A beautiful set of diagrams documenting the designs of parliamentary halls from across the world.
Archive — Architecture
Balwearie High School opening (BBC archive)
This video is apparently footage from a 1964 BBC interview from the opening of my old high school, Balwearie in Kirkcaldy. It’s fascinating to see how much of it looked exactly the same when I went to school between 1998 and 2004 — and how much of it was totally different.
For example, it is a revelation to see what the roof was originally like. The attractive and useful rooftop garden and astronomical equipment was gone, replaced with a plain felt roof with a haphazard walkway of paving slabs.
The school was also about twice as big by the time I went there. No-one confused it for a luxury hotel. But then again, that’s what 30 years will do to a building.
I wonder what it’s like now, 20 more years on.
Via Rich Gordon
Town planners in the mid-20th century faced a big problem. The advent of the motor car brought increased congestion and safety risks. Planners wrongly thought that separating pedestrians and vehicles on different levels was the solution. If you know where to look, you can still see remnants of this thinking. Read full articleComment
Photo — 2019-05-25
An incredible set of photographs documenting life around Birmingham’s Bull Ring shopping centre, its decline, demolition, and rebirth.
Thoughts on vulnerability
This is a really enlightening and enjoyable article about how vulnerability can sometimes be a strength.
What I’ve realized is that sometimes being vulnerable is a really powerful feeling, like being bilingual: being present and making clear decisions in a meeting while rocking a baby, or confidently stopping someone mid-presentation to ask what an acronym means. Or having my waters break and calmly finishing a meeting. Like, that’s bad-ass, right?
But what struck me most about this article was the point about how a thoughtless office space design in a less-than-diverse workplace created an unforeseen problem for a woman who needed a little privacy.
What the Sydney Opera House teaches us about Brexit
It’s well known that large projects often fail. Daniel Kahneman calls it the planning fallacy.
Academics have identified six indicators of a successful large project. But they spell very bad news for Brexit.
Where is here? And what is now? The answers are more complicated than you might think.
Eno’s realisation that “people live in different sizes of here” led him to the idea of The Big Here and Long Now – a way of thinking that asks fundamental questions of who we design for, the scale we design at, and the timescales we design in…
According to Danny Hillis, the inventor of the Clock of the Long Now, “the more we divide time, the less far we look into the future.” So what impact is this having on the design of our cities? And how can we create real and lasting public value in the context of an increasingly narrow and short-sighted here and now?
How architects, designers and urban planners can learn from Brian Eno’s generative music.
Open office plans have a surprising effect on communication at work
More on the seemingly negative effects of open plan offices.
When forced to share space, humans behave much like swarms of insects. This has appeared to be true in a range of contexts, the authors note, citing studies involving the US Congress, college dormitories, co-working spaces, and corporate buildings.
However, as far as we’re aware, hornets and wasps are not as psychologically and socially complex as people. For instance, they do not regularly switch between their front-stage self and back-stage self, managing the impression they’re making, per a longstanding theory about humans.
Photo — 2018-09-19
Dundee’s renaissance — a personal, alternative view
Brian Taylor reflects on Dundee’s resurgence.
But mostly this renaissance is driven by the collective will of the people.
It is marvellous to behold.
Together, they have decided to stop apologising for their city. They have decided to revisit her ancient history and, hopefully, pursue her proud future.
See also: The city with grand designs
A fantastic piece on the history of Dundee’s creative renaissance, which has been decades in the making.
Congratulations and good luck to everyone involved in the V&A Dundee, which opens this weekend. I will be visiting later this month.
Photo — 2018-08-28
Dinner at the Atomium.
What happens when you let computers optimise floorplans
The rooms and expected flow of people are given to a genetic algorithm which attempts to optimize the layout to minimize walking time, the use of hallways, etc. The creative goal is to approach floor plan design solely from the perspective of optimization and without regard for convention, constructability, etc.
I’m not sure this would work in real life. But it’s a fascinating idea, and the floorplans are certainly interesting to look at.
It’s official: Open plan offices are now the dumbest management fad of all time
New research suggests that open plan offices hinder collaboration rather than help it.
Previous studies of open plan offices have shown that they make people less productive, but most of those studies gave lip service to the notion that open plan offices would increase collaboration, thereby offsetting the damage.
The Harvard study, by contrast, undercuts the entire premise that justifies the fad. And that leaves companies with only one justification for moving to an open plan office: less floor space, and therefore a lower rent.
My current office is my first open plan one. I am still ambivalent about the benefits or otherwise of open plan. The shift may have contributed to my feeling that I had lost my mojo.
I definitely make heavy use of chat and messaging to communicate with people a couple of desks away. That might not necessarily be a bad thing. But I do miss the gently assertive act of simply walking into someone’s office to get their attention. It all seems a bit more difficult to do that in an open plan office.
Two Tottenham tower blocks at risk of catastrophic collapse
According to this article, these buildings have just failed tests that have been in place since the aftermath of the Ronan Point collapse in 1968.
…but the problems at Broadwater Farm were only uncovered in the last 12 months.
If I’m reading this article correctly, that means that these buildings have been unsafe for 40 years — but that has only just been discovered.
“It’s disgusting and it is very stressful,” said one woman who has lived in the same flat in Tangmere for 38 years. “Ain’t it funny this has just come out after Grenfell?”
St Peter’s Seminary rescue arts group to close
This is sad news. St Peter’s Seminary is probably Scotland’s most important brutalist building. I have wanted to visit it for years, and I was gutted to miss out on the Hinterland event in 2016.
I wonder what the future holds in store for St Peter’s Seminary, but the outlook doesn’t seem promising at the moment.
Will this three-storey slice of British brutalism be the hit of the Venice Biennale?
