Polly Norton’s female characters are as 21st century as they come: fun-loving, unabashedly sexual, and doing whatever the hell they want—whether that is hanging out with devils, being devils, lazily sex surfing, or having some fun with lava lamps……
The RIBA has launched a competition to expand the Hallé St Peter’s music studio and performance hall in Ancoats, Manchester
Last week Stephen Hodder’s eventful two year stint as RIBA president came to an end. So what did the profession make of him and his achievements?
Zaha Hadid is working with Japanese architecture and engineering firm Nikken Sekkei to win back the Tokyo Olympic stadium project after its first competition-winning design was thrown out in July (+ slideshow). …
Walking through Los Angeles airport’s Terminal 2 is an altogether quite dispiriting experience. This Eighties’ transport gateway is in much need of some TLC and better ceiling heights – were the people really that much smaller 30 years ago?
Then, rounding another corner of seemingly endless hoardings, you chance on a dramatic, white staircase with each step lit on the riser that hints at something much more promising.
It’s the start of the new £2.5m Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse. At the top of the stairs you’re met with smiling faces shining out of bright-red uniforms before being led into an open, vista-filled space unlike everything you’ve just left behind.
Virgin Atlantic has taken over a rectangular corner plot in this lacklustre terminal and the architect – Slade Architecture from New York – has sliced it in half diagonally, dividing front and back of house.
The customer-facing, right-angle-triangle room features floor-to-ceiling picture windows on two sides, meeting at the 90 degree corner. The view is terrific – panning from the Virgin planes lined up on the apron and the spider-like Theme Building (Pereira & Luckman Architects, 1961) in the south; out across LA – if you have pilot-like vision – to the Hollywood sign in the hills to the north.
That leaves one more wall to deal with. Here Slade has inserted a curvaceous white Corian facade on the divide to pull you through the space, interspersed with warm-copper insets that soften and represent the setting sun against the daytime brilliance.
Two-thirds of the way down, the wall indents for the bar, like a little copper shrine to cocktails.
The top of the main space is broken up with pieces of Slade-designed furniture along with classics from Walter Knoll, Fritz Hansen and, importantly for the locale, Vitra pieces by Ray and Charles Eames, who built their own home in LA (Case Study House #8, 1949). As it narrows toward the bottom vertex, the space gives way to tables for food service, and along one section of the window a laminated bamboo bar with the lines of a surfboard quietly exclaims: ‘gnarly waves dude…’
‘It used to be an old Air France lounge and it looked like a cafeteria in a factory or something.
It was not good,’ says Slade co-founder James Slade. Part of Slade’s pitch for this job pictured the practice’s staff inside the Stahl House – Case Study House #22 (Pierre Koenig, 1959) – that overlooks LA from on high and has featured in a plethora of films and ads. Californian Fifties’ minimalism was a key part of the brief: ‘The use of white is a kind of reference to the beautiful minimalist architecture of LA,’ says Virgin Atlantic senior design manager, Jeremy Brown. ‘It was also about life in California and LA – and we wanted to closely tie what we created architecturally in with the service offer.’
Slade concurs: ‘Virgin sent us a brief with a lot of mood boards: surf, beaches, sun, and it also had strong ideas about the kind of food it wanted to serve. We knew the non-glass wall would be really important, and once we’d agreed on the tensile ceiling the form of this came quite naturally.’
This lounge is Slade’s third for Virgin Atlantic, after JFK and Newark. The practice has a varied body of work that ranges from a multistorey Barbie store in Shanghai, through zoo architecture to social housing, not to forget a New York slice-of-life movie for a Blueprint Blue Movie brief back in 2012 (see our website designcurial.com).
It has been 25 years since Virgin started flying to Los Angeles, and it took advantage of that milestone to create this new space. By its standards, it’s fairly modest at 370 sq m, as opposed to say its Heathrow flagship that sprawls across 2,500 sq m, but then it only has to cater to two daily flights.
Tethering either end of the lounge to both sides of The Pond are two site-specific artworks, from an American and a British artist. The American installation is a video and animation piece by LA resident Diana Reichenbach that evokes the less rapacious side of LA, all bright shimmering sun, beach and sea. ‘I focused on isolated moments that encapsulate the experience of the city, the landscape and the environment in the area,’ says Reichenbach.
