Design

How our use of metals and finishing processes features in design today and since prehistoric times.
Metal Curtains

Metal Curtains

Architectural Mesh as Solar Shading. The concept of mesh as solar shading Architectural mesh may not be the first material that springs to mind when considering shading from the sun but not only is it highly effective, mesh also has some other very interesting properties. Viewed from varying angles, mesh can appear transparent and for this reason has been popular for cladding the exteriors of buildings such as multi-storey car parks, exterior staircases and balconies, allowing light through whilst creating a safety barrier, or fall-protection. It is particularly suitable for tall buildings, such as car parks, as it is able…
The role of architectural finishes in the (re)use of existing buildings

The role of architectural finishes in the (re)use of existing buildings

How architectural finishes play an overt or subtle role in building refurbishment Extending and changing the life of a building The process of reconfiguring an existing building to extend its lease of life or of changing its use from one typology to another is an attractive proposition for a variety of economic, social and ecological reasons. It is often cheaper and even architecturally fascinating to take an existing building that is unoccupied, or under-utilised and refurbish it. In doing so, this can improve the building’s performance for its existing function by extending its lifespan. There is also the opportunity to…
A fount of timeless inspiration

A fount of timeless inspiration

Touring around the design projects of the prolific designer, Alberto Pinto. Alberto Pinto, the background Alberto Pinto, 1943 – 2012, was born to Argentinian parents in Casablanca. Pinto was a photographer and interior designer working on domestic interiors, corporate spaces, hotels, yachts and aeroplanes. It was the direction in which his photographic work took him, specialising in interior design, that led him to start designing interiors himself. Pinto himself loved enormous spaces although he claimed not to love one particular style. His penchant for large space was to create a cosiness within it despite the “restraints” of size. Pinto has…
Gio Ponti – designing across all mediums

Gio Ponti – designing across all mediums

A skim around the broad-ranging design work of this designer and architect Dates Giovanni "Gio" Ponti, born 18th November 1891 in Milan, Italy, was an Italian architect, industrial designer, furniture designer, artist and publisher. He died 16th September 1979, Milan, Italy. Ponti graduated with a degree in Architecture in 1921 from the Politecnico di Milano University and the same year he married Giulia Vimercati Hotel Parco dei Principi One project for which Ponti was particularly famous was his work on the Hotel Parco dei Principi in Sorrento. He designed the whole building and, in collaboration with Ceramica D’Agnostino, created the…
Ico Parisi, a master influencer

Ico Parisi, a master influencer

Looking at the work of this designer and architect Ico Parisi was an Italian architect and designer who was born 23 September 1916, Palermo, Italy and died 19 December 1996, Como, Italy. Parisi did not want to be pigeon-holed as either an architect, designer or artist as he was interested in all mediums. This was borne out by his additional activities as industrial designer, painter and photographer. Remaining most of his life in Como, Italy worked on architectural and design projects sometimes with his wife Luisa with whom he had a design studio, La Ruota. Ico married Luisa in 1947…
Biophilia: just another trendy buzz word?

Biophilia: just another trendy buzz word?

An examination of this design philosophy in relation to One Central Park, Sydney, Australia. Biophilia, bio urbanism, biomimicry or biomorphic design… The number of variations to the term bio seem endless today so you might well wonder if this isn’t just another elaborate buzzword which greenwashing marketers have come up with? The term "biophilia" means "love of life or living systems." Unlike phobias, which are the aversions and fears that people have of things in their environment, philias are the attractions and positive feelings that people have toward organisms, species, habitats, processes and objects in their natural surroundings. Biophilia was…
Second Home Lisbon – Biophilia in action

Second Home Lisbon – Biophilia in action

A look at the design and principles behind this innovative workspace... Project info: Client: Second Home (founded by Sam Aldenton and Rohan Silva) Architects: SelgasCano (founded by Jose Selgas and Lucia Cano) Location: Mercado da Ribeira, Avenida 24 de Julho, Lisboa Size of project: 12,000 sq. Ft. Project cost: €1.3 million Environmental engineer: Richie & Daffin Prime contractor: old2new Pot plant heaven With over 1,200 pot plants and trees installed along the edge of long, wavy-edged tables shared by members, this interior refurbishment project by Spanish architects José Selgas and Lucía Cano beautifully illustrates the design principles of biophilia. The…
The Shangri-La at the Shard

