Process Event: Drive

July 3rd, 2015

Process in Melbourne kick starts the 2015 post tour talks…
When: 6.30pm, Monday 6 July
Where: Loop Bar, 23 Meyers Pl, Melbourne VIC 3000
Speakers: Bonnie Herring, Monique Woodward and Mel Bright

What drives the best of us?
Awards recognise a person’s achievements and celebrates the output of their careers. With that comes a lot of hard work in the interim, though these don’t often take centre stage. Everyone has their own drivers – the motivations, inspirations, and influences which keep us going in some form or other. This month, PROCESS brings together three Victorian architects who have been recognised through this year’s Dulux Study Tour Award and Emerging Architect Prize. The event will delve into the things behind the scenes, and discuss projects, reflections, and projections.
Join us on July 6th to talk to these amazing ladies who are driving their careers sky high.

#duluxstudytour2015 signing out

July 1st, 2015

On a tour where we spent much of our time looking up, I spent some time looking down. Here is a selection of the ‘ground’ we covered.

Much was seen. Fun was had.
All will be missed.

#duluxstudytour2015 signing out.

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– Nic

Day 9: Paris building

June 12th, 2015

The last day of the 2015 Dulux Study Tour was upon us and I was already becoming nostalgic about its ending. Having spent more than fifteen hours together for the last eight tour and travel days, there was a fear of moving on from the carefully orchestrated Amazing (archi-)Race. Fear of being left to our own devices and that creeping feeling of ‘has this all been a dream?’

Jean Nouvel

Fuelled by croissants and caffeine, we travelled to the office compound of Ateliers Jean Nouvel that had over the last fifteen years, gradually occupied a series of adjoining buildings wrapped around a paved and pot planted courtyard. Following our visit to the politically embattled Philharmonie de Paris on the edge of the Parc de la Villette the evening before, we were very conscious of the elephant in the room. Jean Nouvel’s ‘Ambassador’ Manuel filled us in on the financial political, scheduling and legal fall out of a project turned sour. Certainly at that scale it is hard for any of us to fathom.

Jean Nouvel

Shifting to other points of discussion, we were surprised to receive a rather candid assessment of the practice evolution. It had become a pattern for the women architects to stick around, while their male counterparts had a tendency for itchy feet, many moving to start their own practices after learning the ropes. Though in Manuel’s case and for several others too, there was also a tendency to return once work became scarce or when they were willing to concede their design autonomy to the starchitect.

Next we visited LAN’s mixed use Homage to Haussmann in the 17th Arridosment. We were taken through cute pedestrianised streets lined with charcuterie, fresh produce and cafes that had us hankering for our next baguette fix.

LAN Architecture

Wedged between defunct rail infrastructure now being developed and an area of the traditional and iconic Haussmann housing with their hierarchical street walls, LAN borrowed from the desirable latter typology to design an adaptable apartment/office floor plate with externally load bearing and prefabricated facade that hinted little toward the primary residential use.

Renzo Piano

We made tracks to Renzo Piano’s recently completed Fondation Jerome Seydoux Pathe in the 13th where we were suitably impressed. The ‘little casper’ or silver ‘armidillo’ glazed bubble quietly rose up above the slate and zinc rooftops behind adjoining heritage facades, and was the first blobitecture we’d encountered on this trip. Surprisingly perhaps, we all immediately felt cocooned within its bow of curved timber ribs and perforated aluminium shingles. The project architect, Torsten, ran us through its sophisticated yet user operated ventilation system while we fought the urge to fall asleep in the womb like structure.

Renzo Piano

With some spontaneous hustle, we took the train to the 16th to the Fondation Le Corbusier at Maison la Roche for a speedy hit of Modernism before our final visit of the Dulux Study Tour. In disposable blue shoe covers we darted up and down the three stories ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the excessive circulation, modestly proportioned rooms and novelty of being able to track each other from almost anywhere in the building.

Maison La Roche

Content with our Corbusian diversion, we settled in at the Ordre des Architects to discuss the architectural scene in Paris over a beer, debating differences between established and aged starchitects (“who’s ego forbids them to retire”), and the smaller more collaborative studios that are still suffering from the 2009 economic downturn.

