Wednesday, 11 May 2011

To Be Continued....

This has got far too quiet, not enough has been noted, this is not good.  
Pending submission I will re engage with my beloved blog and hope that it will continue doing what it did so well last term.......


Thursday, 3 February 2011

Cities Destroyed for Cash

Lecture, AA

Damon Rich,     
Urban Designer for the City of Newark, New Jersey              
Founder & Chair, The Centre for Urban Pedagogy (CUP)

Damon Rich’s aim is to increase an awareness of the social identity of the site, and the way that relates to design and the built form.

Amongst the tools at his disposal are:
1. The Ghost Narrative - Studying a site through what was there vs what was intended to be there.

‘One of the most effective ways to express the politics of a site is to expose all the projects that were proposed but not built.’

Damon Rich illustrated this with an animation tracking a selected area in Newark, (can be seen through the link below, about 1/5th of the way through). The buildings that were proposed but not granted planning permission appear in orange then disappear.  The ones that went ahead turn grey.  Not only can this reveal the embedded political and economic history of a site it also begins to express what could be.  When designing, considering the ghost narrative on a site such as Tottenham could provide the rung between the past and present which are so critically linked but so far have been running in parallel. 

2. Proposals on trainers - Acknowledging that the designs worked on are for the community and therefore communicating them in a way that is part of their lives rather than separately.  The example given was a display in a trainer shop, it had a screen showing footage of the proposed scheme incorporated into the side of a Nike Air high top.  Is this working with or going too far?  Nike? Throughout the lecture Damon’s approach was bordering on the conflict of interest explored in earlier blog: Going along vs giving in.

Perhaps it is through vehicles like this that CUP meets one of its mail aims:
‘Our work grows from a belief that the power of imagination is central to the practice of democracy, and that the work of governing must engage the dreams and visions of citizens.’

Damon Rich’s lecture was inspiring in its socially driven approach, the architect’s place agreed with me;

‘My reckoning, is that we as architects fully resist the notion that architecture is somehow this delicious treat that we have the privilege of serving up to the public, and instead we find our place among all of the individuals who are passionately interested in buildings and landscapes and environments and form coalitions with them.’

Gift giving architect
One of many contributors
The key, as Damon said is ‘to get shit done’ however this by no means should sideline the importance of quality and design in a project.

Following on from the entry Urban Design Roles, Damon Rich adds two more:

Neighbourhood Mechanic


Friday, 14 January 2011

Barking’s Green Spaces

Fenna Wagenaar - DfL

I was looking forward to the session on Barking.  Having seen traces of it through the many mentions of Barking Town Square a bit of context was needed.  The part I found most interesting were the several small green spaces on Gascoigne Estate.  All of those added together are bigger than the arbortorium and perhaps bigger that Abbey green.  What an opportunity.  When I got home I had another flick through Aldo van Eyck’s, the playgrounds and the city.  Beautiful book, to simplify, otherwise underused spaces are transformed into playgrounds, enlivening the streets.  The courtyards in Odessa had a sense of this, Playgrounds made of tyres.  I understand that money is currently a barrier but with so many small spaces it’s not a case of all or nothing but a case of one by one, would be a lovely project to get stuck into.

Short stories about the City / East and FAT Architecture

Rip it up and Start Again, Lecture Series
Lecture 10, Start Again 4
Dann Jessen, Julian Lewis & Judith Loesing -East
Sam Jacob -FAT Architecture

