#004 Revolutionary Low-rise

I attended an RIBA Lecture titled Revolutionary Low-Rise. The UK housing crisis is a topical debate at present, this description was the thing that drew me in, promising a low-rise scheme to aid in the housing crisis whilst providing its inhabitants with a sense of community and equally privacy – basically having your cake and eating it.

The speakers at the event, were Abigail Batchelor Associate at Karakusevic Carson Architects and Mike Althorpe Research and development manager also at Karakusevic Carson Architects. They researched 9 case studies exhibiting high density living, using post-occupational studies to assess the successes and failures of each scheme. These projects were not based soley within the UK, but featuring projects from the USA and Europe also.

The different typologies featured complex layouts hosting both communal areas and private gardens.

“Responding to calls for a more humane approach to urbanism and challenging the orthodoxy of high-rise, architects in the 1960s embraced low rise-high density as an ethos to create innovative homes, while seeking to re-establish traditional patterns of community.

The UK led the way, offering alternative visions for urban living, which inspired a generation of projects across the world. Marking the publication of a new report supported by the RIBA Research Fund and Karakusevic Carson Architects, this event explores a radical period of experimental housing and discusses its legacy and lessons for London’s current drive to densify and develop its sprawling suburbs.

Barbican On Stage – Description of the Lecture

Overall, the entire presentation was very well done. The diagramatic images showed each project in an axonometric format, highlighting the key features in the floor plans. Each project responded very well to it’s surrounding context, stacking in height allowing for public and private pockets for each resident whilst providing an outdoor area.

The projects featured were:

Ruhrstraße 11, Kettwig Germany
1971 – 1972
Architect – Erwin Berning
Residential only

2433 28th Street, Santa Monica, LA
1980 – 1981
Architect – UFO (Urban Forms Organization) Steve Andre + David Van Hoy
Steve Andre, aka Steve Wiseman, Architect/Developer
Residential only

Stellingmolen 161-19, Papendrecht, the Netherlands
1974 – 78
Architect – Frans van der Werf
Residential with commercial

Het College 15, Eindhoven Netherlands
1999 – 2003
Architect – Neave Brown
Residential, retail and office

Spruce St, Philadelphia, USA
1968 – 1970
Architect – Louis Sauer
Edmund Bacon (City planner)
Residential + Community

Via Irma Bandiera, 16 Terni, Italy
1969 – 1975
Architect – Giancarlo De Carlo
Residential + Commercial+ Community

Dartmouth Park Hill, London UK
1972 – 1979
Architect – Peter Tábori with Kenneth Adie, Camden Architects Dept.
London Borough of Camden
Residential only

King Street, Cambridge UK
1965 – 1978
Architect – Ivor Smith, Cailey Hutton
Residential + commercial

Pimlico, Westminster, London, UK
Architects – Darbourne and Darke
Residential + Community + Commercial

I didn’t have a favourite project, as they were all rather exemplary in their own way. I would like to see London adopt more of the key principles which resonated through these projects, for their future homes. Adapting each project to its context opposed to stacking generic floor plates… One key theme which I am seeing more and more of in the Architectural world, is mixed used schemes. Creating little communities such as those featured in the presentation, but also hosting public drycleaners, convenience stores, offices and pods for multifunctional space usage. If you wanted a yoga class space for example…

The document definetly explains this in more detail, and I feel these studys should be utalised more and more as we attempt to define communities without actually embracing the context or the opinions of those who might want to live in these spaces..

The take away from the Lecture was that, there are a lot of positives, and very minor negatives:

  • Low rise High Density encourages intergenerational living
  • Encourages smart mixes such as commercial and retail included in the residential blocks
  • Encourages a sense of community
  • Encourages a sesne of space and ownership
  • If executed correctly, it encourages a dynamic and original home

For more information – Revolutionary Low Rise can be found here

#005 Conen Sigl

Barbican hosting Architecture on Stage series featuring Conen Sigl Architects

This was a rather delightful lecture, and possibly one of my favourite from the series.

The lecture began with a conceptual collage featuring floor plans, isometrics and partial elevations of their portfolio, all lovingly combined to create a really interesting spatial concept.

As we dove into each project, moving from internal to external spaces, elaborating on how you read the journey and the spaces, tying them together subtlety using a specific architectural language, we began to unravel the key design moves that went in to every spatial composition.

At the end of each project, Conen Sigl made conceptual diagrams of each of their projects. This was an aid for then to remember the key aspects of each project and also produced truly amazing diagramatic compositions which were later transformed into furniture and then again into art work for an exhibition.

One such collage image the practice produced post completion

Using simple material strategies like using gloss paint in specific colours and shapes on the ceilings of each room to visually link the journey from one room to another, and circular columns with a geometric head to define the threshold symbolically from above.

Using architectural columns to create a covered outdoor space as well as being visually dynamic
Quote defining one of the key concepts which drive the practice design

On the final project they spoke about, the grand finale if you will, was a large community center with flexible floor plates adjacent from residential dwellings. Utilising the industrial context as inspiration for their corrugated blue cladding and harvesting the community culture whilst keeping residential and office commercial space partially interlinked creates the spatial dynamic which makes projects like this, thrive.

Another final note, I loved their renders. In every render a red ball appeared to provide a delicate undertone of playfulness.

