Friday, 24 September 2010

Chiswick Pavilion - Caruso St John
August 2010

The new pavilion by Caruso St John is in the sort of place one dreams of getting a sward, a leisurely approach with stands of mature trees all around; above all the presence of the highly influential Chiswick House sets the mood for the whole park. One of serene Classicism.

I do think that the pavilion has risen to the occasion in many ways - in its choice of material, its positioning and the plan which contains a quasi ambulatory that forms arms to contain the external seating areas.

It is strictly contemporary yet striving to be classical...but there is to me something in the proportions of pillars to roof slab that doesn't quite sing in tune. There is also a long and totally boring 'back' wall against a hedge, which is due to the kitchen and toilet positions.

The best thing is the use of Shellybed Portland Stone, a particularly beautiful variety of the stone, as cladding for parts of the building and the use of whole slabs to make the pillars (see photos). It would have been great to use this more extensively instead of the rendered panels here and there...but I am assuming a budget constraint possibly. And to nitpick...there is already a detailing problem at the parapet where stone and concrete meet!

The interior is pleasant but oddly gloomy...maybe because the day was so bright outside.

I came away thinking about the Barcelona Pavilion...which to be fair did not have to house kitchens and WCs...but as an exercise in timeless and perfect contemporary classicism, is interesting as a comparison.


Sunday, 19 September 2010

A few fragments from the last two weeks...

Firstly a rarity - at least in terms of availability of images on the web - from Brazil's Paulo Mendes Da Rocha. (*actually by Arch. Alberto Linner - see comments section below)

As far as I know it's in San Jose, Costa Rica but if anyone can provide other information, images, plans etc I'd love to receive them.

I'm afraid I can't remember where I found this image but if it's yours please let me know and I'll credit you!

Next up - a BT facility (telephone exchange?) near Wimbledon. Pressed metal sheeting I feel is an under-used material in the urban environment.

And lastly an exciting-urban-space-in-central-Wandsworth shocker, namely the Wandsworth Bridge Road roundabout, which is strangely both enhanced and slightly spoiled by the extravagant central advertising hoarding.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Apologies for our extended absence (summer holidays and all that you know) but please see below for a belated write up of the group visit to Nottingham. Apologies also for the hopefully temporary loss of our usual type-face which for some reason Google seems to have taken away from us.

Sat 17th July 2010 - Nottingham Contemporary, Weekday Cross, Nottingham: Caruso St. John Architects, 2009

Purple and gold paint, Po-Mo fluting and doily-imprinted concrete are not, I must confess, what I expected from the usually quite sober Caruso St John and that the levity stops at the front door (the interior being more, well, Caruso St Johnish...) might betray the fact that the architects are not entirely comfortable with this approach.

Or it might not. Because the flouncy stuff is pretty convincing and for all I know this may be the transitional project where both men come out of their zen-minimalist closets into a world of sequins and glitter...

The only thing I'd say about that is for the NC to have been truly 'iconic' (which I assume was the idea) it ought to have risen up from its site like a stack of meringues on a plate whereas what we actually get is a plot-shaped plan variously extruded to heights always 'respectful' of the neighbouring buildings (aka 'the context').

On a separate note, if you get a chance to see the Diane Arbus exhibition (showing at the gallery until 3rd October) make a beeline as the photos are astounding.

Steve C Sept 2010