Last day of term, have just has a crit and a tutorial on different ways of thinking, not much sleep to boot, this probably wasn’t the day to have this lecture!
East presented first, the main theme I heard in their work was that they were laboured pieces.  They took time and care.  The out come of their narrative was not done for doings sake. The project examples we saw had an understated quality, they communicated, they considered and they applied.  All in all the projects felt respectful without being excusing themselves.  They were what I wanted to see that night.  I think you know what is coming, BANG, clashing colours, an obsession with laser cutting forms, it’s ok we’re looking already you don’t have to show us a double bowled toilet...  FAT’s work has always made me feel slightly queasy, it a matter of personal preference I guess.  Whilst studying in Manchester we went to visit the Woodward Place houses very soon after they were completed.  The thick white fa├žade edge was already dirty as were the balconies.  At the time I thought they were just a bit of a piss take.  Having now seen the internal pictures as well I don’t think that’s changed much.  When not answering questions the words Sam Jacobs was saying were good, there was a strong sense of narrative, the product however has put me off playing on my Nintendo Snes, which is a shame, that was a chance find at a car boot sale. 
In Liverpool we saw the FAT kiosks as part of Liverpool One, here it was OK to take the piss, Fashion Architecture Taste made sense here.  I was talking to Liam about FAT the other day and we decided they might be quite good at designing a new archetypal pub.  Modern ones are generally rubbish, perhaps FAT could address this.  There are places were you can have a laugh, play and architectural joke. Social Housing...laugh with not at please.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

T32 / Personal Manifesto #3

Half(ish) way in, so far I am really enjoying the nature of the course.  I feel far more comfortable working in this way than I ever have working on individual built projects.  Perhaps the scale suits me more or perhaps it’s the high level of context I have.

The planning and policy system is slotting into place bit by bit, maybe it’ll make enough sense at the time when it all changes again, though that could be seen as a good thing as adapting to change seems to be a key skill in this world.  The Rip it Up and Start Again lecture series gave us a great chance to have concentrated exposure to a wide range of practising architects and how they approach their work.  Now it’s time for me to find out how I might approach these problems.  Time for applied criticism.  Through my project in Tottenham Marshes I hope to apply and test what I have learnt so far.  The site is an exception to many rules and sits in a unique position.  I want to use this as an opportunity.

In parallel I intend to develop the ideas for my thesis.  Northumberland Park the site I am working on is the third most deprived ward in London[i].  It used to have a strong community heavily involved in the skilled manufacturing that happened in the surrounding warehouses.  With the decline in industry in the area in the 1960s this identity was lost and many people left the borough.  In 1990 Watermead Way was put in forever cutting the area in two and promoting development either side of it.  This segregated the residential from the parkland.  Through studying identity and how it is developed I hope to begin to look at my site in context.  Does it need it sense of identity reinstated?  Should it be a new approach for the new, more transient, population? In an area of disproportionately high unemployment what would this be?  With all of its sweeping statements and lack of clarity could the localism bill be an opportunity for areas like this or will people invest in ‘nicer’ places?
Many questions to be answered.  Developing a clear and grounded narrative will find a path through these issues.

I have the opportunity to test this in a site with a great degree of flexibility.  I am looking forward to seeing what will come of it.

[i] 2001 Census ward profile

T31 / Initial Thesis Thoughts

Each borough has a well considered ethos and brand, to what extent does the brand control the priorities of the borough or vice versa?  Throughout the first term I have heard sentences such as;

‘this development was to attract the right sort of resident’
‘we are proud of our strong brand’
‘we are currently re-branding’
‘It just wasn’t the right development for us’

How does this translate into planning policy?  Is Waltham Forest’s Hot Food SDP only about the health of children or is it also a conscious effort to steer the borough’s development in a more desirable direction?
How do elements much as street furniture, lighting and buildings that are granted/rejected planning permission shape this image?

With the impending changes in how planning is processed how will local identity meet with borough identity? Or if three boroughs merge, as is proposed in many, how will the borough brand remain autonomous and translate itself into the built environment?
Every aspect of the built environment is done to form some sort of an image, even if it’s an anti image. 

How will the relationship between private brands and public bodies play out though systems such as free schools?  What role does the private sector and their brand enhancement play in general?  Tescos providing libraries etc.

Finally (for now) what happens to those things that are not obviously desirable?  The rubbish incinerators, dumps, power plants etc. but also at a human level, the travellers, those highly state dependant or homeless.  How does this fit into a Greater London Authority where capturing private investment could mean being able to deliver key services?

