Post World’s End Architecture at ‘Close,Closer’

As the third of the Post World’s End Architecture series delves into Portugal – Blueprint will be hosting a ‘Post World’ End Architecture’ event during the opening weekend of Close, Closer the Lisbon Architecture Triennale. Join us for an informal afternoon of discussion and debate at the Palacio Sinel de Corta.

 Post World’s End Architecture

The Post-World’s End Architecture series is initiated by Gonzalo Herrero Delicado and Vera Sacchetti, and exclusively published in Blueprint. Using the PIGS countries as case studies – that is to say Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal, those countries receiving a bail out from the European Central Bank – the PWEA series aims to track the innovative responses of emerging architectural practise, in the wake of the Eurozone crisis and global economic failure.

Economic and political situations are driving change within the architectural profession – intense social and civic unrest affects perceptions of public space, while international,­ political interdependencies, freely available emergent technologies, and perhaps most importantly, a sense of participation and communal responsibilities are the influences behind a new era of architecture. This series aims to investigate whether under these new circumstances, the role of the architect moves from the archaic single author to one that negotiates and engages with the issues of the day. Discussing in further detail the countries, their predicaments and the practises, ‘A Post World’s End Architecture’ takes place in the midst of ‘Close, Closer’, the third edition of the Lisbon Triennale of Architecture, chaired by Vera Sacchetti (Barragan Foundation) & Shumi Bose (Blueprint)

    The first of our series explored the current state of Delicado’s native Spain; once a hotbed of contemporary architectural excellence, now an economy dogged by an over-dependence on the tourism and building industries. With unemployment vacillating between 27–55% (depending on your demographic), it was hardly shocking that one in two graduates choose to leave the country in search of better prospects. Traditional models within the building industry were no longer a profitable way to survive – as Delicado discovered, innovative and tenacious small practises were working not as autonomous and isolated professionals but rather encouraging small scale, activist and socially engaged spatial practice.

    Joining the event from Spain will be:

    Andrés Jaque
    Daniel Fernández Pascual 
    Ethel Baraona / DPR barcelona 
    Zuloark /
    Mauro Gil-Fournier + Miguel Jaenicke

      Like her Iberian cousin, Portugal has been a font of contemporary architectural genius, yet has suffered a similar fate. In 2011 a €78 billion IMF-EU rescue package was approved, in effect concretising the collapse of the Portuguese economy. Having produced a revered generation of architects – amongst them two Pritzker Prize winners – the architectural sector declared that there was ‘no work’. Like their Spanish contemporaries, graduates fled in their thousands to countries such as Brazil, Angola and the UAE. But recently, small-scale studios have been seeking alternative ways of practising architecture and engaging the public. By answering the needs of society in relation to the city, practices are testing methods to create systemic change rather than aesthetic interventions. As Sacchetti found in her last report, young Portuguese practices are trying to re-build the foundations of the profession, and the nation, for large-scale change.

      Our Portuguese contingent includes:

      Like architects / Diogo Aguiar
      Paulo Moreira
      Tiago Mota Saraiva / Ateliermob
      Andre Albuquerque + Pedro Snow / poligono
      Lara Camilla Pinho / blaanc borderless architectu​re
      Ana Jara / arteria 

      This free and public event will be taking place on 14th September from 15:00 – 17:00 at the Palácio Sinel de Cordes in Lisbon, the headquarters of the Lisbon Triennale. The event is sponsored by Blueprint and is an associated program of the third edition of the Lisbon Triennale of Architecture, ‘Close,Closer’.


      Terry Farrell’s MI6 building: full video EXCLUSIVE

      Earlier this year, the inaugural event in Blueprint’s new 20/20 series took place with Sir Terry Farrell, who was invited to reflect on his most influential contribution to the London skyline to date. The MI6 building, one of his most distinctive designs anywhere, has become of the most recognised landmarks of the capital, and since its unmasking as the headquarters of the British government’s secret intelligence service has constantly attracted discussion. Iconic enough to be included in the latest James Bond movie, Farrell tells us:

      “This is a building which gets me recognised all around the world.. [...]
      I’m told that in one cinema, there was a group of architects who all cheered when it was blown up.”

      Whether you love it or hate it, the story of the MI6′s intriguing inception, site history, construction and its place within the development of London is absolutely fascinating. Earlier this year, Blueprint visited the building in Vauxhall with the architect: a short film, made on location, can be seen here. We invite you enjoy the full story of Farrell’s 20/20 talk in the exclusive video below, told in his typically warm, generous and candid words:

      “…to say would I have done it differently, I don’t know. Everyone would do everything differently with hindsight. I think it’s a strong building, and I don’t make apologies for it.”

      Terry Farrell’s MI6 building: full video EXCLUSIVE

      Earlier this year, the inaugural event in Blueprint’s new 20/20 series took place with Sir Terry Farrell, who was invited to reflect on his most influential contribution to the London skyline to date. The MI6 building, one of his most distinctive designs anywhere, has become of the most recognised landmarks of the capital, and since its unmasking as the headquarters of the British government’s secret intelligence service has constantly attracted discussion. Iconic enough to be included in the latest James Bond movie, Farrell tells us:

      “This is a building which gets me recognised all around the world.. [...]
      I’m told that in one cinema, there was a group of architects who all cheered when it was blown up.”

      Whether you love it or hate it, the story of the MI6′s intriguing inception, site history, construction and its place within the development of London is absolutely fascinating. Earlier this year, Blueprint visited the building in Vauxhall with the architect: a short film, made on location, can be seen here. We invite you enjoy the full story of Farrell’s 20/20 talk in the exclusive video below, told in his typically warm, generous and candid words:

      “…to say would I have done it differently, I don’t know. Everyone would do everything differently with hindsight. I think it’s a strong building, and I don’t make apologies for it.”

      Diamond Pro: Studio Weave on Narrow Way

      By Grace Quah

      Hackney residents are familiar with the recent council initiative to divert buses and pedestrianise Narrow Way, an aptly named stretch of road linking Lower Clapton to the top of Mare Street.

      In a characteristically playful manner, locally based architecture practice Studio Weave has designed a six-month intervention to draw attention to the bus diversion and encourage pedestrians and cyclists alike to use the street with impunity.

      Working with Sheffield based sustainable street advertisers Green Street Media, the studio devised a scheme of bright temporary floor graphics, which traverse the road and boldly tease shop fronts. Fresh vegetables, bric-a-brac and homewares spill out onto green and yellow geometric shapes that playfully interact with existing double-yellow lines. Geometric pastel pink and bright blue diamond patterns alter the visitor’s perspective and warmly invite local residents into shops. At the very least they persuade the user to linger a little bit longer whilst they browse at shop wares in the window. Bike friendly, the design also integrates timber seating with planters, persuading pedestrians to stick around.

      Along with other intrepid design students, I experienced the hands-on task of painting the street, during several all-night sessions over the course of two weeks. Hopefully my diary below sheds some light on the process of realising a small-scale public intervention – and the trials of matching architectural vision with public expectations. In the process we picked up many nuanced snippets of the local culture, through informal dialogue with the public. Narrow Way is open to all but here’s how, under cover of darkness, it was made:


      Day I: Studio Weave Office

      I had heard about Narrow Way through a forwarded e-mail; an open call, offering paid work for helping hands. I made my way to Studio Weave’s office for a brief initial meeting about the project; there, Eddie Blake introduced us to the plans for Narrow Way. Five volunteers were called in to help with the painting; for the most part, we were made up of architecture or art students, including myself, a recent architecture graduate.

      The painting team was made up of five volunteers and three painters from Green Street Media; owner Conrad Thornton introduced us to the strategy. Due to the site’s proximity to residential buildings, he explained the preferred use of rollers instead of spray paint to reduce noise. The paints themselves come from the USA and Green Street Media are the only UK-based company to supply and use them in their work. At £20 a litre, the temporary acrylic-based paints came in five vibrant hues. Designed to last for six months, the texture was thick and gritty.

