Kings Cross, Old Maps & VFX

Recent miscellanea that has caught my attention…

The £547 million Concourse

Western Concourse, King's Cross StationA good critical review (unfortunately not that common these days…) from Hugh Pearman about John McAslan and Partners‘ recently opened Western Concourse at Kings Cross Station in London.

From outside the new concourse has a clamshell look: surprisingly – maybe, given all the heritage attention, deliberately – unspectacular to the point of banality. The drama is all inside.

For another opinion of the project, head over to The Guardian for Rowan Moore’s take. Or browse to McAslan + Parners’ download page and click “Rebuilding King’s Cross: All Change!”.

Old Maps Online

Screenshot of Old Maps Online showing NSWUsing Google Maps as a base, Old Maps Online enables you, via an overlay technique, to compare existing places with those in the past for historical maps dating back to 1551. Instant search results appear related to your location and a date slider bar allows you to fine tune the time period. Another handy site for your online research toolbox. [via The Verge]

Boardwalk Empire VFX

Continuing a loose interest of mine (have a look here) in digital creation of imagined places or reconstruction of historic places, comes a tidy little before/after showreel from Brainstorm Digital who created Atlantic City in the 1920s for the show “Boardwalk Empire“. I always wonder how many ex-architects – some may argue you are never an ex-architect – work in VFX creating/reconstructing these environments. Enjoy! [via The Loop]

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Focus on Contemporary Landscape Architecture

There’s a great collection of contemporary landscape architecture projects in the latest edition (Vol 5, No. 3) of ArchitypeReview. Make sure you head over there and check it out as the photographs are decent in both quantity and quality. Unfortunately there’s no editorial or commentary – just project descriptions by the landscape architecture practices. A grid of nine “iconic” landscape projects are also featured, although mysteriously, they are presented in black and white with no more detail. That aside, ArchtypeReview is still a good resource.

My picks of the curated projects include most of my favourite practicing landscape architects…

James Corner Field Operations

RE-USE… an aerial view of a typical section of The High Line, New York City

Office of James Burnett

URBANE… The Brochstein Pavilion rekindles the spirit of the legendary Dan Kiley

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates

SYSTEMS… bioengineering replicates natural systems at Connecticut Water Treatment Facility

West 8

SURPRISE… it’s the Garden of 10,000 Bridges (well, not literally) in Xi’an, China

Also, don’t miss the less known projects; Underwood Family Sonoran Landscape Laboratory by Ten Eyck, Schandorff Square by Østengen & Bergo and Shanghai Houtan Park by Kongjian Yu.

Google and Ingenhoven: A Match Made in Heaven?

The client architect relationship is a crucial factor in the success of any building. Success, that is, measured by the synthesis of the client’s aspirations (and brief) with the architect’s aspirations (design and resolution) – not fame and popularity. It is a meeting of minds. And it is a rarer event than you might think.

The Google HQ
The existing Googleplex (not designed by Ingenhoven... if it wasn't already obvious)

So with Google commissioning Ingenhoven to design their main campus (aka Googleplex) in Mountain View, there is a high probability, given the respective backgrounds of the two, that the project will be a success. Google is effectively run by engineers — talented and (mostly) wealthy ones — but engineers nonetheless. Being engineers they approach things with a methodical, logical eye. Why else would they have hundreds of great services we use every day that all look they were designed by someone with a very limited ‘design eye’. Perhaps ‘minimal’ would be the most polite way of describing Google web design. Some talented designers (Doug Bowman) have tried over the years… and failed. The entrenched engineering approach is summed up by Google VP Marissa Mayer demanding a study to test 41 shades of blue to find the ‘correct’ one!

So what’s all this to do with architecture?

Having written about Ingenhoven here before, to me it seems like a logical match. He practices architecture with a rational engineering approach particularly in relation to sustainability. That will no doubt suit Google. The project is a first for both Google and Ingenhoven; it is the first building commissioned by Google by an architect and the first American project for Ingenhoven. Not sure if that spells trouble or just a few client-architect teething issues.

…a design process that emulates nature — and not from ornamentation.
(Christoph Ingenhoven)

Perhaps Google and Ingenhoven will be a client-architect match made in heaven. Meanwhile another huge tech company and architect have started dating: Apple and Foster. Only time will tell which relationship works out.

Interview with Adriaan Geuze of West 8

Interview with Adriaan Geuze of West 8

There’s a solid interview with Adriaan Geuze over at Design Observer on the West 8 master plan for Governors Island in New York:

You need to work from your own experience, your inner resources — the ideas and values that you build up over a lifetime. But it is not so easy to talk about these things.

Clearly, he’d rather demonstrate than discuss.