Lastly, from the austere modern of the Maison la Roche and stripped-back former convent home of The Ordre, we came to the distinctly Parisian, Train le Blieu that radiated grandeur and opulence. While we watched our dashingly dressed waiters and frescoed surrounds we reflected on some of the highlights: Fuji Kindergarten, Barbican, Fondation Jerome Seydoux Pathe, meeting with Astrid Klien and Kevin Carmody, and lowlights: bag snatchers in Paris, lack of sleep and plane food.

Never a dull moment on this premium trip. Thank you Dulux, AIA, AM and my exceptional archi peers, you’ve been an absolute delight.

#2015DuluxStudyTour

– Bonnie Herring

Day 8: Paris practice (and parks)

June 3rd, 2015

Yesterday’s architectural tour of the outskirts of Paris left us with many questions about the mode of architectural practice in this city. First we enjoyed a long breakfast-cum-brunch at the opulent hotel buffet to prepare for a day of practice visits. We hoped to find answers. How did the 1980s building boom get so crazy? How does social housing really work in Paris? How does carrying a baguette make you look so damn cool?

AS.Architecture-Studio practice visit

Our first stop was AS.Architecture-Studio. All our questions melted away as we were seduced by the stunning renovation to the rear garden of a Parisian mansion. Behind a docile Haussmann elevation, an indoor tree sprouts from white marble floors, climbing up the traditional white timber framing, amongst staff sitting all around on three floors of mezzanine, to the glass roof above. Deeper into the office and across a courtyard we find a modern extension to the office, matching with tree, glass roof and mezzanine, differing through the use of steel and vinyl instead of timber. Deeper still and we are toured through the practice’s extensive history, displayed in model format in a brick vaulted basement. The stunning offices beside, the work of this international practice inspired questions of Paris’s historic values, over that of a blank canvas like China. Does a practice need to just divert its workflow towards foreign projects in order to get the freedom to design their ideal buildings? We left with no doubt of the quality and innovation of this practice and admired their ability to retain these values at the largest scale of architecture.

2015 DST crew

Upon departing AS.Architecture-Studio we treated ourselves to a short walk around the historic Marais district. Our first discovery, although not confirmed, seemed to be a perfect candidate for the role of prequel to New York’s Highline park. This elevated Parisian garden gave a new outlook on the surrounding buildings. The lushly gardened strip of about 4.5 km was frequented by runners and locals, and was a great insight into the city’s productive use of disused infrastructure. It also provided an idealistic backdrop for some Instagram-worthy group photos.

Place des Vosges

Further into the Marais and we picnicked at the Place des Vosges. The first planned square in Paris (and apparently Europe), the 140 m x 140 m grand square was bustling with locals. With our three-course breakfast still digesting, we tucked into some fresh baguettes. Eating and relaxing all day – how very French! The Place des Vosges was a refreshing change from modern and post modern architecture overload. Built in 1612, it is a classic example of Royalist architecture, but still seems very relevant to the city, and to place making. Hundreds of picnickers are testament to its urban success.

Our second practice visit for the day was to the offices of Manuelle Gautrand, where we were treated to a showing of her work, and an engaging discussion spawned on by our fore-mentioned questions. Manuelle told us about the 50s housing boom, the onslaught of “contemporary” tower and slab housing, and how it has forever jaded the French public against any and all new or contemporary architecture. She revealed the Parisian elite’s preference for inner city historic housing, and as result the amount of architectural work focussing on private dwellings is very limited. It also seems the
Paris regulatory context is similar in intensity to the Australian system but on speed. It was refreshing to hear of her dedication to working with and around these social constraints and political systems, embracing difficulties, only to make them into opportunities.

Parc de la Vilette

We departed and headed to Parc de la Villette, Bernard Tschumi’s 1980s grid of follies and floating infrastructure projects that define a precinct scale park and collection of public buildings. We sat and had our third picnic session for the day. The pace of the study tour had definitely changed to “croissant mode.” Set among the randomness of this project, again the locals seemed to flock here for their afternoon snacks, for exercise and a jukebox-fuelled park session.