      The drawings, in plan, showed a series of triangular forms spanning the width and length of the street, some patterned and some solid. White-dotted ellipses indicated where street furniture might go, suggesting that the design was still open to change. The plans, though beautifully drawn, seemed abstract. It was not until I got to the site that I realised the full extent of the task at hand.

      Night I: Famous Last Words

      Narrow Way is a curious stretch of road, meandering slowly uphill from the busy junction of Amhurst Road with Hackney Central station. But it holds its own – an established high street in its own right. With a strong local character, the site is a stone’s throw from the Studio Weave’s Dalston studio.

      I arrived on Mare Street at 21:00, anticipating a long night but ready to get stuck in. Some painting had already begun the previous evening, confined to the road. Whilst waiting for more paint to arrive, we got to grips with the scale of the project’s ambitions and with the reality of road conditions. The site is a public route and an extremely busy local thoroughfare at that; not only were deliveries for businesses attempting to gain access to the (temporarily) closed road, but a melange of speedy cyclists and pedestrians wanted to get through too. No sooner had we gathered when a couple of local residents candidly shared their views on public spending for the project. Consequently, some comments were undeniably negative; the best response we had was to refer people to take their issues up with Hackney Council. Not very inspiring beginnings!

      The first night was slow. No exuberant urban street art or graffiti thrills on this occasion: we were solemnly instructed to avoid certain aspects of the street furniture, stay 10cm away from road markings and not to mention, to avoid public property. In reality we spent the initial night (and those following) cordoning off certain areas and chalking patterns onto the street as guidelines. We begun with larger areas of solid block colours, following the completion of those, we would begin on geometric patterns.
      I remember Eddie’s famous last words: in a bid to encourage us perhaps, he estimated that we would finish the job in just two nights!

      Much of the design involved painting right up to residents’ front doors, some of whom took to peering out of their windows and snapping photographs from their flats above. We were just about getting used to the paint as sun rose and the street lamps turned off. Our inaugural night ended at 5am, at the end of which we had barely covered the north end of the street.

      Night II: Lack of Sleep

      The second evening, we returned with fresh enthusiasm, coupled however with a lack of sleep. Luckily, our chalking methods were faster and we started on patterning. The plans became crucial in the negotiation between us of the location of the chalked guidelines. There were discrepancies caused by the natural road inclinations and the uneven road surfaces caused by passing traffic over time.

      As we moved down toward the middle of the street, more people tended to stop, realising this was a continued strategic effort of painting instead of a sporadic one-off gesture. We took turns to answer the enquiries of the general public. Many cyclists dismounted and questioned our motives for painting the street. To our quasi-official set-up (students in high visibility jackets and awkwardly marked out red tape), there was a mixed public reaction.

      Night III: Diamond Pro

      By Thursday, our third consecutive day of painting, we were working at the southern end of the street and beginning to receive a lot more attention from the general public. I spent a good part of this evening diamond patterning outside of the old town hall (now a betting shop), having tackled the pink diamonds at the north end of the road the previous evening. Had I had a chance to sleep, I would have surely dreamt of diamonds.

      By the third evening, we had split into dedicated teams and each was responsible for the negotiation of their area through chalking and painting. In other words, we had taken on more specialised responsibility and had become much more efficient, only for our efforts to be greeted with early morning rain-showers.

      Night IV: mysterious footprints

      To our dismay, it had started raining in the early hours of the morning. The showers resulted in mysterious green footprints appearing by shop fronts. By the fourth night, we realised we had to repaint a good few hours work.

      Friday night saw the conversation from local residents reaching an all-time high: some offered to paint and the team, running out of stamina, battled in refusing the help. Nonetheless, we were on a mission to see our hard work completed.


      By Friday two weeks later, planters have arrived on site and inevitable tweets start appearing online, commenting on the cheery new look of Narrow Way.

      Whilst there were issues with the use of public money, it seems that the majority of residents are preoccupied with the additional traffic congestion brought to Dalston Lane and Amhurst Road. Commuters in the morning rush are unsatisfied with longer bus journey times. Local businesses claim that footfall has decreased now that buses do not pass along Narrow Way.

      However the space does provide a much richer experience of the street in a way that reflects the local area. Needless to say I learnt much more about the local culture as well as getting the opportunity to work with the parties involved. Hopefully I was able to be part of a project that also gave back something, however fleeting or intangible that is.

      The way we shape our public space, is always in constant negotiation. It’s a risky business, but as in the case of this project, rewarding when the public can reap the benefits.

      Blueprint turns 30!

      This October, Blueprint turns 30. Celebrating three decades of award-winning dedication to architecture, design and art, Blueprint #330 marks this momentous achievement with a full relaunch. We’re proud to announce our new design, format and bi-monthly publication cycle, while maintaining our legacy of strong opinion, critical thinking and interdisciplinary approach. The new Blueprint will be bigger, brighter, and we hope, even better than before. In the first of our new era issues, the celebrated author Philip Pullman explores the splendid world of Soviet Union era illustrated children’s books. Clare Farrow asks Kengo Kuma to retrace his architectural philosophy, and look at some of his recent works in France and at home in Japan. Herbert Wright reviews the bling new Central Library in Birmingham, by Dutch practice Mecanoo. Shumi Bose talks to Scandinavian artistic duo Elmgreen & Dragset, whose forthcoming installation at London’s V&A museum portrays the melancholic apartment of a fictional architect. In the third installment of Blueprint’s Post World’s End series, Gonzalo Herrero Delicado and Vera Sacchetti discuss the political and social economy of Portugal. This is followed by a preview of this autumn’s Lisbon Architecture Triennale, which lists among its participants Andrés Jaque, Frida Escobedo and Bruce Sterling. Last but not least, an archival review of the last 30 years of the magazine brings together 30 influential architects, designers, artists and thinkers, each of whom has featured on one or more of Blueprint distinctive, celebrated covers since 1983. We selected one cover story from each of our thirty years, and asked this rather stellar list of contributors for their exclusive reflections on then and now. 1983 Eva Jiricna | Eva Jiricna Architects 1984 Ron Arad | Ron Arad Associates 1985 Richard Rogers | Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners 1986 Paul Smith 1987 Nigel Coates 1988 Neville Brody | Research Studios 1989 Michael Hopkins | Hopkins Architects 1990 Eric Parry | Eric Parry Architects 1991 Terry Farrell | Farrells 1992 Nicholas Grimshaw | Grimshaw Architects 1993 Philippe Starck 1994 Marc Newson 1995 Jacques Herzog | Herzog & de Meuron 1996 Elizabeth Diller | Diller Scofidio + Renfro 1997 Sam Jacob | Fat 1998 Steven Holl | Steven Holl Architects 1999 Eric Kuhne | Civic Arts - Eric Kuhne Associates 2000 Iain Borden 2001 Fernando Gutiérrez | Studio Fernando Gutiérrez 2002 Steffen Sauerteig | eboy 2003 Luke Pearson | Pearson Lloyd 2004 David Greene | Archigram 2005 Peter St John | Caruso St John 2006 Charles Jencks 2007 Zaha Hadid | Zaha Hadid Architects 2008 Craig Dykers | Snøhetta 2009 Eduardo Souto De Moura | Souto Moura - Arquitectos 2010 Norman Foster | Foster + Partners 2011 Terence Conran | Conran 2012 Thomas Heatherwick | Heatherwick Studio 2013 David Adjaye | Adjaye Associates

      Battle of Ideas 2013

      This October, the Barbican plays host to the Battle of Ideas Festival 2013. This is the second time the world-renowned arts centre has hosted the event, which has reached its ninth year.

