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Astragal: Water pistols at dawn

03 hillhouse johan dehlin
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Intriguing news from Scotland where ‘anyone with a water pistol’ has been invited to descend en masse and open fire on Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s 1904 Hill House in Argyll

This might seem a logical move from the National Trust for Scotland; training up a territorial army of firefighters in case another of the architect’s masterpieces goes up in smoke. 

But this is not why the super-soakers are being deployed. The trust wants to run a ‘wet weather test’ – a little odd in an area battered by 190 days of rain a year – to find out whether new protective covering for the building is working properly. 

The building’s experimental design and materials mean it soaks up water ‘like a sponge’. Its new Carmody Groarke-designed mesh box, essentially a giant semi-transparent shed, is made of 32.4 million chainmail rings and, it is hoped, will protect it from getting soggy while restoration works take place. 

A macintosh for a Mackintosh, if you will. 

Kahn you imagine it?  

6 durham cathedral crop

6 durham cathedral crop

Have you ever wondered what 11th-century Norman-built Durham Cathedral would look like if designed by Modernist US architect Louis Kahn

Have you spent the twilight hours pondering what form Manchester’s Beetham Tower might take if conceived by Swiss-French genius Le Corbusier?

8 beetham tower

Ian Simpson’s Beetham Tower - as reimagined as a high-rise version of L’Habitation

Ian Simpson’s Beetham Tower - as reimagined as a high-rise version of L’Habitation

These musings no longer need to swirl unanswered through your consciousness. Train company TransPennine Express has done the work for you.

In a publicity campaign to showcase the UK’s landmarks, it commissioned  This is Render to reimagine 10 famous buildings and structures in the style of other creators.

‘While the original Gothic style of Durham Cathedral might be more Hogwarts than modern, if Kahn were to design it he’d be taking things back to ancient citadels with a modern twist,’ (pictured) it explained.

‘In this reimagining of the great cathedral you can see the brickwork combined with triangle and circle shapes made most famous in Kahn’s work including the Indian Institute of Management and National Assembly Building of Bangladesh.’

Snappy comeback 

Sutherland hussey from swilken bridge crop

Sutherland hussey from swilken bridge crop

Not everyone is delighted by the prospect of a series of ‘monolithic’ townhouses behind the much-photographed Swilcan Bridge, spanning the water hazard at St Andrew’s golf course’s famous 18th hole. 

Expressing her concern over Sutherland Hussey Harris’s proposals, planning convener of the community council Penny Uprichard said: ‘Hundreds and possibly thousands of people take photographs from the Swilcan Bridge during the year, and from the steps to the first tee from the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. Many of them will not wish to include the proposed buildings in their photographs as they are not typical of St Andrews.’

But architect Andy Summers quickly leapt to the scheme’s defence. ‘I’ve stood on the Swilcan Bridge for photos, like 1,000s of folk,’ he tweeted. ‘The angle and money shot – which is THE photo, looks tight up the 18th fairway and not towards this site. Nobody takes a photo from this angle, except for planning application it seems. Nice proposal though.’ 

Worn down by biennales 

The pavilion season may be drawing to a close. But springing up in its place are the numerous architecture biennales and triennales opening this autumn. The number of these has grown like topsy over the last few years, with Seoul, São Paulo, Chicago, Oslo and Lisbon all jostling for attention from globe-trotting journalists. 

As one seasoned campaigner at the Chicago event complained, ‘the most depressing phrase in the English language is “press breakfast”.’

The plethora of events also suffers from the exhaustion of finding new catchy titles. 

September has seen openings at Seoul, with the dull but simple name ‘Collective City’, and São Paulo with ‘Everyday’, which opened a bloodshot-eye-inducing three days later. More imaginative was Chicago’s ‘…and other such stories’, which let you fill in your own theme. 

Oslo’s event is opening as we go to press, separated by a few days and a leisurely European train-ride from that of Lisbon on October 3. 

Title-wise, Lisbon sticks to classic arty-archi-speak ‘The Poetics of Reason’, while Oslo’s ‘Enough: The Architecture of Degrowth’ is perhaps a pithy comment on biennale culture itself.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Excellent! - let's all spend our year flying to foreign cities to discuss sustainability.

    Simon Gill

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