Central School of Speech Drama

The architects for this educational building offer much unnecessary hype about contexturalism none of which is evident on the pavement. What does come across is a strong ambition to make an urban contribution to what is currently going on at this busy road intersection and to participate in a grouping that includes Spence's library (opposite) and Bennett's theatre (above). The planning is all about linkages and project staging as well as facilities. Swiss Cottage Library was designed by Sir...

Sackler Gallery heart surgery

CD .'U ci 0 uCu < 2 At the core of the Royal Academy building lies the only surviving mansion from a bygone Piccadilly Burlington House, designed by Sir John Denham, built in 1664 and, in 1714, inherited by the third Lord Burlington a young aristocrat who included architecture among his enthusiasms and was to be described as 'the Apollo of the arts'. Boyle began to develop his estate in 1715 and together with Colen Campell and the man who was to become his prot g , William Kent he was to...

Tate Britain

Since the opening of Tate Modern at Bankside, the old Tate (Sidney Smith, 1897, with additional 1937 Duveen sculpture galleries by Romaine Walker and John Russell Pope Llewellyn Davies et al's 1979 galleries and the Stirling Wilford Clore Gallery) has reinvented itself as the Tate Britain and has been provided with new galleries and a new west side entrance designed by John Miller (whilst Allies and Morrison handled the external landscaping). The Miller design adds about one third to the...

Laban Centre

View down entry ramp towards the entrance. The projecting element at ceiling level is one of the two central courts. The exterior areas are very pleasant but strangely cut off from an internal life, as if they have been reluctantly accepted into the general scheme and seek to disguise their other reality as a security zone. The exterior areas are very pleasant but strangely cut off from an internal life, as if they have been reluctantly accepted into the general scheme and seek to disguise...

Docklands Greenwich 27 Maritime Museum

The National Maritime Museum is a part of the Greenwich Palace and Naval Hospital complex designed by Sir Christopher Wren and adjacent to the Queen's House designed by Inigo Jones, with access from both the north front of the building and the west colonnade of the Queen's House. In addition, it sits on the edge of one of London's finest parks and an old village area now accommodating the Cutty Sark and offering a very busy weekend market. Access can be via the DLR at Greenwich or via the old...

Merrill Lynch City pride

The planning department of the City of London is particularly proud of two recent office buildings. Each in entirely disparate ways epitomises their aspirations for City architecture. The most obvious of this pair is Foster's Swiss Re building at 33 St. Mary Axe - what is colloquially known as the 'Erotic Gherkin'. Its merits are obvious, but it remains firmly within a typology of tower designs using a simple piazza tower equation, much like the ageing Commercial Union building that sits...

Hope at the bridge threshold

Parisians are likely to associate the Salvation Army with Le Corbusier and 1920's Modernism, so it is interesting to find the Army commissioning a new global headquarters on a rather prominent site in central London within the City, near to St. Paul's Cathedral and at the entrance to Foster's Millennium Bridge. In fact the 'Sally', as it is colloquially called, has been on this site for well over one hundred years. But time and change have brought changes to the site and dilution to the needs...

No 1 Poultry le coq on Poultry

Stirling & Wilford's design for No.1 Poultry began in 1985. By its completion in 1998 it was stylistically anachronistic a strident post-modern building that might have been more appropriately completed ten years earlier. But that doesn't make it a bad design, or uninteresting. The building's developer, Lord Palumbo, is also a major figure in arts funding. His father began considering redevelopment of this difficult triangular site and its 1890, neo-Gothic buildings designed by John Belcher...

No1 London Wall

Squatting above and around new premises for the Worshipful Company of Plaisterers (entry on the Noble St. side the remainder of the ground floor is service areas) are the flowing curves of this 19,308 sq.m. office building that makes quite a contrast with its neighbour, 88 Wood Street. It's small entry lobby is on London Wall, from where escalators take users up to the office floors (approximately 1900-1300 sq.m. net). Reception is on the 1st floor, where there is a central lift core serving...