      The annual festival, which draws 350 speakers over 80 sessions, aims to continue its intellectual legacy, daring to ask thought provoking questions within an arena of public debates on issues that shape culture and politics today. With the ethos of ‘free speech allowed’, these debates choose to identify and explore innovative ideas, research cultural and social trends in an approachable and – above all – truly discursive manner.

      In a debate entitled ‘Pop Ups: Overhyped and Everywhere?‘, the public will be able to join architect Cany Ash (Ash Sakula), editor Pedro Levi Bismarck (Punkto), researcher Alastair Donald (Future Cities) and critic Oliver Wainwright (The Guardian), as they discuss the relatively recent phenomenon of the ‘pop up’ and its role in the civic economy. The darling and often first step of graduating or emerging architects, pop ups can host lively and creative interim uses on otherwise disused sites – but their punky popularity has seen them become increasingly co-opted by corporations as low-cost ways to consolidate an urban presence. From caravans selling street food to open-air cinemas, the panel will be discussing the pop up and other associated ‘guerrilla’ activities as over-hyped, ubiquitous branded forms rather than genuine engagements with public space.

      Although not quite so recent, the debate surrounding urban farming continues - indeed forming the topic for next year’s Rotterdam Architecture Biennale. Another debate ‘Grow your own? The Urban Agricultural Revolution‘ chaired by Jason Smith, will explore a discussion surrounding the growing interest – especially in the new millenium – in urban farming. The recent horsemeat scandal has triggered visceral awareness of our industrialised food production methods, alongside increased consciousness towards food miles and the need to support local producers. Meanwhile, the London Legacy Development Corporation prioritises two large allotment sites as part of the Olympic legacy; architect and academic CJ Lim claims the urban farming hybrid will bring ‘long term urban and ecological sustainability’. This panel includes Anand Dossa (National Farmer’s Union), Stephen Hargrave (London Farmers Markets Ltd, Reform), Vicky Richardson (British Council) and CJ Lim (Studio 8 & author of forthcoming title Food City).

      In some ways, both urban farming and the pop up come hand in hand. These two debates are interesting parallels that, like it or not, mark two defining social trends of the present era, and their concerns can frequently overlap. Temporary architecture frequently facilitates opportunities for ‘growing your own’, viewing urban landscape as resource towards self-sufficiency, whilst ambitious city farming projects need to consider clever ways of utilising space and promoting their ‘cottage industry’. The two debates circle around themes of empowering the individual citizen against globalised systems, as they attempt to promote a social agenda within the urban realm. With a varied range of speakers offering a wide breadth of perspectives, the Battle of Ideas leaves room for plenty of food for thought.

      The Battle of Ideas 2013 takes place at the Barbican Centre between 19th–20th October 2013. Blueprint is proud to be media partner for the two events listed above.

      Grace Quah

      Global Design Forum: Industry, Creativity and Government at LDF

      Blueprint is pleased to be a media partner for the second Global Design Forum, which this year brings together creatives like Peter Saville,  Jamie Hayon, Ross Lovegrove, John Hegarty and Michael Young with industry and government figures, for two days of design discussions.
      Positioning itself as a more cerebral and enterprise driven part of the London Design Festival, the forum starts on 16 September at the V&A with a conversation with Peter Saville. Day Two at the Southbank Centre has four sessions, which as well as the participants above, include  Justine Simons (Acting Deputy Mayor for Culture), Adrian van Hooydonk (Senior Vice President of BMW Group Design), Ben Page (CEO of Ipsos Mori)and others. On the agenda will be creativity and the smart city, brands versus designers and the importance of disruptive and radical ideas to innovation.

      Tickets are available from, priced at £395 + VAT - but if you book before end of Friday 16 Aug there’s a £70 discount.


      Johnny Tucker


      New blood for Old Doha Prize: Open Call

      While the eurozone crisis hampers urban regeneration close to home, elsewhere cities continue to grow apace –  notably in the Far East, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. Resource-rich, the often new-found economic successes of freshly liberalised markets can bring about rapid increases in construction and large scale development. However, with unimpeded progress comes the significant risk of discarding significant and irreplaceable parts of cultural heritage, in favour of the glamour of the new.

      Old Doha. Photo Tim Makower, Courtesy British Council


      With this inherent problem in mind, the British Council with the Qatar Museums Authority have organised an open call for entries for the Old Doha Prize. The open call offers UK and Qatari architects an opportunity for intense collaboration addressing the question of heritage, over a week-long design residency and competition in Doha.

      From the 17–24 November 2013, a week-long design charrette in Doha will look to explore an area of 250 hectares centred around the local landmark, the famous Souk Waqif and the neighbourhoods of Al Asmakh and Najada. The Open Call is open to all architects in the UK with a minimum of two years experience. Five teams of architects from the UK and Qatar will be asked to investigate the changing urban fabric of the historic district of Old Doha. Judges will be looking for a compelling contextual response – in almost any media – to the principle of Al Turath Al Hai, which roughly translates as ‘Living Heritage’. Its full suggestion is more nuanced: the idea that heritage is not a static part of history, but rather something that continually evolves whilst remaining deeply rooted in the past. A research grant of £15,000 will go towards the winning proposal, which could be implemented in the form of an exhibition, research project, publication, installation, public intervention or film.

      Old Doha. Photo Tim Makower, Courtesy British Council

      Recognised as being a principle heritage area within a fast expanding city – especially as Doha will be hosting the World Cup 2022 – the hope is for designers from both countries to share ideas and approaches towards sustainable resolutions for sensitive cultural and historical redevelopments.

      The competition is organised in conjunction with the Royal Institute of British Architects & the Bartlett School of Architecture in the UK, and the Doha Architecture Centre and Msheireb Properties in Qatar. The closing date for UK applicants – who must have a minimum of two years architectural experience – is 30 August 2013. For full details of how to apply to participate in the Old Doha Prize charette & competition, please visit the British Council’s Back of the Envelope page, where you can find English & Arabic versions of the full open call, submission requirements, frequently asked questions and more.

      2013 marks the first Qatar UK Year of Culture, the aim of which is to foster relationships, collaborations and dialogues between UK and Qatari designers. A series of events organised by the two countries continues to ‘celebrate and develop the partnership between Qatar and the United Kingdom’. This cross-cultural exchange began with the unveiling of Fischli & Weiss’ sculpture, Rock on Top of Another Rock in March this year; currently enjoying the ebbing summer on the Serpentine Gallery’s adjacent lawn, the elemental sculpture will move to its permanent home in Qatar in March 2014.

      Anne Bellamy


      Artist Decorators: The Grantchester Pottery at the ICA

      The Artist Decorators

      19th June - 25th August, 2013

      The Fox Reading Room, ICA, London

      Anne Bellamy

      Tucked away beneath the stairs at the ICA, there is a small room that has been taken over by decorators. This little area has been transformed into a space that is bursting with intense colour – much in contrast with the rest of the stark white gallery.

      Grantchester Pottery: Artist Decorators
      Installation view, Photo Mark Blower, Courtesy ICA

      It is in fact The Granchester Pottery that has taken over the Fox Reading Room – self-proclaimed ‘artist-decorators’. The walls have been adorned with hand painted murals and wallpapers, and hand woven rugs. The Pottery’s approach to decorating is refreshingly playful, as if they are rejecting contemporary trends within interior design as being minimalist and untouched. The walls here invite you to touch and feel – and they feel almost as they look, warm. In and amongst the decorated interior are various pieces from The Grantchester Pottery’s ceramics collection, delightfully camouflaged in the bright world it has fashioned.