#006 Maccrenor Lavington

Barbican – Architecture on Stage with architects Maccreanor Lavington

Tonight was a lecture provided by The Architecture Foundation, hosted by The Barbican Centre. One of many in the Architecture on Stage series, Maccreanor Lavington Architects presented their work as a practice, rather strangely, they each presented 3 parts in two separate appearances on stage.

When quizzed on this, they gave a rather interesting insight into their working dynamic. Since practice inception, they both had to work on multiple projects and utilised each other’s different techniques and styles to critique a design. A rather inspiring partnership and one that has proved highly successful.

The practice projects ranged from micro to macro in scale, quite literally.

Recent developments in London are featuring a new concept called, “pocket homes”. Now, this isn’t a new concept, and as Maccrenor pointed out, the “livability” space required for an individual has grown exponentially as the years have passed. This could be down to a higher income or a more commercialised materialistic existence…

Facts and figures were produced in forms of a “livability matrix”. Shanghai exhibiting high numerical data for being an exceptionally livable city, with London and Paris following closely behind and tying.

Shanghai has been very open to this concept of “pocket living” and the practice Maccreanor Lavington have recently completed and handed over a large project of 3000+ units to it’s new residents. The aim of pocket living, is to provide housing at affordable prices to those who have no means to acquire property and the main feature being the units are “below recommended living space/m2 per individual”, (this is the case for London at least, as I’m not clued into Shanghai regulations nor will I pretend to be).

So, what’s the catch? This pocket living seems to work for Shanghai? People (according to the matrix data) have bought these properties and live a good quality of life in a desirable “livable city”.

Would this bother you? Or should we use the analogy of sugar tax?… I’ll elaborate.

If the price of sugar suddenly went up, cakes would become a luxury. No matter how many cakes were produced, the increased price of sugar would have to be absolved into the purchasing price.

With this in mind, how to we defeat homelessness when the underlying problems still persists. How do we stop our younger generations, the new influences, the new innovators, from moving elsewhere? Higher density does not often mean higher standards of living or sense of community.

The practice did however point out the importance of intergrating the public realm into each project and ensuring the project responded to its context in a considered and rational manner.

To end on a good note… one thing I did enjoy, was the practices dedication to their employees. They acknowledged all their employees on the final slide of the evening from 20 plus years, stating, they could have not gotten to where they are without their continual dedication and enthusiasm.

20 years of employees at Maccreanor Lavington

#003 Bourne Estate

I recently went on a delightful Saturday afternoon excursion to the Bourne Estate. The Architect was hosting a walking tour around the recently developed scheme, courtesy of The Architecture Foundation.

The Architect, Matthew Lloyd, gave a small group of us a tour around the London Borough of Camden residential scheme, which sits proudly as an addition to the existing Grade II* listed estate. The new development is a mixed tenure scheme and creates pockets of open spaces within the estate.

Personally, I really enjoyed the new development. The materiality chosen was a delightful addition to the existing red brick façade of the Grade II* listed estate, bosting facades of ceramic tiles and archways – not only visually attractive, but exceptionally easy to maintain. As pointed out to us all – there is a reason why so many Underground stations have glazed tiles – they can be wiped clean of graffiti and dirt, no need to repaint and are capable of handling a large amount of traffic if needed.

The new scheme incorporated key elements of design which derived from the original estate, such as the shared access and balconies for at most 4 flats, to ensure no overcrowding and a sense of ownership. Multiple ground entrances, and open walkways to show the movement and activity of the estate.  

Each new block is designed with GLA minimum standards, and so each resident has space to move and embrace as their own. Overall, I feel it is an incredibly successful scheme, one which I personally, would love to live in.

The practice was praised by the Camden Design Awards jury in 2017 as “highly intelligent and mature response to the existing Edwardian architecture”.

The residential block has been inhabited since 2018, and walking around it 2 years later, it shows extraordinary wear and tear – by this I mean, it looks brand new. There is no visible degradation of the façade or internal communal staircases, lobbies or access routes.

#002 Bovenbouw

“Making architectural moments”

Dirk Sommers, Barbican, Architecture on Stage by The Architecture Foundation

I recently attended a lecture given by Bovenbouw’s Dirk Sommers. Bovenbouw is an Architectural Practice base in Antwerp which makes architecture that can be itself, freed from the compulsive desire to be avant-garde.

Dirk Sommers, the founder and director of Bovenbouw regularly publishes books and gives lectures on topics such as tectonics, representation and urban architecture.

The lecture I attended was discussing “Form and Figure”, how the facade needs to be legible and conveyed internally. The lecture covered a range of projects by Bovenbouw but finished on one unique project which features heavily in Bovenbouw Architectuur: Living the Exotic Everyday, (the book was published for the exhibition The House of The Explorer).

The lecture spoke about capturing the character featured on the façade and creating architectural moments throughout the reconfigured and internally restored building. Each room had a main focus or framed focus. It created a journey from room to room and was a truly inspiring project to be walked through step by step.

The practice, unlike many I have worked for, utilises concept models and experiments with light, texture, materiality and form in different mediums. Even the use of cut brick spliced against blockwork had a remarkable effect, adjusting focus and perception of space.

It is safe to say, after leaving the lecture, I immediately looked up the book and purchased a copy. Watch this space, once I have read the book at least five times, I will provide a sneak preview for you all to assess if you too, wish to purchase the book!