The Shangri-La at the Shard

The people involved in the creation of the Shard and its famous Shangri-La hotel. The concept of the Shard is begun The site of The Shard was originally occupied by the 1970’s building Southwark Towers however following a government White Paper being published favouring the development of high-rise buildings near transport centres this was soon to change. With redevelopment in mind, the entrepreneur Irvine Sellar went to Berlin in 2000 to meet the architect Renzo Piano, 1998 Pritzker Prize winner, to discuss the design of a spectacular building for the site. Renzo Piano was known to greatly dislike standard format…
A meteorite in the city

A meteorite in the city

An architectural review of the dramatic building, The Whale, Borneo-Sporenburg, Amsterdam The Whale Three meteorites fell in the city, in a recently requalified neighbourhood of Amsterdam, Borneo-Sporenburg. These so called meteorites are in fact three massive buildings placed diagonally to disrupt a grid of low-rise units and to provide the programmed density to this area. One of them is The Whale. Designed by Architekten Cie., this volume has a visual impact; not only due to its big proportions but also due to its shape, materiality and configuration. The program is divided into three main sectors: 194 apartments in the volume…
Walter Gropius in Dessau. Part II, The Masters’ Houses

Walter Gropius in Dessau. Part II, The Masters’ Houses

Continuing our walk around the campus of the famous Bauhaus school in Dessau, Germany. The Masters’ Houses After an overwhelming experience at Bauhaus, we continue our path towards the Masters’ Houses. Located at a walking distance from the School, we arrive at a small pine-tree wood plot and we see the four white volumes. Commissioned by the city of Dessau, this project was constructed in parallel with the Bauhaus building. It consisted of three semi-detached houses for the Bauhaus masters and another one for its director. Each house has its first resident name – 1.Walter Gropius ; 2. Lászlo Moholy-Nagy…
Lille's Grand Stadium

Lille's Grand Stadium

An architectural review of the home stadium to LOSC Lille Métropole, the Stade Pierre-Mauroy A sophisticated, multi-functional steel structure achieving several technical feats Last June thousands of football fans from all over Europe converged on Lille’s new stadium to watch a number of UEFA cup fixtures. This venue which seats over 50 000 spectators was designed by the Paris- based architectural practice Valode & Pistre together with Atelier Ferret Architectures, a practice specialized in sports facilities. It was first launched in August 2012. To make the stadium more cost- effective one of the essential requirements was that this new facility…
Borneo-Sporenburg, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Borneo-Sporenburg, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

An architectural critique of this high density housing area. Amsterdam Borneo Sporenburg development. Photography by West 8 Urban Design and Landscape Architecture. Amsterdam’s history The city of Amsterdam is quite known for its unique picturesque architecture. The Dutch first used wood as a prime material in construction building but in the 16th Century most of it was demolished and replaced by brick buildings. The city developed as a result of conscious planning. The canals’ plans were settled in the early 1600’s to simplify the overseas trades and the immigration peak. The canals followed a four “U-shape” design, from west to…
Walter Gropius in Dessau Part I

Walter Gropius in Dessau Part I

A walk around the famous Bauhaus building, Dessau, Germany European Modern Architecture For me European Modern Architecture has always been a reference and a subject of debate. Eager to actually see this, to touch and to be touched by this architecture, we went to Germany – the heart of European Modern Architecture. We had a special curiosity about Walter Gropius’ work. Dessau was mandatory- we needed to see The School, we needed to see the Masters’ Houses. Founded in 1919 by Walter Gropius and directed afterwards by Hannes Meyer and then by Mies van der Rohe, the School was the…
Bridging the gap: lightweight pedestrian foot bridges,  Part 2

Bridging the gap: lightweight pedestrian foot bridges, Part 2

The second part of a look at contemporary European footbridges... In this article I continue to look at the footbridge as part of urban regeneration schemes, connecting previously dislocated parts of the city, utilising brownfield sites and creating architectural showpieces. Villetaneuse footbridge, Paris A new transport hub was set up in 2010 around the University of Villetaneuse north of Paris that brings together light rail networks with new tram lines. However this new hub widened the divide between the north and south sections of the city. The footbridge therefore fulfils two functions: make the railway station more accessible whilst linking…
Mies Van Der Rohe - Part II. The mind behind the steel

Mies Van Der Rohe - Part II. The mind behind the steel

Continuing the exploration of Mies’ principles of structure, design and economy in architecture... Mies' move to the USA When Mies moved to the United States, after thirty years of practice in Germany, he was already considered by the US proponents of International Style a pioneer of Modern Architecture. It is in Chicago that Mies found the conditions that allowed him to achieve a new level of reflection and action. With a capitalist market much more developed than that in Germany, the US provided a place where the alliance between industry and architecture (as claimed by the Deutscher Werkbund) is demonstrated…
Bridging the gap: lightweight pedestrian foot bridges,  Part 1

