Interesting times these for London architecture. While eyes remain transfixed by Lord Richnorm Rogfoster’s kiss-my-glass office spaces, and ears prick at the frustrated shriek of a dozen would-be skyscrapers unable to move from blueprint to footprint, a quiet revolution seems to be going on at grassroots.
The world of architecture is opening up to us all.
It begins, for many, with Open House weekend. Those glorious two days in September when London unbolts its private buildings for all to explore, at no charge. The queues get longer every year.
That groundswell of interest was recently given a permanent locus with the opening of the Building Centre’s New London Architecture exhibition. Again, it’s free, and worth visiting regularly thanks to changing displays, and the showpiece scale model of London.
And to keep the momentum going, each week Time Out lists a small pack of public lectures and exhibitions, usually free and often well attended.
Amidst this fresh interest comes a new generation of architects who want their creations to be interesting yet people-friendly. At their vanguard is David Adjaye, whose cutting-edge designs have been popping up all over London, though particularly in the East End.
His most famous contribution is the Idea Store, which not only sets new benchmarks of building design, but also invents a tartan for the 21st century. The Idea Store is one of a series of bright, bold new buildings across Tower Hamlets that sex-up the concept of going to the library.
This and other works by Adjaye are being showcased at a new exhibition in the nearby Whitechapel Art Gallery.
Models, drawings and films show the evolution of ten major public buildings, focusing on areas of learning, community, contemporary art and housing. They include the 2005 Venice Biennale pavilion, the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo and the new Idea Stores in East London.
All good stuff, and we’re going to make sure we pay a visit before March 26, when the exhibition closes.
Rising star though he is, one thing that does not set Adjaye apart from his peers is his practice’s web site. It’s full of the usual flash frames and limited information that blight his profession’s cyber-presence. Perhaps that’s a good thing. It means you have to go and ‘engage’ with his buildings in person if you want to find out more.