LSI at Open House
Every year, some of London’s best and most famous buildings open their doors free of charge as part of Open House. A group from LSI once again visited a number of buildings, and have picked out their highlights from their visit.
The Royal College of Physicians – Peter Hughes, Design Director
“The Royal College of Physicians designed in the 1960’s by Denys Lasdun is one of a handful of post 2nd world war Grade 1 listed buildings.
Considered by many to be Lasdun’s seminal work, there was a requirement in the brief that the project should harmonise with the neighbouring Neo Classical Terrace by John Nash. This has been skilfully achieved as a modernist interpretation through the use of abstract forms and finishes. The entrance Piloti supporting the complex cantilevered library above makes reference to the Classical Orders.
The transition in scale between the ceremonial elements of the building (entrance /library/ Censor’s Room ) and the Nash Terrace is achieved by the organic form of the blue brick Auditorium. The use of concrete and spatial organisation clearly shows the influence of Le Corbusier.
It is also interesting to note that the central triple height space did not form part of the original brief. Lasdun convinced his client of the importance of this space as an informal meeting area, to help break down barriers and encourage social interaction between Physicians. This space is now affectionately referred to as ‘Lasdun’s Hall’. This demonstrates how important it is, that Architect’s should look beyond the brief to seek out and provide a client with the unexpected!”
The Foundry – Bradley Moore, Architectural Assistant
“The first thing that hits you about the Foundry is the openness of the place. On entering you’re greeted by not just the reception desk but the half glazed volume that forms the main conference room – two sides of glass one facing the communal central space, the other the street, openness is key and exactly what you want from a social justice centre.
The entrance flows into the central atrium, a triple height space, lit from above highlighting the junction between the old and the new. It’s a place of interaction between the original shoe polish factory and its new concrete addition (which now work as one providing office space for a range of social justice and human rights organisations).
The main stair runs up through the atrium leading to joyfully mismatched balconies bringing a sense of pace to the space. The concrete stair is enlivened by the stripwood and fibreboard cladding which sets up a rhythm and language with the unfinished timber beams and the stripes of shadow and light cast from the skylight three stories above; a powerful example of what can be achieved on a budget with the clever use of low cost materials.”
Peckham Library – Ben Wall, Architect
“Winner of the Stirling Prize in 2000, the Peckham Library, designed by Will Alsop, has been a place I have wanted to visit for over 15 years.
As you approach the building from Peckham High Street you pass the Peckham Peace Wall where notes of solidarity that were left on post-it notes in the aftermath of the 2011 riots have been immortalised in ceramic tiles along the walls of a large canopy. This already begins to give the impression of public architecture that is part of its community. You then arrive at a well-defined and well used public square formed in front of the library. The building faces the square where the bulk of the accommodation sits above the third floor, supported on angular piloti that allows the public realm to flow underneath and towards the main entrance.
Internally the spaces contain playful elements realised with robust finishes. These include ply study pods with staples used to keep the cladding in place, polished concrete stairs containing glass lenses and stainless steel handrails that echo some of the buildings external elements. The angular columns also continue into the main study areas, offering further links to the building’s exterior. The spaces are all well used and the place had a busy community atmosphere.
What I found most impressive was how the building sits within its urban setting and how the playfulness of the design has allowed later schemes in its vicinity more freedom to be expressive. What could have been a piece of context-less architecture planted into a deprived area is actually a well-considered asset to its community and 15 years since its sterling win is now as much part of Peckham as Del Boy and Rodney.”
Isis Education Centre – Kirstin Aitken, Architect
“After the bustle of Vauxhall, arriving at the Isis Education Centre felt a little like leaving London behind, which is, of course, exactly the intention. This building is hidden in a gathering of trees in Hyde Park only a short walk from the Serpentine. In case you’re wondering, the name comes from ‘Isis’, a bronze sculpture donated by the Halcyon Gallery and located on the shore of the Serpentine.
We sought out this building as part of our Open House tour as a sustainability exemplar, and it didn’t disappoint. The purpose of the centre is to provide a place for inner city children to get close to nature. This is echoed in every part of the design, from the arrival along a winding path through a wild flower garden, to the use of natural materials in the construction and the reflection of natural patterns in the finishes.
David Morley Architects have produced something very special here, and it was clear from our tour guide that there is a great deal of affection for this building. This is a simple but beautiful intervention; perfectly at home in the historic park setting, and which you would hardly know was there if you walked past. The use of timber in various forms for cladding (singles, weatherboarding and decorated ply) tells a story about the different functions of the spaces within, and provides an inviting warmth and tactility. The expressed timber structure – including pegged scarf joints in the roof structure and round timber columns externally – tells a clear story about how the building is made, and provides a tree house-like effect.
This building was a joy to visit, and must be a huge benefit to the children and adults who get to make use of the spaces, internal and external, for the rest of the year.”
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