By contrast, at the other end a wall tattoo – a black-on-white pen mural by Vic Lee – links the USA and UK with intricate drawings of places and phrases that epitomise London and LA. Entitled LOLA – to London with love from Los Angeles – Lee says: ‘I wanted to create a statement piece that involved both London’s and LA’s personalities, without being too obvious. The words are poetic statements that are meant to evoke an emotion and association with wit and charm and a light sprinkle of balderdash.’
Brown adds: ‘We start with Vic Lee’s witty illustration then at the other end the work by Diana Reichenbach has more mystery and intrigue and kind of draws you through the space of this distinctly Southern Californian twist on our clubhouse experience.’
And just for a sense of fairness I should probably mention that LAX Terminal 2 is undergoing a $300m renovation, not before time…
We asked a number of architects to respond to the theme ‘Framed’ with a short film. Slade Architecture produced this very New York piece for us.
Words by Veronica Simpson
As the quality and quantity of home entertainment possibilities expands exponentially, people are – almost perversely – being seized with the urge to switch off their screens and get out to engage with other people.
And nowhere is this more evident than in the growing number of multifaceted arts venues that offer their visitors a fascinating smorgasbord of cultural treats.
Art, cinema, theatre, dance, poetry, education, debate, gardening, music-making… anything is possible within these new, tailored cultural spaces designed for maximum engagement, refreshment and interaction with their chosen audiences.
Could it be that the cultural/social hub will be to the 21st century what the shopping centre became in the latter half of the 20th? After all, who needs to trudge along an endless parade of identity-kit retailers when all you want or need can be accessed from wherever you are, thanks to smartphone ubiquity. The intellectually curious want something a little fresher, a little more unexpected and original; a venue that offers in reality what Facebook promises virtually: an interesting mix of people who share your interests, while throwing in the possibility of some serendipitious encounters. Real social networking, not virtual.
Rune Grasdal, of Scandinavian starchitects Snøhetta, agrees the shopping centre’s days may be numbered: ‘Simply going into a shop and buying something is not a social activity,’ he says. And social encounter is what the people of Umeå wanted in their gleaming new Väven Cultural Centre, created by Snøhetta and White Arkitekter; instead of consuming culture, they wanted to create it.
It has cinemas, cafes, conference centre and theatres, yes, but its primary space is a library across the third and fourth floors, a library with a difference. Says Grasdal: ‘It’s a mix of old tech [books] and new tech – robots for automatic book storage, for example. Inside there are places where you can sit and read the papers, there are exhibitions, you can listen to music, do workshops where you paint and make music and recordings. I have been there a few times since the opening, and it’s always crowded.’
That urge to be active participants in culture is also writ large in the programming of Home, a new contemporary arts centre in Manchester and billed as a ‘mini Barbican for the North’. Like that early Eighties’ concrete colossus, Home has cinemas, theatres, an art gallery, and various scenic spaces for gathering, eating and drinking. Unlike the Barbican, it is all housed in one incredibly compact, 6,000 sq m package.
Architecture practice Mecanoo was at first given an even smaller footprint – 40 per cent smaller – than the one the building now occupies. Says architect Francesco Veenstra: ‘We would have ended up with a four to six-storey cultural building. That’s not ideal. Bringing visitors up to 20m-plus high floor level would create a lot of wasted circulation space.’ Instead, Mecanoo negotiated with the site’s developer Ask and secured a larger, albeit triangular, plot, which posed opportunities as well as challenges. Says Veenstra: ‘The main focus was trying to fit rectangular spaces within a triangular volume.
New cinemas at the Barbican, London
It gave us some very interesting leftover areas, which define the public space to create really strong bars, foyers and restaurants.’
Great social connectivity at Home, opened in May, is crucial for the two cultural organisations that form its artistic backbone – grassroots community engagement has long been the primary focus for the Library Theatre Company, while the Cornerhouse, a multi-screen independent cinema and gallery, has always punched above its weight in its food offer.
‘That aspect of the social cultural hub is really important to Home,’ says Veenstra. ‘It is very much driven by the people behind it. As a practice with experience in cultural developments throughout the world, we believe that these cultural activities really boost up a community.’
For evidence look at the extraordinary work of Brazil’s SESC, a social welfare institution dedicated to enhancing quality of life, community and opportunities through the provision of public cultural centres. These offer a huge range of activities from chess to sport to theatre, dance and art, for all demographics and at hardly any cost to the user – and always with great food and social spaces.