      Grantchester Pottery: Artist Decorators
      Paperweights, Photo Mark Blower, Courtesy ICA

      From lamps and vases, to pots and paperweights, the ceramics may seem utilitarian in nature, but upon closer inspection one appreciates small nuances that are indicative of the particular collective nature of the studio. Removal of individual authorship within the group ensures that there is always an open exchange of ideas and forms, as pieces are completed stage by stage, passing from one hand to another, gaining and losing individual traces.

      Established in early 2011 by Phil Roots and Giles Round, The Grantchester Pottery formed at the Wysing Arts Centre in Cambridgeshire and took inspiration from other historical collectives such as Roger Fry’s Omega Workshop. Much like Omega before them, the Grantchester collective works as just that, a group entity. Round states that this way of working ‘creates a kind of harmony in the design [that] nevertheless allows it to pull in more than one direction’.

      The ceramic pieces on display show this perfectly; hidden within the form of a teapot, for example, is a profile of an art deco face which you then start to notice as subtly present in other forms. One might identify the image of an eye and begin to see it morph, first into a wonderfully simple paperweight, then to a vase. One artist’s pattern is implemented by another, their pattern book continually growing and changing on itself.

      In their own words, the artists who comprise The Grantchester Pottery strive to substitute the ‘deadness of mechanical reproduction’ by creating a working environment that produces ‘decorative functional objects’. This small insight into their methods and practice, and the resulting interior design is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise heavily brand based industry. This is undoubtedly a compact exhibition for the up and coming studio, but an invigorating one that celebrates the contradiction in The Grantchester Pottery’s practice. Its work may speak of a craft revival, but a contemporary one that revels in the joy of hand-making rather than detached digital technologies.



      House of Card: Shigeru Ban’s Christchurch Cathedral

      After 2011′s devastating earthquake which reduced swathes of Christchurch, NZ, to rubble, the city’s new interim cathedral designed by Shigeru Ban finally opened to the public this week. The opening marks a long awaited return for the city’s most loved monument and a critical moment in Christchurch’s urban recovery. We revisit our exclusive interview with Ban, conducted earlier this year as the cardboard cathedral was constructed and published in Blueprint #326 – Eds.

      Even in the 21st century, a church remains one of the most powerful symbols of community and continuity with the past, and of spirituality, in the most general sense. Whatever beliefs you may or may not have, it is undeniably moving to stand inside a building that has housed more than a century of prayer, fear and hope for the human condition – an uncluttered space where the details of life are brushed aside and thoughts are focused on the universal. For this reason the destruction of a church is so shocking, for it is the instant removal of that connection, the elimination of something immaterial – that concentration of belief and collective humanity, whose fragility is suddenly and unexpectedly exposed.

      This is what happened in Christchurch, New Zealand, on the afternoon of 22 February 2011, when the spire of the cathedral and bells collapsed like a house of cards into a cloud of dust in the central square, as a 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit the city killing 181 people. In the quake’s aftermath, while many questions were being asked, the shattered cathedral became the image of the disaster, and it was not until late April 2012 that a process of careful (and highly controversial) deconstruction began, to ‘lower’ the building to allow for treasured items such as the pipe organ and eagle from the lectern to be rescued.

      It was announced that a new structure would be planned for the future, at a cost of more than NZ$30m (£16.4m): a huge sum that was opposed by those who understandably argued that pragmatism must come before identity or spirituality. Moreover, new architecture takes considerable time and much red tape (even more so in this instance, as the intense controversy surrounding the cathedral’s future has now been taken to the High Court, suspending any further demolition work), leaving a broken image and physical void that undeniably have a mental impact.

      Stained glass window, Christchurch Cathedral, Shigeru Ban, 2013. Photo Bridgit Anderson

      Enter Shigeru Ban, who does not have the patience to wait. In conversation with him at his Paris office, the Japanese architect is an elusive mix of pragmatism and poetry, compassion and no-nonsense reality, which manifests itself in a minimalist beauty and humanitarian spirit that in combination are unparalleled in contemporary architecture. He prefers to keep to the facts, the materials, the structural solutions, but his words inevitably stray into philosophy, poetry, even music, and always humanity. ‘But you can talk about these things…’

      There are images on Ban’s website of the ‘container temporary housing’ that he designed for those left with nothing by the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami. I asked him how he became involved in this and other natural disasters, in Haiti, Italy, China (Sichuan Province), and New Zealand.

      ‘It was natural for me to be involved, using my own energy, away from governments. After I became an architect I found that architecture is about privileged people, governments, developers – historically it was the same, architects were asked to visualise the power and money that are invisible – and I was disappointed; so I was looking for opportunities to create houses for ordinary people.

      ‘After I became an architect I found that architecture is about privileged people, governments, developers…and I was disappointed; so I was looking for opportunities to create houses for ordinary people’

      ‘In 1994 I saw a film about a refugee camp in Rwanda, and that was the beginning. I developed a prototype shelter [using paper tubing that can be manufactured without waste]. In 2010 I built temporary shelters in Haiti, and I am now working on the project in Christchurch to build a paper church for 700 people, which will open soon… [It was a commission by the Anglican Church, on the initiative of the cathedral’s Craig Dixon, who spotted Ban’s work in a magazine three months after the quake, and sent an email to the architect – the response was immediate]. But these disasters are man-made too; even in New Zealand the city was warned to do building repairs that they didn’t then do. So you cannot say these disasters are only natural.’

        It is unusual for an architect, one of the most exclusively visual professions, to be so aware of the immaterial things that hold such importance for people, especially in times of disaster. Music is one of them. Ban has worked with composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, whose organisation MoreTrees provided wood to furnish Ban’s temporary housing in Japan, and his temporary concert hall in L’Aquila, a gift from Japan following the Italian earthquake, was unveiled in May 2011. The doors open like an accordion and the structure, in steel, glass, concrete, cardboard and clay sacks, can be taken apart and transported elsewhere, like a Mongolian white-felt yurt.

        Ban has a great love of music, ‘I envy and respect musicians. I used to play the violin when I was small,’ but it is poetry that he sees as having a more precise affinity with the pared-down forms of modernist architecture (he cites the case-study houses of Eames as one influence, rather than Japanese traditions, as people generally assume): ‘That was my education [under John Hejduk in New York], to see architecture like a poem: first the structure; then the minimum number of words, like a haiku poem. Using simple schemes in architecture, it is the same.’

        There is poetry too in his analysis of materials: ‘There is no difference between the temporary and the permanent. Concrete can be temporary, if the building is just to make money; and a paper church can be permanent, if people love it. It is whether people love a building or not, this is what makes it permanent. I am interested in using weak materials.

        ‘The durability of a building has nothing to do with the humble materials or the geometry; only the structure matters. You don’t have to use strong materials: a concrete building might be destroyed in a natural disaster, more than a paper one; concrete can be weaker than paper. It is a philosophy, yes.’

        But it is a philosophy with a practical core: ‘These temporary buildings don’t have a short lifespan; they are not called temporary because of that, but because it’s easy to get permission; it’s a faster process.’

        Ban devised the temporary paper buildings with structural engineer Gengo Matsui and, though he dismisses ‘sustainability’ as nothing more than a fashionable term, his work makes ingenious use of discarded materials – or example, the ‘10-unit system’ in which identical L-shaped units are moved around to form chairs, tables and the like.

        Interior and furniture, Christchurch Cathedral, Shigeru Ban, 2013. Courtesy of Iain McGregor, Fairfax NZ

        He relates how he was contacted by Artek and the biggest paper manufacturer in Finland, which makes labels for chemical bottles: ‘The paper for the labels has to be protected by plastic, and then this is wasted, this composite material. So they asked me to find a way to use it. So I designed the Artek pavilion in Milan and then I designed the 10-unit system … it’s about using existing materials.’

