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.