I am enthusiastic about drawing on the spot. As opposed to the photograph, the artist is able to use all the senses plus memory, and the power to edit and prioritise.
Bryan Mackay-Lyons - Nova-Scotian Architect talks in praise of his local vernacular...

Nova-Scotian architect Bryan Mackay-Lyons talks evocatively about the material culture that informed the design of the Messenger House, and about how the building is ‘draped’ on the landscape - its architecture secondary to the experience of gaining the crest of a hill and being gifted a view…

Data Visualisation resources…

I’ve stumbled across a couple of data visualisation resources that I don’t want to lose…

Maps.Stamen.com - looks like plug-ins you can use to style OpenStreetMap data for display.

OnThinkTanks - a library of data visualisation resources…

RSA Animate videos available as high-resolution PDFs and prints!

I’m really happy to have found out that you can download an A0, high-resolution PDF (£0.99) or order a print (up to £70!) of the drawings constructed in the RSA’s Animate series…

Videos - here.

Downloads and Prints via CognitiveMedia - here.

Collective Custom Build Launch Party - Tonight; details here.
Great article by Cany Ash in BD Online - here.

Collective Custom Build Launch Party - Tonight; details here.



Great article by Cany Ash in BD Online - here.

In the first of a series of model making workshops I run with first year students at the Sheffield School of Architecture, we explore how design ideas can be generated very quickly through modelling, and clever use of a camera’s abstracting frame, elements that give a sense of scale and decent lighting.

The whole idea is to introduce students to the concept that architecture can be found in materials, rather than model making being merely a way to represent something you have already thought of.

Here are just a few of the photographs made by the students - each taking literally a few second to produce. I simply asked the students to bring in found materials from home - or from their walk to studio - and set a simple brief around generating ideas of shelter or enclosure. The students quickly developed their model making to explore ideas of colour and texture, atmosphere and transition.

Andrew Willis of Frontside Gardens - a collaborator from Hackney Wick - featured in Google’s Stories….

Living in Bethnal Green…

I’m going to start collecting images and articles about Cranbrook Estate, the estate on which I live in Bethnal Green, east London…

The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green - after which a statute on the estate is named - is an intriguing tale, highlighted by Wikipedia here.

Cranbrook Estate

The design - and its placing alongside the architectural ideas of the day is well covered by the Inhabiting Imagination blog - here. - also which discusses the principal architect, Berthold Lubetkin, and the excellent documentary photographs by Steven Day, entitled ‘Cranbrook’, which can be viewed in full - here.

Some credentials, taken from London Gardens Online:

Site Location: Roman Road

Postcode: E3 0RB / E2 0QU

Grid Reference:TQ356830

Borough: Tower Hamlets

Type of site: Housing Estate

Site Management: Tower Hamlets Homes

Completion Date: 1961-68

Designers: Skinner, Bailey & Lubetkin

And this synopsis, also taken from London Gardens Online:

"The Cranbrook Estate was built between 1961-68 for Bethnal Green Metropolitan Borough Council, and was one of the largest municipal housing developments at that time. Badly damaged by bombing, prior to post-war clearance the area was occupied by C19th terraces. The new estate was designed by architects Skinner, Bailey and Lubetkin, all formerly part of Tecton architects; it was their third housing project for Bethnal Green MBC. Berthold Lubetkin (1901-1990) had began working in Russia, moving to Paris in the 1920s and from the 1930s worked in England; he was awarded the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture in 1982. The Cranbrook Estate was his last major project before retirement. The estate was planned to provide 600 housing units in different built forms, from bungalows for old people, 2-storey terraces and 4-storey maisonettes, to its 6 paired tower blocks of 11, 13 and 15 storeys.