        In 2011, Ban also transformed his cardboard tubes and paper into a luxurious space for the international design world, when he created a Paper Pavilion for Hermès Paris at the Milan Salone. The result had the measured grace and linear beauty of a Bach suite, reinterpreting luxury: ‘Even luxury can be designed with humble materials … that’s why Hermès appointed me. Luxury is a quality of the space. What is so important is the light and shadow that creates a wonderful space – even with humble materials.’ It is an emphasis not only on the container but, more importantly, on what is contained: the immaterial elements that are made visible, almost tangible, by great architecture.

        The poetry of replacing the collapsed stone weight of a cathedral with the seemingly fragile lightness of a ‘paper church’ speaks for itself (Ban’s term translates into 98 cardboard tubes, each 600mm in diameter and 17m-22m long, supported by wooden beams and protected by a roof of translucent polycarbonate sheets); and Ban, like other poets, brushes away further analysis.

        But the philosophy is undeniably there: in his comments and actions, as well as the materials and buildings themselves (in which the cardboard subordinates the structural steel elements – the end-wall frames of the paper church – and concrete foundations in a way that is somehow very satisfying to the soul), he removes divisions, between strength and weakness, weight and lightness, all and nothing, poverty and wealth, in a way that surely echoes ancient Eastern thought (though he does not say so) as well as 20th-century modernism.

        Though Ban dismisses ‘sustainability’ as nothing more than a fashionable term, his work makes ingenious use of discarded materials. In his design for the temporary church in Christchurch, which is shaped like a tent – the most primary form of shelter – a triangular wall of 49 locally produced stained-glass panels (each 2m high and containing visual echoes of the cathedral’s lost rose window) calls to mind both a house of playing cards, assembled with precision and a lightness of touch, and a geometric hive of honey bees. Moreover, the industrious, selfless work ethic of the latter is also reflected in the construction process of all Ban’s temporary structures, which involve teams of volunteers, often architecture students.

        Interior window, Christchurch Cathedral, Shigeru Ban, 2013. Courtesy of Iain McGregor, Fairfax NZ

        In charge of ‘the Cardboard Cathedral’, as the practice – and now the world – refers to it, is architect Yoshie Narimatsu, who works in Ban’s Tokyo office. Shigeru Ban himself is not charging a fee. He is impatient though: for the considerable aftershocks in 2011 and the funding and other challenges (helped by the collaboration between the Cathedral and nearby St John’s Church, its building demolished after the quake and now providing the site for the ‘transitional cardboard cathedral’), resulted in repeated delays to the start of construction, postponing the completion date from 2012 to April 2013.

        Perhaps to cement its worth in the eyes of Christchurch (the final cost will be around NZ$6m/£3.2m) and, in keeping with Ban’s removal of divisions, the structure will also play host to concerts, exhibitions and other secular events. For those closest to the project, it represents ‘a symbol of hope’, with its ‘waves of cardboard columns’ tapering to the altar and pointing to the sky.

        ‘The poetry of replacing the collapsed stone weight of the cathedral with the seemingly fragile lightness of a ‘paper church’ speaks for itself…’

        To unfold, and then finally to pack up a paper church, may seem like a flight of the imagination. But perhaps the most poetic and practical aspect of Ban’s work (and he does prove that contemporary architecture can be both, in equal measures) is that not only does he use humble materials to create nomadic buildings and furniture (Ban’s first paper church, built in Kobe, Japan, after the 1995 earthquake, was moved to Taiwan in 2005); but the structures themselves can be recycled: a paper bridge and even a paper church (built in a handful of months for a lifespan of more than 20 years) can in the end become paper pulp, to be transformed again into something else, for some other purpose; like a huge cardboard butterfly – a metamorphosis of lightness and humanity.

        As poet and philosopher Paul Valéry wrote: ‘One should be light like a bird, and not like a feather.’ It is rare that poetry and practicality are such comfortable partners; but in Ban’s work, a house of card has also wings.

        Clare Farrow

        A version of this article originally appeared in Blueprint #326 (May 2013)

        Keeping Time: Conrad Shawcross at the Roundhouse


        1–25 August 2013

        Roundhouse, London

        Grace Quah

        The first thing that hits you, as you walk into the newest installation at Camden’s renowned Roundhouse, is a sense of void; a deafening silence envelops as your eyes accustom to the shadowy space. Suspended from the centre of the room is the only illuminating feature in an otherwise completely darkened room. This is British artist Conrad Shawcross’ newest kinetic artwork: Timepiece, a eight-metre wide rotating mechanism, glinting in the dark.

        Timepiece in motion at the Roundhouse. Photo Stephen White

        Set against the (post)industrial backdrop of the Roundhouse theatre – once a turntable engine shed – is the artist’s conceptual response to the ‘dogma of Western timekeeping’. Timepiece takes its inspiration from the historic building’s 24 interior columns; in its original function, twenty three train berths radiated around a central turntable, with the entrance track completing the twenty fourth set of rails. In this setting, the 24-hour day and the standardisation of time becomes the pivotal focus for a timekeeping narrative. Art and architecture come together in this installation, as an expression of working out our space and place in time.

        Each of the machine’s three suspended aluminium arms represents hours, minutes and seconds, with the second arm rotating in fluid real time regulations. Each arm then has a further articulated extension, with a 1000-watt bulb on each point, playing to its spectacular architectural setting in dynamic nuances of light and shadow. As a result, three shadows (each moving at different speeds) are cast on the concrete floor, provoking ‘a parallel sense of reality’ – or at least a definite sense of the uncanny, as the concept of time is rendered wholly unstable. In the centre of the room, stands a 4-metre high gnomon or sundial – with which the suspended armatures above line up directly.

        The machine was constructed ‘in house’ at the artist’s Hackney-based studio with the help of digital modelling and was installed in Camden over two days. Shawcross speaks enthusiastically of processes such as chamfering the machine’s aluminium edges, testifying to his emphasis on ‘tool determinism as well as linguistic determinism’ – the importance, in other words, of the physical act and processes of making, although he admits that his machine is not meant to be functional, even as it is designed according to rational principles. For more of Shawcross in his own words, check out several excellent short films on the Roundhouse website.

        There is something pleasantly paradoxical about the precise geometry of Timepiece and its architectural surrounding, set against the absorbing sensual and contemplative experience of the installation as a whole. The architectural and historical references speak of a rational scientific purpose; meanwhile the 45-degree tilt of the aluminium armatures and their ghostly, wavering shadows suggest an art object to be experienced. Shawcross aims to challenge the ‘authority of the machine’ in its familiar, industrial context – instead conveying some of the wonder of ‘a primeval or celestial experience’ of timekeeping.

        Shawcross’ silent exploration of celestial reality is a must see; make time for it.


        Ice Lab: Architecture and Science

        Combatting the heatwave currently wilting the rest of the country, The Lighthouse in Glasgow is taking a distinctly chilly turn this week, as it opens the exhibition ‘Ice Lab: New Architecture and Science in Antarctica’, commissioned by the British Council.  This internationally touring exhibition is intended to provide visitors an insight into how innovative contemporary architecture is facilitating new research in one of the world’s most harsh and hostile environments – Antarctica.

        ‘The new wave of Antarctic research stations show the inventiveness in design and engineering required to build in Earth’s most extreme conditions’, Vicky Richardson, Director of Architecture, Design, Fashion at the British Council

        The exhibition showcase five ingenious designs – including the celebrated British Antarctic Survey’s Halley VI Research station by Hugh Broughton Architects, an exclusive review and photo diary of which will be featured in Blueprint’s upcoming re-launch issue. Other projects showcased include the Princess Elisabeth Research Station by the International Polar Foundation the first zero-emission research station from Belgium; India’s Bharati project by bof Architekten/IMS created from prefabricated shipping and abstract proposals from Denmark by MAP Architects that envision research stations carved deep into icebergs.

