After the first London Architecture Festival in 2004 Rob Gregory, writing in the AR, described it as having the atmosphere of a village fete. I really liked that and felt it nicely reflected the bottom-up approach that the event was intended to have. I was reminded of Rob’s description this weekend when I toured the practices of Fitzrovia who opened their doors to welcome friends, locals, clients and tourists.
FCB Studios really went to town with some really nice fluted board structures, a game where visitors played games with model towers and tea and sandwiches; Make had table tennis and football but most visitors wanted to find out about the display of models that line the office windows; David Miller Architects had cleared the office desks to create a linear table tennis table with food supplied by Ping Pong, the aptly named local dim sum bar; Morrow and Lorraine showed off ideas for turning spare land created by the proposed HS2 into a cycle route.
Earlier in the day M&L architectural assistant Frank Gilks had seen Boris Johnson riding past the office; catching up with the Mayor at the next lights Frank persuaded him to be photographed with a pineapple, but sadly he was too busy to visit the HS2 exhibition.
Meanwhile Roz Barr and Ramboll were building the Oculus installation that opens in the Store Street Crescent on Tuesday and Studio Weave closed off the roads around Aldgate as they started the erection of the ‘paleys upon pilars’ (palace on pillars) that marks the site of the original Ald Gate and the start of High Street 2012.
On Sunday I played the part of a dragon (as in Dragons’ Den) at Ash Sakula’s Caravanserai meanwhile project at Canning Town. A team of dragons were asked to select young local businesses who will be given a free stall in the project. I was hugely impressed by the initiative and enthusiasm of the presenters, from a young a mother who had developed a range of skin care products in her kitchen to a furniture maker who up-cycled old chairs and tables. In the afternoon, the Pineapple Discovery ride (on Brompton bikes supplied by Artourides) went off smoothly despite a heavy shower as we set out from Blomfield’s Lambeth Bridge - which is decorated with pineapples in recognition of John Tredescant a Lambeth resident in the 17th century who was believed (wrongly) to be the first person to grow a pineapple in England.
The ride ended in sunshine at the studio of Bompas and Parr, whose own plans to build a pineapple at Blackfriars were scuppered by the Port of London Authority, who served pineapple cocktails to the weary riders.
Tonight I chair a session on Designing for Diplomacy at the P3 gallery with Terry Farrell, Tony Fretton and Steve Quinlan of DCM which forms part of the British Council’s International Architecture Showcase, and tomorrow will be speaking at the UK Green Building Council’s event on Learning from the Olympics at the Building Centre. After that I’ll catch Hadani Ditmars launching her new Wallpaper Guide to Vancouver in the BC bookshop and then join the Oculus party on the Crescent.
The Oculus installation forms part of the public consultation for plans to turn the Store Street Crescent, which is little more than a cobbled car park, into a pedestrianised public space enlivened by events and places to sit out. When we turfed it over during the last Festival it soon became a place where local office workers ate their lunch and chilled out. It was a popular move and after tomorrow’s event I hope we can soon announce plans for its permanent change as another part of the legacy of the Festival.