The application of marketing psychology on the built environment both fascinates and scares me.  With our new dominant view point being from above how will land be manipulated to form images, logos, flattened identities? For example Dubai’s land extensions. Put differently has it ever been otherwise?  Churches built in cruciforms, the White Horse of Uffington etc.

I want to look at how this is being supported and shaped by policy and how in influences policy, is it inevitable? 

28/10/10 London Walk-Picture Essay

Click on the image above to see the whole photo essay on Flikr

T30 / The Idea of The City / ARU–Florian Beigle and Phil Christou

Rip it up and Start Again, Lecture Series
Lecture 9, Start Again 3 –Florian Beigle and Phil Christou

Furniture as the city
Architecture as the city
The city as architecture

Does it matter at which scale you work or are the rules the same regardless?  When hearing Florian speak the latter is true, this could be a good tool with which to play after all is it not just all about proportion?  I like the notion of breaking down large blocks into smaller sections.  The Sage in Newcastle could easily have been a collection of small buildings, at least then the roof would have been easier to clean, but a statement was wanted.  Bigger rarely means busier, someone just wants to shout a little louder, most of the time a conversation will suffice.
For me this lecture highlighted the difference between the archetypal architect and the planner, both have an idea of the whole, one is a singular approach the other is made up of parts.  I like Florian’s designs (though Saemangeum scares me a little) they take a completely different approach.  His city is not the one I have been reflecting on so far and maybe that is the most important point, when on a project every contributor will have their own perception of what city means and believe that their thought is universal.  Psychologist should be added to T7.

For ARU’s website click HERE

T29 / Term 1 Crits

(Just shy of ) One term in and the first time we have really seen each other’s studio work.  The most interesting thing for me was the various styles and approaches.  Within our unit I feel the three MA students have quite a distinct approach, I would be interested to visit other unit crits to see if this is the same.

On Matthew Dalziel’s presentation I have just three brief points/questions:

  1. Could The City and Guilds qualifications and training schemes be a consideration instead of a French system?  They offer a wide range of vocational qualifications and apprenticeships. 

  1. Considering, from what I understood, that the nature of the town in which your project is based is now focused on home web based business would it not also be interesting to fully explore the initial notion of the live in apprentice.  That image is quite beautiful and the idea would allow if nothing else a first phase.

  1. How does the scheme work beyond the site?

Personally reflecting on my presentation I think the key is to find a clear and grounded narrative through which I can weave my future work.  Other suggestions would also be very welcome.

T26 / Waltham Forest Hot Food SPD

When I was in primary school the other children used to laugh at my lunch.  Usually it would be the day before’s leftovers.  Some vegetables, some chicken, homemade soup etc.  Jam sandwiches were cooler, I begged my mum to make me them, what a fool I was! 
Food at school is all about choice.  With this in mind it goes without saying that this is just one step in addressing an attitude to food, education for both children and adults is of course key.  I would be interested to find out how Waltham Forest decided upon 5% of outlets around schools and in how many places due to the number of out lets this would be none.  How near is near anyway?
What an interesting piece of policy though, one that finally looks to solve an often unsaid problem.
On the second page it clearly states what kind of outlet the policy applies to and on the fourth the motivations behind to document are clearly laid out pre-empting many questions:
‘1.17 Although it is recognised that hot food takeaway shops can provide an
important complementary service, particularly in town centres, compared to other retail uses, they are more likely to have a detrimental impact on amenity and on the retail character and function of shopping centres. Such harmful impacts relate to increased incidence of litter, smells, crime and anti-social behaviour, noise and general disturbance, parking and traffic problems.’
I think the policy is clear, relevant and needed.  I am looking forward to seeing McDonald’s response to it should it limit one of their future developments (or are they a restaurant now?  What about Pizza Hut vs Express?)
I would also be very interested to see how areas around universities would change should this policy be widespread. 

It is important that policy is addressing existing outlets with the sneaky addition of:
‘1.14 Where an existing [extract] system is already in place and the intention is to replace this with a larger system, planning permission is required.’
Will address at least in part many of the existing establishments when they come to needing a replacement.
It’s the stuff Jamie’s dreams are made of!