        Collections of drawings, models, photographs, and films will ‘highlight the scientific advances which place on the frozen continent – from cutting-edge astronomy peering into the world’s clearest skies to studying its Dry Valleys, in conditions which simulate those of ‘Mars on Earth.’

        In addition, Glasgow-based artist Torsten Lauschmann has been specially commissioned by The Arts Catalyst to produce two brand new artworks, Ice Diamond, and Whistler. The immersive work will offer sensations similar to that of the disorientation experienced by scientists living and working in the outside environment.

        Commissioned by the British Council and curated by The Arts Catalyst, Ice Lab: New Architecture and Science in Antarctica is at Architecture and Design Scotland at The Lighthouse from 26 July – 2 Oct 2013 and then at MOSI (Museum of Science & Industry) as part of Manchester Science Festival from 21 October to 6 January 2014 before touring internationally.

        Anne Bellamy



        No Apologies: Farrell on location at MI6 [VIDEO EXCLUSIVE]

        On 27 June, the inaugural event in Blueprint’s new 20/20 series took place with Sir Terry Farrell invited to talk about one of his most influential contributions to the London skyline - the SIS or Secret Intelligence Service HQ, more commonly known as MI6 building.

        Before the main event, Blueprint’s editor Johnny Tucker took Farrell back to the site in Vauxhall to briefly hear about the building, its lengthy planning setbacks and its undeniable impact on London’s landscape. The MI6 building, one of Farrell’s most distinctive contributions to architecture and planning has become of the most recognised landmarks of the capital, and since its unmasking as the headquarters of the British government’s secret intelligence service has constantly attracted discussion – much like Marmite, it’s either love it or hate it.

        “This is a building, which gets me recognised all around the world – simply because of the James Bond movies, it’s not the architecture. I’m told that in one cinema, there was a group of architects who all cheered when it was blown up.”

        The opening event of this series gave Farrell the opportunity to look back and offer retrospective insight, whilst also considering a way of looking forward to London’s urban future and sets the tone for the upcoming series of events. Stay tuned for the full video of his talk; for now you can find our exclusive film on location with Sir Terry below.

        “…to say would I have done it differently, I don’t know. Everyone would do everything differently with hindsight. I think it’s a strong building, and I don’t make apologies for it.”

        Anne Bellamy

        RIBA Stirling Prize 2013: interactive map & gallery



          A few weeks since the RIBA National Awards were announced, we now have the shortlist for the big one: the Stirling Prize.

          This year’s shortlist offers a jubilant escape from the sensationalist manipulation of form – and a marked absence of London-based projects, where big-name international practices can so often dominate.

          In their place we have a selection of sensitive projects. thoughtfulness is exhibited variously: in the interpretation of site (Giants Causeway Visitor Centre – heneghan peng architects), to the act of restoring purpose, optimism and contemporary relevance to a site that despite rose-tinted intentions, came to harbour depression and poverty (Park Hill Phase 1 - HawkinsBrown with Studio Egret West), or the endeavour to manipulate material in unexpected ways and with unrivalled grace (Bishop Edward King Chapel - Niall McLaughlin Architects).

          All we can do now is wait – and debate – until the winner is announced on Thursday 26 September at Central Saint Martins, Kings Cross – the building that scooped last years Stirling Prize, designed by Stanton Williams. Judges will all visit each of the buildings once more before selecting a winner on the day.

          Having taken our first foray into producing interactive maps in our coverage of the RIBA National Awards (found here), you can once again pan around the UK and visit the updated Stirling Prize Shortlist map below; full listings with galleries of each project can be found after the jump:






          Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre, Northern Ireland by heneghan peng architects.

          Breaks the mould of the traditional visitor centre that tends to hide from the limelight or make a statement, this highly imaginative and sculptural piece of ‘land art’ offers visitors an experience that is physical and interactive, like the causeway itself. Having ‘tuned in’ so perfectly to the environment, the visitor centre acts as the perfect prologue for the main event.


          Park Hill Phase 1, Sheffield by HawkinsBrown with Studio Egret West

          Reinvention of the loved and loathed Grade II* listed 1960s housing estate. The structure of the building remained in place whilst key features were changed – interior layout, windows, security and much more.  It stands as a beacon for imaginative regeneration, quality mass housing and the bold reuse of a listed building.


          Newhall Be, Harlow by Alison Brooks Architects

          The radical re-thinking of the shape and interior of the UK house is tackled masterfully with these 84 new homes in suburban Essex that clearly illustrate that good design quality and committed developers can transform peoples’ lives. A new model for British housing?


          Astley Castle, Warwickshire by Witherford Watson Mann Architects

          Beautiful contemporary Landmark Trust holiday home installed in the ruined walls of a 12th century manor. Unique example of the recovery of an ancient building – it is a prototype for a bold new attitude to restoration and reuse.


          University of Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects

          Exceptional example of how to create a vibrant new public space through the careful design and placement of buildings. High-quality, beautiful and dramatic buildings that punch far above their rock-bottom budget.


          Bishop Edward King Chapel, Oxfordshire by Niall McLaughlin Architects

          An uplifting spiritual space of great potency that the client has described as ‘what we dreamed of but didn’t think we would get’. An incredible showcase for modern British craftsmanship.

           project text curtesy of RIBA






          Stephen Hodder – Architect and RIBA President Elect (President: 01/09/13)

          Sheila O’Donnell - Architect, O’Donnell + Tuomey

          Paul Williams - Architect, Stanton Williams

          Dame Vivien Duffield – Philanthropist and Chair of the Clore Duffield Foundation

          Tom Dyckhoff – Journalist and Broadcaster.






          Andrew Herbert

          Canal houses, Cookies & Consultation: in conversation with DUS Architects

          ‘A dome of umbrellas to trigger a spontaneous street party. A floating structure of ‘China Bags’ to encourage cultural exchange. A pavilion made of soap bubbles that only appears when people build it.
          DUS Architects is anything but an architecture firm in the traditional sense.’

          So says the blurb at What Design Can Do 2013 , a conference held in Amsterdam earlier this year, celebrating an array of innovative and socially beneficial practices. But after a stellar presentation (full video below) Blueprint caught up with Hedwig Heinsman, a co-founder at DUS Architects, to get their story in full. They are currently best known for attempting to 3D-print an entire house, a project which is taking place right now on the banks of Amsterdam’s picturesque canals – on which more below. But this energetic, award-winning Dutch practice isn’t jumping on the technological bandwagon; over the last decade, DUS has found its feet between humble community consultations and guerilla street parties.. read on for more.


          Blueprint: As a relatively young practice, how did you start to define and position yourself,  so validating DUS within a relatively crowded field of architects?

          Hedwig Heinsman: I think we kind of see ourselves as very traditional architects. What most people don’t know is that we’ve had an office for nine years and we’ve known each other longer. We met each other at TU Delft: we did a rather strange project about non-standard architectures in the Technical University environment, and we designed a really enormous rubber cocoon made out of 3km of inner bicycle tubes (see slideshow below) that we wove into a structure. It was so much fun to realise this small installation – to really design something on a computer and then to partly make it yourself and experience that.

          So how did you develop your practice approach, after you finished at Delft?

          The thing is… I was with my partner-in-crime Hans (Vermeulen, also of DUS Architects), we were walking in some architecture fair and he said, ‘I don’t want to be this kind of architect.’ This profession has become more complex in the Netherlands – it often takes 5-10 years before something is built. And actually the moment that the architect comes into the design process is later and later, so architects basically only get to decide what kind of bricks are put on the façade…

          Hedwig Heinsman of DUS Architects - just blocking Bucky in the background


          And even that is subject to the contractor…

          Right. So basically, the architect gets much less say in all the things that really matter.  We thought, if you can’t beat them, join them! So we decided to work on a lot of social housing corporations, the transformation of post-war (damaged) areas, and how to deal with them. As architects, we developed a mythology about how to communicate with everyone involved, not only the people living there, but also the municipality and also actually the client in designing these new buildings.

