Building temples for atheists? Reflections on a new building type

Alain de Botton’s latest book “Religion for Atheists” was published this week alongside a big media campaign with graphically stunning posters and the seemingly simple question ‘Even if religion isn’t true, can’t we enjoy the best bits? What I find interesting is the connection of a philosophical and maybe political question to an architectural statement.…

Westminster as a Workplace

As part of ‘Workplace Week‘ I had the rare opportunity to visit Westminster Palace and see it through the eyes of a Facilities Manager, which was highly fascinating and intriguing. Andrew, Head of Facilities for the Parliamentary Estate guided us through Portcullis House, the building on the Embankment, where all MP’s have their offices, and…

What makes a school a school, a church a church and a shop a shop? Thoughts on building typology.

Inspired by the start of term at UCL, a new great cohort of students to teach and interact with, and the new module that I teach (‘Buildings, Organisations, Networks’ in the MSc ‘Advanced Architectural Studies’ – now called ‘Spatial Design: Architecture and Cities’), I have recently thought a lot about building typologies. So in essence,…

Inside the Gherkin – On top of the World?

Last week I had the unexpected chance to get myself inside one of London’s most iconic buildings: 30 St Mary Axe, Headquarter of Swiss Re, also known as the ‘Gherkin’. Built by Norman Foster at the turn of the century using parametric design and thus a novel technological approach, this building has seen both praise…

London Open House 2: The Bridge Academy

Schools are interesting as a building type for a variety of reasons: they have a clear function, i.e. accommodating children and organising teaching and learning; there are clear temporal patterns in usage and stark differences between classroom activities and the times before, after and in between; and the interface of schools is complex, too, in…

The Secret Life of Buildings

Or: The Good, The Bad and The Shiny. Channel 4’s series on ‘The Secret Life of Buildings‘, broadcast in August 2011 is a fascinating inquiry into the way buildings affect people. Three episodes on our homes, our workplaces and places of leisure looked at examples of good design and bad design. I can whole-heartedly approve…

The big hole

Or: Why buildings with voids in the middle are bad design choices. Apple’s plan for a new campus in Cupertino has received a lot of attention in the media and architecture world, most of it awestruck and full of praise, reproducing the same glittering images of a new iconic building. The project is not only…

Palace of Justice Brussels

VISITING THE PALACE OF JUSTICE, BRUSSELS Ever since reading about the fact that defendants keep escaping justice by being able to flee from the Palace of Justice in Brussels (for example in a NY Times article in 2009), I was curious to visit the building. Being in Brussels for a conference in April 2010 meant I could…