Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Architectural Flamboyance #1

The Roof to the Catholic Chaplaincy Building of The University Of Manchester, Oxford Road.

Architectural Flamboyance will be a weekly update looking at elements of Manchester’s buildings where the architect has been allowed to indulge in a little bit of self expression. It won’t include major architects, it won’t necessarily be about modern buildings, but it will show that the everyday architect can still, and has always been able to, create fresh designs even though the client’s small quantity of money tries to prevents them. No article will accompany the image of the element, it will speak for itself, any knowledge about it will be conveyed, however the buildings on show may have no data regarding them. But perhaps the acknowledgement in these updates will conjure up new data, or just give them the appreciation they require.

Initial Concepts for New MMU Building Revealed

Manchester Metropolitan University's Faculty of Art & Design was recently granted a £30M budget for "an extensive reorganisation of it's estate." Work has already begun on the project with the Chatham Tower currently being refurbished and expected to be completed by September 2010. One of the most significant changes planned is the demolition of the Chatham Undercroft building with a new building planned to open in 2012. Stirling Prize winning architects Feilden Clegg Bradley were recently appointed as architects for the new building and after the initial consultation phase the first images of the new building have been released.

The first images reveal plans to create a new entrance to the tower as well as links to the upper floors by a circulation and atria space. A roof garden can also be seen in one of the visuals and model.

More information on the project can be found at the MMU website here.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Whitworth Art Gallery Shortlist Unveiled

The shortlist for a competition to design an internal overhaul and extension to the beautiful Grade-II listed Whitworth Art Gallery on Oxford Road, Manchester, has been revealed and the biggest surprise is that Zaha Hadid and Feilden Clegg Bradley have missed out. 139 practices had originally expressed an interest in working on the project, from which a longlist of 10 practices were selected for interviews by a jury panel. The full longlist was as follows: Amanda Levete Architects, Dixon Jones, Edward Cullinan Architects, Eric Parry Architects, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, Haworth Tompkins, MUMA, Stanton Williams, Stephenson Bell with Carmody Groake, Zaha Hadid Architects.

Originally the longlist drew attention for being headed up two 'starchitects' both of which are female (Zaha Hadid and Amanda Levete) as well as featuring last year's Stirling Prize winners (Feilden Clegg Bradley) and current nominees for the UK's top Architecture prize (Eric Parry). Local practice Stephenson Bell, whose work has included a reworking of Piccadilly Plaza and the Aeroworks building, had teamed up with Carmody Groake (architects of the 7/7 Memorial in London) and it is unfortunate that they didn't make the shortlist as the 2007 YAYA winners have showed in the few completed projects in their portfolio that they have an ability to craft original and thought provoking buildings. The fact that Feilden Clegg Bradley also didn't make the shortlist is a surprise as they seem to be the darlings of the Universities at the moment, with their new Business School for Manchester Metropolitan University and the new building planned for the Manchester School of Art, not to mentioned muted plans for the soon-to-be-former BBC site on Oxford Road.

The shortlist in the end is comprised of Amanda Levete Architects, Edward Cullinan Architects, Haworth Tompkins, MUMA and Stanton Williams. Amanda Levete perhaps the best known left on the list, famed for her work with the late Jan Kaplicky at Future Systems and brings with her a reputation for pushing the use of new materials in construction and creating iconic forms.

Image above: Amada Levete Architects, Corian Super Surfaces

Each of the shortlisted practices now have until mid-September to work on concept designs for the Gallery before they go on public display in October and a winner is announced in November. Look Up will be following closely as the competition progresses and will bring details of the public display when they are announced.

Zaha Hadid's J S Bach Chamber Music Hall

As part of the Manchester International Festival Zaha Hadid was commissioned to design a music hall with the intention of performing various pieces of the fantastic composer Johann Sebastian Bach’s work. Alex Poots, the director of the festival, invited Hadid to design a space that’s design would evolve from Bach’s music, however Hadid has somewhat deviated from the provided brief and created a concert hall that’s design is not directly affiliated with the composer’s music.

The concert hall transforms an empty box exhibition space into an elaborate kinetic form that natural floats around the room. The form, single line, wraps itself around the audience space, contracting and expanding through the journey it takes through the room. The stage marks the midpoint of the line, here the simple form appears the most sporadic, encapsulating an o perfectly verlap between the single line and itself. Perhaps expressing the complexity of a single line of music. The hall performs beautifully as a stationary structure but also works hand in hand with the music of Bach. The structure is encased in a sharp white fabric, similar to her Burnham Pavilion in Chicago, has a fairly dense aesthetic that disguises the internal elements and adds to the illusion of floating. Hadid’s design isn’t a direct representation of Bach’s music, instead it is a parallel extrusion of the music.

Hadid’s concept of disassociating the design from Bach is similar to Peter Eiseman’s Holocaust memorial in Berlin, the architect insisted his design bare no symbolic message, instead the form would simply evoke an individual response from every visitor. A similar experience you receive upon entering the hall, and to be frank it works. One immediately feels drawn to the space only to discover the music of Bach cascading around the form, proving the the two separate entities work together as one.

Although a temporary installation, this music hall may bare significance in the future of architecture in not just Manchester but the whole of the UK. Hadid has built all over the world, except it wasn’t until 2006 when her first building was built within Britain, bearing in mind she started her London based practice in 1980. So why has it taken so long for Hadid to be recognized within her home country, and why is it that there is now a sudden surge of her work appearing across the UK? Perhaps at last we, as a country, are slowly shedding the traditional architectural skin, and now have begun to embrace a modern age of architecture.

Hadid currently has 2 builds under construction in the UK, first the Museum of Transport in Glasgow, and secondly the most significant, the Aquatics Centre for the London 2012 Olympics. However recent news appeared that she was on a list of Architects asked to submit designs for an extension to Manchester’s own Whitworth Art Gallery, if it is her design chosen Manchester may evolve into an epicenter for deconstructivist architecture, with the likes of Libeskind in Salford. Who knows which architect is next, but which ever way you look at it Hadid’s appearance at this years Manchester International Festival may be the start of something spectacular in Manchester.

By Jack Penford Baker