The London Festival of Architecture has always proved to be a platform for vigorous debate – both about our theme and about wider issues affecting London. On our Views Pages we give space to a range of contributors including industry leaders, curators, academics, politicians and other less-heard voices to express their views and ideas. These are their opinions and not necessarily those of the Festival. We hope you find them in equal parts inspiring and challenging.

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Regeneration Divide

For our Views Section, LFA Patron Ft’work presents a series of three, hard-hitting short films, produced in collaboration with Sarah Wigglesworth Architects and community-based organisations. These videos each explore this year’s LFA theme of boundaries.  Each film explores boundaries from the point of view of a particular social group, whose experience reveals where social and physical boundaries collide.

In this third film, we follow a route, chosen by a group of five close friends, round the partly redeveloped estate where they have grown up – Woodberry Down at Manor House,  one of Europe’s largest single site regeneration projects. The young men, all members of the local football team, give a brutally honest first-hand account of gentrification and its destructive impact on the pre-existing community.

 

The film has been facilitated by Manor House Development Trust, which works in support of community development, and with the help of Redmond Community Centre, and The Edge, and in collaboration with Redmond Rovers.

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Making public art work: how do artists and architects collaborate?

  • To celebrate the London Festival of Architecture 2019 and this year’s theme of ‘boundaries’, architectural practice BPTW, artist Chris Tipping and public art consultantsFrancisKnight are delving deeper into the creative and working processes involved in artists and architects practice, exploring how successful partnerships can transcend these disciplinary boundaries.
  • Their joint work on Rochester Riverside, a major regeneration scheme in Kent for Countryside Properties and The Hyde Group, is a perfect example of this. The interview with Chris Tipping and Peter Sofoluke, Associate Architect at BPTW, takes a look at how developing a creative collaboration between artists and architects from the outset can result in fully integrated and embedded public art.

Rochester Riverside with Artist Draft designs reviewing scale and impact on the ground. Ink on paper. © Chris Tipping

 

How does detailed contextual research underpin your design process?

Chris: It is critically important for me to engage directly with the site. At Rochester Riverside, physical interaction by walking and exploring the site and the surrounding environment was balanced with local or regionally focused archive research. Disparate references, such as salt marsh plants, become mixed-up with an iron foundry, ormedieval illuminated manuscripts with the gasworks. Anecdotal evidence and overheard stories become mixed with fact. This can appear eclectic, disconnected and random, but isn’t this the nature of all places? My creative process, often intuitive in itself, is backed by long experience and enables me to weave rich and subtle stories about people and places, but also hopefully assist in the creation and interpretation of new spaces, which look forward to the future.

 

Have you worked with architects before on public art projects?

Chris: Many times. Being brought in early by creative exchange leads to a more satisfactory collaborative outcome for both parties, but this is by no means always an easy path to take. Success isn’t always measured in outcomes. Process is where true collaboration can be measured. Outcome is affected by many things not always in the control of the artist or the architect, but a creative and honest engagement with the process is where I am happy. I think I work even more creatively in response to working in multi-disciplinary design teams and can be inspired as much by the work of others as with my own process. I can sometimes respond defensively to critical comment, but this can lead to reappraisal, revision and a better creative outcome. Creativity can be hard-earned. 

 

Rochester Riverside, view overlooking landscape and new development © BPTW

 

Have you worked with artists before on public art projects?

BPTW: Yes, we have worked with artists on a number of regeneration projects. Sometimes within our industry the value of public art elements can be overlooked, but we feel it has the potential to add so much to the character of a place, whether through interventions that enhance a users experience of public space, art strategies that assist with wayfinding, or installations that help reinforce the identity of an area. It’s great that we are working with clients like Countryside and Hyde who value this and throughFrancisKnight we have been involved in the selection and appointment of artists too. We enjoy the creative process when working with artists and it is always interesting to see how their interpretations of key themes relating to a place develop into something tangible.

 

How does the collaborative process work on a practical level?  Are you able to elaborate on this in relation to the Rochester Riverside development? 

Chris: On a practical level, FrancisKnight and BPTW have been excellent at supporting my process. Marrying the client’s various needs and requirements while building in their own vision and practice aesthetic and concept, cannot be easy for an architect. As an experienced artist working in the public realm, I know this is a challenge, but I often don’t know where or when to stop. BPTW have been critical – as have FrancisKnight – in focusing my creative impulse to overproduce and discussions and continual review clearly framed these parameters by making clear where their vision met and mingledwith mine. This has freed me to focus on the detail and delivery of the work, as well as its function and place, and has hopefully produced a beautifully crafted suite of interpretive, rich artwork for the site.

