Wednesday, 22 February 2012

It's all part of the Master's Lot

On the day on which the London Evening Standard reported a further lapse in the behaviour of  the nation's Members of Parliament (some were caught cheating in the annual pancake race between the elected members, the House of Lords and the Parliamentary press corps), The Master, pictured above, took part yesterday in what is becoming an established City Tradition - The Guildyard Yard Pancake Race Meeting. This is organized by the Poulters' Company in conjunction with The Cook and the Butler caterers with races being held in different categories - Masters, Liverymen, Ladies and a fancy dress event. You could be forgiven for thinking that the Masters pictured were in the latter category.

I won't bore you with the rules - suffice it to say that special hats, gloves (health and safety considerations) and aprons have to be worn as do Masters Gowns and badges. A predetermined amount of tossing is required and, should you drop the pancake, you either beat it to the ground (as my old school cadet Sergeant Major used to say about dropped rifles) or you suffer penalty point deductions.

I would like to report that, while the Master looks as though he was behind at this stage, he came through to breast the tape in record time. Sadly not. Still, as we should know in this Olympic year, the Corinthian ideal is of paramount importance. Ther's always next year.

New City Architecture Award for 2011

At its main Livery Dinner in March the Company will announce the winner of its coveted New City Architecture Award for 2011. The eligible buildings / works of architecture are those which have been completed free of planning conditions in the year to 30 September 2011. The award is made specifically to the building which, in the opinion of the judges, makes the most significant contribution to the street scape and skyscape of the City of London.

The assessors this year were Paul Finch OBE (Chairman), Michael Wilkey (the Master), Jaki Howes (The Renter Warden), Barry Munday (Court Assistant) and Alex Scott-Whitby (Student Member of the Company). They were assisted by the Clerk, David Cole-Adams, who led the way and organized the necessary food and beverage stops. By way of showing that they took their task seriously regardless of the weather they are depicted alongside rugged up against the unseasonal weather.

There were four buildings on the shortlist:

One New Change, London EC4

New retail and office complex

Architects: Atelier Jean Nouvel (Concept) and Sidell Gibson Architects (Delivery)

Building Owner: Land Securities

Main Contractor: Lend Lease

1 Bartholomew Lane, London EC2

New offices  behind a part retained part new facade

Architects: Sidell Gibson Architects

Building Owner: Hines UK

Main Contractor: Balfour Beatty

Mint Hotel, Pepys Street, London EC3

new hotel building

Architects: Bennetts Associates

Developer: Mint Hotel Group

Main Contractor: Laing O'Rourke

New Court, St Swithins Lane, London EC4

New headquarters building for NM Rothschild & Sons

Architects: OMA (concept) and Allies & Morrison (delivery and fitout)

Building Owner: Rothschild

Main Contractor: Bovis Lend Lease

As noted above, the Assessors decision will be made known on Wednesday 14 March - watch this space and feel free to register your comments on the likely or your preferred outcome.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Stephen Holl AIA Gold Medal Winner 2012

21 February 2012
Stephen Holl, founder and Director of Holl Architects, New York and Beijing, has been awarded the American of Institute of Architects Gold Medal for 2012. Holl is most famous for his Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki.

But, his firm has been exceptionally active in China. His recently, and extremely controversial project, Beijing's Linked Hybrid is situated along the waterfront. A series of 8 mixed-use towers, connected by an enclosed 20th floor walkway, the project is located adjacent to the ancient Beijing walls and is claimed by some to have destroyed the character and history of this part of Beijing. Linked Hybrid contains 220,000 sq. m. of space. Open passages at ground level are said to allow for permeability but the view below of the large reflecting pool doesn't make that clear!

It must be said, though, that the architecture is pretty slick and much in the 'Holl-style'.

Vanke International in Shenzen, China Vanke Centre tower and offices with residential and other uses is a wonder and is apparently one of very few LEEDS platinum-rated buildings worldwide and is said to be 'tsunami-proof'.

This 'horizontal skyscraper'-it is as long as the Empire State Building is tall-floats above a lush tropical garden. 'Shenzen windows', glass cubes sunken into the floor, give 360-degree views of the garden.