Centre Pompidou

We left Parc de la Vilette and travelled to the Pompidou Centre. A third park typology, this urban square is also packed full of visitors, this time accompanied by mimes, musicians and the various array of creatives that inner city publicity promotes. Paris seems to run on and through it’s parks, and so it was great to experience the contrast between old and new, suburban and inner-urban. The tightly controlled and heritage influenced approach to contemporary architecture seems to encourage extensive use of the provided public spaces. And now we know that Parisians carrying baguettes are so cool because you know they are on their way to relax and converse in a nearby park.

– Casey Bryant

Day 7: Paris walking

June 3rd, 2015

No photos, please, no photos!

Our time in London ended yesterday with a rockstar exit from the hotel in Paddington via two black Mercedes vans. Nic was not impressed by all the press attention …

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On the Eurostar Katelin made us all work hard prepping articles for ArchitectureAU.com. In reality we were all distracted by the wine and food service (a pleasant surprise), so she was the only one who really did any work!

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Arriving in Paris our bus to the hotel was delayed. While we waited, Oliver, the Dulux dog, went on a little journey in the hands of a thief! I decided to chase after the guy – probably not the smarted thing in the world to do. I think he heard me coming so just put his arm out and he gave me the bag back. I’m not sure if he was trying not to cause a fuss or maybe I am just really scary?

The afternoon was our designated day off. We spent the afternoon lounging together in the Mama Shelter Hotel bar located in the 20th arrondissement with the amazing Chemin de fer de Petite Ceinture abandoned railway by our side.

Clap clap, time to get up!
Day seven actually begins!

First task of the day, while riding the bus on our way to the walking tour of Paris, was to complete the Myers Briggs personality test. Why would such a topic come up on an architectural study tour?  Simple. Jill, a friend of both Katelin and I who lives in Paris (and also writes for ArchitectureAU), will be joining us on our final night. In preparation for this we have decided to present her with our results. Jill is obsessed with personality testing.

The results:

INTJ – Amber
ENTJ – Daniela
ENFJ – Katelin
ENFJ – Monique
INFJ – John
INFJ – Jordy
ESFJ – Casey
ESFJ – Sarah
INTP – Ni
ENTP – Phil
INFP – Bonnie

What does this all mean!? Stay tuned.

Our walking tour guide for the day was the lovely Benjamin from Guiding Architects.

First stop was the National Library of France by Dominique Perrault and James Stirling. This was one of President François Mitterrand first “nation building” projects. I thought of it as a castle for books. Four large archival towers in each corner linked horizontally on the lower levels by offices, reading spaces, and more archival rooms. Like a castle, in the centre was an external space. The external space was a beautiful forest (with no access except for gardeners). Some of the crew found the space sterile and struggled with its lack of connection with the public realm, especially the forest within. The detailing, I must say, was exceptional.

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Photo: Jordy Hewitt

We then crossed a footbridge over the Seine that beautifully dealt with access from upper and lower entries in each side of the bank.

Walking further around this district (a former rail yard), we came across a formerly disused cold store that was taken over by artists. The coordinator of the building appeared and gave an impromptu talk on what was going on and the issues they are facing.

Surrounding this site were new Docklands-esque developments. They were cold and without personality. How will these projects evolve? How long will it take? There was even a Le Corbusier building currently being renovated.

A metro ride took us to the French icons we all studied in school – The Arab Institute by AS.Architecture-Studio and Jean Nouvel. Nic was reminded about how he built a model of the building and facade for a technology subject at school.

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Full with Croque Monsieurs, we took another Metro ride to the west of Paris to La Défense.

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After meandering through a business district comprising a sea of glass and steel towers built in the 1980s, we came across a gem: a social housing project known as Tours Aillaud. Built in the 1970s and (amazingly) named after the architect, the cloud-shaped towers are clad in colourful tiles and are positioned among lush, sail-lined pathways and trees.

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Last stop on the waking tour was Gehry’s new glass Ark for Noah … oh no, I mean €500,000 art gallery for the Louis Vuitton Foundation. I couldn’t help but feel like if been the in same building (almost exactly the same) in Bilbao …

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We finished the day with dinner and drinks at a restaurant that had been recommended by about five locals Palais de Tokyo.