          Within a traditional framework, you’re the client, I’m the architect, we have a personal relationship. But nowadays who knows the architect of the flat they rent? Very few people in the Netherlands know this. We want to allow this relationship with architects even if the group of people is larger; you just have to come up with other ways to communicate your ideas

          For example?

          Its basically the same as this, coffee and cookies. Time and workshops, that’s why in the beginning we got a lot of comments from our peers, telling us ‘You’re more like social workers’. Although at first it is more time consuming, really its not – people are much more likely to understand… to support your design because they feel part of a process?

          Its also not only a trick to get people to be committed: if people don’t know something, they don’t get it, so you have to explain it a little bit. Also people are very aware that in architecture you have to make compromises.

          This is so present in the discourse in the UK as well, especially when it comes to social housing. So did you find any resistance from the architectural sphere or were people just saying, this isn’t architecture?

          Well, in the beginning we didn’t even get the architecture commissions, so we were doing the preliminary works – for example the urban designs, which were then approved. There would be ta point that the architect was going to be chosen and we wouldn’t get the commissions, because we didn’t have the experience. But then came the moment where there was one client who said, I really have the faith because they did this (consultation) so well. It was in Nieuwegein, a new town in the centre of the Netherlands, close to Utrecht – one of the largest communal areas in the Netherlands, 1970s, in really bad condition but with a strong social network, organized really well. If you demolish this whole area, you will also demolish this community base. You can never be sure that people would come back afterwards. So we came up with this alternative process together with the community and the people, we stripped everything to the core but kept the main structure of buildings, a whole new in-fill but living with the elderly and student housing. That took 6 years, last year we completed and I’m happy with it, it’s a nice accomplishment…

          Today you presented the structure that was built illegally or without permission, but then that became an example to get real work. Would you say that’s a way of navigating a new method?

          Sometimes you don’t even have to make a new design, if you change one rule, you can really use the city in a whole different way, that’s something that my partners and I have in common, we don’t necessarily always need to build something new. Architecture is a really slow profession. Ideally in university students should be able to be free and not be taught about the market and be able to think creatively – but for architecture that’s not entirely true because architecture is so much embedded in society… I think it would be better if students did get a sense of that earlier in their studies, I also notice that the students are really eager and the university is often slow.

            When we see you in the press these days, it’s usually as ‘the 3D printing architects’. Tell me a little bit about that.

            We are not fascinated by the technological aspect of it, what we are fascinated by is how it relates to all the other projects that we do as well. I’m enjoying the attention because I think its good for the office, but I also want to distance myself from it. We have interesting discussions with other people who have done 3D designs; I’m not necessarily so interested in the aesthetic appeal of it…

            So what’s important about the technology in terms of your Kamermaker project?  3D printing is often discussed in its democratic potentials, is that something you want to talk about?

            Yes I really think that it will allow in the far future for people to literally figure and shape their environment. It allows us to make things really easily but it also questions the future role of the architect because what if in the future, every one can make these things for themselves…

            For Kamermaker, you’re printing a whole house live, almost like a performance?
            We have a really big printer! Right now we’re doing all kinds of test prints, its just standing outside in our garden, we built it with the contractor and with a 3D print firm Ultimaker – so we have all their printing knowledge. Everyone who worked on this worked on this voluntarily, so that was very fun but also very tough

            Amazing that people are giving up their time…

            This was really the case with Ultimaker, they are their own business and are super busy. however there was quite an interesting moment when we had all the machinery done but the motors, wiring and software programming had to be done. They came for a meeting and the whole team stood in the printer and realized we are in the printer and how nice it was. Had we not done that – if we had stuck with nice renderings and tried to convince them, I don’t think it wouldn’t have happened…

            When is the printing happening, and what are you printing with at the moment?

            The printing happens all the time but really irregularly, if the weather is really crap or the print person is ill for example. We’re on very good terms with the municipality who have offered us a free location for five years. Its very simple, one big 300sqm plot, put the printer there, start printing element by element and putting it in place, over and over! We’re now printing with PP - that’s a plastic, we’re looking into bio plastics – we don’t know much about them but we’re going to test..

            Suddenly we’re in this race about ‘who prints the first house’ but this is not really what we had in mind, we see this as a logical continuation of these temporary projects that we do, so why don’t we do it out in the open?

            It seems to have come full circle; like you said when you were studying, it was like a performance…

            Exactly, only it has become a bit more professional and more people get involved!

            Thank you very much, Hedwig.

            Grace Quah & Shumi Bose


            Here’s the full video of Hedwig’s presentation at WDCD 2013:


            Roots Manoeuvre: Design & Build workshop at WOMAD

            As the festival season starts to get into full swing, one field-based music event in particular is targeting architects and would-be architects to get back to basics and go hands on.

            Now in it’s fourth year the Roots Architecture Workshop at the World Music Festival WOMAD (World Music Art and Dance) in Wiltshire in July has put out a call to creatives – you don’t have to be an architect – to come and build a series of ‘improvisory structures’. You will be joining teams led by the Centre for Alternative Technology and a joint humanitarian architectural group comprised of Architecture Sans Frontiers, Architecture For Humanity-UK ro creTEW.

            Founded by Fourth Door and managed on the ground by tangentfield and a posse of architects, carpenters, makers and the inevitable bamboo structure expert, Roots Architecture is a unique take on what the architectural design and build experience is about.

            This year the workshops, will be taking place in the run up to the festival with the aim of putting the structures to use during the festival itself. And this part of the event will be augmented this year by a series talks, debate and discussions called Speakeasy. There will also be an atelier showcasing various Roots Architecture networks projects. Finally, the organiser is challenging people to bring inspirational building and making materials with them which will turn into ‘a spontaneous and inspirational exhibition and resource’.

            Fourth Door founder, Oliver Lowenstein, says, ‘if you just love your computer so much, that you haven’t seen daylight for months, Roots Architecture will likely blow you away with the sheer extreme novelty of hammering in nails, or sawing away on pieces of timber - looking at the screen may never be the same again.’

            The organiser is also arranging daily morning pre-start-up sessions of tai chi – so don’t say we didn’t tell you what you were getting yourself into!

            WOMAD takes place 25- 28 July and the RAW pre-build is 19–24 July.
            For more info visit or

            Grace Quah

            Review: The Fourth Plinth – A Contemporary Monument

            To celebrate the imminent unveiling of Katharina Frisch’s Hahn/Cock, the next artwork to inhabit Trafalgar Square’s ‘Fourth Plinth’ – London’s most prominent and controversial platform for public art – we thought we’d republish our review of the Fourth Plinth retrospective exhibition at the ICA. This review first appeared in Blueprint #324 (March 2013)

            Fourth Plinth: Contemporary Monument
            Institute of Contemporary Arts

            5 December 2012 – 20 January 2013

            Shumi Bose

            It is now 14 years since the Fourth Plinth at Trafalgar Square first became a focus for national debate about modern art. Until 1999 it had been empty for 141 years: this grandly austere slab had originally been intended to support a statue of William IV, but funds ran out and it was left poignantly bare. The notion of animating the plinth with a series of contemporary art pieces was the unlikely brainchild of businesswoman and restaurateur Prue Leith – you’ll know her from the BBC’s Great British Menu – but it has now become such an established and predictable source of controversy, that it is difficult to think of the plinth in any other way. This small exhibition at the ICA gathers together, in one room, all of the realised and unrealised proposals for this peculiar quirk of London’s cultural life.

