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Weekend roundup: Out of Pocket

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This week’s top stories reviewed by the AJ’s Simon Aldous. HAT Projects’ Pocket Living loses appeal • AJ survey shows slight boost for Labour • Dulwich Pavilion to be turned into planters • Hawkins\Brown profits plummet • Níall McLaughlin museum scheme axed • Takero Shimazaki reworks Barbican flat

The future looks bleak for HAT Projects’ proposed 44-home housing block in Kerswell Close, in the London borough of Haringey.

Developer Pocket Living has lost an appeal for the scheme on the grounds that it only provides one-bedroom homes and is, therefore, ‘overly restrictive in its type and mix’.

Pocket Living specialises in ‘micro-flats’ though it isn’t too keen on that term, presumably on account of the implication that it requires a many-lensed scientific instrument to see them. And to be fair, compared with Ben Adams Architects’ proposed ‘human warehouse’ office-to-resi conversion of Alexandra House – also in Haringey – its homes are positively palatial.

Not only do they usually comprise a whopping 38m² of floorspace – exceeding the national space standards for a one-person one-bedroom home (37m²) – but they classify as ‘intermediate affordable’ by virtue of being sold at 20 per cent below market value. They are also only available to first-time buyers who must live or work in the local area.

Among the architects the developer has worked with are PRP, Waugh Thistleton and Gort Scott.

The Pocket Living model has been endorsed by the Mayor of London as well as Homes England, which have given it nearly £60 million to build housing in the capital. But it doesn’t float the boat of Haringey Council. Not these days anyway. Under a previous administration, the council was so supportive of the developer’s USP that it sold the Kerswell Close site to Pocket Living.

This was also the administration that backed the Haringey Development Vehicle, a much-criticised joint housing venture with Lendlease. The HDV also bit the dust following last year’s council elections. While the council remained Labour, it saw what could be broadly described as a shift from Blairism to Corbynism, with a significant shift away from backing public/private collaborations.

In the case of the Kerswell Close site, the planning inspector backed the council’s assertion that the borough’s biggest need is for family homes. Haringey now intends to build council housing on the site.

Labour surges aren’t what they used to be

Dec 19 election survey

Dec 19 election survey

By the time next week’s Weekend Roundup is delivered to your inbox, the general election will have been and we will have a new government. Exactly how new remains to be seen. Will the Brexit uncertainty that has stalled so much architectural work have been replaced by Brexit certainty? And will that be even worse?

The AJ has been running a survey of the profession’s voting, with latest figures showing a modest rise in those intending to vote Labour – from 37 per cent at the start of the campaign to 39 per cent now. During the 2017 campaign, support soared from 35 per cent to 64 per cent. Lib Dems are second at 27 per cent (13 per cent in 2017) with the Tories trailing on 15 per cent, pretty much unchanged from 2017.

The most important policy when choosing who to vote for remains Brexit, picked by 45 per cent of respondents; with the environment second on 18 per cent.

Poll: Which party do you think would be best for architecture and the built environment?
• Conservatives
• Green
• Labour
• Lib Dems
Vote here

Last week’s poll asked: Should the RIBA take disciplinary action over architects who design permitted-development conversions with units below minimum space standards? An overwhelming 87% of those voting, said it should take action.

Do have a piece of pavilion



After the first Dulwich Picture Gallery pavilion was set to be repurposed as a sheltered play area at a local primary school, this year’s creation has gone one better. Sorry, 149 better.

The Colour Palace, designed by architect Pricegore and artist Yinka Ilori, will be gracing up to 150 schools and community sites throughout south London – by being recycled into 150 outdoor planters. Not since the fall of the Berlin wall has a piece of the built environment been dispersed so widely (possibly).

The £150,000 pavilion was built as part of this year’s London Festival of Architecture and was inspired by wax fabric prints on display in a Lagos market.

A project led by London practice Alma-nac will recycle the pavilion’s 2,000 hand-painted slats, sending them out with a flat-pack instruction kit on how to turn them into planters.

Meanwhile, the pavilion’s decking timber and marine ply is being given to the Build Up Foundation, a charity that runs practical construction projects for young people.

But this altruistic programme wasn’t always the pavilion’s intended fate. At the time of opening, it was being advertised for private sale by estate agent The Modern House with a guide price of £25,000.

Did the festival have a change of heart? Or was the market for a rather large (145m²) structure with negligible protection from the rain not quite what it had hoped for?

Profits plummet at Hawkins\Brown

Hereeast hawkinsbrown

Hereeast hawkinsbrown

It’s not been a vintage year for Hawkins\Brown. Earlier this year it made 19 staff redundant and now its latest accounts show a 39 per cent drop in operating profit – from £7.3 million to £4.4 million in the year up to 31 March, 2019.

Its turnover also fell, though by a more modest 11 per cent – from £30.6 million to £27.4 million.

The accounts also reveal that, even before the redundancies were announced, total staff numbers had declined from 262 to 250.

The practice declined to comment on the results. However, since March it has won six jobs with a combined value of more than £650,000 though the GLA and TfL’s Design and Urbanism Panel.

Rewriting (natural) history

Nhm cloister credit niall mclaughlin architects cmyk

Nhm cloister credit niall mclaughlin architects cmyk

Níall McLaughlin Architects’ design for a cloistered entrance and open-air galleries at London’s Natural History Museum has been ditched.

The practice, working with landscape architect Kim Wilkie, won a competition to design the scheme in 2014, beating entries by Stanton Williams, BIG and Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios among others.

But it has emerged that the McLaughlin walked away from the job after the museum decided to opt for a lower-key, garden-like scheme with a substantially reduced budget. ‘We did not see the new project as having the scope to require our ongoing involvement,’ McLaughlin told the AJ.

Feilden Fowles – shortlisted for this year’s Stirling Prize for its Weston building at Yorkshire Sculpture Park – is drawing up slimmed-down proposals for the museum’s grounds.

Column inches



AJ readers have gone wild over Takero Shimazaki Architects’ reworking of a flat in the City of London’s Barbican Estate.

The estate was designed in the 1960s and 70s by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon and is considered one of London’s principal examples of Brutalist architecture. But the south-east London practice has gone in a very different direction, citing influences from traditional Japanese architecture and European Classicism.

It has replaced internal walls with sliding timber screens, also fitting timber-slatted ceilings and tatami mats.

Most conspicuously rejecting any notion of ‘form follows function’ is the insertion of a non-structural terrazzo column. While other architects have sought to minimise the use of columns, Takero Shimazaki can’t get enough of them, explaining that this one ‘could act as a bridge between the two conflicting languages of this interior architecture’.

In an extensive eulogy to the fit-out, the anonymous client is particularly effusive about the flat’s entryway, which features a pebble threshold. ‘Visitors can often spend half the morning standing there, happily chatting to the resident, never entering or even seeing the interior,’ they write.

If I were a Barbican resident, I’d be popping round to borrow a cup of sugar immediately.

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