Events, dear boy, events…

Continuity in Architecture hosted an afternoon of guest lectures on Thursday 26 October. Three speakers brought the clear light of practice into the stygian unknowingness of the Cordingley Lecture Theatre and demonstrated to an intent audience that the field of design in the built environment need not be abandoned to the shrill purveyors of ‘iconic’ architecture. Here was work from Scotland, Ireland, England, Wales and Italy as at home in metropolitan contexts as in rural ones, and as coherent as it was diverse.

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Clive Albert of Malcolm Fraser Architects, Edinburgh, led the charge with a withering attack on a well-known architectural fashion victim (just in case any dullards in the audience had found themselves in the wrong place) a feisty attitude which was echoed by the subsequent speakers. What followed was a confident discussion of a growing body of work related to arts organisations, infused with the inspiration which comes from the poetic and the choreographic, united by the motif of the cascading section. These projects culminated with the Newcastle Dance City building (above), a daring raid south which displayed a degree of sophistication sadly lacking in other, more prominent, London–designed, additions to the geordie cityscape.

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The afternoon was anchored by Yvonne Farrell of Grafton Architects in Dublin who braved a blustery Irish Sea to tell the audience about the practice’s Bocconi University building (above & below) currently on site in Milan. Developing from a series of educational projects for schools and universities in Ireland, the Milanese will be treated to a robust and complex slab of city where ribbons of office space hang over a submerged lecture theatre, with the public realm providing the glue. The materialisation of this formidable structure was described in terms of skyscape and groundscape and promises an exemplary demonstration on how the city should interact with academe.

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Closing these discussions, the context broadened out to a wider horizon with the work of Robert Camlin of Camlin Lonsdale Landscape Architects. From a base in Llangadfan in mid-Wales the practice has produced urban regeneration projects in Liverpool, Dublin and Manchester which read from the ‘book of the land’ to tie together history and topography, activity and texture in multilayered compositions. Despite these achievements the most tantalising project remains the unbuilt project for the walled garden of the National Botanic Gardens of Wales (below), with its rigourously organised typology of landscape.

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The themes which emerged for the benefit of the students present from the roughness of the event was the need for the persistent exploration of proposals through drawing and model, however modest in their materials, and the need to base that work on a relationship to others rather than indulging the self.

Toronto Project

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John Johnston formerly a studio tutor at Manchester School of Architecture now finds himself in Durham, North Carolina, where he is setting up a practice and doing some independent property development. John’s professional life has taken him from Texas to Manhattan, Manchester and Toronto. We asked him what he was up to and he sent us this project from Toronto: Sustainable house for a city lane (replace one garage). Location. John writes:

“With this project I am continuing my exploration of a process-driven approach to architectural design that I have developed in earlier projects and at the same time adapting it to the needs of a particular site and client. My approach emphasizes an aleatory process over a commitment to a predetermined end form. I often take as a starting point something from a previous project, and then methodically change it in a step-by-step fashion. Typically, I manipulate the item by constantly re-interpreting it in different media: free-hand drawing, cardboard and paper models, photographs, electronic models, and combinations thereof.

For this project the process has revolved around a few goals (organization using intersection, manipulation of natural light, and the balancing of opposites) and settled on a formal concept that relates to the backs of the neighboring houses, which shift forward and backward from one another along the axis of their party wall divisions. Where a garage now sits, this house is to be built compactly and efficiently, in an ecologically responsible manner that saves precious resources. It makes a minimal footprint, relies on the existing infrastructure of the city, and is designed to minimize non-renewable energy use. At the same time it provides a modern and highly individual urban retreat.

The main entrance is directly off the lane along a concrete block wall that continues internally, organizing the metal staircases and a bath and kitchen ‘core’, while dividing the house into three areas of high-ceilinged, open living space. The north-south axis of the staircases connects interior spaces to each side while visually linking the front to the back. There are two distinct garden areas to the back of the house, and both roof levels are planted. The concrete and steel structure employs natural and recycled building materials. ‘Green’ mechanical systems and passive solar design elements supplement heating needs that are greatly reduced by the high quality, well insulated construction of the building envelope.”

John L Johnston, Architect NYC & Durham NC

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Parc Bach

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Camlin Lonsdale Landscape Architects of Llangadfan in Powys held their summer barbecue this weekend and offered us the chance to revisit their studio designed by Dominic Roberts and constructed by Robert Camlin. The building was conceived as one boundary/edge of a working farm and brings an urban sensibility to the farmyard, defining the limit of the open space. The client constructed the building out of local timber (including ‘green’ oak cladding from the Powys Estate) and after ten years it is weathering beautifully and merging with the hedgerow marking the limit of the village settlement. Go to Francis Roberts Architects for more pictures, drawings and concept sketches. Camlin Lonsdale are involved in a number of important urban schemes. Building location.

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