Seeing what’s there for the first time… Architectural Unmasking of Northolt, London

This work is part of the Vertical Project that was undertaken by Kingston University Architecture Department the school year 2009-10. The thesis is inspired by the (Design For LondonEast London Green Grid.

Northolt Village Green is a park within a tight urban environment. It accommodates a 1400 year-old Saxon Village, a traditional School, a Chapel and some more architectural remainders of the Victorian Era. The park is not complemented by this treasure and its people keep ignoring it by building around it. However, by close observation and appreciation the park was willing to reveal itself to us.

My group was ultimately responsible for investigating and promoting the area of Northolt. Our approach became a more poetic investigation which led the group to be inspired by the existing place rather than trying to implement amendments. We have located and recorded 5 artefact/point on our route as our representational pieces of our presentation. The 5 points are interrelated and interlinked.

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Formulating a Brief before Design – The Arbour Youth Centre

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London has been expanding in great rates and major development project have been taking place in variety of regions across the Greater London Area.  However, London as a city has been erratic in its development where certain areas have been completely left out or others have been carefully catered. The urban fabric of the city is characterised by many controversies and juxtapositions, where architectural language is kept free but unregulated. This is partly due to deep scars of the bombings during the WWII, where land has been cleared up completely and the need for rapid redevelopment was eminent. Areas of historical and cultural significance were instantly amended, while poor families and immigrants crudely inhabited other areas. These ‘other’ areas we are set out to investigate and provide a sense of community, pride and significance.

The site, in focus, is at the East border of London city and it is an area marked by regular alterations to its physical and social fabric over the years. Stepney is rather problematic, lacking the social unity, the economic power and the cultural foundation in order to begin a strategy for improvement. One of the primary factors that reinforce this sense of indifference within the community is the constant substitution of its spiritual and cultural epicentre. Socially recognized and respected buildings lost their significance, spiritual centres have been losing their valuable congregation and the great range of spoken languages has divided the people into secluded fragmented groups.
From a rather superficial point of view, Stepney is a vast social residential area with little opportunities for employment but with substantial open green spaces. Its population consists of a large percentage of Bengali immigrants and a mixture of other ethnic groups. The local council has characterised its ward by its pattern of deprivation, worklessness, low incomes and poor health. Nevertheless, the area is scheduled to have a huge inflow of infrastructure projects thanks to the flourishing financial centres of the Docklands and the 2012 Olympics.

The site, in focus, is at the East border of London city and it is an area marked by regular alterations to its physical and social fabric over the years. Stepney is rather problematic, lacking the social unity, the economic power and the cultural foundation in order to begin a strategy for improvement. One of the primary factors that reinforce this sense of indifference within the community is the constant substitution of its spiritual and cultural epicentre. Socially recognized and respected buildings lost their significance, spiritual centres have been losing their valuable congregation and the great range of spoken languages has divided the people into secluded fragmented groups.From a rather superficial point of view, Stepney is a vast social residential area with little opportunities for employment but with substantial open green spaces. Its population consists of a large percentage of Bengali immigrants and a mixture of other ethnic groups. The local council has characterised its ward by its pattern of deprivation, worklessness, low incomes and poor health. Nevertheless, the area is scheduled to have a huge inflow of infrastructure projects thanks to the flourishing financial centres of the Docklands and the 2012 Olympics.

Our project is not relative to any of the grand redevelopments but it is a stepping-stone or a catalyst that will enhance the sense of involvement, solidarity from within. It is targeted directly at the root of the problem, the fragmented community. The project is to re-establish the Arbour Youth Centre in its context and enhance its sense of place and purpose. The current edifice housing the centre is a blind and unwelcoming entity that, architecturally speaking, turns its back to its environment and consequently to its people. It is situated on a reclaimed cemetery and it severely lacks the dialogue with its surrounding. Its identity is kept hidden within the heavy masonry walls and it lacks the formality of entrance, thus its formality of existence.

My research build-up has been the interplay of interior and exterior by projecting the qualities of the interior and the activities from within on the external skin, thus revealing the sense of purpose to the outside. This has been achieved by series of observations and recordings both graphically and three-dimensionally, within the macro and micro, the permanent and the ephemeral. The main influence is stemming from the seminal project by Jorn Utzon, the Bagsvaerd Kirke in Denmark, and my model-interpretation of the church, which accidentally fashioned a dialogic face from exterior to interior.

