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Urban Figure

Part 2 Project 2007
Alexander Bank
London Metropolitan University, UK
An awkward, decaying city-block interior towards Soho’s Piccadilly corner, offers the opportunity to build a contemporary figurative architecture at the centre of a city currently championed as the capital of the occidental world. The Urban Figure proposal argues for a redevelopment in the European intellectual tradition of humanism, exploring notions about continuity in architecture.

Conceived of in resistance to the ubiquity of mixed-use, object architecture and the relentless erosion of public spaces by commerce or traffic, the Urban Figure values restraint and a respectful disposition, emphasising inherent qualities of place through a sequence of well proportioned void-figures with varying degrees of permeability.

A sustainable public building that exceeds expectations, spatially rich and varied in character, a robust yet elegantly constructed architecture retains an independence from programme. Open to interpretation, this is an enduring and poetic architecture of possibilities to be judged over time on what it does for our ever-evolving city.

Alexander Bank

This year we have conducted a Design as Research project with students titled: Urban Figures. We continually asked the students, ‘What can the building do for the City?’ We are working with the idea of continuity in architecture, studying and making intelligent contemporary translations of good architectural precedents – some ancient, some contemporary. Students studied and designed urban figures at a variety of scales, from the city scale to the tactility scale.

Alex Bank was fully engaged in this discourse and has enjoyed it. He has a good eye, a good sense of proportion, and he draws and sketches well. He has made a sophisticated selection of architectural references: Bramante, Lewerentz, Hans van der Laan. Taking the Hotel de Beauvais in Paris as his main inspiration, he found a site in Soho, London where he designed an ensemble of well-proportioned public courtyards achieving a similar sense of public decorum and theatricality. This proposal for a new piece of city is delicately constructed.

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