            Displayed in the form of models, without any preference to those that came to fruition, it is incredible how much these works became art of the public conscience. Even those that were never actually mounted in this most public of public spaces. Covering a period where British art has been both at its profound, conscience-pricking best as well as its overblown, self-indulgent worst, this show includes works by international and homegrown artists such as Mark Wallinger, Bob & Roberta Smith, Yinka Shonibare and most recently Elmgreen & Dragset. The early commissions (which were overseen by the RSA, before the job passed to a committee at the Mayor of London’s office) include one of the finest - Rachel Whiteread’s Monument (2001), a simple copy of the Plinth itself, inverted and placed on top. Though this piece did recall a rather austere mausoleum, mostly it just asked you to consider what was already there. It remains a pure, revelatory, and at least physically subversive work, firmly at the formalist end of a spectrum that runs through traditional figuration and surreal humour.

            Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the volatile first decade of the new millennium, a majority of the installations make an overt and sometimes cloying comment against war and military aggression. This stands in deliberate contextual dialogue with the Plinth’s setting, in the shadow of Nelson and other military leaders. Simplistic as these contributions may be – thinking perhaps of Sokari Douglas-Camp’s figurative No-o-war-r, No-o-o-war-r!, for example - they are a reminder that the plinth genuinely has become part of the national discourse. The most baldly realised illustration of how the Fourth Plinth has caught public imagination is of course Anthony Gormley’s One and Other, which invited people to climb atop the plinth and make what they wanted of their 60 minutes of fame. Gormley’s work stands in stark contrast with some of the more commercial uses of the plinth, such as a home for Channel 4’s spinning logo.

            Within the unrealised proposals, there are some surprising moments of recognition and poignancy; personally Tracey Emin’s meerkats topped the lot and raised a smile to boot. Entitled ‘Something for the Future’, the four familiar figures reference a well-known – or well advertised – insurance comparison website, making ridiculous the inflated faith we put in removed, abstract decisions on our financial security. Yes, ok, it’s a British joke (but what’s wrong with that? All the guys on the other three plinths are too. British, that is).

            Since 1999, the Fourth Plinth project has been a measure of changing and often impassioned attitudes towards art, royalty, power and participation. Demonstrating this, at the centre of this exhibition, is an absorbing collage of contemporary newspaper reports that remind one of just how heated such debates could be. At heart though, the ever-changing artworks on the plinth represent a continual argument about public space: who is it for and what sort of activities or ornamentation it should accommodate. It is rumoured that ultimately the plinth will become home to a representation of our present monarch after she dies. It will be a true shame if that also brings an end to this most vigorous national debate.

            A version of this article originally appeared in Blueprint #324 (March 2013)

            The Mobile Orchard by Atmos

            It’s a tree but not as we know it. It’s not alive, but it offers fruit. The Mobile Orchard is an installation by atmos that has been touring in July’s City of London Festival, here snapped from Devonshire Square and beside 30 St Mary Axe. Next month, the Mobile Orchard goes nationwide with Trees for Cities, a charity dedicated to planting urban trees – check out their itinerary when it emerges.

            Alex Haw, principal at atmos, is a confirmed foodie, so the orchard was an appropriate starting point for their contribution to the City’s annual green-themed festival. Atmos (see Blueprint May 2013) are masters of crafting spaces and structures with digital woodcutting, and for the Mobile Orchard, they used 4mm planes of Latvian birch (sponsored by DHH Timber). The branches spread out in one direction particularly, as if in a wind, and the two-metre-odd cantilver is counterweighted by the base of roots. A special touch for the City festival was the inclusion of white leaves in the shape of every London borough, cut from priplak, a polypropylene.

            Like the best trees, Mobile Orchard is climbable. Its shape includes nine smooth, sculpted steps, and it carries on an atmos record of previous inhabitable sculptures that have travelled as far as Hong Kong. What about the fruit? Apples were placed in its branches in the City, requiring constant replenishment by Festival crew as office types, lured by the sensual, curvy installation, took them. Really, it would be a sin not to.

            Herbert Wright


            Design of the Year 2013: People’s Choice

            2013 has seen the first opportunity for the public to vote for their Design of the Year at the Design Museum. From an impressive and wide ranging 99 entries to choose from, the exhibition threw power to the people to choose their favourite product of 2012/2013.

            The public chose a product that is at once heartwarming and genuinely amazing in its simple innovation. The Child ViSion glasses feature a revolutionary fluid-filled lens that allows children to self-adjust the prescription of their glasses. It is aimed at children aged 12-18, as this age is when vision can be at its most volatile. The obvious benefits of a product which fulfils a basic and vital need – empowering children to see – won out over high profile projects such as Renzo Piano’s Shard in London.

            Their designer, Professor Josh Silver, says:
            ‘We are delighted to have won the Visitor Vote [...] Our challenge now is to get these glasses to the tens of millions of children whose education is hampered by their inability to see a blackboard in class clearly - a problem our self-refraction glasses will solve.’

            The Visitor Vote section of the Design of the Year exhibition consisted of a giant grid where visitors identified their favourite nomination using stickers. This was a nod to the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s interactive installation at the Tate Modern in 2012, whereby visitors were asked to participate in the transformation of an entirely white space with multi-coloured stickers.

            The overall winner of Design of the Year 2013, as voted by a panel of critics in April this year, was the new Government website GOV.UK - featuring a clean and simple interface allowing the public to access information with ease (See Jeremy Till’s exclusive comment on this decision). Both the critic’s vote and the popular vote - as well as several shortlisted designs - have in common an empowering agenda - enabling the greatest number of people to benefit from good design.

            Celebrating the best of projects across a wide range of disciplines, the seven category winners for 2013 are:

            Architecture: TOUR BOIS-LE-PRÊTRE, PARIS - Designed by Frédéric Druot, Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal

            Digital: GOV.UK WEBSITE – Designed by Government Digital Service

            Fashion: DIANA VREELAND: THE EYE HAS TO TRAVEL – a documentary film directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland

            Furniture: MEDICI CHAIR - Designed by Konstantin Grcic for Mattiazzi

            Graphics: VENICE ARCHITECTURE BIENNALE IDENTITY – Designed by John Morgan Studio

            Products: KIT YAMOYO - Designed by ColaLife and PI Global

            Transport: MORPH FOLDING WHEEL - Designed by Vitamins for Maddak Inc.

              Grace Quah



              Joining the Dots at the Building Centre

              FX & Blueprint Drawing Competition: The results

              Drawings, before language, are primarily tools to communicate; they can be instructive, function as propaganda, or act as the testimony of laborious acts of love. As powerful as digital rendering software can be, there’s nothing as visceral as a hand-drawn sketch to convey an idea and some of its energy.

              Stefan Davidovici

              Late in 2012, FX and Blueprint ran an architectural drawing competition in collaboration with Drawing at Work, the company dedicated to nurturing
              drawing in the workplace. We’re delighted to say we have been deluged by entries, and the best of the lot go on display at The Building Centre in London this July.

              The competition challenged readers to draw anything they liked, but following a series of tips, hints and ‘rules’ published alongside the brief. These enabled readers to achieve technical drawing standards like single and two-point perspectives and isometric views.
              Designed to enable readers to transfer ideas to engineers, clients and contractors, the instructive brief was hugely popular and helped to attract over 150 entries to the competition from across the world.

              Now an exhibition showcases the winning submission, the five shortlisted drawings and 70 of our favourite entries. The drawings display a range of subjects, styles and ideas which are all tied together by strong technical drawing skills which are at the heart of the competition.

              FX & Blueprint Drawing Competition: The results
              17 July-14 August
              The Building Centre,

              The exhibition has been made possible by the kind support of AluK with industry leaders Ege Carpets, Bisley and Forbo generously supporting the launch event.