Palais de Tokyo

Don’t forget to follow #2015DuluxStudyTour for the live updates!

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John Ellway

Day 6: London lusting

June 1st, 2015

Dear Kevin,

(Kevin Carmody from Carmody Groake, that is)

We love you.

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You seduced us with your soft and considered words, dripping with poetry and architectural delight. Your charismatic presentation style and consistent eye contact made us feel like you were speaking directly to each of us and that oh-so-often smile could melt the hearts of even the harshest critic. You would ask, “so what do I mean by that?” And then, like any great captain, you’d continue to elaborate on your point. Instead of talking about your practice structure, you showed us the soul of your organisation. And because of this, you had an advantage over the larger firms we visited on the same day, like Foster + Partners and David Chipperfield Architects. Collectively, we felt it was much more useful meeting the directors of firms, which was only possible in medium-sized practices. Having said that, it was particularly interesting observe the immense scale of the larger practices. We also cheated on you briefly with our practice visits to dRMM and Studio Octopi.

dRMM practice visit

Both these offices imparted many actionable takeaways, which was useful and attainably amazing.

Studio Octopi

That night, at the Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition opening party (which Rory Hyde suggested we attend), we discussed trying to replicate your style. Speaking, pausing, connecting, smiling and then continuing. It is extremely difficult, but as a group we have felt inspired to get a coach to help us achieve your level of heartthrob.

It was lovely to end the day connecting with old friends Molly, Simon, Cris and Paul who came to meet the main Dulux crew for drinks – we swiftly relayed the story to them, spreading the love, and now they are also hooked.

We acknowledge this may come across as stalker-like, obsessive, psycho even – but this comes from a place of pure architectural fascination and business learnings.

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Love,

#2015DuluxStudyTour

P.S. Phil still wants an invite back next year.

Day 5: London talking

May 30th, 2015

Achy, grumbly, crampy, sore. All jetlagged to buggery. Mon was milliseconds from face-planting into a street-pole. John was having an existential crisis about whether to wear a suit-jacket or not (he didn’t and he looked fine). I spilt my salt and vinegar chips outside Tate modern and nearly cried. The pigeons rejoiced. The clouds rumbled over. This ‘prize’ had gained inverted commas.

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Our set of presentations from the #2015DuluxStudyTour Pecha Kucha at the RIBA

Panicked, the day started over a full English breakfast (of course) with complex file juggling in preparation for our Pecha Kucha presentation that night on the concept of ‘Place.’ If the others were anything like me, they’d cobbled their slideshow together in ten minutes, just hours before getting on the bird, thinking that the evening was too distant to ever arrive.

Well, here it was. The rising reality of having to present at the Royal institute of British Architects (RIBA) to the brightest of Brits and Aussie ex-pats was now very real. Too real. Goddammit.

The great thing was, we had a day chock-full of practice visits to distract us.

It’d be fair to say that after Ken Allison’s brilliant walking tour yesterday which culminated in sunset drinks (prompt: does the sun ever set in London or does it just fizzle away into the low smog?) under the ‘bond-dome’ top-floor at the Gherkin, hopes weren’t so high for the day ahead.

We headed off to Central St Martins for a tour with Stanton Williams and Mel Dodd, the head of tertiary programs there. A masterstroke of itinerary planning (clap clap clap to Dan once again), the two parties spoke apart and separately, giving us two very distinct insights into how an architect and a user present their space. We were left pondering if this building was a glorious factory for art or hideous abandoned shopping centre?

Zaha gallery

It’s fair to say that Zaha Hadid isn’t a favourite among the group and that’s where we were off to next. Our reservations about her practice – stylised image-making over conscious architecture – weren’t allayed. BUT, the basement of her adjunct Zaha Hadid design gallery was a ripper. This space served as a living archive of the offices discourse, all presented cleanly and beautifully.