Aspiring to overcome the economic burden, the intervening force of the programme will focus on the re-interpretation and re-ordering of the main interior spaces with considerable alterations to its appearance both internally and externally. These moves are justified as a gesture towards the community, the removal of its physical boundaries. It will gradually reclaim the lost ground and re-establish the identity of the composition and provide pocket-spaces than the fragmented and uninspiring park.

Programme

  • New Entrance
  • Library – Reading Space – Classroom
  • Small Venue Space and Recital
  • Office and workshop Space
  • Cafeteria – Refectory

STRATEGY & PLANNING

“A society grows great when the old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall not sit in” – Ancient Greek Proverb

The main intention for the intervention has been primarily fuelled by an overall assessment of the area of Stepney. By analyzing the strengths and weaknesses, we aimed at identifying the key issues that make Stepney problematic. Our immediate goal is to boost pride and social security by investing on education of the youth. We focus on the “Core Strategy and Development Control Plan” for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets which aspires to improve the quality of social and community facilities in order to support growth. We have set a long-term goal for 2050 with a key moment that focuses on improving the moral of the residents. The objective is to have the people of Stepney in a constant exposure to their role-models/Local Heroes. This would be achieved by improving the quality and quantity of residential and open spaces (PPS 1 – Planning Policy Statement that deal with Delivering a Sustainable Development).

Our project concern is based on the improvement of the Shandy Park in terms of directionality, feel, protection and management of its important views. The park is part of the ‘Ocean Estate’, which currently controls almost half of the ward in terms of property. The London Borough of Tower Hamlets is supportive to the Ocean Estate cause by recently backing a £200 million plan for its regeneration. Evidently, the Ocean Estate has set its own goals for its development, which are included in a programme called ‘Ocean NDC – New Deal for Communities.
Taking that into consideration and the planning for open spaces, sports and recreation (PPG17), we reorder the park organization by dividing it into useful segments that will form a strategic ‘navel’. That navel is the Arbour Youth Centre, the epicentre of growth and education.
PROCUREMENT

The project requires quick moves and fast decisions since fund-raising will definitely be a key player in construction. Consequently the most efficient procurement method for a smooth operation is the Design and Built Novation.
“An alternative is to appoint a contractor when designs have been developed in order to retain control of the important elements of design and specification. The Design Team can then transfer their contractual obligations to the contractor and complete the designs on behalf of the Contractor. This process is called Novation.”
The main factor that this method is applied is the low risk of delaying construction and it is highly practical in terms of communication between the client and the contractor. According to the Architect’s handbook of Construction Project Management, the Design and Built is incorporating low cost with high speed construction and a fairly secure cost estimate from Stage D and onwards. The design will involve tactile interventions and an extensive use of existing fabric. With respect to any relevant regulations concerning fire safety and inclusive design, the strategy for the project is about clearing obstacles and creating views within the existing building enclosure.
Due to the peculiarity of the existing fabric, there is difficulty in properly insulating and illuminating the interior spaces. For that reason the principal of construction that will be followed is similar to the Dovecot Studio Extension by the Architect Haworth Tompkins.
The idea behind that is to ensure low cost on fabrication and assembly, low energy consumption, environmental comfort and sustainable design.
The proposed design will offer a low cost and consistent environment, which in turn will be enclosed by the existing structure of the former Parish Hall, thus preserving the identity of the neighbourhood with a high performance building. The prefabricated elements will be easy to transport since they are going to be manufactured at a nearby construction yard in Deptford.
FUNDRAISING
“Community Buildings also mirror change in society. This is both at the level of activities taking place within and around the building and at the level of reflecting major themes in our society. When users of a Community Hall were asked, ‘What are the two major difficulties you face?’ the top five answers were:
Funds 36%, none 16%, Apathy 16%, Building maintenance 15% and Vandalism 9%”.
(Source: Paul Marriot for Community Matters)
The Client of the Arbour Youth Centre has been particularly insistent on introducing new methods for funding. Currently, the centre has a borderline funding, which is substantial for covering energy costs, security, educational material and minor repairs. The main source of funding is from a private charity and some other occasional charity events through the year.  Local authorities and the governement have a rather sporadic finance strategy but recently there is a generous development infrastructure plan for the area.
The London Borough of Tower Hamlets is problematic but it is developing in a very fast pace, which means that the area is blessed with activity and attention.
The client is interested in creating flexible spaces that could potentially serve as workstations, educational spaces, community events and retail market.
The proposed program includes all the spaces suggested and it will introduce a more appropriate cost management. The main aim is to ensure the future successful function of the community centre and the design is dealing with issues that range from a masterplanning to an efficient budget management strategy. The objective for a viable fundraising strategy is to create a formal business plan that will comply with the requirements as stated in the Part II of the Charities Act (source: Managing your Community Building – Peter Hudson).
The fundraising will consequently finance the construction and a create a consistent source of revenue for the Centre.
_______________________
Measures that would ensure a smooth function are as follows:
Immediate Intervention Benefits

