Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sainsbury Laboratory, by Stanton Williams

This laboratory in the University of Cambridge’s Botanic Gardens is the ideal habitat for botanists

’One man with half-a-dozen flower-pots may do more towards advancing botany than another will attempt with 20 or 30 acres of garden,” declared John Stevens Henslow – professor of botany and tutor to Charles Darwin – in an impassioned address to fellow members of the University of Cambridge in 1830.

“But the larger the number of living species that are cultivated in a Botanic Garden, the greater will be the facilities afforded to us all; not merely for systematic improvement, but for anatomical and other experimental researches essential to the progress of general physiology.”...

Read the full review here

Originally published in BD, 29 June 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lyric Theatre, Belfast, by O’Donnell & Tuomey

O’Donnell & Tuomey’s joyful new building is the stuff of theatrical legends,

Theatres often like to cultivate a foundation myth around their buildings. From the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane, which has proudly occupied the same plot for almost 350 years, to the Young Vic in Waterloo – which had its “temporary” 1970s auditorium recently enshrined, relic-like, in a permanent casing – there is a thespian habit of maintaining an aura of significance around the sites of the beloved boards.

The story of the Lyric Theatre in Belfast is rather different. It started life 60 years ago in the window recess of the consulting room of Dr Pearse O’Malley and his wife Mary’s house, at 117 Lisburn Road. As the Lyric Players’ ambitions grew, and the O’Malleys moved house, performances took place in their narrow, converted stable loft. Sixteen years later – the theatre having swelled to incorporate a vibrant programme of recitals, lectures, exhibitions and a children’s drama school – it moved to its current site at the end of a sloping red-brick terrace in south Belfast, to occupy a purpose-built, 300-seat auditorium. It became much loved and continued operating as a neutral base throughout the Troubles, but lack of funds meant that dressing rooms, wardrobe and toilets had always remained outside, housed in flimsy portable buildings across a service yard. By 2003, the theatre was suffering from a leaky roof and was no longer fit for purpose...

Read the full review here

Originally published in BD, 15 June 2011

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Anne Mews housing in Barking, by AHMM and Maccreanor Lavington

Allford Hall Monaghan & Morris and Maccreanor Lavington Architects have breathed new life into traditional London housing types to provide the first new council housing built in Barking & Dagenham for 25 years.

We had everything we could dream of in the Lintons,” says a frail, East End voice, accompanying footage of a mech-anical jaw biting chunks out of a vast 16-storey concrete slab block. “The lounge was 21ft long, with a beautiful round table and six chairs – and a sideboard. The electric fireplace had a mosaic surround.”

Another bite, and a cascade of rubble falls to ground, revealing a vertical grid of wallpaper swatches and gaudy colour schemes, a stacked cross-section of private lives. “We had comedians, bingo, a darts night. You could go downstairs to the cinema, or the slipper baths. And everyone knew everyone else.”

Read the full review here

Originally published in BD, 8 June 2011