Built in memory of the murdered black teenager who harboured ambitions to become an architect, the Stephen Lawrence Centre is an architectural statement par excellence.
Fashionably angular, with huge windows designed by the artist Chris Ofili, the centre’s jagged geometry is not obviously inviting but it cuts a dash in this deprived corner of south-east London.
The trouble is that buildings have a way of being blamed when something else is going wrong. The Stephen Lawrence Centre is no exception.
As BD has uncovered this week, the organisation that runs it is in a mess. How else do you explain — nine months after the building officially opened in a blaze of publicity — the smashed windows that are still boarded up, and its underused facilities?
And how do you explain designer chairs half-assembled in empty classrooms, or institutional railings that look like they should be guarding a Victorian workhouse, not a centre for young adult learning?
You can ponder whether it is on the right site — marooned the wrong side of the tracks — and whether glass is really the right choice of material for a building that will be resented by those who do not agree that young people who have been disadvantaged and marginalised should be given a second chance.
Yet even with the drawback of a difficult site, David Adjaye was the logical choice. He is one of the best known architects of his generation and he is black. From the trust’s point of view, his involvement would send out a powerful message to young south London teenagers that architecture is not an unattainable profession. At least, that was the general idea.
Of course, there have been wrangles with insurers, and other problems that have given the building a very bumpy start. But this doesn’t mean the centre can’t be a success once it has replaced its railings and broken windows, so it no longer feels like a fortress that does not welcome visitors.
The trouble is that buildings have a way of being blamed when something else is going wrong
But if Adajye really was the best choice for this important and symbolic building, he needs to stay involved and help sort out the mess.
Clearly, given the lack of leadership at the top of the trust, this is not easy, but it’s important that anyone aspiring to be an architect understands that the job is not done until the building is truly working.
Benoy, whose most recent contribution to architecture is the mega Westfield shopping mall in west London is, according to Peter Mandelson, “a perfect illustration” of British expertise in the creative industries.
But while such a thumping endorsement is very useful in a week when Alsop, Foster, Grimshaw and Aedas have swept the boards in Toronto to design its new subway stations, it looks like Mandy has not been doing his homework.
What he surely means is that Benoy is good for British business, particularly in the Gulf, which is shoring up a number of our banks and where Benoy accompanied the minister on a trip this week.
But as Mandelson should know, this is a very different thing to being good for British architecture.
07 November 2008
14 October 2008
13 October 2008
19 September 2008
15 February 2008
8 February 2008
12 September 2007