Zaha Gallery

We then went on a quick skirt around the perimeter of Tate 2 by Herzog de Meuron, which is about one year off completion. This is going to be something so, so special. A canting, twisting form, skinned in muddy double brick freshly minted from Denmark, it heaves and settles. At the moment, it has its pants around its ankles. However, the intention is clearly legible and it doesn’t take much of a mental bounce to see where this is going to land. However, as much as I have immense love for this building, I think I fell harder for our guide, Kwamina from Herzog and de Meuron. DREAMBOAT.

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WHAT? FINISHED EARLY?! QUICK REST STOP?! HOORAY! WHAT LUXURY!

What should have been a 15 min cross-town sprint back to the hotel becomes a 45 min crawl thanks to the bloody Queen deciding to entertain a small selection of her subjects. Time back at hotel now cut from 45 to 15 minutes.

Off again. All of us now delirious and piled in taxis. Katelin tells us how she forgot which way around you are supposed to wear heel-socks. The answer, not surprisingly, is the right way round.

We’re now descending down a slow step/ramp into the shiny new Make office. The site visit yesterday to their 5 Broadgate building has propagated much debate. We’re pretty sure which side of the coin we all fall on, but we’re still open to see what the practice presents rather than deferring to the singular message from visiting the one building. They present beautifully. There is genuine passion from the leadership and their business practice is exquisite. We left soundly impressed by the craft put into their personal and spatial presentation. We are however seeing a common theme repeating. Is practice in London responding to the shadow of Foster?

A short walk west and we are swallowed into the gilded gut of RIBA headquarters. Built in 1938, it was envisaged as the metaphorical cupola of the Empire’s achievements. There are embellishments in motif and material throughout referencing the countries of the Commonwealth. Australia, quite obviously, was part of this at the time (and some reason, this arrangement continues in earnest). We get a jarrah room (WA reprazent) and a story board carved into a door featured our indigenous fauna, flora, peoples and industry.

RIBA

We were all hoping for 15 minutes respite to prepare for Pecha Kucha. No minutes were forthcoming. On with the show. First up were Bonnie, Casey and John addressing the binary and antipodean flip-flop of east-coast Oz to the old country. Casey thought it prudent to bring up the Ashes. He’s a wise man. Their presentation was outstanding and after the bombardment of foreign offices and projects, it was lovely to get a reminder of the wonderful skill of our touring party.

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Mon and I then brought it home with a three-minute-forty tour-de-force that left the room with minds and hearts exploded and aghast at our blinding colonial brilliance. That’s how I read it, nonetheless [delirium].

Half the marathon run, half still to go.

Don’t forget to follow #2015DuluxStudyTour for the live updates!

– Nic Brunsdon

Day 4: London walking

May 29th, 2015

After 13 hours of flight time, an awkward coach ride through too-tight-for-buses streets, two pints and a pie at the local, and a well-deserved full night’s sleep, the 2015 Dulux Study Tour arrived in London. More than just language, food and weather, Day 4 of the tour highlighted many interesting contrasts between Tokyo and London. The day’s walking tour highlighted differences between the predominant types of work being done by architects in each country, as well as the priorities evident in each city.

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Ken Allinson, architect, writer and knowledge powerhouse, met us in the morning with an exuberance that did not fault once for the rest of the day. Phil White of Dulux had mentioned many times that this would be a highlight of the tour, and we were all buzzing to be shown around a new city. Ken took us to 27 building, including two tours by their architects, two panoramas of the city, and one very special tour inside a Barbican apartment. This included buildings by Foster, Rogers, Grimshaw, Chipperfield, Renzo Piano, and David Adjaye, just to name a few.

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First up was the new Kings Cross development precinct, including Pancras Square, Granary Square, and a range of residential developments that surround. On the way however, Ken took a small detail through the top of Soho to show us two buildings by Amanda Levete, and the The Photographers’ Gallery by O’Donnell + Tuomey. All three buildings presented only as facades, tightly hemmed in by the density of the inner city, and a later social media commentary spawned on by a post by Houses editor Katelin Butler (excellently covering the tour’s proceedings, as usual) raised the question of context. The contextual responses of the buildings we saw later became a theme for the day.

