Listing 12 blog articles for the tag London.
To commemorate the centennial of Britain’s involvement in the First World War, ceramic artist Paul Cummins and stage designer Tom Piper conceived of a staggering installation of ceramic poppies planted in the famous dry moat around Tower of London. Titled “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red,” the final work will consist of 888,246 red ceramic flowers—each representing a British or Colonial military fatality—that traverse the entire grounds around the tower.
Volunteers began placing the poppies several weeks ago and the process will continue through the summer until the final flower is symbolically planted on November 11th. You can read more about the project over on the Historic Royal Palaces website, and see the volunteers’ progress by following the #TowerPoppies hashtag on Twitter.
The people have spoken. Or at least, the students of UK universities have, and they have confirmed what has long been suspected: Architecture courses are currently too long, too expensive, and don’t provide the rounded learning experience necessary for students to transition smoothly from college to the realities of professional practice.
In a new survey carried out by the Architects’ Journal, 64 percent of students believed that the pathway to becoming a registered architect should be shortened. Indeed, 55 percent of students called for the UK’s 3-part, 7-year system to be scrapped in favor of a quicker format. Considering the up to 8 year lag time in the US and other countries between entering architecture school and practicing, it could be argued that this grievance is of universal scale.
Tuition fee protests in London, 2010
This consensus comes as no surprise following the dramatic increase in university fees seen in Great Britain: An architecture degree can now cost each student from £45,000 to £54,000, depending on which institution they choose. Whilst these costs might pale in comparison to certain US institutions, the increased fees have caused many people from low and middle-income families to think twice about committing to a course of such length and expense. This has lead to fears that the profession will become more elitist, with only those benefiting from strong financial support feeling able to make the hefty investment in their architectural education.
Most telling of all though, were the comments on course content, with harsh words for the experience gained over such a marathon academic route. Scott Bearman, a Part 3 student from Manchester School of Architecture, commented: “The current system of five years in university – with a heavy emphasis on design – fails to properly prepare students for the realities of working in practice. Students leave university poorly prepared, without the tools to effectively manage projects, and still face a minimum of two years before they qualify."
RIBA Headquarters, London, UK
It is essential that Bearman’s words are read and re-read by the incoming RIBA President, Jane Duncan. According to the AJ survey, the list of topics that students said they wish they had been taught during their course fall closely in line with his concerns. Areas they believed should have been covered in greater depth included:
- Technical detailing
- Project budget constraints and time frames
- Understanding politics and how it affects architects
- Dealing with contractors and speaking to clients
- How to give presentations
- Practice management
These points are notable for their relevance to the realities of practice, rather than the theoretical, academic realm of university life. Unsurprisingly, the same students that held these views valued practical work experience – 82 percent regarded it as vital in gaining the skills needed for their post-graduation career, with 80 percent supporting the current year out as a way of gaining that experience.
So, where do we go from here? As a young architect that navigated the British 3-part system, I have direct experience and agree with the majority of views emanating from the Architectural Journal’s survey. The three major concerns – course length, expense, and content – are complex issues for which there are no quick fixes. However, here are some ideas that could begin to address the problems and lead to a more valuable and productive program of education for our future architects…
The consensus that the UK’s conventional 7-year course structure is too long supports Royal Institute of British Architects’ latest plans to scrap the current 3-part system in favour of an integrated 5-year course. Should it be pushed through, the more concise degree structure would echo with the pathway to licensure currently available in Germany and other mainland European countries.While this move could prove beneficial, it is crucial that practical work experience is not compromised by this compressed format. Options for the better incorporation of practical experience include the possibility of part-time architectural “residencies,” in which students could shadow professionals in practice for 1-2 days a week, supplementing their theoretical and studio work at university throughout the 5 years.
The above change in system would address some concerns regarding the individual costs of architectural education, but could there be further possibilities to support students on their way to licensure? First, there is the debate over the increase in university fees from £3,000 to £9,000 a year in 2010, and whether this should ever have occurred in the first place – if everyone benefits from an educated society, why burden each individual with the cost in its entirety?