The buildings were set within a formal, geometrical layout with two diagonal axes, pedestrian avenues that recalled the earlier street pattern. In intervening years some re-landscaping has taken place and the roadways within the estate now resemble a figure of eight. One of the original avenues led from the estate’s entrance off Roman Road in the south-east to meet Bonner Road in the north-west, while the other avenue led from the south-west to the north-east corner where its line was designed to continue towards the corner of Victoria Park (q.v.). It was originally intended that there would be a direct link into the park here but the Council was unable to purchase the intervening land. As a result Lubetkin devised a means of creating the illusion of the vista along this diagonal axis through a trompe-l’oeil sculpture in the form of a series of diminishing arches spanning a tapering path, mounted on blocks that also provided seating, within a circular landscaped area. This sculptural feature has become neglected over time and, no longer having the arches, has lost its purpose and no longer creates the illusion.

The estate’s hard and soft landscaping was an integral part of the design and included areas of grass, tree planting such as the avenue of poplar trees on the route from the south-west corner, raised planted areas and a private, communal garden for the elderly residents of the bungalows in the south of the estate. Flanked by the bungalows to the north and Roman Road to the south, the garden has lawn, trees and shrubs and an ornamental pond overlooked by a bronze sculpture by Dame Elisabeth Frink, ‘The Blind Beggar and His Dog’. This was commissioned by Bethnal Green MBC in 1957 and was initially sited in Roman Road in 1959 before moving to Cranbrook in 1963, where it is set on a stepped concrete plinth. The legend of the Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green dates back to the C17th.

The estate has a number of multi-use play areas for children and a Community Centre on Mace Street was added in 1993, designed by Pentarch architects. In 2009 a derelict playground adjacent to the Community Centre was converted into Cranbrook Community Food Garden, whose members are largely drawn from residents on the estate but also from neighbouring housing. Funding for the community garden was provided by a grant from Capital Growth and £5,000 from LB Tower Hamlets’ ‘You Make a Difference Today’ fund. The allotment has numerous raised beds, seating, wormeries, a greenhouse and shed, and future plans include building a pergola.”

Additionally, this entry on the UK Housing Wiki points out the controversial pending transfer of the estate to Swan Housing Association.

Alzette House

"Alzette House is a 11 storey tower block on Mace Street on the Cranbrook Estate in Bethnal Green, East London. Completed in 1957, it is of very unique design and is 47 metres tall."

Taken from UK Housing Wiki - here.

Cranbrook Community Food Garden

"The Cranbrook Estate was built for Bethnal Green MBC, designed by celebrated Russian architect Berthold Lubetkin. The estate’s housing units range from bungalows for the elderly, through 2 and 4-storey terraces, to paired tower blocks, set within a formal, geometrical layout with two diagonal pedestrian avenues. In the north-east corner Lubetkin created a trompe-l’oeil sculpture in the form of a series of diminishing arches to continue the vista towards Victoria Park. The estate’s hard and soft landscaping was an integral part of the design and included areas of grass, trees, raised planted areas and a communal garden for elderly residents of the bungalows. In 2009 Cranbrook Community Food Garden was established on a former playground."

Taken from London Gardens Online - here.

Links + Credits

  1. Love London Council HousingSome of the photos above taken from the wonderful Love London Council Housing blog.
  2. Book - Allan, J. (n.d.) ‘The Cranbrook Estate - an architectural synopsis’ (chapter) IN: Allan, J. (2011) ‘Berthold Lubetkin - Architecture and the Tradition of Progress’, London: Black Dog Publishing Ltd.
  3. Book - Cherry, B., O’Brien, C., Pevsner N. (2005), ‘The Buildings of England, London 5: East’, Yale University Press.

Presentations from the Self-build On A Shoestring competition post-mortem, held at Ash Sakula Architects’ offices in London, bringing together shortlisted entrants to mull over the opportunities arising…

We measure GDP by the amount of physical stuff put through the system. It doesn’t put a cost on the resources, on the pollution, nor does it measure well-being. We have to concentrate on health and well-being rather than on increasing salaries … One of the problems with the economy is that it is being driven by big business. The majority of agriculture in the UK is being bought up by big business. The National Farmers’ Union is arguing for US-style big agriculture, which goes against the grain of the landscape.