T24 / Planning Policy Review

What is missing from the list below? 

People? As well as a London View Protection Framework a social one?  It would at least mean that were Tottenham to go ahead and plan to move from White Hart Lane one consideration in allowing that to happen/not happen would be whether the community surrounding the stadium (that in a large part evolved to support the match day culture) would unduly suffer as a result.  I can see the counter arguments.  That in extreme cases it would artificially keep things frozen.  How would real change happen? Those areas with strong assets would continue to prosper while the less successful areas would stagnate with no possibility of change.  I’m not sure I really agree with what I’ve proposed yet myself.  Dipping the toe in for now, it is clear however that 4B.1-4B.15[i] with the possible exception of 4B.7 deal solely with what is clearly the planner’s remit, the physical, the social is assumed to be a product of what is built.  That cannot be left purely to chance.  A good city may be able to take bad architecture but can it really take a sidelined social structure?

[i] With the possible exception of 4B.7 which skims communities but is also a bit hollow, what does 'respect' really mean in this context?

T22 / Stratford and the Olympics

Kay Hughes, Olympic Delivery Authority
Eleanor Fawcett, Design for London
Esther Everett, Design for London

View towards the stadium, with no temporary barriers!

I’ll start with the bit I liked least, Urban Initiatives’ ‘Olympic Spectrum’ I wish I’d been able to find an image, as anything I say won’t quite be as bad as it was.  This was a series of slides quite literally involving all the colours of the rainbow and showing a range of not very informative diagrams, what’s that rainbow crossing Stratford?  Oh, it’s opportunities......what?  Is this really where graphic representation has led us? However (thankfully) the rest of the presentation was very different in nature.
It goes without saying that the scale of the site is huge, especially when one considers its life after the games.  When London is back to being London and Stratford has to go it alone.  It was this part of the presentation that most interested me, the bit when all the cameras have switched off and the cable car has paid for itself.  
The smaller elements on site were interesting and well considered.  The way the bridges are constructed to get smaller, the wings coming off of the aquatics centre (what will happen to them?  Could Zaha sell them off?!), the buildings that were temporary and will disappear all together.  This was all very neat and effective. What about the hard landscaped South Park though?  The area directly around the arena.  I guess that will largely depend on what will come of the arena itself.  Were it to become an athletic stadium, which looks increasingly unlikely, the area would see sporadic well mannered crowds.  It would be quite underused (depending on the success of the orbit) and would be the hardscaped equivalent on this site to the reservoirs on the site I am working on further up the Lea Valley, a gulf.  However looking at the other extreme if it is to become the home ground for either West Ham or Tottenham how will it function?  How crowds be channelled?  Where will the pubs be?  I can just picture it now a large hardscaped area with lots of temporary rails that pop up on match day, not quite what you envisage when working on the sexy visualisations is it?  

Finally something that interests me in parallel, what will happen to the area where White Hart Lane stands now.  The current stadium was already planned to be replaced with a larger stadium on the same site awaiting planning approval.  Were High Street to lose match day trade the already struggling area would suffer terribly.  I’m not convinced by the Olympic stadium being suited to football or High Street losing Spurs.  What else could fill a stadium like the Olympic one?  A festival site?  A caravan park? A new focus for rallies? Perhaps a few rainbows will help find the answer!

Current White Hart Lane, to be replaced no matter what.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

T28 / Peter Bishop, a game of blindfold chess?

chess players in Odessa
Peter Bishop / Group Director, Design, Development and Environment
London Development Agency

A successful chess player...
...thoroughly understands the rules of the game they are playing.
...knows each piece and the power in their moves.
...considers each piece in relation to the others.
...pre-empts the opponents next moves and how these can be exploited.
...with this in mind they always plan several moves ahead.
...learns from previous mistakes to improve future game.
...knows when victory is insight and does not hesitate in moving towards a victory.
...recognises the importance of informal meets.

Just like Peter Bishop's analogy of how a planner is comparable to a rugby player in that they see the space to move into before it exists so does a chess player read a multitude of possible games before they have happened.  Through planning moves they can influence this game.  Like with chess or rugby the city is always moving.  Planning though is like blindfold chess, where players cannot see the board and may be imagining very different games.

