Newcastle Station Clock

Newcastle Station Clock

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

YAWN...Pritzker gets dull

So once again, the Pritzker award has been announced (dezeen), this year instead of excitement, there was a sense of silence & boredom across the archiendo office floor. Souto de Moura?

Time for Less Chaos on Britains Pavements

The Highway Code for Drivers and Riders recommends that whilst moving "you should keep to the left" (rule 160), and also "only overtake on the left if the vehicle in front is signalling to turn right"(rule 163).

However the Highway Code recommends nothing like this for pedestrians, the most advice given is basically the same as the message given by the singing hedgehogs. Now I reckon this is the cause of the problem. (The problem being that when you walk down a busy street it's inevitable that you will be bumped, jostled and generally pushed around). The pavement has no system to avoid head on collisions, so I would like a brief indulgence away from architecture and into town planning.
I think it's obvious where this is going and what I'm about to propose.

If the pavements where split into two lanes, one for each direction of travel as with the road, thus dramatically reducing bumps, jostles and general pushing around and the resulting fatalities. Now you make think this a bit extreme and authoritarian, but when applied to the wider context it makes increasing sense.

The pedestrianised high street of any town or city can be mayhem, especially at the weekend. People walking against each other, walking slowly, walking fast, stopping, cutting across, our high streets are chaos. On the road we have dual carriageways and motorway for congested routes akin to the high street, so we apply this methodology to the high street. On dual carriageways the Highway Code states "you should stay in the left-hand lane. Use the right-hand lane for overtaking or turning right. After overtaking, move back to the left-hand lane when it is safe to do so." (rule 137) Why can't the high street be split up with slower lanes for those who walk slowly and lanes for those in a rush to pass them. No more will the elderly be mowed down by late business men rushing to a meeting. And for those who like to indulge in a bit of window shopping, why not have crawler lanes, jostle free browsing will no longer be a dream.

Naturally there will be a financial impact for implementing this to our townscapes, but this will be made up for by the savings the NHS will make on plastic surgery to broken noses. Now obviously I'm not suggesting that we role this scheme out on all of Britain's streets, there's a lot of them (I can't find a figure for this but I have it on good authority there's a lot of them). A very similar system is already in operation on the escalators of the Tyne and Wear Metro system where those wishing to stand all stand on one side allows people to walk past them easily, this works very well and is enforced by the very British 'tutting' system at anyone who does not comply. The next stage should be shopping centres, the worst offenders then eventually the whole country.

One can only hope that someone from the Department of Transport is reading this.

Friday, 25 March 2011

The Kofi Shift Notes: A short guide to designing a website for your architectural practice

All architectural practices need a website to attract clients, show off their work and to give them a public face in this modern world of ours, unless you're Herzog and de Meuron that is.
Now I know this may sound very complicated and off putting, having to design it and put it all together, but don't worry I'm going to tell you how to do this.

First you will want a nice white background, otherwise you might not look minimalist enough. For extra minimalism you might want to consider having an entry page so that when people visit your site the first thing they see is your logo and then they have to click enter before they see anything of use (you can even hide this for even more minimalism). This may seem pointless but it's just not, OK.

Now on your homepage you want nothing but a few tabs linking to other pages and then a central image box showing a slideshow of your best buildings, remember to make these all very artistic and show only the good bits of your building. It's also important to make sure that if the viewer sees a building they like that they can't just click on the image to find out more about that building.

I mentioned that your homepage will have some tabs linking to other pages, you probably want to only have a few pages such as 'about us', 'people', 'projects', 'news' and 'careers'. Make sure that clicking on these doesn't just load the page, have a fade transition, or even a slide-in or drop-down animation (see an amateurish PowerPoint presentation for examples).

The 'about us' page is where you're going to explain to the client how much better than any other practice your practice is. Make them realise you're really unique and have much better morals than any other practice in the world. So I would just write a few short sentences with something generic, throwing in the following keywords: 'innovative', 'spacemaking', 'sustainable', 'priorities', 'approach' and 'excellence'. This is guaranteed to make yourself stand out from the architectural crowd.

Your 'people' page is where you really get your friendly personal approach to come across, have some cheery photos of the main figures in your studio looking busy, in black and white of course to keep an element of seriousness. You don't really need to give any more than this, maybe their name and position, but definitely not any detail of how to contact this person directly.