Your view on this will likely hinge upon your political preferences, but I for one would accept higher taxation if I could be assured the money were going to support those navigating their way through higher education – including architecture courses. Another option could involve sponsorship from practices, repaid in the form of loyalty by working for the contributing firm for a set amount of time post-graduation.
Construction workshop at IE University, Spain
The most crucial area of all to be addressed is surely this – that students feel so unprepared for professional practice comes as little surprise given academics’ preoccupation with architectural theory and concept design. The main issue revolves around the fact that project briefs are often presented in isolation, with students having no need to collaborate with anyone other than their own architectural peers.
What if they were given the opportunity to work in tandem with engineering students for structural experiments, or even made to construct a small-scale project with apprentices learning trade skills such as bricklaying and carpentry? The merging of disciplines at university stage would benefit all parties involved, and go some way to mimicking the real world, where consultants and contractors must be managed and coordinated to deliver the client’s brief on schedule and within the budget.
Clearly, there are issues to be ironed out with each of these options, pertaining primarily to funding, organization, and the importance of maintaining the rigor of the course so that the strength of the profession is not diluted. What is certain, however, is that we must question a course structure which has remained virtually unchanged for half a century.What do you think – time for a shake-up?
The Angry Architect
Images via: Architizer
The burgeoning banquet of high-rises within the heart of London was given a new, 225-metre tall kitchen utensil in June 2013, as the Leadenhall Building – christened ‘The Cheese Grater’ by the nickname-loving British public – topped out. Ever-present at the cacophonous trumpeting of each new tower’s arrival, Mayor Boris Johnson hailed the building as ‘the latest landmark to grace London’s iconic skyline’.
A landmark it certainly will be, and London’s skyline is contriving to become iconic with every steel and glass step. The Cheese Grater lines itself up alongside the Gherkin (Foster’s beloved corporate monument), and has since been joined by the Walkie-Talkie, Rafael Viñoly’s macho manifestation of the London’s new architectural motto: form follows finance.
Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners have produced an inversion of Viñoly’s form, primarily due to their alleged concern for London’s Heritage – the diminishing floor plates of the skyscraper mean that views to Christopher Wren’s St. Paul’s Cathedral are preserved. But is this a logical path to take on an over-crowded stage where commerce is king?
Ken Shuttleworth – self-proclaimed Guardian of the Gherkin – bemoaned the Leadenhall Building’s impediment of views towards Foster’s tower, and stated that the Gherkin should be granted viewing corridors in the same manner as St. Paul’s. Of course, the idea that a 180-metre high shaft of steel and glass needs to have the airspace around it controlled in the same manner as a 300 year-old Cathedral is as extraordinary as it is ridiculous: applying this principle city-wide, central London would never see a new tall building again. Shuttleworth’s logic – more full of holes than this particular Cheese Grater will ever be.
The truth is, crucial factors when considering the merit of skyscrapers remain the same as with any other building typology: expression of form following function, and the quality of architectural details. Judging primarily on these two aspects, RSH+P have largely succeeded. The entwined lattice of steel bracing elements is prominent on the exterior, giving the sloping face of the building a striking appearance that communicates its purpose in a bold and honest fashion. This formidable frame also benefits function: with no central core necessary, every floor has a flexible internal layout. Even the lowly masses are granted a generously proportioned, sheltered public space at the base of the exclusive address.
Despite its use (the building will be inhabited by the City’s usual corporate profiteers), this latest incarnation of the High-Tech High-Rise is one landmark that Londoners can grow to be proud of. So Mr Shuttleworth, I put it to you: Perhaps the Gherkin is actually impeding views to the Cheese Grater now? What a curious turn of events…
The Angry Architect
The very British saga of David Chipperfield’s proposal for Elizabeth House took another twist in June 2013, as English Heritage and Westminster City Council forced a judicial review into government’s decision not to call in the scheme. Their argument: the building will encroach on the views of Parliament. The mighty River Thames, dissecting the two bickering councils, has taken on the appearance of a gargantuan rope in a perpetual round of tug-of-war... being pulled timidly in all directions by planners, ministers, members of English Heritage and UNESCO. Chipperfield is no doubt beginning to wonder if either team will ever lose their grip and tumble into the gloomy bureaucratic waters.
