Wednesday, 18 July 2012

loose ends

This I believe is the Darwin Building, it's next to the Royal Albert Hall in London (in case you were wondering) but I can't tell you any more about it than that.  Perhaps because there are several buildings named after the same obscure evolutionary scientist, googlesearching hasn't turned anything up, although I confess I didn't look for so long.

Here are a few blurry and inadequate photos of the Shard on the occassion of its inauguration.

and here's a building adjacent to it which looks like a stage set from an Alien film.  I guess it's all temporary works but bit baffling as looks so heavy duty...

Monday, 16 July 2012

Private House, Twickenham. Built Geoffrey Darke, 1969

Many thanks to Simon Callender for these excellent photographs of the house built by Geoffrey Darke for his family in 1969.

We also have the prospect of a visit to the house later in the year, so watch here for details.

Link here to the Guardian obitiuary for Darke who died at the end of last year.  With partner John Darbourne, he produced some of the finest 20th century high density housing in the UK.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Centre Heights, Swiss Cottage

My web searches attribute this to Douglas Stephen and Panos Koulermos. Date Built, 1961.

The influence of the Unite' is pretty clear and the floor plans you can find on the net show a similar duplex arrangement with long narrow rooms, the lower single aspect, upper double although no mezzanine here as in Marseille.  Another major departure is the commerical office space from ground up to 5th or 6th floor level - and the 80s addition at the side.

It's immediate neighbour, Cresta House, seems to borrow heavily from it although the plans I've been able to find from estate agents show much wider and larger apartments.

Head on view.  Stair tower bothers me as looks later but can't really be can it?  maybe it was 're-imagined' at the time the other additions were made....

Friday, 13 July 2012

Salman Akhtar

Poetic little abstract from one of the speakers at a conference I'm attending tomorrow...

The emotional biography of our childhood homes goes beyond the architectural envelopes they provide for our mentalized and un-mentalized erotic, hostile, tender, civic, and spiritual aspirations. Internalized, their corridors, closets, and cloisters function as life-long psychic retreats and springboards for mental rejuvenation. Driven by naive hope, we visit them in actuality and come back wounded. But then the plump nursemaid of nostalgia leads us back to those very streets and lampposts and we return with a poem in our hands. As we grow old, life's intoxication gradually changes into tipsy indifference, but arriving at our eternal resting place we are unexpectedly clear-eyed. We see that we have ended up where we started from. Our childhood homes might have been lost but childhood itself has turned out to be our home. Loyally and forever. 

Poetics of Space territory, probably, although I understood so little of that book that it's difficult to know whether I can legitimately site it.

Just noticed the reference to 'cloisters' - anyone grow up around one of those?

note to self

one to check on later...

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Reyner Banham

A non architect friend asked me today if I could recommend a book for her to read on holiday and the only thing that I really enjoyed in the last few months was Reyner Bahham's 'Guide to Modern Architecture' (Architectural Press 1962). 

Despite the first few chapters (1.Modern, 2.Function, 3.Form etc etc) being a bit hum drum, the 35+ building reviews at the end are absolute rip-snorters and give you faith that the literature of architectural appreciation is worth more than the usual 'stairs lead up to a mezzanine past some columns under an arch....etc etc'.

He's particularly droll (and insightful) on the subject of Frank Lloyd Wright...for example;

"To many thinking men, Frank Lloyd Wright was never the all-American architect of his own image of himself.  He never appeared as much at ease in the real America as in the America of some splendid Usonian dream, and - in some curious ways - he trailed a whiff of the European grand-maitre behind him."

and on Charles Eames...

"...for all his internationalism and lack of Whitmanesque ham, is as American as Campbell Soup.  For all his love of things European and Oriental he handles power tools and catalogued components like a hot-rodder born, and his own house, spare and elegant, square and ineloquent, is American like a Shaker chair.."

On Egon Eiermann's Blumberg Handkerchief Factory;

"Blumberg's basic attraction lies in having all the modest attributes of industrial architecture to an almost immodest degree....coming as close to dammit to that ideal of eloquent reticence that so many functionalists saw as the aim of modern architecture'.

Wright again;

"All his long life Frank Lloyd Wright remained, as the saying went, the greatest living master of the nineteenth century; his admiration of craftsmanship long outlived his mechanistic enthusiasms of around 1900, and many of his most salutary designs of the twentieth century can best be regarded as final versions of nineteenth-century themes.  The Robie House is one such; its importance as a mentor to the domestic architects of the present century is beyond question, but it is hardly modern architecture at all in some lights. Its affinities are with a tradition of de luxe suburban villas that reaches right back into the Victorian epoch and beyond."

There are other great pieces on the Seagram Building, Lever House and one that finally helped me to appreciate Ponti's inscrutable Pirelli Tower.

I could go on but you should read it for yourselves. A treat.

Northcote Library, Wandsworth, London. L.Phillips 1969

More precast, but from a different era. Quite zipped up and glowering on the outside but then expansive and light inside.