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The Kings Cross redevelopment is a mega project with dozens of new buildings being erected behind Kings Cross and St Pancras stations. Hemed in by train line, arterial road and tight grained heritage, the development is an island of new architecture. Two recently completed buildings by Chipperfield and Allies and Morrison, form the first stage of the Pancras Square office development and flank one side of a boulevard leading away from the station. The two are similar in size and floorplate, but are treated with very different facades. The first adorns a grid of brazenly expressed columns, each clad in a filigree of wrought iron, the second adopts a more subtle approach through a shifting of window geometries up the height of the building. Together, they were a good introduction to the series of office buildings we were to see today. They are examples of putting forward a strong facade, but a adopting a flexible approach that is tenant and public centred. In my opinion, the architecture places second place to the user experience. It will be interesting to see how this office precinct evolves and if this approach remains consistent.

Further along an we quickly popped through Central Saint Martens College by Stanton Williams. Aware that we would be returning here at a later date for a tour by its architect, we quickly continued on to explore the residential surrounds of the site. The north of the development hosts several new apartment buildings in various stages of completion. We had a closer look at Kings Cross Arthouse by dRMM, and noticed the differences in approach to housing across the site. Where Arthouse priorities solar and ventilation amenity, others seemed prioritise density and convenience. Quickly noticable was the range of materials and construction types present across the development, Arthouse with its lightweight panelists cladding, others with a brick facade. Ken noted that the brick facade was really coming back into popularity as target markets sought a link to the material heritage and grain of London.

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Back on the tube and we arrived at Broadgate Circle. We went on a hardhat tour of 5 Broadgate building, a 120m long by 60m wide by 60m high “groundscraper” to house the UBS in a centralised building. Previously scattered around the Circle, in two collections of buildings by Arup and SOM, 5 Broadgate will be a contrasting new home of stainless steel and voluminous terraces and atria.

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Adorning luxurious amounts of PPE, we were taken through the bustling construction site by Joanna, the project architect from Make Architects, and discovered a vastly different form of office building. Large open plates for trading floors, marble and stainless steel mesh lined lobbies and a floor dedicated to client entertainment are all UBS centric design features. Less obvious are the sustainability initiatives, including a facade only 35 percent glazed, ventilating light tubes and a host of composite recycled materials.

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Diverting south for a few hours, we went to the top of The Shard by Renzo Piano, for a panorama of the city, and enjoyed lunch at Borough Markets. Back in East London, we were taken on a tour of the Tea Building and Shoreditch House. In a radically different approach to office design from 5 Broadgate, an old smoke house has been consolidated into seven floors of rambling tenancies. The strategy embraces the quirks and characters of the original, assisted by modern approaches to energy sharing and lighting. Each creative start-up we visited displayed the same ideals if soft intervention, and personal graphics adorned the white painted bricks and columns.

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Shoreditch House adopted the same agenda to renovation, and began with similarly humble industrial origins. However, instead of creative agencies, the tenants are a boutique hotel and private club. Also flush with East London industrial chic, there is a sense of opulence given to the old concrete and wrought iron.

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A short walk took us via two David Adjaye buildings, both on tightly constrained urban sites.  Each design makes use of the closely cropped viewing angle of the visitor, and manipulates the scale and repetition of window and wall proportions to intrigue and invite. Further on and we arrived at the Barbican. This amazing brutalist enclave is a playground of terraces and gardens, forms and details. Opened by the Queen in 1982, this modern ideal of urban living is both expansive and intriguing.

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Sky walkways shoot over massive courtyards, artificial lakes and cafés. We were incredibly lucky to be invited into one of the apartments for a look at the original (and protected) interiors. The innovation in these homes is amazing, with custom locking hardware on external glazing, and sliding door panels to the kitchen and bedrooms to create flexibility. The wrap-around balconies give a generosity to each room of the otherwise compact apartment. Everything in these apartments is listed and so cannot be changed, but it is hard to think of a reason why you would want to. The Barbican’s complex of art venues, offices and pedestrian streets is immense and somewhat foreboding, but it does remind you of a time when urban design and housing agendas where far more optimistic and experimental. You can help but wonder what this part of London would be like had the pedestrian sky bridges  and internal streets continued further into the surrounds.