It’s another feast of epic nimbyism in the middle of London – and all the while the battle is being fought entirely on the wrong terms. The views to Parliament are barely affected at all, and even if they were, would it really be to the detriment of the city? Would tourists cease taking photographs of Charles Barry’s ornamental spires? Would the building crumble in the wake of faceless, glassy boxes springing up a few hundred meters away? UNESCO has ‘threatened’ to put the World Heritage Site on its endangered list, making Big Ben an architectural Giant Panda, and the House of Commons a very gothic Siberian Tiger.
The difference here, of course, is that the houses of parliament aren’t in much danger of becoming extinct. They are not going anywhere, nor will they every truly be in danger of ‘evil’ modern developments, the reason being that cities are made to CHANGE. They are organic entities: the idea that views need protecting, like displays of artifacts in a stuffy museum, is beyond antiquated. Great new buildings, of any style or size, create great new views too. In time, good quality architecture becomes part of the urban fabric, and the identity of a city is thus enriched, not damaged as UNESCO and English Heritage seem to believe.
Speaking of good quality architecture, English Heritage would do well to re-frame their argument around the highly questionable quality of Chipperfield’s proposal. Looking at the current CGIs, it appears that the architect’s digital artists accidentally nudged the contrast controls on Photoshop: the pale tones and pallid shadows belie how dark this looming slab of steel and glass would make the surrounding streets, particularly on a typical British winter’s day, when the sun tends to steer clear of this fair island.
Previous CGIs showed horizontal black bands between the expanses of glass; these have been muted with the oh-so comforting shade of ice-cold aluminium. While the intention may have been to ‘lighten’ the whole affair, it has only served to obliterate the single discerning feature from the external elevations. As a result, the block has all the identity of a paperweight.
If the quality of the architecture was truly mind-blowing, I have a sneaking suspicion that Chipperfield would not have stirred the English Heritage dragons from their dusty lair – as it is, he has a fight on his hands, and the Councils of London need their proverbial heads knocking together… Boris, get to it.
Agree? Disagree? State your case here.
The Angry Architect
Earlier this month, Foster & Partners revealed plans for a residential ‘community’ quarter at 250 City Road, Islington. The London site, situated mid-way between Angel and Old Street, has a typically turbulent development history: BUJ Architects won planning for previous owner Land Securitites in 2010, before the 1.9ha triangular site was bought by a consortium including Berkeley Homes who hired DSDHA.
Deborah Saunt and David Hills’ practice was later dropped - reportedly because it did not provide Berkeley’s required densities - and Foster & Partners brought in.
Of the two CGI images presented, the lower makes for encouraging viewing. Apartment blocks of copper and warm yellow brick surround a generously proportioned green space, peppered with perfectly manicured hedges and trees. There isn’t a cloud in the sky. This truly is a superbly inventive CGI artist’s impression of East London.
Let me present you with an alternative vision, a disturbing parallel universe… the REAL East London. Storm clouds gather over faceless, corporate office blocks that extend eternally upwards into the shroud of mist. But wait… is that really an office block? Or is it, in fact, an apartment block? Or simply a gigantic paperweight, dropped by a City trader on his way back home to Hampstead Heath?
These buildings are as distinctive as tombstones – all erected for unique individuals, but all sharing the same, stoney air of inevitable doom.
This glass obelisk of a skyscraper sees Foster reduced back to tedious convention by Berkley Homes’ ‘density requirements’. Density requirements are the territory of financial think tanks, of number crunchers, of blue-sky thinkers, of any other frivolous, capitalist metaphor you can think of. They place the importance of gross floor area and profit margins over that of proportions, individuality, invention, and – ultimately – the well-being of those inhabiting a place.
And so, even Foster is susceptible to the London Effect – where money becomes the boss of everyone, and everything – residential ‘community’ quarters included.
Agree? Disagree? State your case here.
The Angry Architect
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