•Short-term building time (leads to: short-term cease of services during that process)
•Affordable construction and local labor
•Sustainable Design

Long-term Benefits

•Reduction of Utility Costs
•Introduction of new funding sources
•Promotion of Volunteer work (leads to: loyal ‘friends’ of the Arbour)
•Space-hire, Small Retail opportunities
•Workshops (leads to: moral boost)
________________________
[by MSOU]

“Alvar Aalto, and the identity of his Organic Architecture”

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‘Impressions’
Closing with this disarming quote Aalto has given the impression of being aware that at least some of his aspirations have been realized, although in the majority of cases a small element of the idea was commissioned. We are referring to the Säynätsalo Town Hall and its grand urban transformation that did not take place and even other programmes that share a similar fate. Alvar Aalto seems to have been loyal to development and always attempted to share his view from merely stepping back. The course of his career he has been characterized by radical changes in his ideology, which was reflected upon his buildings, pavilions or landscape designs. Changes of principals, perceptions even instincts, however his root dogma remained the same and of course gradually reinforced.
The three seeds of his ‘organic culture’ compose the architect’s root dogma, which have been analysed in conjunction to their case study, a claim that partially explains Aalto’s restlessness and difficulty in connecting to an architectural movement. Frampton claims that Aalto’s work has been passed on to the Finnish people and continued to the letter, and as a result we witnessed an unexpected uniformity in the urban fabric of Finland. This development has revealed to us that ultimately, Aalto created a canon for architectural expression that was executed by his people, in some cases in the broad scale of the community or in the microcosm of the individual.

From Kenneth Frampton, The Legacy of Alvar Aalto: Evolution and Influence in Alvar Aalto: Between Humanism and Materialism, pp. 125-126 and Sarah Menin & Flora Samuel, op. cit, pp. 159


[Excerpt from my Dissertation]

In Praise of the PUB – AR+

In praise of the pub: a great British institution becomes an object of study

Guinness in Dublin, cachaça in São Paulo, vodka in St Petersburg – the globe’s cities are easily characterised by national tipples.
And yet, as social anthropologist Kate Fox found, drinking places in every culture have commonalities, acting as liminal zones where sociability relaxes the observance of status distinctions.
In Watching the English (Hodder & Stoughton, 2004), Fox stated of her home country: ‘The importance of the pub in English culture cannot be over-emphasised’ – a trait the AR has seldom disregarded. Indeed, in the last century we kept the Bride of Denmark in the basement of our London office: a pub for staff and the architectural establishment (Corb and Frank Lloyd Wright both visited).
As a student, David Knight wrote extensively on the Bride. Now a tutor at Kingston University, he has encouraged his charges to record the capital’s pubs as special spaces between the public and private. This minutely detailed drawing of the East End’s Wenlock Arms captures the complex life ofthis 174-year-old pub on a single winter’s day in 2009
[Architectural Review on this blog’s Post]

Washrooms in Porto, Portugal

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Porto is the epitome of contrasting realities. It is a city that is economically deprived but at the same time it is used to sustainable standards of a quality life.
Washrooms are a vital part of that. They are an excuse to socialize with neighbours, gossip and also share methods on cleaning. The Washroom of S.Nicolau is a very simple project. It is built under a private Institute of Art, rather dark and minimum infiltration of daylight. The character is crude and the interior is exposed to external elements. Its character is targeted to the washing with none influence of the outer world.
What is very interesting about the washroom is its function, which reveals how complex a community centre is in reality, if it is rid of the conventional impressions of how should it operate and function within a society.