The 'projects' page is where you will really sell yourself, have lots of very artistic photos of buildings you've designed, it doesn't matter if they're not built or even if they can't physically be built, just as long as they look good. Order them into the groups 'residential', 'commercial', 'health/education', 'leisure/sport' and 'master planning'. This makes it look like you have that many projects that they can't possibly all fit on the one page, so you must be good!

If your practice constantly gets reviews then you will want the 'news' page. This will allow you to show off to everyone how much everyone else likes you, just have a list showing the title of each article you've appeared in on Dezeen, The Architects Journal or even Archiendo.

A 'careers' page is sometimes nice, this will make people looking for work think you have places available but then you can shatter their hopes and tell them briefly 'We don't have any places available at this present time.'

Oh you may want to put your contact information somewhere but you can just hide that in a corner or wherever you can find room.

This may sound very complicated and you might now be panicking as you know nothing about web coding, but you can hire a web programmer to do all that for you, but remember not to take any of their advice on website layout and design, you're an architect, they're a web programmer, what could they possibly know about web design that you don't.

The Kofi Shift Notes are written during a Kofi Bar shift in the space of an hour and under the heavy influence of caffeine, whilst it starts with what may be a sound fact, the resulting rambles are probably best ignored for any real truth.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Avoir respect pour votre contexte?

Have a look at the Dezeen article about the proposed Russian Orthodox Church and Cultural Centre in Paris, spitting distance away from the Eiffel Tower, by Russian Architects Arch-group and French Studio Sade Sarl.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Avoir respect pour votre contexte?

Have a look at the Dezeen article about the proposed Russian Orthodox Church and Cultural Centre in Paris, spitting distance away from the Eiffel Tower, by Russian Architects Arch-group and French Studio Sade Sarl.

Sorry I should have warned you about it first, don't worry your shoes will clean.
At first it would appear that somewhere in the Franco-Russian translation the phrase "to be built in Paris" got lost. A quick check with Google Translate shows that "Sera construit à Paris" translates in Russian to "Париже", unfortunately I neither speak or read Russian so I have no idea if this still means the same, but translating it back to French gets the original result so I doubt this to be the problem.

So it can only mean that the designer honestly thought that Russian style church domes would look perfect next to the Eiffel Tower, and not any old domes, golden domes. To add insult to injury these domes break freely into a sweeping cloth like glass roof. Thankfully when standing at the top of the Eiffel Tower this will go some way to hiding the arched white building below and oddly countryside like landscaping that would be more at home somewhere near Moscow. Oh and surrounding this is a glass wall of multimedia screens.

The worst thing is apparently this is fitting in with the context, apparently it uses a "symmetrical composition of the kind that is traditional for the old centre of Paris." And I suppose the golden domes are just of the sort Napoleon really wanted for the Arc de Triomphe.

They spend so much time in architecture schools trying to teach us to build considering the context then someone does this, makes you wonder why the tutors bother.

So next time you show someone your holiday photos from Paris, don't be surprised if they ask if you tried the vodka.

To see full information about the building, see the Dezeen article

Monday, 21 March 2011

Have You Seen how Green I am?

There have been many fads in architecture’s history. There’s been spikey buildings (Gothic); football shapes (Byzantine); ratio driven abodes (Classicism); insane blobs (Parametricism), featureless blobs; excessive gluttony (Rococo); the list goes on... They storm onto the global architecture scene, make a big noise; “change everything” then get ditched as cliché and passé a few years down the line.

But the latest fad is the one that worries me the most. Sustainability. My History lecturer on my degree course was obsessed with the modernists. He believed we were in a state of no ornament. I believe he is wrong, we are in a state of sustainability as ornament. Some argue that sustainability has become as integral to a building as structure, it’s here to say. But the problem is you don’t NEED sustainable features to make a building exist, it is a superfluous attribute that is added if you have the dollar.

We are blessed today to be in an era where it is considered ‘cool’ to build with the planets best interests at heart. But i often ask how much a turbine on top of a tower is doing, solar panels on your neighbours roof? Sure, visually they scream about your green credentials, about how much you sincerely care about the planet.

“Look what I’m doing to save the world, are you doing your bit? Hmm? No, thought not, I’m a more compassionate human being”

That’s what they’re are all saying. It saddens me that by the time I make my debut into the real architecture world, this fashion will be on the down side of the popularity bell curve. It’ll be in the ditch at the wayside pining for our attention of the architects and engineers.

I hope for all god that I’m wrong. I myself am determined not to let it slip. We can fix the world, and I know that this is an attitude born of the 60s that has remained strong for the last 50 years. Long live the hippies in the building profession.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Who's Boss?