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Our last stop was the top floor bar of 30 St Mary’s axe (affectionately known as the Gherkin). It was a great privilege to be able to accompany Ken and his wife Victoria to this prestigious and memorable bar. En route, Ken stopped to pull out his chalk, and after walking around two Fosters buildings (avoiding obvious security cameras), spent ten minutes mapping out the history and subsequent planning of London. An intriguing and clear insight into the systems of this dense city, it was the perfect penultimate tour stop to summarise the relative meaning of what we saw today. Full to bursting with newly gleaned archi facts, the rest of the evening was spent eating, drinking, and discussing the comparisons of London architectural practices.

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Don’t forget to follow #2015DuluxStudyTour for the live updates!

– Casey Bryant

Day 3: Tokyo practice

May 27th, 2015

The third and final round of our starchitect-struck adventure in Tokyo kicked off with a clash in practice culture. At the unadorned offices of Fujimoto north of Shinjuku station, the administrative staff took us on a tour of the open plan space before a carefully worded Q&A.

Immediately it is clear that model making is key to the success of the international practice, as are the unpaid interns who assemble them. Passing through a procession of pin-up boards populated with site photographs, diagrams and renders awaiting Fujimoto-san’s review, we are reminded of our time as students; the fear and fervour of production and assessment. Piled high with boxes and strewn with paper, the stark and raw former printing warehouse is sacrificially devoted to delivering the sketch of the master sculptor.

Work typically starts at 10am in Tokyo and consistent with its reputation, hours are only really limited by the last train.

From Fujimoto to the annex office of Toyo Ito and Associates, there is a notable shift to a more established office culture of collaboration, evolution, and fostering staff potential. With genuine enthusiasm and an impressive slide show, Ito-san’s Associate Kenta-san, explains that here design occurs through conversation with the provocatively mysterious Ito-san, who as master, guides and encourages his staff to deliver each project.

Toyo Ito & Associates practice visit

Their work is ambitious and sculptural, but is now more focused on civic contribution, consideration toward sustainable design, and promoting national pride at a truly epic scale.  That said it seems for Kenta-san that the tight relationship between nationality and the architect during times of economic boom now needs to shift toward helping out the community. Hinting that the practice future will involve temporary housing for tsunami affected Japan after the 2011 Toūhoku quake – watch this space!

Refreshed by Kenta-san’s candid practice summary and a brief café stop, we moved in to the office of Pritzker Archtecture Prize winner, 87-year-old Fumihiko Maki. Up to fifty staff occupy the lower levels of one of their own developments in Shibuya.

Maki and Associates site visit

Surrounded by courtyards and vegetation, the office is crammed with predominately urban scale card models that our practice guide and practice associate Michael used to describe their recent commercial projects largely located abroad.

Casey with Maki-san

Our media contingent, Katelin Butler editor of Houses, was more than chuffed to see several of their publications lining their display shelves and we were all grinning by the end of our visit after a brush with the white-haired, still poised Maki-san himself.

Next, a short walk took us to the T-Site in Daikanyama where we met the well-composed Astrid Klein of Klein Dytham Architects.

Astrid Klein at T-Site

Relaxing in the Anjin Lounge on the first level of her project, discussing its procurement process that had occurred amid the last major earthquake disaster, when “talk of the devil”; we were in the grips of a 5.6 quake. Guiding us to the strongest point in the building to wait it out, we were most certainly in the best of hands. Thankfully our jelly-legs and shaking hands subsided and we were able to resume our conversation and tour, albeit with a distinct focus on designing for the unfamiliar, unpredictable land we were standing on.

This voice recording captures the moment the earthquake hit.

Onward south through the city by train, we completed the practice tour with the architect of the project that our Dulux Study Tour began with. Standing in slippers at Tezuka Architects, we were able to survey the workspace that was divided into balsa model making and CAD stations.

Tezuka-san and his team were eager to describe their process through models, where models come first, and drawing second. With a tangible bent toward social sustainability and notable mastery of engineered design solutions responding to our scarily active moving earth, we were impressed with how the practice differed from those before it.

Tezuka Architects practice visit

The five practices were all very different, and now somewhere between Tokyo and London, it is incredible to reflect on the varied involvement and manner of the master architect, their workspaces and rigor of physical model making.