[ Images and text by MSou ]

Making Space – Materiality, Typology and Spatiality


The choice of material for achieving the relationship of materiality, visual stimulation and harmony has been a conscious decision since the process of making the Skeleton model. Despite the fact that plywood is a cheap material, and its grain is a given element at its assemblage, a careful reinterpretation of its surfacing formed the vessel for this semester thesis project. Model-making, drawing and thought-process have been driven by this conceptual gesture that have been primarily informed by first semester work. This is evident from the models for the site analysis and it will be the case for the resolution of the design process that will follow.The approach is the combination of the narrative in Jorn Utzon’s Bagsvaerd Kirke with the process of profiling of the contour in the Wenlock Arms.

The obsession with the shape and the excitement in carpentry have driven this design. The Skeleton is subtle externally but playful internally. The narrative is following the concept strategic openings that allow sunlight to infiltrate while the bright undulating roof structure is starting to play with light and shadow. Careful and meticulous work is part of this project. The current model is not a mere projection of surfaces that interact with light. This skeleton project has to show skill, care and involvement, a similar approach to the precedent studies of the Saynatsalo Town Hall and the Walsall Art Gallery.The lining of the plywood used is a revealing attitude and intention. The 45 degree angle signifies the passage of light and probably the direction of the bricklaying, while horizontal linings reveal the modulor used.
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Architectural Unveiling of ‘The Wenlock Arms’ Pub

[image: The Wenlock Arms Pub in Context – Photogrammetric Study]

– A PUBLIC HOUSE –

A place that is inviting
not only by the services it may offer
but
by its appearance and reputation.
The site is not important
as long as it provides a refuge to its
members.
Quality is the priority
in all aspects of existence
while
its environment can remain organic.
A public house, for me, should be ‘adequate’
whenever and forever.


It is important to note the change of density that occurred in a century and the change of use. In addition, there is a narrowing of the canal which shows its gradual deterioration. An important feature that promotes the area, today, is the neighbouring park by the name ‘Shepherdess Walk’ which is now the department of athletics for the pub. The pub is now the single element that discloses the richness of activity happening before the WWII and the park is somehow concealing the grief and destruction during the bombing of London. The Wenlock Arms is hiding a rich tradition that can be meticulously extracted by observations both from the outside and inside. It is now welcoming people from a wider range of areas and has a strong supporting clientele.
The pub is represented in plan and not in figure to signify its public character and in two different time instances of its existence. The choice of date is significant and representational of the 1890 and current condition of the neighbourhood.



[image: The Wenlock Arms Pub Interior – PhotoMerge Sequence]



The arrangement of furniture at its typology show the function of the space they occupy, such as the central u-shaped bar that is pin-pointed by the cash machine. The taps set perimetrically and the visual is unobstructed so that the customers can be served efficiently. Moving outwards, in a spiral motion, there are stools next to the bar and also in groups facing outwards, embracing a small table, evidence of the public character of the space. The spaces at the back provide a colder tone since they seem empty and unwell-coming. Circulation, service and frequency of use are signified by the change of material on the floors and the wearing off of the coating, in some cases.

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Architecturally, the setting of the Wenlock Arms is forming an obvious centerpoint, the bar in the centre, that in turn it radiates outwards with the act of conversation. The main objective was to define what is the character of the space that is beyond the constraints of the temporal. Working in conjunction with the trend of accumulation and also objectifying the existing element we were to draw in digital the narrative of the place. The cellar, the pub and the common-room are defining the spaces that are assigned to and the accumulation of objects operates accordingly.
The wall textures, the picture frames, bottles and pint glasses, the stools and food baskets, the empty barrels and the pressure gauges, the chains and the safety signs, the stacking chairs and the big table, curtains and table cloths, coasters, the piano and the light fixtures are the result of accumulation and temporality but this case are the elements that create this particular space.


– MY IDEAL PUB –

My pub is not registered as a
pub from its external appearance
but it is located via word travel. The
space is an abandoned warehouse
so that space is never a matter for
less people to get aquainted to.
Exposed materials and structural
units, sloppy amendments and ample
space are elements of the real
character of my space. Apart from
some corners that are furnished in
a homelike spirit, the rest of the space
is characterised by its accumulation
of objects and temporality of room
they occupy. The people make the
spaces and in their turn spaces
provide them with adaptability.