Icon’s picks: London Festival of Architecture 02.06.14

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Thomas Heatherwick's proposal for a garden bridge over the Thames (image: Arup)

Thomas Heatherwick, Studio Weave and AHMM are among the big names holding talks and events during the London Festival of Architecture this month (1-30 June)

Now in its tenth year, the London Festival of Architecture kicked off yesterday (Sunday, 1 June) for a month-long programme of talks, exhibitions, events, tours and open studios, based this year around the theme “Capital” – exploring various manifestations of London, from its place as a seat of government to the politics of regeneration. Here are some of the highlights.


Today (2 June) at 6.30pm, journalist Simon Jenkins, academic Tony Travers, director of research institute Create Streets Nicholas Boys Smith, programme director of the World Architecture Festival Paul Finch, architecture critic Rowan Moore and London Assembly planning committee chair Nicky Gavron will debate whether London needs more tall buildings.

The Israeli-Canadian architect and urbanist Moshe Safdie, who came to global attention with his groundbreaking Habitat 67 project, is among the big-name architects speaking at the festival this year. On 5 June, he will discuss his career and "humane urbanism" with the BBC's Razia Iqbal at the RIBA, as well as taking questions from the audience.

On 9 June, author and psychogeographer Will Self will appear at Kings Place to give a talk entitled When Liquid turns to Solid: the Spatialisation of Capital Flows in 21st Century London, while Design Museum director Deyan Sudjic will be joined by Designs of the Year nominees Kunlé Adeyemi of NLÉ and Alison Brooks of Alison Brooks Architects on 16 June to discuss the challenges of navigating densely populated areas and getting the public concerned about architecture.

Francine Houben of Mecanoo Architects, which has recently been appointed to design a £200m engineering campus at the University of Manchester, will be in conversation with Razia Iqbal at the RIBA on 17 June. And on 26 June, in their first joint public talk, architect Thomas Heatherwick and garden designer Dan Pearson will outline their vision for a garden bridge over the Thames to actress and campaigner Joanna Lumley.


The always-anticipated Serpentine pavilion, this time by Chilean architect Smiljan Radic, will open to the public for the fourteenth time on 26 June. His pavilion is a semi-translucent, cylindrical structure, designed to resemble a shell, resting on quarry stones.

Meanwhile, in Bedford Square, Chilean-German practice GUN Architects has created Rainforest, a pavilion comprising a 5m-high micro-climate of minimal tree-like structures with a field of pyramidal fabric "stalactites" that gently drip water.

At Siobhan Davies' dance studio, landscape designer and sculptor Daniel Lobb has built a large-scale internal water cycle that extracts the humidity generated from the sweat and breath of the dancers to sustain plant colonies in a suspended copper rill.

At the Museum of London, Gruppe has created House of Muses, a place for contemplation about what a museum should be.


On 18 June, you can enjoy a "discursive, panoramic picnic" on Studio Weave's roof garden on top of the London College of Fashion, with London building-themed food such as Gherkins and Cheesegraters incorporated into the design. The roof garden itself will be open from 12 to 30 June and host a series of events.

Abandoned Land: Sharp Continent, an exhibition by Philip Reeves and Jim Woodall at Vitrine in Bermondsey Square, will explore the ambiguity of utopian thinking in architecture and question the spatial limitations of virtual space (13 to 29 June).

The People's Salon – with LSE sociology professor Richard Sennett and Charles Holland, formerly of FAT, opening the discussion – takes place on 2 June, and will look at the discursive distance between the public and urban designers.

On 11 June at Kings Place, Saint Etienne will present its new film, How We Used To Live, depicting the post-war rebuilding of London through to the onset of Thatcherism.

Tapping into the current British interest in all things Scandinavian, the Danish embassy will hold several events, including talks about Arne Jacobdon, CF Moller and urban planning and an exhibition about contemporary Danish architecture.

Open studios

More than 20 new and established architecture practices will open their studios to the public during the festival, with a tour through Shoreditch and Clerkenwell on 5 June providing an opportunity to visit several in one go.

Among these, AHMM will unveil its new offices – which it says are in one of the highest BREEAM-assessed buildings in London – for workshop demonstrations and a studio display of models, drawings and films; Ash Sakula will host a series of talks over breakfast or camparis; and Tate Hindle will host a small exhibition exploring the essence of creating new places, through video, photography and models.

On 4 June, John McAslan + Partners will present three case studies that each address the needs of their very different local communities – a school in Malawi, the newly completed amphitheatre at the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Rwanda and the practice’s new N17 Design Studio in Tottenham.

And, on 21 June in Dalston, Levitt Bernstein will create at "Pocket Parklet", transforming eight parking spaces for one day – with seed swaps, bird house building and tips to improve your green space.

London Festival of Architecture runs from 1 to 30 June. Check its website for more detailed, comprehensive and up-to-date listings: http://www.londonfestivalofarchitecture.org/



Debika Ray

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The always-anticipated Serpentine pavilion, this time by Chilean architect Smiljan Radic, will open to the public for the fourteenth time on 26 June

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