News Tower represents a landscape positioned within the geography and culture of London. It deals with the testing of the relationship between architecture and the ground - ground that is neither passive nor stable, an artificial ground of human activity. The intention was to create a landscaped zone, a synthetic extension of the existing site. This focused on the skyline change of the area, the city of needles, a phenomenon started by Wren’s church building projects.
Fifteen years ago, Fleet Street was the centre of British news, news received, interpreted, edited, rewritten, and printed at major sites along Fleet Street. The seductive industrial spectacle was obvious to the public through immense windows, printing, folding, and collating operations visible to all. Yet the production of news is no longer a transparent activity. This news tower intends to revert to the drama Fleet Street once offered, using fashion as the vehicle. London is again a world centre dictating protocols of style: fashion is one of the key indicators.
The project is a fashion broadcasting and clothes manufacturing studio: style, custom, mode, create, shape, vogue. The site to Ludgate Circus houses show preparation rooms, makeup artists and hair stylists studios, changing rooms, and the mannequins shower room. There is an information area, exhibition space, a fashion archive, and the enormous screen/spine wall from which fashion news is projected to the whole city. The Ludgate Hill site contains the TV channel, virtual studios, news room, editing suites, graphics and manufacturing areas for haute couture and pret-a-porter, and the news archive trailers department. Global fashion news represented in image, light, sound, and time.
Activities within the buildings vary with the seasons collection upon which the news tower is currently fixated. The architecture is a narrow thing: a lightweight reflection of fashion’s technologies of division - hair side, light, line, square, cloth-side, bias-cut. Connecting the two sites over the railway station runs the aerial catwalk, the chief show element. The walk that the models take down this thin, fragile element gives London the message about what is truly new this season.
This project is selected as a silver medal nominee because it recognises London’s renewed significance as a stylistic pacemaker, and shows a refined approach to designing architecture for the media. The site is analysed with sympathy and subjectivity, but the project never lost grip of urban issues, or the obligation to produce beautiful, enigmatic drawings and models.
The theme of news tower was common to all the projects within the studio: the interpretation of news was particular to each student. Electra understood that the sense of place for the architecture was vital, but so too was the global impact of news, particularly hot information about style. The project emphasised production of both garments and fashion news on site, making the production part of public life in the area.
The site was in two parts, one part of Ludgate Circus and the other tucked up Ludgate Hill. Separating the two areas was a single storey Citylink station, anonymous, but wide enough to aggravate connection between the two sites. The project considered the role of Ludgate Hill in the processional route to St Paul’s, and asked how urban markers formed by the towers of the city should be reacted to.
Electra’s project makes edgy and nervous architecture at Ludgate Circus, contrasted with the surreal container for broadcasting found on Ludgate Hill. This contrast is tempered by a cutter’s consideration of the textures of surface, fabric, junction, and structure: these were common to the treatment of architecture on both sites, giving a satisfying continuity. Using pin maquettes to model the route, Electra developed a strong sense of this physical identity, and the landscape around and under them. The public participation in news is significant, and the buildings to both the front and rear sites emphasise this. The invention of viable public spaces in the City of London is often neglected. But here important civic spaces are made, drawing people into the process of fashion and news, as well as an architecture which creates a powerful new memory of Ludgate Circus.