Lords Cricket Ground summer in the city

It is difficult to reconcile oneself to the idea of the gentlemen of the Marylebone Cricket Club (the MCC, formed in 1787) becoming patrons of contemporary architecture. However, encouraged by an architect-member called Peter Bell, they have given us a number of modern buildings that, in turn, have helped to revitalise the game at Lord's, home of English cricket. Behind this is the realities of a spectator sport, that is a million miles away from soccer a summer ball game lasting all day...

Portcullis House

When Norman Shaw's New Scotland Yard building was opened as a new home of the Metropolitan Police on the Victoria Embankment in 1890, it was popularly known as 'the jam factory' because of its horizontal bands of alternating red brick and Portland stone that were similar to a Crosse & Blackwell Pickle Factory in Charing Cross Road. Among its other peculiarities of this 'very constabulary' building, as it has been described, was the fact that the lower granite walls of Shaw's fortified,...

K2 London Bridge House

Being the last of the great dock projects, St. Katherine's was also the smallest and most expensive, but enjoyed a location adjacent to the Tower, on the eastern edge of the City of London. This meant that, after the dock closed in 1969, St. Katherine's was among the first areas to be redeveloped. However, more than a few fine warehouses disappeared and a somewhat ordinary office building was erected called the World Trade Centre. K2 is rather more splendid a 16,000sq.m. replacement sitting on...

Millennium Bridge

I can recall sitting at dinner with an engineer who remarked, Not dangerous Don't you believe it for a moment A remarkably daring design from Arups had no sooner opened than it was immediately closed again, and stayed that way for some twelve months while engineering ingenuity, considerable computer analysis and long talks with insurers sorted out the problem. And the bridge was opened again plus a few large dampening struts that nobody (apart from engineers) notices very much and its...

Whitehall the West End National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery sits discretely behind the National Gallery like some poor relation and, until recently, its lack of presence was exacerbated by access difficulties and a consequent reluctance of visitors to penetrate its depths (including a C20th room of glass screens designed by Piers Gough). But it has its own, splendid collection and the architectural changes implemented by Dixon Jones (the Ondaatje Wing) have entirely reinvented the place and lent the attractiveness it so...

Sainsbury Wing National Gallery Post Modern manners

The controversial history of this project, which began as a commercially funded extension to William Wilkins' building of 1832, began when the competition winners, Ahrends Burton Koralek (ABK), had their scheme denounced by Prince Charles as 'a carbuncle on the face of an old friend' - a somewhat saccharine comment about a rather weak neo-classical building that forms the northern edge of Trafalgar Square and sits as the termination of an axis up Whitehall. Another competition was held...

Battleship supermarket

The architect's brief for this supermarket was to design an inner-city supermarket that really wanted to be out-of-town. What the client got was a cranky and now ageing development with an aggressive note to it. In fact, its all rather admirable, although the battleship grey (latterly softened in some areas to greyish baby blue a mistake, apparently) and grey aluminium cladding betray the technocratic concerns and military roots of Hi-tech whicch, mixed with Sainsbury's low maintenance...

The City 88 Wood Street

The partners who brought Lloyd's to realisation are the mature men of the practice and some of them have even retired, with Rogers himself as a Lord of the Realm more involved with political and strategic issues than the details of buildings, leaving a younger generation to take over the firm's values (in this instance, Graham Stirk). At 88 Wood Street, the outcome is a building that many people consider to be one of the better office buildings in London. The design was begun in the heady...

City architectural geography

You can catch all of that in one, wide ranging review. But now turn around, away from this nodal point around the Tower and walk through the back streets of the City toward the 'navel' of the City the area around Bank. Here, you will be at the centre of a metropolitan area that can no longer afford rigid planning policies, which must always be ready to adapt its physical fabric in order to provide the buildings corporations consider to be most appropriate to global financial trading. Examples...

Understatement in Wandsworth

This is a 1930's paint factory refurbished and extended to provide a mixed use development comprising apartments, a health centre and light industrial units. Located behind a large shopping centre and on a small river that leads into the Thames, the mixed-use development is a refreshing addition to the area and comes from architects excited by (the potentially paradoxical notion of) architectural 'everydayness', who describe their work as so quiet you could almost walk past it, and yet it...

