March 31, 2013

London Laureates

My escapades in London included many architecture walks. I had a long checklist and managed to cross off most of the list.

Out of the list, I can group some of the buildings under Pritzker winning Architects. For the non-architects among my readers, the Pritzker prize is the Pulitzer and Nobel equivalent for excellence in Architecture. 

Here goes...

Renzo Piano 1998 Laureate

Central St. Giles court designed along with Fletcher Priest Architects sits in the middle of Camden town. The lego colours are like sunrise and spring in contrast to the greys and browns of the surroundings on a the rainy day that I was there. Even the chairs in the courtyard matched. 

The Shard- Europe's tallest building is London's newest addition to it's skyline. The multi-purpose building has 11,000 panels of glass on it's facade covering 56,000 sq. m of surface area. London's most expensive apartment will be a penthouse on the 65th floor. *I want*

Notice the difference in weather. And no, the picture on the left is not desaturated- that's just how grey the skies were. 

Norman Foster 1999 Laureate

This London-residing architect has projects dotted around the country. Known for giving a new look to Modernist architecture, his trademark pattern is evident in St. Mary's Axe, City Hall, the roof of the British museum and even in the Hearst Tower in New York. 

City Hall sits on the Southbank and blends perfectly well with other glass-clad buildings in the business district, although a stark contrast to Tower Bridge a little further down the Thames. The contours of the City Hall share some resemblance to an armadillo and the same lines are reflected in the design of the amphitheatre named aptly as 'The Scoop'. 

The 'Gherkin' at 30 St. Mary's Axe- Despite having varied opinions about the design, it remains one of London's landmarks with a prominent place on the skyline. I'm sure some will disagree, but I quite like all the contrasts in London. The castles against the glass boxes.

I wish I had more time to spend at the British museum. Went primarily to see the roof and the only artifact I saw was Townley's Discobolus. Again, note the contrasts in eras.

I love how this roof moulds itself over the existing structure. Such a distinct pattern, and yet not imposing. In fact, it's quite a versatile pattern and could be applied in a number of uses.

On my previous visit, I walked along the Millenium bridge. I even visited the firm (Pipers, London) who made the model for it during it's design process. I probably didn't realise who the architect was at that time. The aerial picture was taken from one of the crazy exhibitions in the Tate Modern Gallery.

Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron 2001 Laureates

Unfortunately, I never got to see the Laban Dance Centre. Quite annoying that it was so far out of the city. I even missed out on seeing these architects by a day. They were in London and giving a free presentation at their installation (designed along with Ai Weiwei) at the Serpentine Pavilion and unfortunately, I found out too late.

If you live in London, you'd get to see work by some of the world's most well known architects at the Serpentine. Every year, one of the big names designs the pavilion and the space is open to the public for a few months. The designs have been so varied in style and this year the design was quite a different take. Instead of rising above the ground, it went under.

As tribute to the eleven designs before it, the architects seem to have taken on the role of archaeologists unearthing past foundations. Their design uses elements of past layouts in the plan of the pavilion. Eleven columns along the periphery and one central one (representing them) holds up a large flat roof that seems to be a floating pond over the Serpentine landscape. The design celebrates water. The well at the centre is proof enough of London's high water table and the roof collects rain water- proof of the amount of rainwater in the middle of summer. And yes, It was raining while I was there too. 

The seating space is is clad in cork, giving the underground formations quite a warm, earthy feel. 


Zaha Hadid 2004 Laureate

Her work has always fascinated me. Crazy angles and strange patterns and buildings that seem to be transported from the future and yet, some of her concepts stem from natural rock formations and water ripples.

I visited her gallery and her interior project- The Roco London Gallery. I even dedicated an entire blog post to my visits there. Read HERE.

Richard Rogers 2007 Laureate

His work comes under the absurd category. As much as I commend him for his outlandish courage, I still think that the Llyods building looks like a factory; a nice shiny impressive factory, but a factory nonetheless. 

Defined as a perfect example of High-Tech architecture, it shares similar traits to it's counterpart, the Pompidou Centre in Paris. According to definition, High-Tech architecture highlights elements of industry and technology into the structure, and in the case of this building, it is the services.

All the services- the staircases, lift shafts, water pipes and electric conduits run along the exterior. These services are highlighted to prove that they are integral parts of the building. The plus point is that it now leaves the interior space less cluttered. 

In the same locality, another of his High-Tech wonders is being constructed. The Leadenhall building, scheduled to be completed next year will be another addition to the skyscrapers in the city. It's wedge shape tapering structure has already been nicknamed- The Cheese-grater! Although no pipes will be featured on the exteriors, diagonal steel bracing will form the major part of it's exterior design. 

This marks the end of my Laureate wanderings. I may have missed out quite a few. Only now do I realise that a Jean Nouvel building didn't make it to my 'to see' list. And I'm sure there are more. I've already begun preparing the list for next time. :)

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