BPTW: Over the course of the design process, we engaged with FrancisKnight and Chris in several workshop sessions. We were able to communicate key elements of the masterplan proposal which identified opportunity areas for public art. Chris’ subsequent research into the site revealed many forgotten crafts, trades and historical layers which could be subtly reimagined in the form of interventions to brick boundary walls, public realm paving and other elements of the scheme. Throughout the process, there was a continual exchange of ideas between ourselves and Chris to develop and refine the design into a proposal that really reflected Rochester Riverside as a place.

Our design of the scheme’s homes and buildings has been greatly influenced by an understanding of the history of the site and surroundings, and it was great to develop this sense of place further across the scheme with Chris. We look forward to seeing it all realised.

 

 

BRICKIES STACKIES STUMPIES, colloquial names for working barges of the Medway and Thames, transporting bricks, hay or mud. Unit size: 1200mm x 400mm x 75mm Cast Iron with low relief detailing. © Chris Tipping

MARSH COWS grazing, in medieval times Cattle and Sheep grazed the Marshes or Rochester Riverside. They continue to do so elsewhere on the Medway Estuary and Marshes and Hoo Peninsula. Unit size: 1200mm x 400mm x 75mm Flamed Granite with water jet cut inset and sandblasted detail. © Chris Tipping

PERENNIAL GLASSWORT, the Medway Estuary in one of the best places in Britain to study Glassworts, salt tolerant plants the ashes of which were formerly used in glassmaking. Unit size: 1200mm x 400mm x 75mm Flamed Granite with water jet cut inset and sandblasted detail. © Chris Tipping

 

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Thames Connections: past, present and future

  • Matthew Morgan is a consultant for Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands and has been crafting stories in magazine journalism, book publishing, branding and communications for over 20 years, primarily for architects and designers. Matthew attended the Thames Connection debate hosted by Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands at Body & Soul in Clerkenwell on 19 June, and in this piece he explores the boundaries of the Thames River explored during this debate.

Nothing unites and divides London like the Thames and, with London’s population ever-growing, there is a clear need for further connections with the river as well as crossings over it. In our second annual London Festival of Architecture debate, we celebrated, investigated and analysed our connections to the Thames and its crossings – past, present and future, unlocking London’s potential and celebrating the river. The discussion brought together experts and enthusiasts from the worlds of local government and public art, transport planning and marine engineering, all of whom we have collaborated with on projects as diverse as the residential-led Barking Riverside masterplan and the huge public art project, Illuminated River.

 

 

A new/old centre of London?

Councillor Darren Rodwell, Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, is a passionate community champion whose message was clear: “Barking and Dagenham is the centre of London – you just don’t know it yet.”

Darren has a vision to create a “Barcelona on the Thames” at Barking Riverside, a huge regeneration project on London’s largest brownfield site for which we are masterplanners. But while his priorities are local (“it’s the local people who make the place”) his ambitions are global. “Let’s make sure the East of London is well-connected, because if not, we’re losing our connection with the rest of the world.”

The need to increase connections within and beyond the borough was developed by Chris Naylor, Barking and Dagenham’s Chief Executive, who offered further insight into the inequalities that have arisen from longstanding failures in both housing provision and transport infrastructure. He explored the benefits of burying the A13 to create better connections, reduce pollution and unlock land for redevelopment, and of encouraging growth through the Council’s ‘Be First’ social enterprise, which is bringing together planning and developing expertise for Barking Riverside.

However, both Darren and Chris were clear that Barking and Dagenham’s original expansion in the 1920s depended on infrastructure investment by the UK government, which Ford motor cars consolidated and built upon. What is missing now is any long-term thinking or financial support from the UK national government, which has led to a burgeoning relationship with representatives of China’s belt and road initiative, who see Barking and Dagenham as a key gateway to London.

 

Lighting up the city at night

Sarah Gaventa, Director of the Illuminated River Foundation, gave a very different perspective on the potential the Thames has for London’s pre-eminence as a world city.

While acknowledging the need for more connections for the East End, her focus is on an ambitious scheme to light 15 central London bridges at night, brought together by our studio in collaboration with the artist Leo Villareal. But Sarah demonstrated how Illuminated River is much more than simply a huge public art project.