On the V&A’s section of Robin Hood Gardens, to be exhibited at the Venice Biennale.
The condition of the structure has made it even harder for the demolition team, who are used to turning up with the wrecking ball and mechanical munching jaws, but were suddenly charged with dismantling part of the building piece by precious piece, with some components over three metres long and weighing more than two tonnes.
“The demolition crew started to see the design in a whole new light,” says V&A curator Olivia Horsfall Turner. “Having thought this was just another concrete monstrosity they were tearing down, their outlook was really transformed.”
The subtle sexism of your open plan office
When the architect responsible for an open plan office that made women feel watched compared it to being on a nudist beach, he undermined himself.
“I think it’s like going to a nudist beach. You know, first you’re a little bit worried that everyone’s looking at you, but then you think, hang on, everybody else is naked, no one’s looking at each other,” he told the researchers. “I think that’s what’ll happen, they’ll get on with it.”
The only problem is that sociological research of nudist beaches has shown that people do continue to watch each other–“men in particular, often in groups, look obsessively at women,” the researchers write. This kind of all-glass, no-privacy environment leads to a subtle kind of sexism, where women are always being watched and thus judged on their appearances, causing anxiety for many employees.
See also: What makes the perfect office?
Bill Grundy Looks at Aylesbury (1972)
I love pretty much everything about this.
Bill Grundy is notorious now for goading the Sex Pistols into swearing on prime time ITV. But before that, he found himself in Aylesbury for unclear reasons. He was none too impressed with its recent brutalist redevelopment, and his curmudgeonly commentary is highly entertaining.
His villain is Fred Pooley, Aylesbury’s planner, the man who invented the imaginary Buckinghamshire monorail town in the sixties, which actually became the motorway town of Milton Keynes in the 70s. Pooley was brilliantly talented. Grundy dismisses him as ‘smug’ – not that we ever get to find out, as he makes no effort to interview him. And so, rather it’s Bill Grundy who comes across as smug instead, drinking beer from a tankard and opining about fibreglass ducks and the ills of modern life, while undoubtedly being a major beneficiary of the improved communications and technology of the day in his work as a TV presenter.
Photo — 2018-03-30
The view from our Airbnb in Barcelona at 2am. Not bad. 👍
Dundee’s new dawn: From invisible town to Scotland’s coolest city
In September, Scotland’s first dedicated design museum arrives in the shape of the V&A Dundee. For the city’s inhabitants, there’s a cautious optimism in the air.
A good, balanced piece about Dundee. Cautious optimism is a great way to describe the atmosphere of Dundee.
When I moved to Dundee in 2010, people told me it was up and coming. The waterfront area has been in a constant state of flux, as 40-year-old buildings make way for a new masterplan. The roadworks and upheaval are dealt with through gritted teeth, in recognition that this is all for the greater good in the long term.
Dundee is still up and coming in 2018. The question is: when will it actually come up?
What makes the perfect office?
Lessons for architects, designers and managers. What research has shown about office design and productivity.
It turns out that the most productive spaces aren’t the ones that are tasteful, “look professional” or have been designed by a starchitect. They are spaces that empowered people to make the space their own.
… [T George] Harris scoured the academic literature for any evidence that good design helped people to get things done, or to be happier in the office. He couldn’t find it. “People suddenly put into “good design” did not seem to wake up and love it,” he wrote. What people love, instead, is the ability to control the space in which they work – even if they end up filling the space with kitsch, or dog photos, or even – shudder – garden gnomes.
Trained designers tend to have a strong idea of what good taste is. But that often flies in the face of what most people actually want.
Woolworth’s British shopfronts
Kia Utzon-Frank creates brutalist-inspired marshmallow treats
I love concrete, but I can’t say I have ever wanted to eat any… Until now!
Grammy Winners — Funkstörung
If brutalism was a genre of music, is this what it would sound like?
Photo — 2017-12-31
Sticks in the ground for public services
You know I love a bit of brutalism. Well here, Ben Holliday draws a comparison between civic architecture of the mid-20th century, and modern-day digital local services.
Many of these buildings are now disused or in different states of disrepair. It’s an important reminder. The fact is, no matter how bold you set out to be. No matter how big or successfully your original statement of intent, eventually the roof will start to leak.
Buildings, just like ideas, need maintenance. They fall into disrepair over time.
I have written a few times before about the parallels I see between architecture and digital services. It’s well worth learning the lessons from the past and applying them to our own projects.
Grim images of the last days at an English public housing estate
A photographic story of the final days of Lion Farm Estate, which faced demolition in the 1991 following the Margaret Thatcher government’s right to buy legislation.
Robin Hood Gardens and the divisiveness of brutalism
I was amazed — and delighted — by the V&A design museum’s decision to preserve a section of Robin Hood Gardens, the controversial social housing estate that is set to be demolished. It will be the largest section of a modern building ever to be preserved by a museum.
Photo — 2017-11-25
Photo — 2017-11-25
These pictures capture Britain’s brutalist vision of urban utopias
A selection of lecture slides from John Richings James. He was chief planner of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government during the 1960s, when many of the country’s most controversial developments were constructed.
When he became a lecturer, he took with him a fascinating selection of photos that show the good, bad and ugly of the brave new world while it was being developed.
The 1960s future town of Motopia
A radical idea for a new town — one where the roads are on all the rooftops.
Robin Hood Gardens
Photo — 2017-10-15
In Dundee this weekend, so here is the obligatory photo of the V&A.
‘I’m dumbfounded!’ … Neave Brown on bagging a Riba award for the building that killed his career
I stopped following architecture years ago, so I had no idea there was this renewed interest in my work until recently. I thought my buildings were a curiosity of the past that people had largely forgotten about.