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Astragal: V-sign from the cliffs of Dover

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A Haç is a machine for dancing in • Gough’s portrait of a client • Not quite the high-flyer that was promised

Boris Johnson made headlines last week with his surprise revelation that Brexit was, in fact, not ‘some great V-sign from the cliffs of Dover’

But unfortunately for the foreign secretary – who apparently sought to set the metaphorical record straight – his speech didn’t stop Karl Singporewala of Barbara Weiss Architects and his collaborator Anthony Grieveson dreaming up this witty monument (above) to our glorious exercise of contemporary sovereignty. 

Far from a quick response to Johnson’s contentious unity speech, however, the hastily shared proposal (which has already been submitted to this year’s RA Summer Exhibition) is actually Singporewala’s entry to the Brexit Monuments competition run by the Paris School of Architecture. 

The competition is for a £17,600 monument to be constructed at either or both ends of the Eurotunnel rail link – at Calais and Folkestone – and is due to announce its winner this Friday (23 February). Let’s hope they pick a good one – fingers crossed.  

A Haç is a machine for dancing in 

Hacienda interior

Hacienda interior

A regular on the Madchester club scene of the late 20th century, Astragal was delighted to see Ben Kelly’s 1982 Haçienda building named among the 10 most important music and literature venues in England’s history.

The honour was bestowed upon the scheme – a conversion of a former yacht showroom – by novelist Monica Ali when she chose her top 10 places from public nominations for the category in Historic England’s 100 Places initiative.

The home of acid house and performances from the likes of the Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses has now rightly been put in the company of Jane Austen’s Hampshire home and Shakespeare’s birthplace.

Of course the Haç, as it was affectionately known, was demolished in 2002 to be replaced by flats. 

But the citation on the Historic England website says that parts of it remain in a Manchester museum, and adds, furthermore, that New Order bassist Peter Hook ‘had some guitars made out of the dancefloor floorboards, complete with stiletto marks and cigarette burns’. 

And what more, as an architect, could you ever want for one of your buildings?

Gough’s portrait of a client

Street porter collage

Street porter collage

On the subject of celebrity buildings, it was great to see Piers Gough’s home for journalist and TV personality Janet Street-Porter given listed status this month.

The house on Britton Street, long-vacated by the former Independent on Sunday editor, is one of several that make Clerkenwell one of London’s more rewarding districts to traverse by foot.

Interesting to hear Gough describe the scheme as a ‘portrait of the client’ – which Astragal supposes it could be from certain angles in a dim light. After a pint or two.

Perhaps the listing will lead to more commissions from celebrities wanting to recreate themselves in building form. Although a flick through the television channels this evening did not produce many faces Astragal would like to be reminded of in 30 years’ time.

Not quite the high-flyer that was promised

Spire london cu

Spire london cu

The scheme to create western Europe’s tallest tower in London’s Docklands could be going backwards, it appears. 

In September 2016, HOK celebrated the start of construction on its 67-storey Spire London, which it said was scheduled for completion in 2020.

Yet 17 months later – at least a third of the way through the allotted programme – Astragal hears that a green light is still awaited for the second phase of preconstruction works on the 861-apartment scheme.

Developer Greenland UK said it was planning ‘an assessment to ensure the scheme provides the most up-to-date design specification’.

AECOM is working with the developer on this process ahead of getting stuck into the long-awaited ‘second phase of the preconstruction service’.

How comprehensive this design review will be is not clear, but one thing that may be on the agenda following a Sunday Times investigation is fire-escape strategy. 

The newspaper reported that there would only be one escape stairwell for top-floor residents, which is perfectly legal but an emotive issue. Greenland told the AJ it ‘continuously reviews’ its developments to ensure delivery to the highest standards, ‘and fire safety is a large part of this process’. 

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