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Astragal: Níall McLaughlin’s Natural History Museum design becomes extinct

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Readers looking forward to seeing Níall McLaughlin Architects’ elegant, cloistered entrance and open-air galleries at the Natural History Museum are going to be disappointed.

Working with landscape architect Kim Wilkie, the practice won a Malcolm Reading Consultants contest to land the job in 2014, netting planning permission two years later.

However, it has emerged that the museum’s top brass has been plotting for some time to change tack, opting instead for a lower-key, garden-like scheme – now billed as a ‘biologically diverse, accessible and welcoming green space’ – outside its Alfred Waterhouse-designed Grade I-listed home in South Kensington.

It is understood that the budget (never disclosed) for McLaughlin’s now-extinct scheme was ‘dramatically reduced’ shortly after the plans were approved. This followed a change in the museum’s management team.

‘We completed Phase 1 of the project, providing a fully accessible entrance to the main museum hall through the Waterhouse portal in 2017,’ McLaughlin told Astragal. ‘[But] in early 2018, we were asked to make a new design for the grounds, based on a very limited budget. We produced this design, which was a set of quite modest garden spaces.

‘[We] did not see the new project as having the scope to require our ongoing involvement.’

So who has stepped up to the plate to take on the slimmed-down proposals? None other than emerging (now emerged?) RIBA Stirling Prize finalist Feilden Fowles. The practice’s designs are due to be released in April next year.

And, judging from the museum’s website, it looks as though the plans will still include a statue of Dippy the dinosaur.

Bridge too far for Tory hopeful

There has been much amusement on the London Underground thanks to an advert (pictured) poking fun at Boris Johnson’s failed Garden Bridge scheme.

Software provider Monday.com’s ads mock Johnson’s mayoral record. One is entitled ‘Bridge building’, which refers to his championing of the Heatherwick-designed project, which was finally abandoned in August 2017.

It reads: ‘Set up charity, £5.4m – done. Outsource to French, £21.4m – done. Cancel construction, £26.7m – done.’

But next year’s Tory mayoral candidate, Shaun Bailey, is not amused. He’s claimed the ads are in breach of Transport for London’s guidelines on political impartiality, vowing to refer the matter to the Advertising Standards Authority.

Monday dot com

Monday dot com

Shortlist on ice

Why is Somerset House being so coy about who is vying to design a £50 million auditorium at the Grade I-listed landmark in central London?

The two-stage competition – organised by Colander on behalf of the Somerset House Trust –  attracted some serious players from around the globe. 

The winner will replace an outdated 1960s conference centre with a new sunken 700-capacity venue between the New Wing and West Wing of the William Chambers-designed 18th-century building.

If the rumours are correct, the famous centre for the visual arts should be crowing at the names on the five-strong shortlist. Instead, Somerset House is playing it cool.  

Nevertheless the AJ has it on good authority the finalists include Níall McLaughlin Architects, RIBA Stirling Prize-winner Haworth Tompkins with Citizen Design Bureau and Norwegian stars Snøhetta with ORMS. The list is completed by Studio Seilern and an intriguing collaboration between DRDH  and Barcelona’s Barozzi Veiga

Apparently Somerset House will be make an announcement in the New Year once, like their famous Christmas ice rink, they have thawed.

Plan bee

It was suggested this week that Invisible Studio’s Hadspen Apiary might be borrowing heavily from Gianni Botsford’s House in a Garden for the design of its roof. 

Invisible studio's apiary

Invisible studio’s apiary

Hadspen Apiary by Invisible Studio

The apiary comes hot on the heels of the practice’s Room in a Productive Garden, also in the grounds of Hadspen House in Somerset. 

Certainly the structure, on site, looks to be a throne room fit for a queen … bee, but the studio was quick to dismiss the attempted sting and commented ‘Lol … nothing like it in real life!’ Astragal is glad to have been able to elucidate: The apiary is not plagiarised.

Gba gh a edmund sumner 0016

Gba gh a edmund sumner 0016

Source: Edmund Sumner

House in a Garden by Gianni Botsford Architects

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