For more details go the Governors Island Park & Public Space website which outlines the design principles. Or have a look below at the wacky montage/renders by West 8 of ‘people enjoying the outdoors’ at the new park.

[Image credits: West 8/Rogers Marvel Architects/Diller Scofidio + Renfro/Mathews Nielsen/Urban Design +]

Christoph Ingenhoven: The Future is Green

Christoph Ingenhoven: The Future is Green

Critical Visions, 2008 RAIA National Conference

Ingenhoven prefaced his keynote by stating that he believes architecture is about surviving and not fashion and so by extension in order to survive the buildings must be energy efficient. So it’s no surprise that he seeks paired down structural systems, integrates landscape elements and assesses all projects against his own environmental criteria. Many of the projects by Ingenhoven Architects presented are rational solutions that employ double skin facades, geothermal, wind, solar and passive energy principles such as natural ventilation and day lighting. Some achieve zero CO² emissions (the Dusseldorf House) and others find the optimum factor between surface and volume (the circular RWE AG Tower in Essen) to minimise material and energy wastage.

The RWE AG Tower, Essen (photo by Sandra Schmechel)
The RWE AG Tower, Essen (photo by Sandra Schmechel)

A group of projects Ingenhoven presented, that could be called the “Atria Projects”, all included a variety of atriums to act as a natural buffer between external and internal spaces. Not only do these atrias provide environmental benefits by filtering air but are also internal landscape spaces for people to view and enjoy away from the climatic extremes. The planning of these large commercial projects is based on a “village concept”, according to Ingenhoven, and the Lufthansa Aviation Centre, 1 Bligh Street (Dexus) Tower and the European Investment Bank (winner of the 2010 Emilio Ambasz Prize for Green Architecture) all take different approaches.

Lufthansa Aviation Centre, Frankfurt
Lufthansa Aviation Centre, Frankfurt
Lufthansa Aviation Centre 'floating' bamboo island atrium
Lufthansa Aviation Centre ‘floating’ bamboo island atrium

Operable facade of the European Investment Bank
Operable facade of the European Investment Bank, Luxembourg

The tower in Sydney (designed in association with Architectus) is a vertical version of the other two horizontal schemes and is an elliptical plan with a core pushed to the rear (south) of the site away from the views and best aspect. A circulation path takes you around the centre of the floor plate and creates a feeling of community as the lifts open onto the atrium. In this case, a night purge system utilises the atrium and a blackwater (sewer) system is used in cooling water for the air conditioning as only 50% natural ventilation is provided – excellent for a tower in Sydney though!

View from Sydney Harbour of the 1 Bligh Street Tower (render)
View from Sydney Harbour of the 1 Bligh Street Tower (render)
The atrium of the 1 Bligh Street Tower (render)
The atrium of the 1 Bligh Street Tower (render)

A project that stood out from the others presented was the Stuttgart Station project. With a 20 year period for realisation, the project provides the missing link in the European high-speed rail network and is the most structurally expressive of Ingenhoven’s projects – probably due in part to his collaboration with Frei Otto. The station structure is a pressure-loaded cone structure with a ring beam that morphs the columns and roof into one element. These elements are like giant eyes that provide natural day lighting and ventilation. Ingenhoven claimed the project did not emit any CO² (part of the ‘zero energy’ target) but the most impressive aspect was the concept of harnessing the (sucking) airstream from the trains to naturally ventilate the station platforms and maintain an operational temperature of between 14-27ºC.

A model section through the platforms at Stuttgart Station
View of the platforms at Stuttgart Station project (click to zoom)
Aerial view of the Stuttgart Station project
Aerial view of the Stuttgart Station project (click to zoom)
Platform view with light eyes providing 14 hours of natural daylight per day
Platform view with giant ‘light eyes’ providing 14 hours of natural daylight per day (click to zoom)

With a typical rationalist approach, Ingenhoven stated that form and design elements of his projects are not predetermined but the result of technical investigations and testing. Not sure if that’s truly the case but for me the synthesis of environmental, structural and architectural elements in Stuttgart Station project transcended this rigid process.

Projects Presented (in order)

  • RWE AG Headquarters, Essen (1997)
  • “Private House D”, Dusseldorf (2005)
  • Main Station, Stuttgart (2015)
  • Lufthansa Aviation Centre, Frankfurt (2006)
  • 1 Bligh Street (Dexus) Tower, Sydney (2011)
  • UCD Gateway, University College, Dublin (2013)
  • European Investment Bank, Luxembourg (2008)

Additional Ingenhoven Resources

Also in this series… Francine Houben, Brigitte Shim, Chris Wilkinson and Billie Tsien