For me the most interesting part of Peter Bishop’s talk was his experience of working with this and reading it illustrated by the way it has influenced two projects in London, kings Cross and The Royal Docks.

Kings Cross in particular with its long game.  The selection of the main contractor being the first, Ardmore because of their finance structure based in a state pension fund inherently has a long term view.  The narrative of a child and their life in years vs the length of the project was used throughout the project to humanise significant decisions.  This came through time and time again.  The clearest being in making section 106 money as efficient as possible by comparing what it could provide to the different stages of a child’s life, creating a very understandable narrative that is easy to relate to making it easy to see where gaps in provision were.

It is crucial to understand the negotiation tools that were being used and reassess other case studies and situations we have looked at with them in mind.  It would be stupid to ignore them and the power they have, as with the chess player you have to thoroughly understand the rules of the game you are playing.  However it is key when branding something with a narrative that makes it personal to use that emotive power responsibly.  Just because you brand something as being nice doesn’t mean its intentions are honourable. At least if you speak the language you’re better equipped to see when this might be.  Much food for thought.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Going along vs giving in

Photo from One World Action's global campaign, More Women More Power
Following the muf Architectre/Art lecture

The balance between collusion and compromising ones standpoint really interests me.  I was brought up to believe that big ideas can be implemented gently.  My dad works for development charity One World Action, they have a history of working with ambitious projects that are initially not always well received by local authorities (local to the project that is).  A large part of their work involves laying down the political groundwork so a project can run smoothly once started.  They collaborate and negotiate, they rarely shout.  Similarly to Croydon’s approach they make everyone a stakeholder so there is mutual ownership and motivation to make a project succeed.  If everyone speaks the same language communication is far more successful.  I have always valued this approach, however I am aware that there are times when this isn’t the best way forward.  Some people don’t respond to nudges.  You always need a plan B.

T27 / The Afterlife, muf Architecture/ Art

Rip it up and Start Again, Lecture Series
Lecture 8, Start Again 2 –Liza Fior, muf Architecture/Art

People meet in Architecture was the aspiration for Kazuyo Sejima’s Venice Biennale.  muf with the British Pavilion, Villa Frankenstien took the brief very literally and designed their pavilion as a expression of Britain’s obsession with Venice, and a platform for Venice’s citizens.  The seats of the forum, a 1:10 model of the Olympic stadium, in the cabinets a collection of Ruskin’s note books and within the pavilion a living salt marsh, an external puddle, a space for play, for film, for talks.....anything else?!

To me it did feel like a rushed idea where several elements had not quite yet joined up.  I liked some of the main concepts; that it was a Venetian British Pavilion for Venetians to air their views.  That it was built in Venice, with Venetian materials by Venetians, cheap and grounded.  That it was a stage for varied and at times simultaneous activities.  It required people to engage not just observe.  However I wonder how much of this was undermined by the fact that it was meant to be open to all Venetians not just those who paid the 20€ entry.  You only get a certain type of person then don’t you?  I wanted to ask more about this however sadly it was at the points when others were asked to contribute. (Keiron Long does have his favourites doesn’t he?!) I also wanted to ask more about the balance between collusion and compliance.  This is a balance I find very interesting and tricky.  I agreed with Liza Fior’s statement - in certain dynamics if you want to fully join in, you have to go along with their way (this could be the client or a co-contributor) for a bit before they listen to you.  An example in this project could be muf/the Britich Council buying 40 entrance tickets for contributors Mr and Mrs Gavagnin and their family to visit the Pavilion.  To what extent did them playing by the rules convince the biennale to open the pavilion to the public as intended on the last day?  I don’t have the answer yet I’m afraid, another question banked! 