It is estimated the project will be seen by over 200,000 people per year, with the potential to increase wellbeing in the capital as they delight in Villareal’s beautiful artwork. One in ten London children has never seen the river Thames, and she sees the project as an opportunity to reconnect communities who live near the Thames but don’t have access to it. The project is also an opportunity to reduce light pollution for the wildlife that lives in and around the river. “There are 135 species of fish in the Thames, none of whom like to have sex with the lights on.”

Sarah talked of the challenges of creating such a project, which has involved 30 planning applications and 18 listed buildings in separate conversations with numerous, disconnected London boroughs. But she was also persuasive about the economic benefits to the capital, offering London an opportunity to gain pre-eminence over other major cities such as Paris, and the simple joy and calm to be had at an otherwise troubled time. “What else are we going to have to celebrate for the next few months?”

 

 

Macro and micro ideas for better transport

Three speakers then gave an insight into transport planning at both a macro and micro level.

Julie Bowerman, a Director at Steer, has experience in transport planning in the private and public sector, and has led numerous projects across London. But what started for her as a review of the impact of CAVs in how they may help us better connect our city and encourage pedestrians and cyclists expanded into a broader look at how transport priorities in the capital are changing. Population growth, lack of housing provision and a transport system under strain increase the need and demand for initiatives such as shared transport and increased cycle routes.

But while crossing the river is part of the journey, it cannot be divorced from the routes that lie either side. “Technology won’t change the way we use bridges, but they will change the way we think about the journeys we need to take.”

Crossing the river was of specific interest to Tim Beckett, Founding Director of Marine Consultancy Beckett Rankine, who has been responsible for the design of more than 200 projects on the tidal Thames.

His innovative scheme for state-of-the-art electric ferries – already a reality in Sweden and Finland – could revolutionise our approach to the water. The creation of new ferry crossings offer a nimble, relatively low-cost solution to increase connections at key locations in the east of London such as Canary Wharf, where there is neither the money nor the vision for the creation of a bridge. Perhaps where public funding is not forthcoming, private sector investment could plug some of the gaps as we move deeper into the coming century.

Alex Lifschutz, Founding Director of Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, rounded up the discussion with a description of the Thames Barrier Bridge, an idea for a new, low-level pedestrian and cycle bridge to connect the Royal Borough of Greenwich with the Royal Docks. The 530-metre long bridge is a multi-span bascule bridge that would be situated immediately upstream of the Thames Barrier, so impact on the flow of the river would be lessened. Most boats would be able to pass underneath, but when larger boats do wish to pass through, the multiple piers, each with their own bascules, create a series of small, moveable bridges with their own opening spans. This provides certainty that at least one section of the bridge will open when it is needed.

It’s an idea that is so simple, one wonders why it hasn’t happened already, but it does come with a caveat: “we have approached TfL but the door is closed because they don’t have a penny to spend,” Alex explained.

 

Towards a conclusion

Apart from the enthusiasm from each speaker for the new and exciting projects that could shape life along the Thames in the years ahead, the other major theme was the scarcity of funds for these new projects to become a reality. “So what,” Alex asked, “is the mechanism for celebrating and rewarding all these varied ideas?”

Everyone was united in agreement that London needs more bridges, tunnels and ferries, but how do we ensure the city’s continued success by getting such projects built?

The danger of failing to provide sufficient connections is stark. “Lack of infrastructure is the prime cause of social inequality in the East End,” said Chris Naylor. But there was consensus that the political vision and leadership required to deliver such connections through infrastructure is just not there at present.

Sarah Gaventa was positive about the potential for philanthropy to contribute to more projects (Illuminated River is being funded by the Arcadia Fund and the Rothschild Foundation), but the kind of funding necessary for a venture such as burying the A13 (approximately £9billion) is only going to come from central government – if not ours then someone else’s.

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Manifestos: Architecture for a New Generation No. 10

  • In an exciting collaboration with the Design Museum, ‘Manifestos: Architecture for a New Generation’  highlights the work by 10 emerging voices in architecture, who have each been nominated by  established names in the profession, for their impact on shaping a new future for London. Responding to the defining challenges facing young people in London today, this new generation of architecture voices pushing the boundaries of what architecture can be, who London is for and what its future holds.
  • In a series of visionary manifestos, the chosen 10 share alternative visions for the capital’s urban landscape, prioritising collaboration, dialogue, learning and action in response to the real material and social conditions of a city in flux. Check back every Wednesday and Saturday for more.