Bridging the gap: lightweight pedestrian foot bridges, Part 1

The first part of a look at contemporary European footbridges... Over the past decade a wealth of urban regeneration schemes across Europe have completely changed the urban landscape by reconquering former brownfield sites, cleaning up riverways and creating pedestrian links and cycle paths. Very often these projects required creating new light pedestrian footbridges to link up different parts of the city across existing transport infrastructure which opened up a new field of design for architects within the built environment. Many of these footbridges have become architectural showpieces in their own right that show what can be achieved today with computer…
A Brief History of the Kitchen

A Brief History of the Kitchen

How heat and food bring people together, looking at the relationship between ovens and kitchens... The origins of the kitchen In ancient times, people cooked on open fires that were built outside on the ground. Later on, simple masonry constructions were used to hold the wood and food. In the Middle Ages the food was often placed in metal cauldrons that were hanging above the fire. These cooking areas naturally caused people to gather as they were the primary source of heat, light, safety and, of course, food. A recreated 12th-Century kitchen, Dover Castle, English Heritage The smoke and soot…
Banc Sabadell Headquarters, Bach Architects

Banc Sabadell Headquarters, Bach Architects

How the recession forced a great design... Born during the recession – the scheme gets down-sized Back in 2008 the commission for the Headquarters Building for Banc Sabadell was received among the design team as a mixture of feelings, sounds strange, but a sweet and sour flavour surrounded us. We had been working for two years designing a building that we all felt was our baby. The 6-storey hole for the car park levels was already dug. We were about to pour the concrete for the foundations when the fears of recession made Banc Sabadell reconsider their ambitious plans of…
A look at street lights

A look at street lights

Considering this illuminating presence in our lives. Lamp-posts as part of our lives Progress comes in different guises but how often do we consider the intangible cost. A beautiful new running track along a nearby beach is bringing residents out for exercise as never seen before. LED lighting in turquoise-coloured lamp-posts punctuate the route; toilets have been erected and ironically, a host of food outlets have also been set up. All of this opposite a row of desirable residences whose owners no longer venture to the sea-shore in solitude. And, no longer can we gaze at stars from a light…
Mies Van Der Rohe Pt. 1 From Traditionalism to Modernism

Mies Van Der Rohe Pt. 1 From Traditionalism to Modernism

Looking at the inspirations of this iconic architect and designer Mies van der Rohe was an architect with notable draw skills. This gave him the opportunity to work in 1905 with Bruno Paul, having his first contact with Peter Behrens and Herman Muthesius. In 1908, Mies was working for Peter Behrens, Sandra Honey in European Works says:- "Behrens gave Mies a respect for detail, a deep admiration for Schinkel and a valuable experience in the management of a large commission"1. Mies had to fight himself to get away from the Classicism of Shinkel, but he never actually did; and this…
The Selfridges Building, Birmingham

The Selfridges Building, Birmingham

Looking at this iconic example of "Blob Architecture". Part of the Bullring Masterplan After the creation of the Bullring’s Masterplan, Birmingham obtained a retail centre of a significant architectural importance, which was expressly composed of the West Midlands’ multicultural city’s copyright. The building of Selfridges owes its inspiration and creation to Future Systems Architects back in 2003. With four floors and a retail area space of 110,000 square meters, the modern building of the £60 million is considered one of the most important structures ever built because of its unique architectural style called Blob Architecture or Blobi-tecture. This term came…
A detailed inspection of handrails

A detailed inspection of handrails

Looking at the considerations and factors involved in creating this component so essential for our security. Safety, thermal quality and finishes Think of a time you have been at a beautiful location taking in the view and you idly put your hand on the rail of a balustrade; only to have the adversely hot temperature of the rail make you recoil. Conversely, can you think of an occasion where you have had to grasp a handrail for support and were thankful to it for saving your fall? As end users, perhaps we only consider the design of handrails when we…
The history and meaning of fences

The history and meaning of fences

Looking at the origins, materials and subliminal messages of boundaries The origins of fences The origin of the word "fence" comes in the XIV Century with the word fens, a short term for defense, protection. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as "a structure serving as a barrier, boundary or enclosure, usually made of posts or stakes joined together by boards, wire, or rails. It surrounds, separates, keeps away, it defends." The history of civilization is closely tied with the history of fences. It emerged from the notions of agriculture, family and property. Fences helped institutionalize the collective recognition of private…
Grand Hotel design and history