Time was another interesting dimension, most people don’t stay in the pavilions that long, they pass through them, with the British pavilion being a forum, not a display how did this affect the experience?  Probably quite a lot.  The snapshots shown were not of people who were just passing through.  That was not the image that muf wanted to project.  Then you come to the pavilion's afterlife; The snapshots are one of the pavilion’s afterlives.  Another are the actual parts, the salt marsh, the stadium model and all the other elements will be rehoused and stay in Venice.  Another are the relationships formed, two of the contributors concerned with the preservation of the laguna are now working together on subsequent projects.  So regardless of what the forum was or was allowed to be during the Biennale, it does live on in glossy publications and new ideas.

A sought after 'snapshot'


T25 / Croydon / A method of dialogue

Croydon / A method of dialogue
Vincent Lacovara and Finn Williams

The main lesson here was a lesson in process and dialogue.  Rather than coming to a decision, mapping that decision and notifying landowners in the hope that they will really really want to implement it this approach comes from the other direction. 

If a dialogue is created between the landowners, the designers and the council and the outcome is something that everyone has worked on the sense of ownership and responsibility will be greater.  This process works on so many different levels.  Most importantly it recognises that people are involved in planning.  The much discussed stakeholders are also people. Land owners are more than business driven individuals looking for big profits NOW, they are also individuals with pride, compassion (to varying degrees) and ambition.  If this pride and ambition can be attached to a wider urban context and can begin to cross their red line boundary then it can be used in a positive way.  This was evident in the area around East Croydon Station, the busiest terminus outside of central London. 

Prior to entering into a dialogue there were quite negative relationships between the various landlords and the council.  Each a company was busy developing their site to maximise profit oblivious to what was going on in the next plot.  Through bringing everyone together they are now working on a scheme that does have its mutual compromises but ultimately works with both the wishes of the developers and the larger urban direction of the council.

Core ideas
People are just people they all enjoy tea and biscuits.

If you look the political beast in the eye you might get closer to taming it.


the universal common denominator = people

T24 / Start Again #1

Rip it up and Start Again, Lecture Series
Lecture 7, Start Again 1 –Professor Peter Carl, David Kohn, Anne Markey, Maurice Mitchell and Studio Weave.
Start Again #1

Florian Beigal’s response to the lecture I think summarised it – why has no one mentioned form?  Form indeed hadn’t been mentioned as for me this lecture was not about form but about looking at the essence of how architecture is being practiced.  Throughout the Rip it Up part of the lecture series there had been good descriptive approaches to projects and not much had been ripped up, apart from by Owen Hatherley, maybe his distance made this possible.  In this lecture conversely there was a lot of ripping up.  A lot of questioning of the architectural profession and education.  This was both interesting and refreshing.  There were many words of warning; from Maurice Mitchell the need to question the true intention of a project and not just take the line of least resistance.  From Peter Carl the danger of the ‘do good’ approach, Studio Weave stating that in order to connect you must first separate (is this truly possible?) and continued debate from the previous weeks trouble makers lecture, is making enough?  Isn't everything, just making, really?

Method was key when establishing how to start again.  The use of narrative and story was a thread that ran through many of the practitioners presentations.  The story that leads to a playful approach to design is one of the focuses of Studio Weave’s work.  Who writes the story?  What influence does that have?  A story is very personal, how can it be told to a wide range of people?  Can it be universally appealing?  The difference between the general and the universal was discussed at length.  My opinion - it is better for something to be universal than general.  Universal can be individually interpreted whereas general can simplify to the extent that something becomes nothing.  Is that too general a description?!  I’ll try to be more specific in the future!  As Peter Carl stated one truly universal thing is that we all operate with small organs, I like this idea. 

In terms of architectural practice the increasingly universal approach to architecture quite literally through large practices dominating was something that concerned Anne Markey from ASD.  This is also something that concerns me.  With large firms having a global presence, the same practice can spec the same window in Mumbai as it does in Sydney.  This is another form of flattening.  Flattening through lack of variety, architecture is then less about the expression of culture through the built form but about the expression of the global market through the built form.  The result looks a bit boring to me.  Anne Markey speculated that with localism there might be a return to local architects on local projects.  Perhaps similar to David Kohn’s self sufficient galleries, I would be in favour of this but as was discussed scale is a big factor here.  To what extent does the ability of a practice to have a substantial insurance scheme limit who works on large projects?  Quite a lot I would say.

