The cliché about architects being a bunch of squabbling egos starts to ring true when people who should know better rush to judgment about others’ work, writes Paul Finch
Stirling win andrewhendry
I can’t help noticing that the spirit of generosity with which great designs and designers should be treated seems to be in short supply at the moment. The cliché about architects being a bunch of squabbling egos starts to ring true when people who should know better rush to judgment about other architects’ work and resort to anti-social media to air their grievances.
The suggestion that it was ‘disastrous’ to award the Stirling Prize to Foster + Partners’ Bloomberg headquarters only goes to show how abuse of language is not confined to the world of politics. ‘Disastrous’ is not a synonym for ‘I don’t agree with a decision made by jurors who have actually seen the relevant buildings’.
A magnificent landmark for an extraordinarily driven client, this project is jaw-dropping in its ambition and achievement – by no means guaranteed simply because of the size of the budget. It would be worth an award simply as a piece of urbanism, but it is much more than that: it is a complete work of architecture in every sense and thoroughly deserving of a prize that has in the past been awarded to far less serious work.
The real problem about CO2 emissions lies in the worst energy-performing buildings, not exemplary offices likely to be with us for a century
Even Simon Sturgis, an architect and energy expert hugely to be admired, seems to have tripped up in his criticisms of the Bloomberg building complex, which has the highest-ever BREEAM office rating. Nobody is saying that it can be the model for all future workplace buildings, but it can certainly point to some directions they might head in. The real problem about carbon dioxide emissions lies in the (let’s say) 20 per cent of our worst energy-performing housing and other building stock, not exemplary new offices likely to be with us for a century, unlike the commercial clunker it has replaced.
Nor do I like the attacks on De Matos Ryan for its V&A extension designs. They are talented designers who deserve, like their client, some respect. Can we avoid turning the mother of the arts into a catalyst for slanging matches?
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Richard horden web
Richard Horden’s untimely passing brought to mind one of his career highlights: winning the 1992 Glasgow Tower competition for a site in St Enoch Square. The intention was that it should become a millennium marker for the city, which it eventually did, albeit in an altered form and on a different site.
I worked on the commemorative publication that marked the competition. The jury included Norman Foster (for whom Richard had worked on the Sainsbury Centre) and Anthony Hunt (its engineer). The competition was funded by the Glasgow Development Agency and a publicly minded developer, The Burrell Company.
It attracted hundreds of entries and produced a strong shortlist and an exceptional winner. I got to know Richard, having met him at the post-announcement lunch in Rogano’s, the city’s then restaurant of choice. We met on and off for years, most recently in autumn last year, when he showed us round the brilliant house in Poole, designed for his parents, which was his thesis project at the AA. His anecdote about the design concerned Foster, who had been an AA external examiner and was apparently quite searching in his questions about the design. Having later seen the building in the flesh, he offered Richard a job …
Richard was one of those architects who could work at very different scales to equally good effect. A big commercial building might be followed by a micro-flat or mountain-rescue cabin, or canvas lifeguard shelter. His uncompromising rigour did not always work to his advantage in respect of client relations, and it is a matter of regret that, for understandable reasons, he fell out with the client over the Glasgow Tower project and severed all ties with it.
Another hiccup occurred in his relationship with Land Securities, at the time the UK’s largest developer. Richard made the preliminary shortlist in its 1984 Grand Buildings competition, with a brilliant twin-building proposition unlike any other entry. He didn’t make the final three because he didn’t fully comply with some not very relevant entry requirements, but the client knew that he had produced something special. The next competition it ran was for an office building in Victoria, Eland House. Richard was invited to take part and won. Later, for various reasons, the parties fell out. A pity.
There were plenty of successes, however, via his practice Horden Cherry Lee and in respect of his teaching in Europe. He will be much missed.