Brunei Gallery

Respectfully knitting in with one's neighbours has become a major architectural game (a legacy of Post-Modernist sentiments, contrasting with Modernism's instrumental penchant for contrast and, sometimes, a rejection of history). The Brunei attempts to relate to the materials, massing, organisation and careful geometry of late C18 neighbours (who employed an implied classical order) however, once around the corner, the design quickly changes mode and enjoys a new freedom not given in Russell...

Raines Dairy

Another Peabody Trust experimental housing development, this time one of the better examples of what to do with 'volumetric' housing. This time, 11.6m x 3.8m units are stacked from 3-6 storeys in an overall T-shaped plan. There are 41 two-bed units and 11 three-bed units, plus one one-bed and eight one-bed live-work units (127 in all). The constructional logic takes advantage of the fact that cost goes down per sq. metre with size and a reduction of the number of units per household. Access is...

Inner Ring 2 Peckham Library

Peckham Library has been a social as well as architectural success, but the building is simply one part of a larger story the third part of a plaza that terminates a new urban park (Burgess Park) as it meets the local Peckham High Street, aiming to give a regenerative civic dignity to the locale. Apart from the park itself, the first part of the equation was the arching shelter designed by Troughton McAslan a gateway to the park, a place to linger, to protect market stalls, and an art-work in...

The British Library

The British Library forecourt area which is slowly being inhabited, with cafes, etc., thus hugely improving an original bleakness. Believe it or not, SOM were once the heroes of post-war Modernism to a generation of architects that included 'Sandy' Wilson. His King's Library at the heart of the British Library concourse is a straight homage to Gordon Bunshaft's design (while at SOM) for the Beinecke Rare Books Library in Yale (1963) but without the 1.25 inch glowing marble panels (which have...

The Lloyds 86 Building an exercise in continuity

Lloyd's 1986 Building is established as a Modernist icon and has become an accepted part of the City fabric, even if it is now overtaken in the glamour stakes by newer neighbours such as Foster's St. Mary Axe building (the 'Erotic Gherkin'), Rogers' own Lloyds Register around the corner, and suffering a degree of internal abuse. As a design, the building makes little sense located outside the context of the client's status and history one of the most prestigious,...

British Museum Great Court creation obliteration and reinvention

The British Museum's Great Court addresses 200 years of the building's history from the Museum's 1808 scheme for extending the house occupying its site, through a history of rapid change and addition that closed off and built over the original landscaped court designed in 1823, obliterating the original concept of a central, public green space. Driven by the Museum's need for additional accommodation, the three sides of the original court were supplemented by a fourth and, at its centre, a...

London Riverside London

The 135 m diameter London Eye was the swan amongst the Millennium ducklings, in effect being a private enterprise initiative the government would not support, prompting the architects to become entrepreneurs. In itself, this giant rotating bicycle wheel is dramatic, spectacular and entertaining. But it has also shifted the nature and pattern of tourist attractions in the area, helping to revitalise Westminster Bridge and the South Bank. The Eye was conceived by its authors as a Millennium...

Info

At the east end of Piccadilly sits what was Joseph Emberton's Simpson department store building (1935), now Waterstone's bookshop. Enough of the original remains to get a feeling for what it was like (try the upper level bar). Further along, adjacent to Wren's St. James' Church (1682-84 his only 'green field' church design) sits a small ex-Midland bank by Edwin Lutyens an enjoyable 'Wrenaissance' piece of 1922. This has now been converted into an art gallery (symptomatic of their return to the...

A riverside perambulation

Above summer tourists on the Millennium Bridge, with St. Paul's in the background. Right people enjoying the river near the OXO building. The southern embankment of the Thames has become a promenade. Most people are likely to begin using that promenade at Westminster Bridge using Westminster Underground Station but we begin this section at Vauxhall Bridge at MI6 , where the Embankment walk logically begins and where the Tate Britain is located best accessible from Pimlico Underground Station ....

