A slow start. Saved by a mermaid

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Firstly, I must apologise to the receptionist at KPF. I was rather perplexed when I rushed over to see the Iñigo Bujedo-Aguirre exhibition ‘castles in the air’and was told to wait while they found out if it was open to the public. It didn’t feel in the festival spirit, but I got the impression she was new and admittedly I looked a bit manic after marching across London on a warm afternoon – it was probably wise of her to be cautious. The exhibition images were stunning, colourful shots of brutalist housing projects which spoke more about the people within the buildings than the architecture itself.

Next up was a wander to see one of the ten permanent benches installed as part of the London Festival of Architecture. These unique designs will leave a festival legacy and help showcase the work of emerging designers. The Giants Causeway bench wasn’t in the most welcoming spot, within a small walkway and opposite a line of restaurants, but it looked great with integrated planting and a terrazzo finish that was pleasing to touch. I will visit all the benches, they are tangible, useful installations that engage the public and promote the industry – it is what the festival is all about.

And then I got saved by a mermaid, well, sort of. The festival blurb for Building Site talked of ‘changing perceptions’ and ‘questioning ownership of the city’, honestly I had low expectations because sometimes these things just underdeliver. But it was a real spectacle. I peeked into the small doorway of plain hoarding in Carter Lane Gardens opposite St. Pauls Cathedral to find a mermaid in a mirrored forest, speaking Lithuanian poetry with smoke machines for extra effect. Changing perceptions of the city and questioning ownership? Well, that space was certainly owned by a mermaid and she changed my perception of the city for a wonderful few moments.


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