Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Catmose Campus, by Ellis-Miller

Jonathan Ellis-Miller’s modular school pays tribute to the hi-tech era while presaging the dawn of a joyless flatpack future

It should come as no surprise that Michael Gove has few friends among architects. Since taking to the stage as education secretary, he has happily assumed the role of pantomime villain, launching a barrage of scathing attacks against the profession – from accusations of “creaming off cash” to decreeing that “award-winning architects” must never design schools again.

His latest ruse, the James Review – led by the head of Dixons, with Tesco’s director of property services on the panel – will soon report on a plan for flatpack educational buildings, airlifted in from above, against all the tenets of the government’s localism agenda. Gove’s vision of the future is one of cheap, mass-produced factory learning farms, assembled by numbers, in which the profligate whims of the architect will finally be outlawed, once and for all...

Read the full review here

Originally published in BD, 23 March 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Dune House, by Jarmund Vigsnæs Architects and Mole

The latest holiday home for Alain de Botton’s Living Architecture project sits well with the maverick whimsy of this Suffolk seaside village

The British coast, more than any other part of the land, fosters a particular kind of architectural madness. Whether it is due to the sense of unbidden freedom that comes with being far from inland reality, or something in the salty breeze, the seaside has always reigned as an unparalleled sponsor of whimsy. And there is perhaps nowhere more potty than Thorpeness in Suffolk.

Built in the 1920s by Scottish barrister-turned railway magnate, Glencairn Stuart Ogilvie, Thorpeness was the world’s first model holiday village. It was to be a place of fairytale fancy, “for people who want to experience life as it was when England was Merrie England, where the hours could be whiled away in an effortless haze”...

Read the full review here

Originally published in BD, 16 March 2011

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

City of Culture, Santiago de Compostela, by Peter Eisenman

After years in development Eisenman’s icon finally emerges from the earth as a flawed monument to Spanish political wrangling

More than any other country in the world, Spain has faith in the power of architecture as a tool for cultural promotion. From the Expos of Seville and Zaragoza, which have left redundant fields of novelty pavilions in their wake, to the desolate urban-scale projects of Valencia’s 1998 City of Arts and Sciences, and Barcelona’s Forum of 2004, big name architects are seen as the saviours of instant place branding, the ultimate weapon in the battle for global attention.

And the beauty is that it matters not what goes inside these buildings. The architecture alone – providing it is sufficiently unusual or “iconic” – is enough to justify the investment. From Santiago Calatrava to Foreign Office Architects, Herzog & de Meuron to Zaha Hadid, the ageing avant-garde has been airlifted in, up and down the country, to adorn Spanish towns with expensive baubles that they cannot afford. They have brought concert halls and museums, libraries and conference centres, and other bulky typologies that no one really knew they needed. If ever the optimistic spirit of “build it and they will come” were alive, it is here in Spain...

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Originally published in BD, 9 March 2011