Day 3 – Fosters, Zaha Hadid and Olympic Site

We are still on the move! We’re moving at such a pace, that stopping to blog is hard to squeeze in.

Day 3 began with a visit to the London Bombing Memorial with Lewis from Carmody Groarke. The overview that we had received on the previous evening was now evident in real life. 52 Stainless steel columns cantilevering out of the ground, strategically positioned within Hyde Park. Soft dappled light played on the different surfaces of the cast stainless steel columns – quite a moving experience architecturally and given several members of our group had a personal connection to the bombings.

Another frantic dash across town, saw us arrive at the campus that Foster + Partners occupies (all 1000 + of them!) We had all heard many stories about Fosters (not all complimentary) but we were all pleasantly surprised by the warm reception we received and the vibe in the office. We were shown around by Partner, Thouria Istephan who was very

generous with her time (we even came away with a show bag – they clearly know the way to an architect’s heart is through a free architecture book)

On the walking tour earlier in the week, we couldn’t get over the number of Foster Buildings in the city (it was just Foster, Foster Wren, Foster, Foster, Wren!) and today we saw how this mass of work was prepared. This is one well oiled machine, and as with Rodgers Stirk Harbour, they had every conceivable facility an architect might want. One of the real highlights was the sustainable sample room, manned by 4 full time researchers who are dedicated to finding and researching the best sustainable products. What a great resource!

Another (frantic, hot, humid) dash across town found us at the studio of Zaha Hadid. As with Fosters, we had all heard un-complimentary stories about this studio, but unlike Fosters we were not disappointed! We may just have received the authentic Zaha experience. We made it as far as the entry courtyard, were made to stand in the heat for 45 minutes and then shown the door. Horror stories confirmed. (Thanks to David Smith at Schueman Smith for frantic phone calls to try to get us in)

The afternoon commenced at Canary Wharf, where we met Ms Kay Hughes, the Principal Design Advisor for the London Olympic Delivery Authority for a guided bus tour of the Olympic Site. Winding through the construction site we were able to get up close to the venues, all at varying stages of completion. The main stadium by HOK Sport (now Populous) has really taken shape. The seductive forms of the Olympic Pool by Zaha Hadid and Velodrome by Michael Hopkins are bound to be centre pieces. Two very sexy roof forms, although Zaha appears to have used 4 times as much steel in the roof than is probably needed.

The day was capped off  by an intimate cocktail party at the RIBA and a look around their great building on Portland Street. We all had a great time chatting to the RIBA reps and extend our thanks to Ruth Reed (RIBA President) and Harry Rich (CEO) for the hospitality.


Day 2 – Kevin McCloud, Rodgers and Davis Langdon

The London weather revealed itself in all its glory! A wet, cold day did not deter the travellers with the first stop – a quick coffee and chat with Kevin McCloud of Grand Designs fame at the famous Riverside Café where Jamie Oliver learnt to cook.

We exchanged stories over lessons learnt and traded war

stories about local planning process, (not to mention his recent appearance on Top Gear.) Kevin could not have been more accommodating or engaging. 

The first of two encounters with Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners occurred at the Maggie Centre, Hammersmith. RSH was the recipient for the Stirling Prize and the tour group was fortunate enough to receive a full overview of the conceptual framework through to building completion / operation. A truly remarkable piece of architecture that is both aesthetically pleasing and inspiring wrapped up in tremendous detailing. 

Off in the rain again and a quick 5 minute walk (actually 30minute walk!) to catch the tube back into town to meet with Davis Langdon Shueman Smith. Our thanks to Davis Langdon for their sponsorship and for their hospitality. We were all excited to hear that many  practices have engaged their specification writing services both in the United Kingdom and Internationally, could this be a reason to rejoice?

Back to Hammersmith in the afternoon for the Rogers Practice tour. The consensus; an office of design rigour, process driven with a goal to embrace architecture.  We were all blown away by the amazing model making workshop on site, not to mention the commercial kitchen with two full time chefs on hand.

Stepping back into the rain again for a mad race back into town to meet with Lewis and Andrew Groarke, quickly known to us as Andy. We had heard a lot about Kevin Carmody and his support of this tour since its conception three years ago.  A round table discussion exposed the tour to a practice where process and the understanding of materials were pivotal in realizing the firm’s architectural work. Recent works include their commission for the  7th July 2005 Memorial and the spectacular pop up restaurant on top of a half constructed Westfiled carpark overlooking the Olympic site. 

In all a memorable day, jam packed; luckily everything was five minutes away.

Day 1 – Ken Allinson Walking Tour

Ken has everyone captivated including "Oliver"

Day 1 saw us embark on a walking tour of the city with Ken Allinson, author of London’s Contemporary Architecture.  We crisscrossed the city on a

mission to see some of the best and most interesting buildings, ducking down into the tube every now and again to shoot across town.  For me some of the best were 10 Hills Place by Amanda Levete [formerly of Future Systems] and a new building by Jean Nouvel nearly complete at New Change, St Pauls.

Perhaps the best moment however was on the corner of Earnshaw St and St Giles High St [just after seeing a new Renzo Piano group of towers] where Ken stopped us, crouched down, and started drawing us a map of the city in chalk on the pavement.  The map was diagrammatic, with only a dozen or so major features [including The Thames, St Pauls, The Houses of Parliament etc] however it was told with a mixture of social and geographic history that made the previously hard to navigate city [for me at least] at once intelligible.  Despite having been to London more than a few times, I had never really understood how the city was laid out until now, and for the rest of the afternoon found it far easier to position myself in relation to the city.  Looking forward to more exciting things on Day 2

Ken explaining his graffiti


Day 1 Morning

Energised by sleep and a huge breakfast the DST eagerly awaits an introduction to Ken Allinson who will lead the walking tour. Ken is a well travelled architect who has worked at numerous practices, run his own firm, taught at numerous facilities and authored several books. It is his book, ‘London’s Contemporary Architecture’ that

forms the basis of today’s tour which will no doubt be educationally and physically rewarding.

DST Arrival

The DST arrived safe and well in London yesterday, a little sore and tired but excited

about the weeks ahead. After greeting Mel at the airport and a short bus ride / change of clothes the group set off to explore the city. Well aware of the full day walking tour planned for Day 1 we sought to stretch out the legs and shake off any jet lag. The leisurely walk saw us cover Portobello Rd, Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace amongst other places. It was a sun filled warm day for the most part. The group retired to the hotel to check in and unpack before our first dinner at a local pub. Some very tired bods the retired to bed for some much needed sleep. Big thanks to Virgin Atlantic for their hospitality and service.

The Journey Begins….

We’re soon headed to the airport… about to begin the long haul to London. Everything is in place and it’s all starting to get very exciting. They say the weather has been

‘hot’ in London, but I don’t think they really know the definition of hot, we are still packing warm clothes!!!

Looking forward to sharing our experience with everyone. Will be posting next week after we arrive and start our visits.

Bon Voyage!