So where to go from there?

The main theme I took from the collective was that openness, humility and modesty are crucial, like Peter Carl said, the need for deep social awareness and the ability to work with tact.  These can ultimately make a project stronger.  A relatively small project that is (depending on your insurance arrangements)...

Unit 10 Trip to Odessa – 08/11/10 to 18/11/10

Children’s Camp and Edge Conditions

Odessa is very much a Russian city sitting within the Ukraine.  It’s most famous image is that of the Potemkin Steps in Battleship Potemkin 1925 they are still a prominent feature of the city now providing a view over the industrial port and the huge Hotel Odessa an imposing and quite offensive building.

The history of Odessa in planning terms is very interesting.  It was a completely planned city Catherine the Great wanted to create a St Petersburg in the South.  Her lover General Grygory Potemkin was instructed to find a site.  Had he found another site the location of today’s Odessa would have continued to develop from the Turkish port it was at the time, however instead the first city plan designed by the engineer F. Devollan in the late 18th century. The dominant features in the old town which are still evident is the courtyard system.  Within each block is a courtyard which is seen as an extension on public pedestrian access providing a series of shortcuts through the city.  Though a UNESCO World Heritage Site and officially protected by local planning restriction there is much unofficial development in the city centre which has resulted in the majority of the courtyard entrances now blocked up and the shortcut system disappearing.  The facades of building have also developed in the same unofficial way with balconies enclosed in a variety of materials becoming an extra room.  The city centre is spotless this changes quite dramatically as you leave the grid.

The next big influence on Odessa’s build up was the Soviet Regime.  Around the ancient city centre sit a ring of memorials commemorating the glorious regime.  Our site lies to the north of the gridded city centre.  Within it sit two soviet state facilities.  The Kuyalnik Sanatoriums and the Children’s Camp.  North of them a vast high rise residential district.  This is seen as the bad neighbourhood by the students we spoke to ‘where lazy petty criminals’ live.

I am interested in the contrast between the two state facilities, the children’s camp continues to be a busy a positive institution with 7,000 children visiting annually for 2 week stays.  It has big ambitions for the future and a support system within which to carry them out.  In contrast the sanatorium with its three impressive towers has gone from its peak in 1985 with 45,000 visitor to now just 6,000 visitors in a season.  One of the towers lies empty and the other two are just half full. 
Why does one work while the other slips further into disrepair?

We spoke to the students in the university’s architecture department who were incredibly helpful (thank you) and helps us get a better insight into what the city is like to live in.  The plan of the flats in the Northern soviet block they drew had no living room, two rooms a small bathroom and a small kitchen.  It was reminiscent of socially built housing pre Tudor Walters report.  I wonder whether they have washing machines.
The hints to systemic corruption grew stronger as the week went on, university is free but with an unofficial donation, the same can be said for school and medical treatment.  I wonder how this works with developments, I would guess that money talks more than plans.

The light in the city was beautiful and as it was the winter and Odessa is a summer destination its emptiness felt slightly haunting.  I almost had the feeling that I was looking at everything though a thin sheer curtain. 

Other insights –

All services run above ground.  Odessa was built in limestone from the rock under the city leaving a complex maze of catacombs under it.  This could be one explanation.

The city has a long history of being associated with good health.  There is a health walk and many sanatoriums along the coast.  The mud especially has strong healing properties.

We did find one example of a building being deemed unsuitable.  An Austrian architect designed a 10 storey building behind the Opera House, the city’s most cherished building. After construction it was deemed that the building overshadowed the Opera House and could not stay. 
Solution = knock off the top three levels. 
The building still remains as a seven storey office block.   

There is no standard paving on the pavements, the streets are a patchwork of patterns.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

T18 / Personal Manifesto #2

7 weeks in what have been my reactions?

