Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Redbridge Welcome Centre by Peter Barber Architects

The open-plan layout of Peter Barber’s centre for the homeless in Ilford, east London, creates a lively atmosphere conducive to getting things done
Peter Barber is just back from a trip to Morocco when we meet. He was there to tour Marrakech and Fez with his students from Westminster University, not because they have a project there, but because “they should see good places”, he says, “places that might inspire them”.
The medinas and kasbahs of Arab cities have long been an inspiration for Barber’s own work. His housing schemes are dense spatial puzzles of notched terraces, clever courtyards and clusters of blocks, all rendered in a brilliant whiteness that longs for a sunnier climate. But, more than anything, they are conceived as multi-levelled landscapes to be animated by people.
His practice manifesto begins with a quote from Walter Benjamin’s description of Naples, where “buildings are used as a popular stage. They are all divided into innumerable, simultaneously animated theatres. Balcony, courtyard, gateway, staircase, roof are at the same time stages and boxes.” Barber talks of space as inert without people and culture, and where better to see this than the bustling streets of Morocco?
Well, in these chastened times, his students could do worse than get on the train to Ilford.
Read the full article here.
Originally published in BD, 22 February 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Festival House, Blackpool, by dRMM

De Rijke Marsh Morgan Architects’ seafront wedding chapel is the most successful of Blackpool’s efforts to reinvent itself architecturally
Sixty-four per cent of British males lost their virginity in Blackpool,” says Alex de Rijke, with a matter-of-fact Dutch directness. “We thought that was a nice starting point for our project.” Whether true or not, it is the kind of absurd statistic that has built the reputation of this plucky seaside town, home to innumerable firsts, biggests and mosts. Proud inventor of the helter skelter, as well as the world’s largest chip butty, Blackpool still reputedly attracts more visitors than the pyramids at Giza, the Statue of Liberty and the Taj Mahal combined. The big party-political conferences may be gone, but the town still plays host to the national pigeon fanciers’ show and the final of Strictly Come Dancing, so all is not lost.
Drawn by the lure of a bawdy night out, a good proportion of Blackpool’s 13 million annual visitors is made up of stag and hen parties, which can regularly be seen rampaging up and down the promenade like rampant flocks of migratory fowl. They bring welcome cash, but not-so-welcome antics — a tide of vulgarity that finally led the council to take the exotic measure of banning inflatable genitalia on the seafront in 2007.
This was also the year that the town lost out on its bid to host a super-casino — a stunted Burj Al Arab designed by Gensler — which promised £450 million of investment and 3,400 jobs. But gambling would have been a dubious salve for a place that suffers from the highest rate of antidepressant drug use in the UK; it went to Manchester instead and was promptly abandoned.
Read full article here.
Originally published in BD, 14 February 2012