Begun as a philanthropic movement by entrepreneurs in the Sixties, SESC is now present in every major city. Its most famous building, Lina Bo Bardi’s SESC Pompeia, reanimated an old factory in São Paolo and has become a benchmark of its kind, not least for its skillful weaving of drama and connection between people, activities and the surrounding city at every opportunity.
It’s that kind of pervasive animation and permeability that Mecanoo hopes to achieve in Home, and what some of the UK’s most venerable cultural institutions seek to attain through ambitious refurbishments.
In London, the National Theatre has been undergoing major work to reanimate its interior spaces and make its activities and attractions far more visible to the crowds that promenade past its terraces along the revived Thames riverfront. Haworth Tompkins has the delicate business of resculpting a London icon, mindful of the best intentions of its original architect Denys Lasdun. Says Paddy Dillon, associate director: ‘Lasdun…was incredibly interested in how private space bonded and linked through to public space; how [the building] was connected as part of the city. He said people are supposed to flow in and out of it. Over the years those connections have become blocked up and that’s what we have been trying to clear – most obviously by a new entrance that really makes an easy, direct link to the building.’
Transparency and legibility characterise these new schemes – the activity inside the building being broadcast both within and beyond its walls, through careful positioning of social and interstitial spaces along glazed exterior walls. Nowhere does this work better than in the NT’s near neighbour – the Royal Festival Hall, which now makes full use of its subtle but inspired 2007 refurbishment by Allies and Morrison to programme multi-arts events that make maximum use of its vast social spaces.
But what can you do when existing buildings are barricaded in behind their own listed concrete fortress walls, as with the Barbican, one of Europe’s foremost multi-arts centres?
In 2006, Allford Hall Monahan Morris (AHMM) completed a £35m refurbishment aimed at enhancing connections and facilities throughout the complex. But that elusive and desirable street presence could not be achieved until 2007, with the creation of a new ground-level entrance on Silk Street. It now sits opposite two new cinemas, completed in 2014 and boasting their own street-level cafe and restaurant.
The Barbican is now busy making sure that connections between all of its facilities are maximised. There are exciting programmes of cross-art entertainment combining dance, art, theatre and music under specific themes. The Barbican’s director of audiences, Leo Thomson, says: ‘Our approach to cross-arts participation reflects the changes in our relationships to audiences and artists, and how we engage with our members.’ Beyond its immediate footprint, it has developed a pioneering outreach programme for the less culturally enriched parts of East London, while in its own neighbourhood it is working alongside other major arts institutions – including the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Museum of London – to ‘create an unrivalled destination for art, history, learning and entertainment in the City.’
Guardian Live, London
The Barbican already has a vibrant membership programme – perhaps the one desirable side-effect of having no street presence for decades is how successfully it has worked at engaging with members via print and online relationships. In that respect, says Thomson, ‘One of the joys of the live arts is the ability to go long form, and its appeal is definitely of this age – as a result of technology and everything being instant. Immersion is something the arts can really offer.’
Connecting with audiences is something that newspapers have long been expert at. Taking this to a new level, news emerged early this year that The Guardian newspaper is creating a physical event space to host talks, concerts, multi-arts festivals and educational courses, in a delicious inversion of the usual process (build the arts centre, create a programme and grow your audience). A neglected 19th-century train shed in King’s Cross is undergoing major structural renovations and reinvention.
Says Jonathan Robinson, project leader for The Guardian Media Group: ‘Newspapers were formed in the coffee-house culture of 18th-century Britain, so part of us is returning to those roots and fostering human encounter and interaction.
But it’s about exploring global concerns as well. The events and experiences will range from debating the Middle East and climate change to exploring personal questions about love and family and how to find a livelihood that has meaning and purpose. It’s like the Saturday newspaper coming alive in all its diversity.’
Says Robinson: ‘There is a demand for this on all sorts of levels, not least a huge appetite demonstrated by the events we’re already running. There’s also a strongly held belief that journalism needs to evolve for the challenges of our age…through live debate and conversation, and building relationships through people is crucial. It’s also crucial to support not just conversation but the journey, from people talking about what matters to doing stuff that matters.’
Rafael Viñoly has revealed plans for a 30 acre rooftop community park and nature reserve in Cupertino, California
A penthouse apartment in Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners’ Neo Bankside has gone on the market for £19.75 million
Construction will start later this month on Evans Vettori Architects’ £6.6million overhaul of the Square Chapel Centre for the Arts – 10 years after the firm landed the job