WORLD ARCHITECTURE DAY 2012

WORLD ARCHITECTURE DAY 2012: LONDON

REVIEW

Opening the day

Looking out over a bleak vista of gunmetal grey skies, Peter Murray opened proceedings with a meditation on his own influences. Listing Marshall McLuhan and Bucky Fuller as key to his development, Murray pondered the role of architecture and how these two figures inform contemporary thought and design. He went on to discuss the theme for World Architecture Day: Architects are city changers. Chosen by the UIA, the initiative builds upon the UN campaign, Better cities, Better lives. Murray outlined the importance of events such as World Architecture Day and encouraged collaboration between architects, so that the issues raised by increasing global populations can be addressed.

Developing relationships

Project Director of Hines, Mark Swetman discussed the importance of the relationship between developers and architects. He stated that it is essential for each party to understand one another's role, so that positive collaboration can be achieved. With many architects and developers in attendance, World Architecture Day is the ideal opportunity for this to take place, he added.

Education - Living room of learning

In the first section of the day, Education, Paul Williams of Stanton Williams talked about the importance of being 'distractible'. He used the term in a positive fashion - to discourage narrow thinking and allow openness to new challenges and divergent interests. This can lead to new experiences and open up spaces for collaboration - a perfect reflection of the aims of the award-winning campus at Central Saint Martins, which the company designed and the venue for the evening's drinks reception. The finished building is robust, flexible and adaptable. This organic form of architecture gives students a sense of space and place in which to create and experiment as they learn. It is important that students have ownership and feel that the space belongs to them so that they can shape their the environment, explained Williams.

Clearly a progressive thinker, Williams argued that it is fear of change that stops architecture evolving. The new campus breaks down the idea of what a building can be. It is spontaneous, fluid, mercurial; in a state of flux and continued becoming. It never aspired to precision or perfection, nor will it ever be finished. It is an open project, into which the students breathe life. The ensuing discussion with Roger Hawkins of Hawkins\Brown focused on new types of non-didactic education and the importance of non-traditional spaces of learning.

Healthcare - A machine for healing

In the second sector of the day, Healthcare, Jean Mah of Perkins+Will spoke about her involvement with the Kenyan Women and Children's Wellness Centre. Located in Nairobi, this environmentally friendly, state-of-the-art facility provides healthcare, counselling and education for victims of violence and abuse. Supported by the Jordan Foundation in Chicago, the site contains a hospital, outpatient clinics, an institute of learning, gender counselling centre and a family hostel, and was the winner of the 2012 WAN AWARDS Healthcare Sector, Future Schemes category.

Bringing modern healthcare to a developing country and evolving a design process that balanced science with the human experience was certainly a challenge. Each section of the village was specifically tailored to Kenya with respect to social customs, local construction practices and environmental concerns, including the use of climate to condition space. The result is a sympathetic, unintimidating and socially responsive building that engenders a sense of place and healing.

For successful healing to take place (not only for the patients and their families, but also the staff), healthcare design must be welcoming, calming and stress-free. Effective, responsive design has a vital role in creating this environment and influencing the health and well-being of the patient. Sunand Prasad of Penoyre & Prasad underlined the relationship between good design and positive patient outcomes. "We are not just designing a building; we are taking part in the way healthcare is delivered," he explained.

It is clear that the future of healthcare will be more personalised, self-directive and consumer-driven. Through the use of technology, patients can take greater control over their own health and consequently elevate the quality of care. How was this underscored in the debate?

Civic pride

In the third sector of the day, Civic buildings, Róisín Heneghan of Heneghan Peng took to the floor to discuss two projects her practice is currently working on: the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and the Visitor Centre at Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland. Successfully conflating the public with the iconic, both designs sensitively integrate with their surroundings without compromising the overall identity of the site. The ensuing discussions reflected on the themes of culture, interaction, memory and the physical characteristics of place, with a particular emphasis on the continuity of civilisation and what we leave for future generations. In an impromptu interjection, Mike Hammond hijacked proceedings to announce the winner of the WAN Civic Buildings Awards 2012. The recipient was the Olympic Velodrome by Hopkins Architects. Fortunately, the practice's partner Chris Bannister was on-hand to receive this coveted accolade.

Urban Design - The regeneration game

Opening the second half of World Architecture Day, Jeremy Dixon of Dixon Jones discussed the pedestrianisation of Exhibition Road. He asserted that the regeneration afforded a strong sense of space for its users and demonstrated a microcosm of how cities function and evolve, wherein the environment responds to natural organic changes and a shifting urban fabric. Hiro Aso of McAslan+Partners also discussed the undeniable success of the King's Cross station project.

The question of how to create flexible spaces that are memorable and nuanced is a constant challenge in regenerating urban spaces. Can design inform the way we use spaces? Dixon believed that the Exhibition Road project created a strong sense of place and liberated the institutions along it. Aso believed that flexibility should not be involved in design - everything should be exact and delineated for a specific reason and function.

Residential - Home truths

Deeming the title of her sector too 'soul-destroying', Vicky Richardson from the British Council rebranded 'Residential' as 'Need and desire', a fitting epithet, since Tanya Kalinina of McAdam Architects later outlined the current housing crisis in Moscow. Julian Weyer of CF Møller Architects went on to adumbrate on the necessity of combining an attractive lifestyle with sustainability, pointing to recent housing projects in Stockholm as successful examples. He touched on adaptive re-use as a possible solution to resilient urban development through the retro-fitting of current buildings to make them more energy efficient and the regeneration of social housing.

Willing and able

Will Alsop's keynote address reflected on his Doodle Bar in Battersea - a vibrant and versatile arts and events space designed for creative innovation, ideas and experimentation. It fed neatly into the launch of World Cities Network, which also focuses on developing infrastructures that create the conditions for growth so that urban spaces can grow organically.

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