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Weekend roundup: Architecture to soothe Millwall’s savage beast

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This week’s top stories reviewed by the AJ’s Simon Aldous: AFL reveals Millwall football stadium revamp • BDP to mark International Women’s Day with male-dominated panel • Council rejects Bristol Airport expansion on environmental ground • Chipperfield back in the fray for Stockholm Nobel Centre

Football clubs are not, as a rule, associated with high culture, a tendency that has over the years been best exemplified by Millwall.

While football hooliganism is a rare occurrence these days compared with the 1970s and 80s, fans of the south London club have managed to keep that particular flame burning, with violent incidents a regular occurrence.

Its grimly utilitarian stadium, the Den, sits in an inner-city wasteland in Bermondsey next to a giant energy-from-waste incineration plant, the two splendidly complementing one another. ‘No one likes us; we don’t care’ is the fans’ perennial chant.

So you cannot fail to admire the pluck and ambition of AFL Architects, which has designed an exciting new look for the stadium, strikingly at odds with the club’s image.

A curving roof form features what appears to be an undulating timber brise soleil, while the lower level features Colosseum-esque brick pillars. Outside, the architects plan an elevated public piazza in which fans can gather on match days.

The proposal, if fully implemented, will increase The Den’s effective capacity from 18,000 to 34,000, though in practice this would only be needed were the Championship club to win promotion to the Premier League, a prospect many would be wary of given the club’s notoriety.

Is this, then, a brave attempt to raise the behaviour of Millwall’s hardcore fans through the civilising effect of architecture?

The late Roger Scruton may not have been a football fan himself, his own sporting interests lying in fox-hunting, but surely the Classical overtones of this stadium would have delighted him.

BDP stumbles into International Women’s Day row

Bdp speakers

Bdp speakers

Gender equality. Such a minefield. You try and do something to advance the cause of women in architecture – flowers in the office or free cookery courses – and the next thing you know, you’re being Twitter-shamed for somehow getting it all wrong.

This week it was BDP’s turn to feel the full glare of social media after it announced that, for International Women’s Day on 8 March, it has organised a talk entitled ‘The Positive Power of the Male Voice to Make Change’ where three of its four speakers are men.

Architect Sasha Edmonds expressed the feelings of many when she tweeted: ‘Anyone wanna go see three men mansplain “diversity” for Women in the Built Environment? That’ll be a hard pass from me.’

Also expressing their disappointment were Part W, a collective that campaigns for gender equality in the built environment; Alisha Morenike, co-founder of the Black Females in Architecture network; and Dinah Bornat of ZCD Architects who remarked: ‘It’s important that men start listening. Which includes, among other things, talking a whole lot less.’

The practice has defended the makeup of the event, saying that it had been conceived by women at the practice alongside Jude Kelly, a former director of the Southbank Centre and the one woman on the panel. It explained that she would be interviewing the three men about how men can be better allies in the journey towards gender equality.

Which is all very well. But this is an industry where events often have male-dominated – or even male-only – panels. Setting up yet another one to look at how to tackle the environment that engenders this phenomenon sends mixed messages to say the least.

BDP also points out that the talk is only one of several events, also including workshops, speed mentoring and career progression advice. Oh yes, and self-defence classes. Which is definitely an improvement on the cookery classes the RIBA was set to run for last year’s International Women’s Day, if a sad reflection of the challenges faced by some women working in architecture.

Climate-crisis concerns scupper Bristol Airport expansion

Bristol airport todd architects

Bristol airport todd architects

While certain big-name practices have continued to get involved with airport projects, despite air travel’s hugely environmentally damaging environmental effects, North Somerset Council has shown it is less squeamish about rejecting such opportunities.

The local authority has rejected a major expansion of Bristol Airport, designed by Todd Architects, citing the huge impact it would have on climate change.

The airport planned to expand its capacity from 10 million passengers a year to 12 million and Todd Architects’ scheme would have added a four-storey extension to the terminal building and a separate two-storey extension.

But despite planning officers having recommended the scheme for approval, the planning committee voted to reject the plans by 18 votes to seven.

Expressing its disappointment, Bristol Airport said the result would be that passengers instead drove to London airports ‘creating carbon emissions and congestion in the process.’

But councillor John Ley-Morgan said: ‘How can we achieve our ambition for carbon neutrality by 2030 if we approve this decision?’ It’s a question some of the practices that have signed the Architects Declare climate-crisis pledge may want to ask themselves.

Chipperfield’s Nobel prize is still in his grasp

Slussen dbox fosters

Slussen dbox fosters

A Nobel Centre in Stockholm designed by David Chipperfield could be back on – 16 months after a previous proposal fell foul of a political shakeup.

Stockholm City Council had been appealing a rejection of the competition-winning scheme by Sweden’s Land and Environment Court. But when local elections led to a new centre-right-led administration taking power, the appeal was dropped and the scheme seemed doomed.

Now, however, the Nobel Foundation has found a new site. The previous location was in the historic Blasieholmen district, which the Land and Environment Court feared would be damaged by the scheme. Its replacement, just a kilometre away, is on a waterfront site within the city’s Slussen regeneration zone (pictured), which is undergoing a £1 billion transformation masterplanned by Foster + Partners.

The new location requires a new design and Chipperfield can’t expect to simply walk back on to the job – he is one of a number of architects who the foundation has invited to come up with ideas for the building, though according to Chipperfield, it is not planning to hold another competition as such.


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