CONSERVATION OR DESECRATION? THE REMAKING OF LONDON LANDMARKS

When it comes to architecture, are you a modernist or a traditionalist?  Do you side with Norman Foster, creator of London’s ‘Gherkin’, the headquarters of the Swiss Re insurance company, or Prince Charles, the squire of Poundbury, the classically styled model town in Dorset?

The latest battle in the war between modernists and traditionalists is the condemnation (or commendation, depending on your point of view) of ‘Facadism’.  Facadism is about keeping the façade of a (usually historic) building, demolishing everything behind it and building something else in its place.

Some of the more striking examples in London include the National Provincial Bank, Threadneedle Street, and the London Fruit and Wool Exchange, Spitalfields, both of which now look like studio flats in a Hollywood back lot.

Is this conservation or desecration?  Such buildings are the very fabric of our architectural heritage and are presumably protected by a preservation order.  But couldn’t the whole building have been repurposed without demolishing all but a modesty screen for an incongruously mismatched building behind it?

Isn’t this just conservational tokenism on the part of developers and planning authorities – done in the name of expediency, profit and inflated business rates?  Or should we be grateful that any vestige of the original is preserved at all?  When a building is demolished in entirety, it often seems that something less architecturally distinguished is erected in its place.

Is the rise of Facadism an admission of defeat?  An acceptance that quality architecture is a thing of the past?  We mentioned Norman Foster as a proponent of modernism, and love it or loathe it, his ‘Gherkin’ is a stunning example of his style.  As one journalist said about it when it was built: “If at least one scene of the next James Bond film isn’t set there, I’ll eat my hat!”

But actually Norman Foster’s redesign of the British Museum and its new interior courtyard is proof that enhancement of period architecture can by handled sympathetically and well.  The graceful steel and glass canopy of the courtyard both respects the classical architecture of the original building and provides a gentle counterpoint to it.

Whilst we wouldn’t necessarily put ourselves in the same class as Norman Foster, we at SKK believe that a harmonious blend of traditional and modern can be achieved in the restoration and repurposing of period buildings, a policy we have followed in refurbishing our own offices from a former Victorian flour mill.

SUSTAINABLE DESIGN – SIX WAYS TO GROW THE GREEN POUND

From small scale renovations to major construction projects, sustainability has become a significant factor in design, specifying, refurbishment and construction methods.  Thankfully, there are many green options on the market when deciding upon appropriate products and materials, and as architectural designers we at SKK are well placed to advise you on the best options for your project.

BREEAM, based in the UK, is one of the world’s leading sustainability assessment organisations.

A building or development that has attained a BREEAM rating will have enhanced market value.  In the same vein, designing sustainability into your property, no matter its scale, makes financial sense.

Here are six popular and value-enhancing examples of sustainable design:

 

  • Rainwater Harvesting. A straightforward and practical way to reuse nature’s gift.  Services design enables rainwater to be stored and used for WC cisterns, washing machines, irrigation etc.  Retrofitting is an option in many cases.

 

  • Harnessing Solar Energy. Simple to retrofit, the technology has advanced enormously in recent years with the introduction of smaller panels (including direct replacement for roof tiles), reducing supply and fitting costs.

 

  • Green Roofs and Walls. Bring ‘little gardens’ to inner city areas, encouraging more bees, butterflies and plant growth.  Benefits include reduced rain run-off, thermal and noise insulation, and improved air quality.

 

  • Intelligent Lighting Systems. Built-in or retro fitted, these offer a seamless transition from manual to automated control as and when needed.  Energy saving, affordable and wireless. Can be operated from phone or tablet.

 

  • Natural Ventilation. Reduces energy consumption and creates effective ventilation through a system of openings using pressure differences between the inside and outside of the building induced by wind and air temperature.

 

  • Biofuels. Considered to be one of the most efficient sources of electricity, biofuels are fast becoming a viable alternative to fossil fuels.  Increasing numbers of office buildings use biofuels to reduce costs and carbon footprint.

 

To read more about the Most Sustainable Office Buildings in the World click here.

A STYLE BIBLE FOR HOME AND BUSINESS MAKERS

At SKK Design we are passionate about design.  It’s what gets us up in the morning and keeps us in the office late at night.  Whether we are working on an office, restaurant, private residence or retail store we love to create inspiring and innovative designs from clients’ visions.

It’s often said that style is easy to recognise but hard to define.  Well here’s an overview of some of the more popular architectural styles.  Which suits you?

Minimalist

Design Elements: uncluttered, clearly defined shapes and spaces, simple palettes without adornment, concealed services.

Purpose: maximising usable space in an environment that is easy to live within.

 Industrial

Design Elements: An emphasis on visible engineering and functionality often featuring exposed structural members and services.

Purpose: Use of raw materials to provide prestigious yet practical building solutions.

Scandinavian

Design Elements: simple, spare interiors maximising the use of natural light and natural materials, including pale softwoods, statement furniture and rugs.

Purpose: to evoke the feeling of being at one with nature in a calming environment.

Contemporary

Design Elements: a pick and mix of 20th & 21st century styles referencing iconic designs of the past. Favours a neutral palette with clean lines and organic shapes.

Purpose: not to be confused with ‘modern’ but staying true to modern thinking.

Traditional

Design Elements: elegant, of the period, classic detailing and proportions, traditional use of materials and craftsmanship, ornate.

Purpose: grandiose, respectful of history, homely and classy.

Bohemian

Design Elements: a random blend of cultural references, bold and striking in both palette and texture, often with earth coloured hues as a backdrop.

Purpose: to be free of convention, a daring exploration of eclectic style.

Rustic

Design Elements: oversized components, natural materials such as stone, timber and terracotta with natural or aged finishes and simple detailing.

Purpose: to give a sense of simplicity and use timeless rather than modern materials.

To learn more about each design concept and its characteristics keep visiting our website, we’ll be featuring each of these concepts in more detail in our future blogs.