 

Part W (nominated by Peter Barber)

The Part W collective is impatient for equality. We call out gender discrimination in an industry that routinely excludes and are driven by a desire to see places designed and delivered in a manner that is open, tolerant and beneficial to all. We want to see change happening now – so that current and future generations benefit from intersectional thinking in architecture, engineering, policy, planning and education. Our manifesto calls for change in the conversation around what leadership and notions of success look like. We want to lay a pathway that enables future generations to benefit from built projects being instigated, planned and delivered by both women and men equally and fairly. Our current campaigns have been established by a London-based group, but we share aspirations with UK and European sister groups. Outwards looking and collaborative, we are working together to achieve a gender-equal future.

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Postcode.

For our Views Section, LFA Patron Ft’work presents a series of three, hard-hitting short films, produced in collaboration with Sarah Wigglesworth Architects and community-based organisations. These videos each explore this year’s LFA theme of boundaries.  Each film explores boundaries from the point of view of a particular social group, whose experience reveals where social and physical boundaries collide.

In this second film, the single, unedited ’take’ follows a postcode boundary that runs past the Rockingham Estate to Elephant and Castle. Innocuous to you and me, it represents a constant threat to many local young people. In an emotive and sometimes chilling conversation, three 15 yr-old boys with personal experience of gang violence and the ongoing Street War between Kennington and Peckham discuss: its causes and effects, the fear it instils, the impact on their mental health, the restriction it has on their personal freedom, their relationship with the police

This film was produced in collaboration with Oasis Waterloo.

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Manifestos: Architecture for a New Generation No. 9

  • In an exciting collaboration with the Design Museum, ‘Manifestos: Architecture for a New Generation’  highlights the work by 10 emerging voices in architecture, who have each been nominated by  established names in the profession, for their impact on shaping a new future for London. Responding to the defining challenges facing young people in London today, this new generation of architecture voices pushing the boundaries of what architecture can be, who London is for and what its future holds.
  • In a series of visionary manifestos, the chosen 10 share alternative visions for the capital’s urban landscape, prioritising collaboration, dialogue, learning and action in response to the real material and social conditions of a city in flux. Check back every Wednesday and Saturday for more.

 

Patricia de Souza Leao Muller of Holy Fool Studio (nominated by Manijeh Verghese)

As the architectural profession in London becomes a mere tool for developers, it underestimates the profound wisdom of the foolish play. Like the idiot at the feast, if architecture would be used to not find solutions to problems, we could tear open the gaps within dominant structures with play and humour. Responding to conversations about queer spaces, I investigate ways to catalyse long-term change through foolishness and irreverence, disrupting norms and complacency through collective making.

Success is measured by how much a profession by experts, for experts, is made accessible through designs that are cheap, non-standard, participatory, expressive, handmade, and with easy instructions. Through collective engagements, institutional diplomacy, and scripted spectacles, big questions about the inclusion of vulnerable identities, and bottom up self-expression, can be answered with the architecture of what simply exists: loos, flowers and joy.

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Manifestos: Architecture for a New Generation No. 8

  • In an exciting collaboration with the Design Museum, ‘Manifestos: Architecture for a New Generation’  highlights the work by 10 emerging voices in architecture, who have each been nominated by established names in the profession, for their impact on shaping a new future for London. Responding to the defining challenges facing young people in London today, this new generation of architecture voices pushing the boundaries of what architecture can be, who London is for and what its future holds.
  • In a series of visionary manifestos, the chosen 10 share alternative visions for the capital’s urban landscape, prioritising collaboration, dialogue, learning and action in response to the real material and social conditions of a city in flux. Check back every Wednesday and Saturday for more.
Neba Sere of Black Females in Architecture (nominated by Torange Khonsari)
Architecture needs to represent the communities that it seeks to serve. That starts with engaging young people in going into built environment professions, however, if they do not see people like themselves represented then they do not believe they can achieve this. Black Females in Architecture (BFA) is actively challenging that notion to make sure that the profession improves its diversity for future generations.BFA is a network of over 185 women with black heritage who either study, work or are interested in the professions surrounding the built environment. It was founded last year by myself and three other women as a response to the frustration of not seeing any black women at industry events and in leadership positions in practice or academia.We organise regular socials, events such as workshops with focus on plastic waste and small-scale projects.
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Manifestos: Architecture for a New Generation No. 7

  • In an exciting collaboration with the Design Museum, ‘Manifestos: Architecture for a New Generation’  highlights the work by 10 emerging voices in architecture, who have each been nominated by  established names in the profession, for their impact on shaping a new future for London. Responding to the defining challenges facing young people in London today, this new generation of architecture voices pushing the boundaries of what architecture can be, who London is for and what its future holds.
  • In a series of visionary manifestos, the chosen 10 share alternative visions for the capital’s urban landscape, prioritising collaboration, dialogue, learning and action in response to the real material and social conditions of a city in flux. Check back every Wednesday and Saturday for more.