Grand Hotel design and history

A glamorous tour of Grand Hotels looking at design and detail The Grand Budapest Hotel At the 86th Academy Awards in February this year, it came as little surprise when Adam Stockhausen was presented with the Oscar for Best Achievement in Production Design for The Grand Budapest Hotel. Stockhausen succeeded in creating an impressionistic land with flavours of Eastern Europe that on screen looked almost as if it had sprung to life from the pages of a picture story book. Who could forget the image of the lavish 19th Century hotel perched aloft on rugged, snow-capped peaks in the fictional…
Spiral, Helical and Elliptical Staicases

Spiral, Helical and Elliptical Staicases

An essay about Imagination and Construction The origins of stairs Stairs are one of the oldest constructions in architectural history. It is believed the first stairs dated from 6000 BC: in order to overcome difficulties imposed by the terrain, men fitted together wood trunks, so that they could move fast, easily and safely. They were not designed, calculated or even planned. They were just an intuitive way to solve a problem. With the years, and along with mankind’s evolution, the stair was used for religious devotions; a metaphorical way to reach the Sky connecting the Earth/Men with the Gods. Stairs…
The architect as furniture designer

The architect as furniture designer

Looking at how architects approach furniture design Integrating architecture and furniture design Many beautiful and iconic pieces of furniture have been designed by architects: The Barcelona Chair by Mies Van Der Rohe, the Eames Chair by Charles and Ray Eames, the Wiggle Chair by Frank Lloyd Wright. Alongside the many talented furniture designers in the industry, architects have firmly made their mark in this field. The Barcelona chair by Mies van der Rohe There seem to be two directions that an architect might take when designing furniture. On the one hand, he may want the design philosophy to go beyond…
Rose Gold PVD

Rose Gold PVD

A look at the fascination from both men and women for this finish. Any jewellery fashionistas will be very aware of both Rose Gold PVD and Black PVD. Rose Gold PVD is used on exquisite women’s rings and necklaces and also on expensive watches for both men and women. Michael Kors watch in Rose Gold Rose Gold PVD brilliantly mimics Rose Gold however is a sought-after commodity in its own right. Interestingly it is fashionable for both male and female jewellery being used for rings, earrings, bracelets, watches and necklaces for women and for cufflinks, rings and watches for men.…
Great glasshouses

Great glasshouses

A look at metalwork and glass structures from Victorian times to the present day... The great glass houses of Britain are part building, part sculpture and part nursery – iron, steel and glass structures nurturing rare species of plants and trees from a wide variety of regions and climates. The construction materials may have changed over the past 150 years, or so, but the architectural aims and challenges seem to have remained similar. So what is the main aim in the design and structure of a glasshouse of epic proportions? Scale, first and foremost, in terms of the height and…
Metalwork sculpture in Cardiff

Metalwork sculpture in Cardiff

How metalwork sculpture can forge an enduring identity Sculpture and regeneration Cardiff Bay, with its vast, 500-acre waterfront, is now widely regarded as one of the most successful regeneration projects in the United Kingdom. Connecting the new water front and the old city centre via a sweeping, grand boulevard was one of its aims. So too, was the creation of a new identity as a modern European capital – using its industrial and maritime heritage to link, inextricably, the achievements of the past with the ambitions of the future. Public art plays a very important role in redefining the identity…
Street furniture

Street furniture

How modern materials and a modern approach are taking over from a Victorian stronghold How often do we think about street furniture? It is unlikely we would think about it apart from when actually walking down a street – but how often then do we observe it? Street furniture ranges from the obvious benches and seats to bins, barriers, planters, bicycle racks through to traffic signs, street lamps and sculptures. Many of these are in the hands of the local government and regulated by UK road traffic standards but here we look at some of the other pieces of street…
Lighting - a brief overview

Lighting - a brief overview

A quick flash through time looking at the first electric lamp up to the modern day approach to lighting. Lighting can literally light up your life by completely changing the mood of a room. Just as theatre lighting transforms a stage, lights in a room can alter colour and emphasise texture. A soft lighting scheme can be calming and soothing or, at the other end of the scale, dramatic shades can be exciting or daring. Importantly for interior designers, lighting affects the perception of space. Small rooms can be made to feel larger, large rooms smaller. By using clever lighting,…
Canopies, a brief overview

Canopies, a brief overview

The Victorians knew how to use canopies to full effect, think of Crystal Palace, and today canopies are enjoying a similar resurgence and are being specifed on a large scale, including airports. We look at some of the favourites. The term canopy commonly refers to large structures placed over the entrance to many public buildings such as theatres, hotels, schools or businesses. Both marquees and canopies have gained popularity during the 19th and 20th centuries, when the size and prominence of the signs associated with them also grew. Historically, materials commonly used in marquee or canopy construction were steel, bronze,…