The house that Vans built is 30,000 square feet, cavernous, and deep underneath London. The iconic shoe and clothes retailer recently transformed the Old Vic Tunnels beneath Waterloo Station into “The House of Vans”—a multi-level, subterranean cultural venue complete with galleries, artist studios, a café, two bars, an 85-person music venue, a 160-person cinema, and, of course, a skate park.
On June 26, London’s Serpentine Gallery opened its 14th annual Serpentine Pavilion in Kensington Gardens. Designed by Chilean architect Smiljan Radic, the pavilion is made up of an organically formed semi-transparent fiberglass shell structure perched atop giant boulders sourced from a local quarry. Over the next four months, visitors will be encouraged to interact with the 1,700-square-foot installation, which is occupied by a cafe and multi-purpose event space.
Peeping Toms, bust out the kazoos. Your field day has arrived—and it comes equipped with party favors. The Shard, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, is London’s tallest skyscraper and, as of last week, home to a new luxury hotel. The rooms include breathtaking views of the city—and, thanks to a design flaw, unscrupulous views of unsuspecting neighbors.
Glass panels on the Shard’s exterior bestow the building with a crystalline front and its namesake. But at night, the city’s lights turn the glass into mirrors that fully reflect guest bedrooms into each other. Complementary binoculars (“for the view,” ahem) don’t help matters. Nor do puns about the naked eye. Masking a blush? Rest easy—susceptible rooms include shades for extra privacy.
Work was just finished on the Blackfriars Bridge in London, which is now the largest solar bridge in the world. The renovation of the Victorian-era bridge was part of the larger modernization project for the adjoining Blackfriar’s railway station. The station has been fitted with 4,400 photovoltaic panels, which are expected to reduce the station’s CO2 emissions by an estimated 511 tons (563 tons) per year. Work began in spring 2009 and the station was operationally complete in time for the 2012 Olympics, with the solar array installation complete in March 2013. The full refurbishment of the station is now also complete.
The nearly 20,000-square-feet of new panels are intended to offset about 50% of the station’s energy costs.
Building the Picture
April 30 through September 2014
At the end of April, the National Gallery will present a new exhibit spotlighting the handling of architecture in various paintings by prominent Italian renaissance artists. Building The Picture will feature works by Duccio, Botticelli, Crivelli and others chosen from the museum’s permanent collection along with paintings gathered from other institutions in the U.K. These 14th, 15th, and 16th century images will be complemented by a series of five films that offer contemporary ideas on the theme of real and imagined architecture from Peter Zumthor, filmmaker Martha Fiennes, art historian T. J. Clark, film historian John David Rhodes, and computer game cinematic director Peter Gornstein.
Despite having first dibs on the project, Rafael Viñoly is being forced to hedge his vision for London’s Battersea Power Station redevelopment under pressure from fellow power players Norman Foster and Frank Gehry. Responsible for guiding “Phase III” of the project, the latter pair have rejected the two large structures Mr. Viñoly had initially envisioned lining a raised pedestrian thoroughfare in favor of five smaller structures in an attempt to “humanize the scale.”
Deeming them to be not “appropriate to a world-class institution nor effective in accommodating day-to-day use,” trustees of London’s Museum of Natural History put out a call for redesigns to the grounds surrounding the building. The competition has now reached its second stage, with five firms selected as finalists for the project, though who is responsible for which proposal has yet to be revealed. The winning selection will have to ease access for the museum’s growing number of visitors and create a new civic ground for the city of London.
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A bespoke aluminum building skin transforms an abandoned war bunker into a high-performing boutique hotel.
Restoration hotelier Unlisted Collection recently acquired a historically listed, vacant municipal building in London’s East End that served as a set favorite for film luminaries like David Lynch. The 1910 Edwardian fore building and its utilitarian 1937 addition had served as the town hall of Bethnal Green before World War II. In order to convert the complex into a boutique hotel, Unlisted hired London-based architecture practice Rare and tasked the firm with designing an addition to the existing buildings to add space for more guest rooms and amenities, while unifying the three disparate elements into a single entity. Rare directors and founders Nathalie Rozencwajg and Michel da Costa Gonçalves answered this last charge with an ornamental screen facade that visually ties together the historic and modern buildings while also improving user comfort and environmental performance.
London-based firm Studio Octopi has a vision for a system of swimming pools that would make use of water redirected from the Thames. The proposal comes on the heels of Thames Water‘s controversial plan to revamp the city’s Victorian sewerage system in order to prevent the flow of excess sewage into the river. Octopi developed the project in collaboration with fellow locals Civic Engineers and Jonathan Cook Landscape Architects.
Lord Norman Foster’s pickle-shaped 30 St. Mary Axe building in London, widely known as “the gherkin,” has been featured in an advertisement for a UK chemist that sells erectile dysfunction pills at £6 a pop. The print ad for Lloyds Pharmacy features the interrogative headline “Lost the perk-in your gherkin,” illustrated with a photo-shopped image of a drooping 30 St Mary Axe. The ad goes on to exhort readers not to “let a hard day stop a hard night.”