 

RESOLVE Collective (nominated by David Ogunmuyiwa)

Architecture’s capacity to change London’s extreme inequity is often articulated in the same language as its complicity; where productivity, labour, and disciplinary vogue existing synonymously with creativity, passion, and thoughtful design. Our manifesto builds on a re-thinking of architecture as an unbridled means to produce novelty in our city and looks instead toward a practice that reveals, questions, and deconstructs existing forms, spaces, and ideas. To build by deconstructionnecessitates an interdisciplinary approach that investigates common spatial motifs at a human scale, such as shelter, movement, division, in order to equip us with the appropriate tools to address citywide and global demands for alternative value systems, degrowth and decolonialisation. It asks: what if walls did not separate us, but instead brought us together? How distinct are our built environments – houses, neighbourhoods, and cities –  from our emotional ones? Can we use design not to change spaces, but systems, perspectives, and narratives?

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Manifestos: Architecture for a New Generation No. 6

  • In an exciting collaboration with the Design Museum, ‘Manifestos: Architecture for a New Generation’  highlights the work by 10 emerging voices in architecture, who have each been nominated by established names in the profession, for their impact on shaping a new future for London. Responding to the defining challenges facing young people in London today, this new generation of architecture voices pushing the boundaries of what architecture can be, who London is for and what its future holds.
  • In a series of visionary manifestos, the chosen 10 share alternative visions for the capital’s urban landscape, prioritising collaboration, dialogue, learning and action in response to the real material and social conditions of a city in flux. Check back every Wednesday and Saturday for more.

 

Pricegore (nominated by Tamsie Thomson)

Facades are the making of the city. They are the threshold between interior and exterior and often between public and private. They are fundamental to the identity of the institution, the business, the family, and the city itself. But in current times facades are neglected -constrained by simplistic planning policy, diminished by design & build, overlooked by critics, and subsequently illegible and irrelevant to the public.We propose a rejuvenation of the facade. We make no claim for any historic style, or any particular material -we appreciate the richness and variety that London has developed over the centuries, but want facades that are relevant for today. We believe better facades do not need more money -they just need more purposeful and skilful intent. We would like to see contemporary facades that communicate, and enhance the city for all. We propose that facades can be radical, not in terms of technology, but in terms of redefining civic beauty and meaning.

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Manifestos: Architecture for a New Generation No. 5

  • In an exciting collaboration with the Design Museum, ‘Manifestos: Architecture for a New Generation’  highlights the work by 10 emerging voices in architecture, who have each been nominated by  established names in the profession, for their impact on shaping a new future for London. Responding to the defining challenges facing young people in London today, this new generation of architecture voices pushing the boundaries of what architecture can be, who London is for and what its future holds.
  • In a series of visionary manifestos, the chosen 10 share alternative visions for the capital’s urban landscape, prioritising collaboration, dialogue, learning and action in response to the real material and social conditions of a city in flux. Check back every Wednesday and Saturday for more.

 

Space Popular (nominated by Eva Franch i Gilabert)

 

Recent developments in virtual technologies increasingly point to the possibility of a three-dimensional future for the Internet, persistently mapped over the entire planet. The inhabitable internet might eventually become a collective place for all humans to live, work, and play. Based on this assumption, what will the spatial internet look and feel like? How should we value it? How do we make it fair, safe, and equal for all? Who—if anyone—will own and govern it?

In the context of the immersive, inhabitable Internet, the role of the architect is ambiguous and their responsibilities remain unclear. One does not need an architect to construct physical spaces, nor to construct the two-dimensional graphic worlds we now inhabit. Will we need architects to conceptualise and construct three-dimensional virtual spaces? In short, should the essential role of the architect evolve faster, and sooner, than it has ever been required to before?

We see an urgency to formulate possibilities and principles for how our future digital lives—blending our intellects, emotions, and bodies— communities, and values, will be shaped.