Star-filled launch parties, an architectural tour and the inevitable lunches make up a pretty good week for Paul Finch
A pleasure of editorial life is the variety of experiences it is occasionally possible to pack into a short space of time. Last week’s fun began with a launch party at Richard Rogers’ Chelsea house to mark publication of his latest thoughts on urbanism and democracy. Apart from the excellence of the wine and food, courtesy of Ruthie Rogers and the River Café, there was a wonderful cast list of guests (see Astragal). I had the privilege of chatting to the novelist Ian McEwan, having not spoken to him since we were at school together 50 years ago.
The next evening saw a celebration of a different sort: a launch party for the Allford Hall Monaghan Morris/Derwent White Collar Factory project round the corner from the AJ offices on Old Street roundabout. The huge enthusiasm with which this sophisticated project has been almost universally greeted stems partly from interest in the novelty of a running track on the roof, but in truth it has much more to it than that.
I can claim to have been the first journalist to put the phrase ‘white collar factory’ into the public domain
I have been waiting for the building to finish with interest, because I can claim to have been the first journalist to put the phrase ‘white collar factory’ into the public domain, via a column in Estates Gazette in 2008. This followed a conversation with WCF architect Simon Allford and property man-about-town David Rosen, whose own discussions had produced the phrase as a description of the Monsoon headquarters building by Simon. The conversation, by the way, took place just before his wedding feast in a City restaurant, which goes to show that work never ceases.
The real highlights of the White Collar Factory are the highly sophisticated façade strategy; the elimination of air-conditioning; considered place-making; its truly mixed-use character; and, most importantly, the proposition about workspace that is both flexible and adaptable, not least because of its 4m floor-to-floor dimension. All this has been the result of 10 years of thinking about ‘universal space’, which has included research into construction and materials as well as spatial design. The result is simple elements, used in a clever way to create space which was economical to build and which has let quickly and profitably.
The week continued with a visit to Salisbury Cathedral and then the West Country on a pleasurable architectural weekend study tour. We admired Michael Hopkins’ fine series of buildings for Bryanston School, dropped in to Peter Cook’s beautiful Drawing Room at the University of the Arts, Bournemouth, before concluding our first day with Roger Zogolovitch’s terrific Houseboat project (designed with Meredith Bowles), next to his Boat House dwelling overlooking the sea at Poole.
Smiljan Radic Serpentine pavilion
Over the rest of our weekend, we visited a series of wonderful architectural set-pieces. We saw Edward Maufe’s 1930s house on Round Island, then were treated – during a boat trip around Poole Harbour – to the sight of WilkinsonEyre’s excellent Twin Sails Bridge, opening and closing just for us! Then two Richard Horden houses, including the iconic 1972 home originally designed for his parents (it was his AA diploma project, critted by Norman Foster and James Stirling), and Oliver Hill’s lovingly maintained 1930s house, Landfall.
Our last day included the AA’s stimulating Hooke Park timber ‘school’, then two art venues: Niall Hobhouse’s Drawings Collection near Bruton in Somerset (a revelation), and the Hauser & Wirth Art Gallery in Bruton. The latter has a fabulous garden by Dutch designer Piet Oudolf, including the 2014 Serpentine Gallery pavilion (pictured) by Smiljan Radic, re-erected to great effect.
Finally, two restaurant recommendations: Lake Yard in Poole Harbour, and the Riverside Café in West Bay, Bridport. Appropriate architecture and, more importantly, fabulous fish.