In my recent searches for local architects I came across an interesting practice near Gateshead, who in their team working policy claim "[they] do not believe that hierarchies should exist in an intellectual and creative atmosphere."(1) I find myself wondering just how easy this is to do, and to what extent a business can run without a hierarchical structure. There are lots of different elements within an architectural practice to which this could be considered. Here are my initial thoughts.

There is almost definately a hierarchy of experience, and this is probably quite useful, as well as necessary. It provides the younger designers in the office people to learn from, as well as ensuring that any hot-headed ideas or methods are reigned in before being unleashed upon clients. The difficulty, comes when you begin to consider the hierarchy of opinion; having everyones opinion counted and considered is relatively simple to implement; treating everyones opinion equally must surely be very difficult for the figure head of the company, especially if the majority vote is against his or her inclination.

Whilst some people may have 'more' knowledge or 'greater ability' in certain aspects of the job there will always be differences in strengths and weaknesses, as well as preferences as to which work to do within the office. Does the practice need to be democratic right down to the scale of who makes the tea in the morning?

Before I mentioned a figure head (due to lack of a better word), by which I was referring to a managing director who doesn't independantly manage or direct. If all things in the office are to be democratic then maybe they would take the role of chairing discussions, however to be truly equal it would surely need to be a rotating chair. (See post below 'The Kofi Shift Notes: The second most fun item in the studio'). This must come down to responsibility for decision. If everyone in the office can act under their own authority and with the democratic support of colleagues then there seems no need to have a figurehead who ultimately takes the blame for mistakes. If people are given autonomy, then with it they must ultimately accept the underlying individual responsibility.

People will not strive to 'move up the ladder,' since there is no ladder to climb. Each individuals focus would be on getting the job done, and since they are responsible for their own action, they would not try and evade doing their work, as they would soon be ousted by the democratic majority.

In this set up everything must be transparant, from each individuals wages (which could probably be relatively fairly based upon experience or amount of work taken on, ) to interviews for new positions in the office. Whilst it would probably be quite awkward getting used to this kind of set up, removing the taboo of how much your colleagues are paid is one step closer to having a completely open and honest company.

To be truly creative people need to 'stop being afraid of being wrong.' (2) Removing hierarchies, and 'fear of reprisal' from an office setting gives people the opportunity to experiment with the way that they do their work, and whilst it may slow the process in the short term, it will almost certainly improve the process in the long term.

The social atmosphere, and in general, worker satisfaction, improves within a workplace when a hierarchical structure is removed. (3). It is however quite possible that turnover will go down.

It is people who really care about their colleagues who implement this kind of structure to a business. They must work as hard as they possibly can to manage all of the issues mentioned above to maintain a workplace which is fair and welcoming to all, whilst full well realising they will be making less money.

I have the upmost of respect for anyone who puts the happiness and wellbeing of others before their own financial gain, and I hope that more architectural practices in the future will do this.

(1) - NNA

(2) - Ken Robinson

(3) - Dan Pink

Friday, 18 March 2011

The Kofi Shift Notes: Which Primary Colour?

One of the first things we learn in art whilst in Nursery or in Primary school is that the three primary colours are:

Red, Yellow and Blue

and from these we can mix our poster paints to create any colour we want, mixing them all gives us brown and the limit of colour is the amount of paint in our bottle. Black and white are only achievable from using black and white paint.

Then, when we move on in our education and start ICT we learn the primary colours are in fact:
Red, Green and Blue

mixing them together creates white and not using any creates black. The most we can use of any one colour is 255, 255 of what is unknown.

Once we get to architecture school we then learn on our first colour plot, that the three primary colours are actually:
Cyan, Magenta and Yellow

Mixing them all together would create black, but to create black we would in fact have to use Key, a black which is so special it's no longer called black. White is made from nothing. Of any of these colours we can use up to 100%.

Should any of us ever create a website for the practice we then encounter the Hex system, colours for the web. For these the primary colours are anything from:
0-1 as long as there's only 6 of them and they follow a #
This is very confusing and I shall mention on them nothing more.

Then when we specify the colour the walls of our designs need painting in we will probably use the Dulux colour system. Again the primary colours are not colours but instead colour groups:
Neutrals, Creams, Yellows, Oranges, Pinks, Blues, Greens and Natural Hints.
All rather vague in reality but at least it makes some sense. Mixing them is probably a bad idea as you will get an uneven colour across your wall and quantity is defined by the size of your tin.

