Thursday, 15 April 2010


Oh god, it's an icon! Just when you thought it was safe to reenter architecture on the grounds that noone can afford iconic office buildings any more, the Blade arrives. They couldn't afford to do an iconic building either, so they just used some left over cladding panels to give the building a ridiculous Hoxton fin haircut.
I think the Blade theme might be a reference to Reading's claim to fame as the stabbing capital of the UK.
I've only seen this from the train, admittedly, so I might be missing something about the subtle relationship the building has with the public realm. But I doubt it.
Here's the back:
I hate it when towns get shat on by a terrible commercial architect from London selling some inane, poncey form and calling it design. This is not architecture, it's bad branding crossed with floorplate.

Friday, 9 April 2010


A plaintive cry reaches Nairn's inbox. "Help us BBA, you're our only hope... well nearly. This 'ethical business' has just put in this absolute crock of white box and car parking hell for planning." I'm assuming the ethical business is Sainsbury's, but the architect Hadfield Cawkwell Davidson also has a thrilling 'culture' statement on their website that I urge you do go and read. The hyperventilating rhythm of 159 words of flatulent good intentions goes beyond the normal corporate bollocks and enters the realm of protesting too much. "We believe that good design can make a positive difference to economic and social value [sic]," they pant. "We are good people, please believe us. We just want to make some money before we retire..." - that's me interpreting. The culture statement should come with that spread better's caveat: "while good design can make a positive difference, we also do some bad design, which can make a negative difference..."
Happy to oblige you, dear reader from Crosby. The funniest thing about this piece of crap is that the image comes in the middle of a long and comprehensive Design and Access Statement that shows how sensitively the architects have considered the urban context and so on. They did loads of research, photographed the area meticulously, etc etc. Then they dumped this cereal packet on the site. They did design some elevations, though. Let's take a look (you might need to click):

I sometimes think that on projects like this, the architects don't really draw elevations, which is why they turn out so awful. In this case, they drew the elevation, had a meeting about it, thought "that looks great!", buffed it up in photoshop and sent it out. Stop guys! Listen to that voice inside that you've been trying to kill for decades. You're designing shit, and all the ethical company statements in the world won't save you from the devil at the final architectural reckoning.
Oh yes, they've also designed a few other buildings around the store, including another cereal packet-like transport interchange with a cladding of grey sticks. But this is one caught my eye.
This is a 'community use' building for da community. Presumably this is the section 106 payoff for letting Sainsburys dump on Crosby in such offensive style. The architects explain the elegant form by saying: "The massing and scale of the design responds to the building's purpose and surrounding context as well as providing extensive landscaping and planting around the proposal."
Let me translate.
"We are hoping that this piece of undesigned crap that we have imported from a business park we did in 1997 will serve as some kind of public building, and we have specified some trees that will eventually cover it up so you won't have to look at it. Don't push us on this - our client will just walk away. There's a recession on, haven't you heard? This building is for the people. They can do whatever they like in it. Just don't ask us what - we don't hang out in community centres..."


This might well be a perfectly reasonable, anodyne, mixed-use masterplan. But the images are just so, so depressing. They've bothered to make jaunty colours for the awnings and parasols, complete with a highlight showing the merciless sun beating down on the North Kent coast as if it were the Costa del Sol. But they couldn't really be bothered to make any decisions about materials or detail for the buildings.
This is the kind of thing you do when you don't want anyone to think the buildings are going to be too good, because the developer might then actually have to build something of high quality.
"Keep it vague lads, and stick a hot air balloon in it - that always makes people feel like we're down with whole seasidey, public space vibe."
The fucking wavy roofs are just embarrassing, as is the likely justification for these pointlessly jaunty forms. They look like waves. The sea is nearby. Ergo, the building is contextual. You sorry, sorry bastards.
Loving the vision and subtlety in the paving proposal, too.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010


This project is actually a conversion of an old jute factory in Dundee into part of a digital media park. Park, in this context, presumably referring to the car park.
I mention that it's a conversion so you understand that Keppie probably had many limits on what they could do, constraints that held them back from really fulfilling their ambitions for the project. The biggest constraint of all is their COMPLETE LACK OF ABILITY TO DRAW A SHAPE THAT ANYONE MIGHT LIKE.
Here's a closeup of the facade:
It's tricky to know exactly what they were going for with the big viridian panels (solar cells, I think) with their slopey, 1970s-album-cover forms and the equally bizarre lozenge shaped windows. I think they're going for a, you know, dynamic, media, digital, new media kind of thing, which, to Keppie, means some sloping bits.
It's just fucking undignified. Like a middle-aged person trying to rap.
I think what finally does it is the combination of these pretentious, silly, cack-handed green gob-ons with totally standard glazing systems and the off-the-peg green glass canopy above the door, plus the business park standard parquet brick pathway (very new media) with spindly trees. Gesamtkunstwerk, this is not.
Keppie's view on the subject is hilarious. On their website, they say: "Exernally, the playful elevational treatment is in tune with the world of computer games." Maybe, if you haven't played a computer game since 1979. In fact, there is no computer game in the world today that has as low design values as this building, and certainly not a single one that uses a more horrible typeface than the inept 'Vision' sign above the door.
Vision@Seabraes was designed by a bald man who is 'an ex-shinty player and drives a Skoda.' [Note: they've changed their website and this quote is no longer there - but it's true... GoN]
Dundee has loads of shit new architecture in it, which I'm indebted to a correspondent for bringing to my attention - I'll get to more of it...

Saturday, 13 February 2010


Wow, check out this bad boy. The supercar in the foreground (how many supercar owners shop at Tesco? In Ipswich?) tells you everything about the fantasy world that Mountford Pigott were living in when they designed this one. I'll cut to the chase. Only a man with a very small penis could design this building.
Quite where all the shopping is in this incredible monstrosity is a bit of a mystery to me. But the dynamic roofs and the transparency and all that other jazz must have really got them going around the boardroom table. Perhaps the clients had small penises too.
A proper journalist (here) has written before about how bad Tesco is at doing buildings, and in that story, he quoted the head of CABE as saying: "From an aesthetic point of view, there is a lot of snobbery surrounding Tesco. In fact, the company works with some highly respected architects." Don't know about you, but I'm really looking forward to CABE under Mr Finch leading us into a brave new future for architecture in this country.
The above building is a planning application, and is pending a decision. Check it out here if you want to make a comment.
But because democracy is not really what we're all about here at BBA, I instead urge you to check out Mountford Pigott's website, navigate to the retail section, and belly laugh with all your work colleagues about how fucking proud they are of the incompetent approximation of architecture that earns them their daily bread.

With many thanks to a correspondent for this...


This is the image that Race Cottam presumably paid someone to create of the hideous new special needs school they have designed in Keighley. They had to pay for an image with dramatic sky and jolly looking children jumping up and down, because their own drawings look like this:
I suppose this image really shows how the strange bike-shed structures help the school relate to the landscape/car park that forms the compelling context that Race Cottam created for itself.
I also think that orangey brown and blue stripes speak to all of us so clearly of contemporary civic identity and our optimism about British education. They also have yellow and green stripes in some of the internal courtyards. Niiice.
I'd be interested to know how Race Cottam came up with the plan for this school. I'm guessing that the design process involved a late night game of Mikado or something. Anyway, Kalzip will be happy.
Race Cottam are one of those practices, that seem to appear a lot on BBA (this one, for instance), who get prizes from Building magazine for being a good employer. They're almost always bad architects aren't they?