A lesser known Holl project is the work for Loisium, the Austrian 'World of Wine' up the Danube from Vienna in the wine village of Langenlois. Here in the midst of a medieval wine village and set amoungst the vines is a gem of a Visitors Centre.

Holl's design is based on the essence of wine and the wine country. His image takes the ideas for materials from those of a wine bottle: green glass, brown cork and silver aluminium foils around the top. So the building is faced in sparkly silver-coloured nautial aluminium panels and the slits, reminiscent of the old cellar lanes connecting the vineyards and the wine-growers houses and cellars far below ground in the loess soil. These meandering cellar lanes have been renewed and made safe and form part of the visitor experience at Loisium.

The adjacent hotel is altogether different. Four stories tall and hovering above the ground to permit views to the vineyard slopes beyond from the Visitors Centre and the village itself, the hotel rooms on the upper floors are supported by a 'forest of trees', columns of different diameters, harking back to links with the landscape itself.

Bright yellow-gold is used for the 'trees' and the surrounds of the projecting window pods; perforated aluminium panels form the basic facade with glass at the ground and first floors to enhance transparency.

Holl has been responsible for much of the interiors, too, designing door furniture and light fittings amoungst other elements. The 'frog lighting' in the bar is echoed by a 'frog feature' in the floor of the spa.

A final clever twist is the design of the bathtubs, inserted into what look like old oak casks. Anyone for trodding grapes?

Monday, 6 February 2012

RIBA/WCCA Travel Award 2011 Presentation

In 2008, the Worshipful Company of Chartered Architects announced its intention to collaborate with the RIBA to create an annual travel award of £2000 to be awarded to a student - or group of students - enrolled on the first year of a RIBA Part 2 at a London school of architecture. The Award is made in memory of Stuart Murphy who was a former Chief Planning Officer of the City of London, and also a past Master of the WCCA. 

In 2011 the administration of the award was passed from the RIBA Education Department to the RIBA London Region. This move has proved a great success, and there there have been many more applicants. The presentations by the two joint-winners for 2011 took place in the Lasdun Room at the Royal Institute of British Architects on the evening of 31 January 2012. Despite competition from a simultaneous Rogers Stirk Harbour presentation in the building, there were forty people present at the beginning of the event, and sixty once the rival presentation had finished.

Jaki Howes introduced the audience to the Worshipful Company and declared its aims.
Alex Scott-Whitby extolled the benefits of the Travel Award and introduced the two joint winners for 2011. 

The first presentation was by Danny Fenster from the University of Greenwich. He had visited Chongqing in China, with the aim of seeing what could be discovered from planning processes in very rapid urban development. Chongqing is situated on hills. The new redevelopment appears to ignore topography, sense of place and history, but gives rise to a strange three-dimensional circulation patterns – all beautifully demonstrated in Danny’s animations. Undeveloped land is sold on to developers, and then flattened to accommodate identical 30-storey residential blocks. 

Naveen Anadakumar, from the University of North London, went to Sri Lanka to find out how community input could be incorporated into the redevelopment of a country that has been so ravaged by war, floods and landslides. He carried out interviews, held workshops in schools and talked to as many people as possible. He found he could make an immediate difference by persuading shopkeepers in Ballicaloa to put rubbish bins onto the streets, and in addition invented a really practical drainage system. 

The two presentations were followed by lively discussion. Both emphasised the importance of finding a way to talk to people about architecture and the environment in a way that they can practically understand.

Mervyn Miller thanked Naveen for his fascinating work and presented him with the second part of his prize. Roger France presented Danny with his prize, and thanked Laura Broderick and Jessame Cronin of the RIBA London Region, the WCCA Master of Students, and finally both winners and audience for a splendid evening.

Waiting for the start...

Jaki Howes introduces the event

Alex Scott-Whitby introduces the presentations...

2011 joint-winner Danny Fenster with a map of Chongqing

2011 joint-winner Naveen Anandakumar presents...

Question Time

Danny gets a cheque from WCCA's Roger France

Wednesday, 1 February 2012