketch of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge on a man’s upper arm; and the capital of an Ionic column inked on another man’s calf. 

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