City Hall

Mc'i wtio gt -t P c lt 5 Q-o p-o -o ice SS tjO Dubbed by one newspaper as 'Foster's testicle', the City Hall that serves the Greater London Authority and the Greater London Assembly stands in apparent, grand isolation until one realises that the sunken facilities adjacent to the 'blob' tap into an underground service road that caters to the surrounding set of office buildings also designed by Foster for a commercial client who provided the Hall and clearly saw it as the 'strawberry' as the...

The Marylebone Road Euston Road development corridor

This is another one Terry Farrell has his hands on and is a natural for his skills in attempting to lend a humane face to capitalism's speculative office developments in fact, civilising the urban environment in general. With regard to the latter, for example, he has identified ways of pushing the traffic to the background and foregrounding pedestrian movements across this very busy highway that forms a northern boundary to the West End. If this can be achieved around the Tottenham Court Road...

Lawn House

The Lawns is the conversion and extension of a house originally designed by Leonard Manasseh in the '50's. The new work mostly in glass entirely wraps and engulfs the old house and doubles its size with expansive, double-height spaces, so that the new is played off against the old. And a complete new floor is added, replacing the former pitched roof. For historical and planning reasons the house is set well back from the street generating a large forecourt and underscoring a space syntax that...

Strange twins at the portal

The developer for Alban Gate argued that replacing a 1960's shoe-box office tower Lee House was not feasible unless the new building could be much larger. Farrell's idea was to acrobatically use air-rights over London Wall and provide two linked towers totalling 35,000 sq.m. of office space for multiple lettings, all within the planner's height constraints. The PostModern outcome is no longer in fashion and Farrell's compositional concerns have commanded respect but not affection. However, the...

BBC White City

Concrete Control Joints Sidewalk Curved

Does it work It is a fine master-plan, but one has to admit to reservations regarding the ground floor retail content and a distinct timidity regarding its expressive character. Similarly, the idea that the BBC has provided a publicly accessible realm is appropriately media spin. Yes, one can enter, but through massive gates that signify you can be readily locked out and under the gaze of security guards who come rushing out to prevent any photography. This is a reality that tells it's own...

Broadgate a battle of giants

The Broadgate story embraces issues of large scale urban change, architectural politics a battle between modernist traditions and post-modernist sentiments , and a common ground probably unacknowledged by either of the main protagonists. The narrative begins with No.1 Finsbury Avenue, on Wilson Street, one of the first developments to be targeted at a specific market financial trading , designed by Arup Associates and their first adventure designing speculative office buildings. Finished in...

Bed Zed

They're not much greener than this in 2002 and there still isn't an impressive 'zero-energy' development on a 'brownfield' site a former sewage works , providing 82 dwellings in a mix of flats, maisonettes and 'town houses', plus 2500 sq.m. of workspace and community accommodation, including a health centre, cafe, nursery, etc. Density is 187 people per hectare. All this is set out in five long, south-facing rows of 3-storey buildings with narrow spaces between the rows the 'gardens' have...

Embankment Place

One usually finds a variety of functional, urban and historical themes in Farrell's work. In this instance - one of the few buildings which positively addresses the Thames - they include employing the air rights over the 1863 rail station external service cores as at Lloyds, as Farrell points out historical references to the large houses and palaces once lining the Thames between the City and Whitehall references to Ledoux in the water feature of the lobby, to the Moscow Kurskaya station on the...

Inner Ring Medical School

This is basically a Queen Mary University medical research building for PhD students, attached to the adjacent hospital. The intelligence of the design derives from the aspects of the brief linked to the building's funding a call for a single lab space cutting across the usual departmental boundaries facilities for 'write-ups' and an ability to put everything on display to parties of school children thus encouraging them into science. Since the single lab space was so large, it was decided that...

Lloyds Register

Lloyd's Register may have been completed fourteen years after its much more expensive relation, the Lloyd's '86 building, but it shares many of the basic features and details, as 88 Wood Street and K2, two other buildings by the practice in the City area. Also see the Broadwick Street building and Channel Four. At a plot ratio of 8 1 overall and 11 1 build area to site area for the new build parts, the Lloyd's Register of Shipping building is a dense piece of development, squeezed into the site...