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TitleLondon's Contemporary Architecture, Fourth Edition: An Explorer's Guide
PublisherArchitectural Press
ISBN 139780080524931
Author
LanguageEnglish
File Size20.8 MB
Total Pages269
Table of Contents
                            Front Cover
London’s Contemporary Architecture: a map-based guide
Copyright Page
Contents
London’s architectural geography
Contemporaneity
Meetings with buildings
Chapter 1. The City
Chapter 2. The West End & Whitehall
Chapter 3. London Riverside
Chapter 4. Docklands & Greenwich
Features of a personal top list
Chapter 5. Inner Ring
Index
London Notes
                        
Document Text Contents
Page 2

London�sLondon�s
ContemporaryContemporary
ArchitectureArchitecture ++

a map-based guidea map-based guide

Ken AllinsonKen Allinson
Fourth editionFourth edition

Page 134

133

Immediately to the north of the Vauxhall
tube station sits a row of apartment block
towers (designed by Broadway Malyan) that,

at the lower levels, merge their podium base into a
terrace forming a river edge. The schema (derived
from an earlier Terry Farrell scheme) is fi ne; shame
about its detailed handling, particularly at the top,
where the towers breal out into the most bizarre
roof shapes imaginable. Close up, it’s not as bad as
from a distance and the scheme does extend the
riverside walkway westward.

London Riverside

What is it about
Vauxhall? On the
east side of Farrell’s
MI6 buildings is
an access point to
the river used by a
tourist company who
specialise in using
ex-WWII ‘ducks’ —
or wet / dry vehicles
equally at home on
the road or in the
river — a bizarre but
alternative way to
travel on the river.
The tall building
immediately behind
this strange vehicle
is the Millbank
Tower, Ronald Ward
& Partners, 1960 - 3
(recently remodelled by GMW).

MI6: Once upon a time . . . There was a competition-winning residential scheme which evolved into
offi ces to suit market changes (see nr.6 below). Such things often happen in architecture. During scheme
design, the telephone rang. It was the Prime Minister. She — the lady with the handbag — wanted a large

building for a secret service that, one had to understand, didn’t exist. And so the design was reinvented as an
impenetrable river palace for the mysterious fi gures of MI6, with the most expensive concrete cladding in Europe
and a fi t-out costing more than the shell: a sculptural, striking green glass
and cream concrete construction, appropriately defying easy interpretation
of its inner organisation (the massing derives from origins in a competition-
winning design by Farrell for apartments; the idea was that everyone would
have a river view). The outer garb was inspired by the New York of the 1920s
and 1930s, when Captains of Capitalism wore broad shoulder pads, posed
in Moderne guise, and sported stepped-back buildings designed by the likes
of Holabird and Root, Raymond Hood, Betram Goodhue and Hugh Ferri.
There was even a hint of early Frank Lloyd Wright in Mayan mood in the
HVAC housings on the top of the building, and spikey features incongruously
reminiscent of the crown on the Statue of Liberty. And James Bond moved
in and everyone lived happily ever. You can even walk in front of the building
on the riverside walkway and enjoy a close view of where the MI6 spies live.
But they might be nine fl oors underground, deep below, where a secret world
subsists in contradistinction to the open offi ces above.

6

4

The brand game at Waterloo Eurostar ( Nicholas Grimshaw &
Partners, 1993) was to provide akin to the airport experience: arrival,
checking-in, waiting areas, shops, etc. But the tectonic challenge

was to provide a design integrated into an existing Victorian station, its
structure rooted into the brick vaults supporting the rail lines. The roof is
the upper, most visible part of what is described as a ‘fi ve-layer sandwich’
comprising roof, platforms, departure level, arrivals level, and basement car
park. It comprises a 400 m long series of three-pin arches with off-set central
pins to cope with the eccentricity of fi ve rail tracks and constraints such as
underground tunnels. The eastern side is mostly opaque, with an internal
structure, reversed on the west side so daylight can be admitted. Standard
parts fi t the varying, diffi cult geometry and take the shock-waves generated
by long, heavy trains arriving from France (the glazing has to accommodate
an 80 mm horizontal movement and a 6 mm vertical movement as the trains
impact the station) e.g. all the glazing would normally have been thousands
of special cuts, but Grimshaw has used fl exible gaskets and standard,
rectangular sheets of overlapping glass. However, no matter how clever it all
is, Eurostar is moving to St. Pancras by 2007.

5

Page 135

134

Centaur Street House
London is full of very localised architectural initiatives
these days, often hidden away in strange locations.
This is one of the better examples — a fi ne design
from a small practice with a growing reputation. The
site (and the house) are bang up against the rail lines
that bring the Eurostar trains into Waterloo Station, in
one of those curious inner London locations that mixes
facts like that with the realities of local communities
who live there, use the nearby public park, etc. The
principal attraction of the design is simple: a refreshing
attitude to cladding issues that is simple and distinctive
and without preciousness. Obviously, there is more to
the architecture. But this is a major contribution of this
simple insert (please don’t call it an ‘intervention’) into
London’s fabric. The architects describe the building as
“a hybrid of the European horizontal apartment and the
English vertical terrace house. Each apartment enjoys a
Raumplan interior organised as a large, open double-
height living space, interpenetrated by adjacent enclosed
bedrooms and stairs, which form a concrete buffer to the
railway. Construction consists internally of high exposed
concrete economically over clad externally with insulated
rain screen. Other than in site concrete, all components
are prefabricated, specifi ed from international sources
according to dRMM’s catalogue design methodology.”

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London Riverside

Arup’s dramatic exercise at Vauxhall
Underground station and bus interchange
( Arup Associates, 2005) strives for iconic

exuberance, almost literally waving, “Hey, I’m here
. . .!” It is very simple: a control building set above
the underground station itself and an axial run of
bus stops that run down the road for a considerable
length, all of it in bright stainless steel. To the
immediate south is the rail tracks coming into
Waterloo; to the north-west is EPR’s exercise in tall
apartment blocks; and to the north-east is Farrell’s
MI6 fortress. So, the Vauxhall station completes
a trio of peculiarities. Whether it’s wonderful or

ridiculous is
hardly for this
bemused author
to say . . Pay it a
visit and make up
your own mind.

This IMAX 500 seat cinema (Waterloo Station
/ Bridge; Brian Avery Associates, 1999) is a
comparatively simple and clean statement. It

takes the form of a glass drum sat within the centre of a
large traffi c roundabout (but accessed at a lower level,
from the Southbank) and has thus become an instant,
self-advertising land-mark of the kind that is still quite
rare in London. It is also an important part of proposals to
renew and revitalise the whole of the South Bank cultural
area. The photo shows the building in context ( Farrell’s
Embankment Place can be seen across the river, at
the top left). Unfortunately, they clothe the outer face
of the drum in art, as if this were somehow better than
plain architecture, a
celebration of cinema,
or even advertising.
(See photo bottom
right for what it was like
when just constructed.)

8 9

There is a rather un-English quality to the character
of this small building, although its blunt conjunction
with a main railway line is typically London.
Architecturally, small buildings like this make the
metropolis a considerably more exciting city.

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