A study of Clifton Nurseries by Terry Farrell and Partners, 1980–1988

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Clifton Nurseries, Sir Terry Farrell, 1980–1988 — Image from Farrells archive

Not Much More than a Barn

Designed for Clifton Nurseries in 1980, Terry Farrell’s Covent Garden greenhouse was always intended as a temporary structure, but this did not mean, at least in Farrell’s eyes, that it needed to look temporary. Now demolished, the building was placed in proximity to Inigo Jones’ St Pauls church, and mirrored its pediment form. However, only half of the pediment covered the building behind, giving the building the illusion of being larger and more permanent than it actually was. …


A study of three unique Postmodern buildings that portray meaningful commentary on contemporary society.

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Illustration by Author

Counter-Modernism

The ancient Greek temple form has become so ubiquitous in the fabric of London that its complex 2000 year development of layers of meaning, political ambition and symbolism are often overlooked and unknown.

It has become instead merely a Quasi-Classical sleight of hand which uses the historic forms sparingly to give the perception of prestige to what are essentially brick boxes. We have seen this process played out on a grand scale with the Georgian and Pseudo-Georgian great estates speculation boom during the eighteenth and nineteenth century. …


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Illustration by Author

In January 2018, the food delivery app Deliveroo donated all of its data collected from the cyclists who use the platform to the Mayor of London. The reason for doing so, it says, is to increase awareness of cycle safety, but is this really an act of pure generosity or a calculated move to increase its own efficiency? You know what, the Deliveroo logo does seem to look like two fingers the more I look at it.

From the Mayor of London’s perspective, this ‘gift’ appears only to have positive repercussions, as they are gaining valuable information which will help to increase the efficiency of their investment in cycling infrastructure. …


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Illustration by Author

Architectural education looks expensive from the outset, and that’s because it is; seven years is a long time. The Student Survey conducted by the Architects’ Journal last year found that 33% of architecture students predict that they will owe between £50,000-£70,000 by the time they are qualified. The common way most architectural students come to terms with this figure is to claim that ‘oh it’s okay though because you’re working for two of those years.’ Great, so only five years then and good job prospects at the end.

I, like most architectural students, assumed that this would be the case but was shocked at all of the small ways the education system seems to strip your bank account dry. The system prays on those who become so invested in the seven-year process that they ‘might as well’ finish it. …


A photographic catalogue of some of England’s most magnificent chimneys, chimney stacks and vents.

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Lutyens, Deanery Garden, Berkshire, 1901. Image Source

I’ve always had a strange fascination with chimneys. Chimney stacks, chimney pots, ventilation ducts, you name it.

There’s something very special about the utilitarian by-products of essential building services like heating being celebrated within the overall appearance of the building.

The chimney was at some point so ubiquitous with the exterior appearance of the home (ask any child to draw a house and you will understand what I mean), that its value as a compositional element was often overlooked. The thought process up until the invention of gas and electric central heating was that all homes need heat, therefore all homes need a fireplace, therefore all homes need a chimney of some description. …


Uncovering Torquay’s glimmering heyday, through the relics of its hotels lost and at risk.

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The Palace Hotel, Torquay, currently abandoned and awaiting demolition. Image Source

Just below the surface of Torbay’s glimmering waters lies an even more glimmering past. The relics of a former heyday unceremoniously littered amongst the rolling headland hills, long curving beaches and single storey permitted developments. These few remaining monuments, from the minds of some of our most decorated designers, seem quiet and shy despite their imposing grandiosity on the landscape; bastions of a bygone era.

The fluctuating fortunes of Torquay throughout its history can be read in the evolution of these buildings, as marble gave way to concrete and stucco. This transforming architectural language tells us a story of boom and bust, of optimism and neglect, which continues to this very day. …


9/10 homes nowadays are built by a large developer and we have lost 30% of all small to medium sized builders in the UK in the last 15 years, but why should you care?

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Housebuilding in the UK reminds me of the science experiment we undertook in secondary school. First, a beaker is filled to the brim with large glass beads. The teacher asks the class, “is the beaker full?” The class responds “yes” and the teacher smirks. He then takes the same weight of small beads and pours them into the beaker as well, the smaller beads fill the gaps between the larger ones, and again the teacher asks, “is the beaker full?” The class somewhat hesitantly replies “yes” once more, and the teacher’s smirk grows. He then repeats this process with the same weight of sand and this time the class firmly responds “yes” to the question of whether the beaker is full, seeing that no other full beakers are left on the desk. The teacher then fills the empty beaker in his hand with water from the tap and pours it into the sand-filled one, filling the beaker to the brim. …


In the eyes of their manufacturers, there is more confidence in the lifespan of my toaster than in the average new build house in the UK. How can we have confidence in these homes, if their manufacturers do not?

Despite claims on the websites of volume house builders that they build ‘homes with a long and happy future in mind,’ according to the housing charity Shelter, just over half (51%) of new home owners have reported serious defects in the structure, utilities and fixtures of their new properties. This figure does not include unreported defects. …


Building tall is not building more, but arrogantly building less for more profit.

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According to The Little Book of Density, there are 23 definitions of what density means on a given site. These definitions change depending on who is measuring them, and can relate to everything from the supply of housing, to the ratio of plot development, to the net sellable area. Definitions of density also change at different scales and with different uses, from city-wide habitable rooms per hectare, to building block coverages measured to the kerb.

This ambiguity around the term results in its appropriation by different stakeholders for different agendas. For example, the priority of planners in local Councils is to encourage density to increase the number of habitable rooms per hectare, in line with Government targets. Whereas on a particular site, developers are more concerned with plot-specific density measures, such as floor area ratios or plot coverage, in line with commercial profit targets. …


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In January 2018, the food delivery app Deliveroo donated all of its data collected from the cyclists who use the platform to the Mayor of London. The reason for doing so, it says, is to increase awareness of cycle safety, but is this really an act of pure generosity or a calculated move to increase its own efficiency? You know what, the Deliveroo logo does seem to look like two fingers the more I look at it.

From the Mayor of London’s perspective, this ‘gift’ appears only to have positive repercussions, as they are gaining valuable information which will help to increase the efficiency of their investment in cycling infrastructure. Win-win, right? Well, this willingness for Government agencies to accept and make use of data collected by private companies begins to spark questions about whether or not the Government is aware of the ingrained bias programmed into these collecting platforms. Is this data really representative of the average commuter? Or is it simply assisting in making Deliveroo more profitable? Furthermore, in most cases, the Government has neither the resources nor the willingness to thoroughly investigate the spatial implications of this donated data in both the short and long term. According to TFL’s Strategic Cycling Analysis (2017) there are 670,000 cycle trips made per day in London, and before long, we may have a cycle infrastructure which in its primary focus efficiently connects London’s most popular takeaway spots, which is great if you work in a takeaway, I guess. …

About

Edward Powe

London based architectural designer, writer and critic from the Royal College of Art. Interested in Planning and Architecture, old and new.

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