/- I am fascinated by the many interested parties in projects, with their individual motivations and the level of dialogue that is required.
/- I like the scale of the projects and the many levels of complexity that need to be considered, from a city’s position globally to the detail of a kerb or handrail.  I am interested in the central role policy plays in this process.
/- I want to get further into how planning and planning policy is used to shape places and what the motivation behind that is/can be.

In the current political climate with its favourite new buzzword localism how will these motivations change?  I am intrigued to see how the new approach will be adopted in practice.  With Regional Development Agencies to be phased out by 2012, and new Local Enterprise Partnerships introduced who decides which local people to listen to?  (Will it depend on where the money comes from?)  More importantly where there is a strong difference in local opinion who will referee?
My main concern is, with each council able to decide on its own course of action and what it builds what happens to the bits that nobody wants?  Both in the built and social environment?

The influence that the national and local political structures have over developments fascinates me.  Over the coming months I want to continue to unpick the complexities of this.  I believe this course gives us a unique opportunity to observe and digest these dynamic before putting them into practice in the world of work where there is rarely the luxury of time.  I fully intend to make the most of this.

I feel this first part of the course has given me the tools with which to take this forward.  I want to continue working directly with the city though my design project.  In my unit there is a strong emphasis on working at a range of scales to fully understand the site and to illustrate not just the physical but also the more atmospheric and emotive side to a project. I think this alongside a more structured planning approach will lead to a very interesting way of working.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Case Studies - Royal Albert Basin and Bromley by Bow

Monday, Practice: Royal Albert Basin
                  Design for London
                  Jamie Dean, Levent Kerimol, Mark Brealey

Thursday, Proposition: Bromley by Bow
                  London Thames Gateway Development Corporation
                     Will Steadman – Planning Development Officer

Two complex projects with many parties involved from two different perspectives, one, the Royal Albert Basin from the perspective of Design for London and the other, Bromley by Bow from the perspective of the London Thames Gateway Development Corporation.

Royal Albert Basin
The site, was passed on to the LDA from English Partnerships with no overall strategy.  A housing development which applied for planning permission and was judged to be of unsatisfactory design quality allowed an open competition to be launched and West 8 to be appointed to produce a master plan for the area.  This amongst other things was to deal with the fact that the proposed residential development did not allow any further related residential expansion and was closed to the sites behind it eliminating view lines and connections.  The lecture touched upon many of the issues raised through the 18 iterations of the design.  It was fascinating to hear the complex situations and their possible resolutions first hand.  I think key decisions throughout this process were recognising and optimising the investment opportunities in the area (Olympic fund, investment that came with high speed bus link etc.) these were able to be applied in an expansive way though simplifying the road network and with it the layout of the site (this produced more profitable plots, an argument market driven parties prioritise more). 
Currently the economic situation has had a significant impact on the sales and subsequent development of the sites.
Key Points: contract management, making the contract and SPD work for the project, maximising possible funds, imposing a framework so that even less desirable elements to not have a fundamentally detrimental effect on the master plan as a whole.

Bromley by Bow
The emphasis for the Bromley by Bow development case study was negotiation.  The site, sits opposite listed buildings and had a range of private owners the most prominent of which was Tesco’s.  Many other landowners were simply letting their sites sit vacant, running the leases down in order to argue the case for development.
A housing scheme proposed on one of these sites was unrealistically dense and disregarded the views to the listed buildings and the lack of road connections to the Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach road.  It was rejected but highlighted the pressing need for a holistic scheme.

The area was covered as a key area for development in the Mayor’s Local Plan, this gave loose indications of what was required but any actual development was down to the land owners.  By obtaining some land through Compulsory Purchase orders and the threatening Tesco’s with CP the LTGDC was able to work with Tesco’s to produce a new master plan including council imposed social responsibilities, a school, a library, a park, better connections with the tube station across the approach and the areas to the north of the site.  This new master plan suited the needs of Tesco’s and ensured key facilities were provided for immediate and wider community.
As part of the contract it was agreed that Tesco’s would develop and cover the cost of these facilities.
Key Points – negotiation, awareness of tools available and their power (CP), compromise in application but not with content, consistency of priorities.