From a cautionary tale over a home cinema gone wrong to controversy over unpaid interns at this year’s Serpentine Pavilion, here are the AJ’s most-read stories of 2019
Cinema court case
No architect wants their work to be described as ‘wonky’. Yet this was the word used to describe a home-cinema project designed by Daniel Marcal for a £7 million home in Totteridge, north London. The clients, who had requested a floating ‘sleek modern’ cube in their poolhouse, took Marcal to court over the project where the architect was ordered to pay £500,000 in damages plus costs. The judge warned the ruling could have ’wide implications’ for the profession.
Serpentine pavilion 2019 ©francescorusso lowres 016
2019 was not a great year for the Serpentine. In March it emerged that Junya Ishigami + Associates, the Japanese starchitect who had just landed the gallery’s prestigious annual commission, had been offering unpaid internships at his Tokyo Studio. Initially publicised by architect Adam Nathaniel Furman on Instagram, the AJ obtained an email outlining a number of ‘conditions’ for internship including no pay and a six-day working week with office hours of 11am to midnight. The launch of Ishigami’s pavilion, a cloud-like structure covered in slate tiles, was then overshadowed by the news that Serpentine chief executive Yana Peel had resigned following controversy over her husband’s investment in a spyware firm.
Shutterstock notre dame cathedral 10 may paris
News that Paris’s Notre-Dame Cathedral was going up in smoke was big, but it was the revelation there would be an international competition for a new spire that really got UK architects excited. The chance to design a replacement for French architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc’s 1844 addition to the medieval cathedral does not come around often. Amid a flurry of ludicrous CGIs that mooted turning the cathedral into a swimming pool or a car park, a row blew up over whether the new spire should be a replica or contemporary addition. There is no sign of it abating. The army general in charge of the rebuilding project recently told the chief architect Philippe Villeneuve, who favours rebuilding the original spire, to ‘shut his mouth’.
AJ readers were eager to sneak a peek at AHMM’s designs for the House of Commons’ temporary home in Whitehall. The plans have not gone down too well with heritage campaigners though. They are furious that the scheme will see the partial demolition of the 1980s Grade II*-listed Richmond House, designed by Whitfield Partners. Architect Piers Gough also weighed in, saying it would be ‘criminal’ to lose the PoMo building. One to keep an eye on in 2020.
Ukgbc climate 007
Eye-catching news in May as the UK’s most influential architecture practices issued a rallying cry for the profession to take action on climate change. The Architects Declare initiative is now in the spotlight over how it is meeting some of its bold pledges. Eyebrows were raised when signatories Foster + Partners and Zaha Hadid Architects both announced they had landed major airport schemes, prompting a debate on where architects should be drawing the line. This conundrum is nicely explored in a recent article for the AJ by Bell Phillips’ Hari Phillips.
Goldsmith Street by Mikhail Riches with Cathy Hawley 2
No real surprises that the RIBA Stirling Prize result was the year’s most-read story. The reaction from architects could not have been more different from when Foster + Partners’ Bloomberg won the award in 2018. Mikhail Riches with Cathy Hawley’s Goldsmith Street win was met with an outpouring of joy from the profession. Though the crashing Tory majority in this month’s election may have partly extinguished hopes it marked the start of a council house renaissance.
Not even architects are above some royal family clickbait. Thousands of readers could not resist finding out who the lucky practice to be picked for the renovation of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s ‘official residence’ in Windsor. The answer? AHR.