Jean Nouvel has been chosen to design this year's Serpentine Pavillion. The bright-red structure, to be made from steel, glass, plastic and fabric, will feature table tennis tables and an auditorium. It stands out from the schemes of the last few years which tended to be under-stated. The bright-red colour in particular is a nice touch, we've had enough modest white pavilions.
The recently completed Le Gray Hotel in Beirut is the last project I worked on with Kevin Dash. It is operated by Gordon Campbell Gray, who's behind the One Aldwych and several other high-end hotels. The hotel is in a conservation area with very strict guidelines governing the exterior appearance of the building down to materials, details and massing. The hotel takes its cues from UFA building next door, matching the facade lines and providing a modern interpretation of the older building allowing the building from outside to fit within the urban context.
The story is different on the inside, a large conical atrium creates a large internal space topped by a 'lantern', a suspended timber and glass cylinder housing a bar on the last floor. The atrium lines are defined by closely-stacked timber shelves giving it an abstract quality. The top floor provides generous roof terraces covered by a radial timber structure and provides the special spaces within the hotel. There is a restaurant, two bars, a gym, and a delicately-detailed swimming pool with an infinity edge looking towards the sea. The glass detailing allows for continuity between the internal and external spaces which the over-hanging roof emphasizes.
Towards the back, the hotel faces the 'Garden of Forgiveness', which is yet to materialise, revealing more of the 'lantern' and the roof structure. On the east side, the hotel overlooks Martyrs' Square and on the west it can be seen through the denser arrangement of French mandate-era buildings around Place d'Étoile. Together with the other buildings that I worked on with Kevin Dash in the SOLIDERE, Banque Audi Plaza and the Gold Souks, it's one of the more successful attempts at integrating the building within the urban context while animating the interior with bold spatial moves.
I took those pictures back in November when the hotel was almost complete, the landscaping around is still missing and somebody has stuck an extra mechanical room on top of the east facade because these things just happen in Beirut.
A great tool has been launched by Hayes Davidson one of the leading visualisation firms in the UK, it lets you design your own London skyline. It does have some limitations because you can only use existing designs, but still great fun. So what did I decide to do with it? Of course, put the Burj Dubai in London. That immediately shows you how modest the buidlings that are considered tall in London are by comparison. I tried lpacing it within the City of London (above) and Canary Wharf (Below) and I think it looks great in both cases. I guess we need about 3 in London. What don't you try doing your own?
My first reaction was that the building looks more like a dumpling than a beacon of democracy, but on further reflection, it looks like it's been designed by Apple. Welcome to the new iEmbassy!
The proposals for the new American Embassy building in London were unveiled yesterday. The new building intended for a site close to the River Thames in Wandsworth will replace the Eero Saarinen embassy in Grosvenor Square which has been bought by the Qatari government. The scheme was designed by the Philadelphia-based practice Kieran Timberlak, with security being one of the main drivers of the design. The building, a 12-storey glass cube sits within a 30m blast zones and is enclosed by a moat on one side. I hope they have provided some sheltered space outside for those long hours I will spend in the rain waiting to be interviewed for a visa... The first Obambassy to be commissioned, apparently it is intended to project a different image of America. As far as I can tell, it is an apt monument to the age of risk assessments. Although I hear that Richard Rogers didn't like it, so I might reconsider. More to follow..
WORLDwrite are doing an excellent job as usual, their latest WORLDbytes endeavour takes them to India, the first installment is available to watch online entitled Man-made Mumbai. The brilliant SadhviSharma takes the crew around introducing them to the wonderful developments taking place in Mumbai. The sheer ingenuity and energy of Mumbai is astounding, this is where the future is.
In the first episode, Sadhvi goes to a shopping mall and interviews people who all seem to be in favour of shopping malls. This, unsurprisingly, goes against the prevailing western prejudices against shopping malls and 'consumerism', the catch-all phrase used to demonise material affluence. The programme got negative comments making precisely this moralistic critique without attempting to understand the importance of a modern retail network for India and the aspiration of its people. Some people are happy to see Indians living as poor peasants and maintain a romantic view of poverty.
I listened to Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party, announce this morning on the Today programme her party's expectation of a breakthrough in the next general elections. In response to John Humphrys suggestion that her party might lose out as a result of the public'sscepticism about climate change because of Climategate and recent revelations, Lucas claimed that the Green Party "has always been about both social and environmental justice" and is not a single-issue party. What? I thought the clue was in the name. Going for a bit of Red to spice up the Green brand, are we Caroline?
This is a historic day for mankind, a new era in the story of skyscrapers begins with the completion of Burj Dubai expected to be around 818 meters tall. It is almost a kilometer long of flats, offices, hotels and commercial space breaking every single record and in the process pushing construction technology to new realms. Rather than celebrate this achievement, most critics have treated this as an opportunity to kick Dubai while it suffers from a serious financial crisis, spewing all kinds of venom against its ambition and desire to push the boundaries. It is no surprise that these poisonous attacks are coated in the language of environmental concerns and social justice, we have become accustomed by now to this type of low-aspiration and reactionary critique masquerading as progressive thought. But those sour grapes should remember that history is not written instantly no matter how hard they wish Dubai to fail monumentally. If anyone had written New York off in the 30s and predicted that the depression meant its end, they would have been completely wrong. The city prospered again, and so will Dubai.
كارل شرو كاتب و معماري لبناني مقيم في لندن.
Karl Sharro is a Lebanese - Iraqi architect and writer based in London. He is Senior Associate Partner at PLP Architecture and co-foudner of ManTowNHuman: Manifesto towards a New Humanism in Architecture