This project is rigorously derived from the city, from considerations which are morphological, typological, and social, in order to get some things about the object in the city correct. Form takes precedence over programme but is typological and able to accommodate a variety of possible uses.
Due to the television building’s use, siting, and cost it must function as a landmark while providing open-plan offices. It must respond to the looming mass and abstract siting of the building behind it, the busy, unpleasant reality of Southwark Street, the hotel across from it, and its visibility by pedestrians along the river.
•the high point of the roof is set at the height of the predominant built context and accentuates the corner. The three towers spiral upward to the imposing height of St. Christopher’s House, creating a weak public space along Great Guildford Street and a gateway to the cultural precinct of Bankside
•the structural grid picks up the arbitrary north-south siting of St. Christopher’s House
•the sloping roof directs the eye towards the Peabody Estate while acting like a lid, sitting on columns whose relationship to the skin consciously recalls the five points
•the wall along Southwark Street cants in two directions to reach out to the street while holding the corner; in detail it defers to the pedestrian
•the colour of the skin befits the building’s landmark status and importance, as do polished brass mullions; its pattern is a foil of the banal transparency (cf Rowe) of the building behind it
•the services, circulation, and entry are gathered in a veneered masonry block which refers to the Peabody Estate
•the building allows an alleyway, an urban type, between itself and its neighbour
•The hotel is accepted as a developed type, but inflects due to its context and the proposed television centre. For instance:
•the literally ghettoised Peabody Estate is relieved by connecting it with Great Guildford Street; the hotel’s massing is responsive to their need for light and to be seen
•the asked-for shops are located not on Southwark Street but in the hotel building near the guests and the Peabody Estate
•in a parody of functionalism, the different functions of the building are legible in the facades and massing
The studio investigated the contemporary urban experience and the contemporary situation of the profession, both of which are paradoxically cramped and expansive. In the two six week projects in the autumn and the submitted semester-long one, we moved rapidly through various scales, programmes, and sites in order to rehearse the agility needed to be an architect, insisting that the student be able to think and act quickly and clearly with a succinct and well-chosen set of drawings.
The first project took place within Selfridges, an entire city block which contains a variety of uses and sites, a microcosm of the city, a modernist social condenser. We examined how it facilitates some uses and hinders others within limited but nevertheless intimidatingly powerful architectural means. We asked the students to suspend moral judgments so as to approach Selfridges with respect if not awe. We asked them not to act like architects, who would see in Selfridges a set of problems to be solved, but to propose a small, detailed intervention that would allow others to see what they had found. This required some wit, and the results were often startling. For the second project we changed scale dramatically by asking for a 10,000 square metre, programmatically specific intervention that would compliment, expose, shift, or challenge Selfridge’s understood meaning.
Finally, we confronted the architect’s responsibilities and capabilities at a site where the entangled cities of heritage, gentrification, social housing, culture, consumption, and conservation clash. We selected two sites across from another on Southwark Street near Tate Bankside for two buildings vaguely complimentary in programme, a television news centre and a small hotel, in order to confront issues of image, programme versus form, and the nature of contemporary public space. But as we learned from visiting Foster’s ITN building, broadcast technology had reduced that building’s specificity to that of a high quality speculative office building. Thus definitively rejecting an architecture of purpose built, this reduction of the brief to the facade, entrance lobby, structural grid, fire safety layout, and the adequate provision of toilets forces the difficult and timely question of what to ground the architectural proposition in.