Tag Archives: Architecture

Binging on WAF by Hamish McMichael at Berman Guedes Stretton Architects


Checking one of my favourite news websites during a short break in the marathon crits of the World Architecture Festival, I read that “Binge-Watch” has been named by Collins Dictionary as their word of the year, defined as “to watch a large number of television programs (especially all the shows from one series) in succession”.  This is a relatively new phenomena, enabled by the rise in popularity of on-line media delivery, where the viewer can indulge their curiosity or obsession with their programme of choice.

Whatever your area of interest or expertise, there is a constant stream of new information being generated and new platforms on which to present it. WAF (now in its eighth year) is perhaps the apogee of the gathering and dissemination of architectural content, a three day extravaganza with hundreds of architectural projects exhibited, being simultaneously presented and peer reviewed, leading to category winners and then the ultimate prize, world building of the year.

To assess the hundreds of exhibited projects, it is inevitable that we start to categorize, and make quick gut reactions as to which projects capture our imagination, or make a visceral impact. Old prejudices about style and substance surface, with the suspicion that amongst the exceptional projects there are also some less well considered schemes. However without the opportunity to hear the architects speak and justify their work, it is unfair to make such quick assessments.

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WAF was held at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore

This is why WAF is a fantastic proposition, but also a victim of its own success, as the sheer quantum of projects becomes overwhelming, white noise. It is impossible to view more than a fraction of the crits, and I witnessed architects scurrying from one room to another, with their conference programmes marked up like a Glastonbury veteran trying to catch all of their favourite bands.

So I opted for the strategy to concentrate on a single category, in effect “Binge Watching”. “Binge- watching” is a symptom of our on-demand society, where inundated with an overwhelming array of choice, consumers seek comfort and solace in the known, helping to make (or more likely avoid making) a decision. They can therefore gather together the episodes of their programme of choice, and immerse themselves in the story, finding escapism.

This is a consequence of information overload, as we navigate through a torrent of information, we are looking for a haven. There is comfort in the familiar.

I found this a more rewarding and focussed approach to WAF, enabling a more critical evaluation of a small section of the projects on display, and looking for a consistency or narrative in the evaluation by the judges.

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Gary Collins from Berman Guedes Stretton Architect presenting the Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum at WAF

However the negative side to “Binge-watching” is the tendency to fail to sensibly regulate the consumption, hence the binging, which can lead to negative repercussions. Research conducted at the University of Texas at Austin found binge television watching is correlated to depression, loneliness, self-regulation deficiency, and obesity.

I hope that my WAF marathon didn’t lead to any of the above… but given such a deluge of information, some truly inspiring and some critically challenged, there is a definite risk of screen burn, or at the least a blurring of one’s critical perception.

An obvious solution would be to reduce the number of categories, is there an unnecessary duplication of both completed and “future” versions of many categories? Conversely  this is perhaps the delight of WAF, the opportunity to give light and space to the hypothetical or whimsical projects,  (perhaps in the full knowledge that it will never truly be realised that way).

WAF feeds on the buzz of creativity from the sheer volume of architecture in different categories, therefore to reduce the pool would be to diminish the event.

Perhaps the solution is to capture more of the presentations and upload them to Youtube, so that we can binge watch them on the flight home at our leisure?

Last chance to see ‘Drawn to the Future’

Anna Skovgaard Pedersen

Into architecture, technology and sci-fi? Think Augmented Reality is more interesting than an art gallery on a Saturday? Well, then the current exhibition at The Building Centre may just be something for you. The exhibition ends 3rd October though, so you need to be quick!

Drawn To The Future explores the innovative technologies that are changing the way we visualise the future and communicate new ideas. This is demonstrated through a wonderfully varied exhibition of work from digital artists, games designers, data visualisation teams, programmers, architects, engineers, academics and model-makers – all showing a different approach to how buildings, urban spaces and landscapes can be designed and presented using the new technology available.                                                                                                                                                               2015-09-09 18.50.37

You don’t have to be an architect, engineer or programmer to enjoy Drawn To The Future. The exhibition is designed to appeal to the wider public and lets you interact with many of the installations. For example, you can take a virtual reality rollercoaster ride around a fantasy city, ‘see through’ the walls at The Building Centre using an app and explore virtual environments such as the Mackintosh Library at Glasgow School of Art.

Drawn to the Future runs until 3rd October. Monday-Friday 9am-6pm, Saturday 10am-5pm at The Building Centre. It’s free, no booking required.                                                                                                                                                                                                    2015-09-09 18.51.05

It’s the small things that count

Antonia Dixon

With an office based in the heart of Soho, it’s hard not to notice the continual development taking place around us. Occasionally we joke that we’ll soon be the last original building left standing! As London’s development continues to flourish, I find myself asking, what will be the ‘historic’ architecture for our next generation?

Big buildings have been showcased around the world as a symbol of power and wealth and it would be wrong of me to say that ‘supertall’ structures don’t exude a sense of empowerment and captivation. A clear memory of mine at 9 years old and 4ft tall, is standing at the base of a glass and concrete expanse attempting to comprehend its enormity as it soared skyward, further than I could see. Looking across at its twin, I was awed by the significance of their size in comparison to my own. The Manhattan Twin Towers, like many others, were iconic influences on global architecture, although none so tragic.

Despite their visual magnificence and their contribution to the development of architecture, it is a worry of many of my fellow Millennials that supertall skyscrapers and growing mass development has already begun to drown out the beauty of historic city architecture. Landmarks that were designed with exquisite detail, vibrant colour and took decades to complete, are no longer constructed in the same way.

Below are 3 international city landmarks with the qualities that I believe are less of a priority in contemporary development:

1) Duomo di Milano, Milan – Bishop Antonio da Saluzzo began the construction of the cathedral in 1386. I find it fascinating that over 78 architects worked on the project which took over 6 centuries to complete. A high quality Condoglian marble was used to intricately carve 3,400 statues, 135 gargoyles and 700 figures into the cathedral.

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Image courtesy of: Jiuguang Wang

2) St Basil’s, Moscow – Built between 1555 and 1561 under the instruction of Ivan the Terrible, the building is an appealing and dynamic piece of architecture due to its vibrant use of bold colours. It has become increasingly apparent that bright tones are not used in today’s construction. Instead, minimalist colour palettes and set materials are used for most contemporary developments.

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Image courtesy of verygreen

3) Old Bailey, London – This landmark is further proof that spectacular developments are not purely dictated by ‘how tall’. The Old Bailey, at just 67ft, was re-built a number of times between 1674 and 1913 and its final design was by E.W. Mountford. In contrast to today’s formulaic construction, I see value in the detailed carvings that are tailored to its unique identity. For instance, the bronze statue standing on the top of the dome signifies ‘Lady Justice’ which demonstrates blind justice, alluding to the Old Bailey’s role as a court room.

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Image courtesy of Amanda Slater

So from now on, as skyscrapers continue to etch that little bit closer to the edge of the earth’s atmosphere, the hope remains that our historic landmarks do not fade into the background as we move into a new generation…