To wrap up the day of practice visits and a whirlwind three days in Tokyo, we headed out to an izakaya in Ginza to cap it off with some sake.

A special thanks must go to our chief navigator, John Ellway for efficiently weaving us through the crowds and weblike rail network making sure we kept good time.

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– Bonnie Herring

Day 2: Tokyo walking

May 26th, 2015

Ok, let’s set the the scene…

I’m sitting at a tiny desk in my hotel room. The word “desk” might be a stretch, let’s call it a shelf. I’m wearing a white and navy blue yukata (Japanese casual summer kimono), which, by the way, is extremely comfortable. If I stretch my arm out to the right, I can touch the bathroom door. If I stretch my arm out to the left, I can adjust small rectangular window blind. My chair is wedged between the desk “shelf” and a small, single bed. What is left of the floor is taken up by my open suitcase.

Welcome to micro living in Tokyo!

We’ve been told by previous Dulux Study Tour participants that the key to successful Dulux Study Tour is pacing yourself, getting sleep and, most importantly, coffee! Day two started with an injection of liquid gold at a fantastic little hole-in-the-wall coffee shop called About Life Coffee Brewers, the Dulux dog even came along for for a little wake me up!

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With our coffees in hand, we embarked on a massive walking tour of Tokyo lead by our knowledgeable guide Yuka and joined by a number of local architects from the Japan Institute of Architects (JIA).

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First stop on the tour was Hertzog & de Meuron’s iconic Prada store.  Physically and visually separated from the buildings that surround it, the Prada store sits like a “glowing gem” in the dense Aoyama streetscape. I’ve visited this building a number of times in previous trips to Tokyo but never felt like I was welcome inside. I don’t know if it was the well-dressed guard at the front door that put me off or if it was my extreme credit card fear! Today was different. We were welcomed in by the store manager and taken on a private tour of the building on our own before it opened for business. I discovered that it is really worth risking your lack of financial self-control to step inside and experience the spaces from the top floor down. (Sarah looked the part with the Dulux dog nestled in her handbag.)

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Across the road we visited the newly opened Miu Miu store also by Herzog & de Meuron. It was interesting to compare this with the older Prada store – the latter transparent and open, and the Miu Miu store shielded by a metallic, angled awning.

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Instead of views into the Mui Mui store, which is expected of a retail building, passers-by are offered a view of themselves. A strip of polished steel forms a mirrored surface and runs the length of an otherwise brushed-steel facade.

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A short walk down another tiny street we arrived Kengo Kuma’s brand new Sunny Hills store where we sat and ate pineapple cakes and green tea in its forrest-like space. The building was commissioned by a Taiwanese pineapple grower as a way to promote his products.

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After Sunny Hills we visited a large public housing project comprising around twenty-five four-storey apartment blocks in the centre of the Omotesando area. Originally built in the 1960s, these structures are earmarked for demolition in the lead up to the 2020 Olympic games. In recent years they have become quite desirable for their low rent and proximity to some of the more afluent areas of Tokyo.

After a minor detour via a temple and graveyard and an in-progess funeral, we arrived at the top of the Omotesando shopping strip. This is the wide tree-lined street where the most prominent fashion brands build their signature buildings. Think Toyo Ito’s Tod’s tree-like structure; Dutch architects MVRDV “Gyre” (meaning “turn” or “rotate”) ; SANAA’s glowing Dior store and Tadao Ando’s Omotesando Hills building with its ramped and stepped ground plane.

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After twist and turn down Cat Street in Harajuku we arrived at Yoyogi National Stadium designed by Kenzo Tange and built between 1961 and 1964 to house swimming and diving events in the 1964 Summer Olympics.

The day finished with an early evening cocktail with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson at the New York Bar on the top floor of the Park Hyatt Hotel and then a completely mind blowing (and maybe more of “lost in translation” experience) at the Robot Resturant in Shinjiku.

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I’m not too sure how you top day two… but I suspect we’ll find out tomorrow!

Don’t forget to follow #2015DuluxStudyTour for the live updates!

– John Ellway