Now as everyone seems to be coming up with their own primary colours, I think its time I had my own, they will be:
Toast (the smell of), Gamma radiation and Speed.

Your screen may not be TGS compatible as they are relatively modern colours, in which case they will appear blank. For health reasons don't look at Gamma too long as it may result in radiation burns.

Now I know they are all things that can not be observed visually, but that doesn't seem to matter. Mixing them all together will cause a black hole, mixing just Toast and Gamma will create a #DIV/0! error and some kittens may just die. Measurement of each colour will use octaves.
In my opinion, an all round better system.

The Kofi Shift Notes are written during a Kofi Bar shift in the space of an hour and under the heavy influence of caffeine, whilst it starts with what may be a sound fact, the resulting rambles are probably best ignored for any real truth.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Zaha Unveils New Brand of Paper

Zaha Hadid Architects have unveiled plans for a new brand of paper marketed exclusively to other architects. The concept (left) was intended as a way to save paper, marking another soujourn for the practice into environmentalism.

"In the modern world, cutting down on waste is paramount" explains Hadid. "It simply pained me to see how my practice was printing plans for buildings onto rectilinear pieces of paper. I thought, why can't my paper be a more suitable shape for the plans that I design?"

Patrick Schumacher, Hadid's second in command and longtime champion of parametric design, describes the exact process of creating the shape: "We used a very complex computer algorithm to determine the perfect shape of a building. We then ran that a huge number of times using different variables, and the final shape was an average of the outcomes. Therefore, the shape of the paper we have designed is actually the perfect shape for any building"

When questioned about the suitability of the paper for other architects (who have been occasionally known to design rectilinear buildings), Hadid retorted "My colleague Patrick has done extensive research into this, and concluded that funny looking, angular buildings are good for people - even if a person doesn't even like them". Schumacher backed her up on this claim, arguing that if people don't like the way their buildings look, that is in fact an error of judgement, one which a large portion of the public needs to be educated out of.

Described by her friends as "nauseating" and by complete strangers as "kinda scary lookin'", Zahahahaha is on a mission to prove that she can save the entire planet using 17, 37 and 53 degree angles - and this inconspicuous piece of paper is set to be the next step to proving her point.

P.S. I know this was clearly all very silly, but I'd like to just point out that the bit I put in italics is in fact part of a real argument that I really genuinely had with Patrick Schumacher himself. Honestly. Now read it again and think seriously about that. Yeah. I know, I thought the same thing as you are thinking now.

Friday, 11 March 2011

The Kofi Shift Notes: The second most fun item in the studio

The office chair is definitely the second most fun object in any studio; no studio is complete without a chair on castors to spin those idle minutes when the flow of ideas clots well before leaving the imagination.

A brief delve into the long and colourful history of the office chair reveals many delightful tibbets of throw away knowledge.
Some say that it all began with the Centripetal Spring Armchair in 1849 designed by Thomas E. Warren in New York (note 1). Others, including myself, argue it was the great Charles Darwin of naturalist fame who conceived the office chair, adding wheels to the chair at his desk allowing him to glide from specimen cabinet to specimen cabinet (note 2). The chair boomed with the industrial revolution allowing people to fly across offices from desk to filling cabinet to printing press without the need to stand. It might be arguable that the office chair is the major factor responsible for the Industrial Revolution itself.

This leads us to today, where a huge global population furnish offices and studios alike. Allowing designers to spin away their frustration and pass the long hours with highly organised races. A whole range of races are possible from the classic circuit to drag races and the more adventurous off-road rally. Spinning whilst short of ideas must surely help as it only logically follows that the revolution of the body placed upon the spinning chair will result in centrifugal force extracting ideas from the imagination centre of the brain and causing them to fly outwards and onto paper.

The future of office chairs remains as mysterious and misty as its origins, but it remains safe to say that within the next 50 years, maybe the next 20, that office chairs will be able to drive themselves using power created from on-board nuclear fusion engines, whilst the executive models will forgo wheels all together and fly across the design studio. It is truly a wonderful age to be sitting in.

Note 1. See: BA Business Life
Note 2. See: Wikipedia: Office Chair

The Kofi Shift Notes are written during a Kofi Bar shift in the space of a hour and under the heavy influence of caffeine, whilst it starts with what may be a sound fact, the resulting rambles are probably best ignored for any real truth.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Miniatures in KOFI

Posted by Picasa

Arrogant Architects 001

Your weekly dose of "Arrogant Achitects", can you guess who they are?