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Find out about buildings and spaces that are inspiring the SLaM project here, and voice your opinions…

Rolex Centre, Lausanne

Japanese Architects, SANAA, have just wont the Pritzker prize for Architecture, the most sought after award in the worldwide architecture firmament. After visiting this building we are all convinced this project has had a lot to do with that. The design won a competition to find a building which would house the library of the university but also act as a social and spiritual heart for this large campus known for delivering scientific and engineering excellence but not encouraging social interaction and cross-fertilisation of programmes and ideas, suffering from a lack of shared or common areas.

The president of the university, the EPFL, described the competition winning design as’a scheme we had never sense before: a building without doors’. It is difficult to describe the spatial experience of the building; it’s enveloping sense does not translate through photograph or film. We were caught by the buildings truly original form and slightly dazed by it’s uniform palate of concrete, carpet and glass. Upon entering, one is immediately overcome with a sense of hush, as if entering a class room or library of old. People are occupying the building, casually sitting at tables, working on laptops, chatting with coffee or even sleeping on bean bags on one of the ‘hills’. There is a sense of dedication, serious study and hard work going on within the playful and spirited architecture.

We were met by a representative of the building who we spoke to at length about it’s inception, design, construction and impending occupation. I was constantly wondering when this chat was going to end and the tour of the building begin, it didnt, and that is the whole point, there is no tour, there is no need for one, the entire building save a few private corner offices is open to the public.

Eye-watering sums were spent to achieve this concrete magnificence; an additional 50 million Euros had to be found from sponsors such as Credit Swiss (there is a branch inside) and Rolex (there are clocks everywhere) to create the ‘hills’ which allow crucial variation in spaces within this single-volume building. The result is a building which we are not quite comfortable with occupying, perhaps we are not quite ready for occupying, perhaps it’s oddity and sculptural form will remain just that… but we did have a sense that some profound shift has occurred in the techtonics of architecture and that the buildings is truly visionary and ‘ahead of it’s time’.

Westminster Academy

Blizard Building, Queen Mary University

Blizard Building diagram:  click to enlarge

By some margin, this has been the highlight of all our building visits thus far.  By SMC Alsop’s standards the Blizard building, part of the Queen Mary, University of London campus, is restrained – at least externally.

The main element of the programme is a single laboratory space, so large it occupies the entire footprint of the site, buried one storey in the ground. Its roof, at grade, is divided into three sections. The first, down Turner Street, is a three storey high space, with ground and first floor galleries around the perimeter, where experiments can be written up whilst looking down into the lab. It is treated as a simple, transparent glass block, enlivened in places by Bruce Mclean-themed artwork.

Inside, Alsop’s flamboyance appears in the form of three suspended blobs – cloud, mushroom and cell – which provide meeting and education facilities. The second section contains a café and lecture theatre. A glazed footbridge links the two elements at first floor. Separating the two is a piazza which features glazing to allow natural light into the lab below.

The most striking thing about the building is how informal the divide between scientist and public feels.  The visual connection of being able to look down into the atrium creates a sense of belonging for the public occupants, and the scientists working in the laboratories have ample amounts of natural daylight to work by.

Coin St. Neighbourhood Centre

The Coin Street Neighbourhood Centre is yet another example of local and global concerns working together.   On the one hand, CSCB is intensely local.   The company was born out of a local campaign to prevent new office buildings from destroying the residential and communal character of the Coin Street area.   Today, its board members have to be local residents.   But by embracing the ethos of sustainable architecture, and promoting other social enterprise initiatives, CSCB are tackling global issues as well.

The neighbourhood centre contains:

Environmentally sustainable features are an integral part of the neighbourhood centre. Incorporated into the striking façade are solar ‘chimneys’ to passively ventilate the building. Other features include solar panels to help and heat water, carefully balanced glazing to ensure optimum shading and light admittance, recycled rain water to flush WCs, lighting that is on only when rooms are in use, and recycling of all paper, glass, plastic and tin.

The neighbourhood centre has been financially supported by the London Development Agency, SRB funds via the Waterloo Project Board, and the Government’s childern’s centre programme through Lambeth and Southwark councils. The majority of costs are being met by Coin Street Community Builders through borrowing against income from commercial activities.

Location:  Lambeth, London, UK

Client:  Coin Street Community Builders

Cost:  £7.2m

Completed:  June 2008

Architect:  Haworth Tompkins

Guys and St. Thomas’ Hospital

The modern St Thomas’ Hospital is located at a site historically known as Stangate in the London Borough of Lambeth. It is directly across the river Thames from the Palace of Westminster on a plot of land largely reclaimed from the river during construction of the Albert Embankment in the late 1860s.

St Thomas’ website manifesto is very indicative of the high quality of patient care they provide:

We have five values that are part of everything we do as an organisation. We will:

  1. Put patients first
  2. Take pride in what we do
  3. Respect others
  4. Strive to be the best
  5. Act with integrity

Location:  Lambeth, London, UK

Client:  NHS

Construction cost: N/A

Completed:  1960’s

Architect:  Yorke Rosenberg and Marshall

Keyworth 2

Keyworth II (working title) will be a new building on Keyworth Street to house the Faculty of Health and Social Care. It will also house the Department of Education and provide facilities for sports and exercise science, some much needed general teaching and conference space and a cafeteria. The building is being created in partnership with the London Strategic Health Authority.

click to enlarge

Location:  Elephant and Castle, London, UK

Client:  London South Bank University

Construction cost: N/A

Completed:  1960’s

Architect:  Yorke Rosenberg and Marshall

Maggie’s Centre

How can a building generate an immediate sense of welcome, serenity and even love on a frantic Hammersmith thoroughfare and in the shadow of a dauntingly huge NHS hospital? RSH’s quietly confident building is unquestionably a haven for those who have been diagnosed with cancer. Their achievement is in having created a completely informal, home-like sanctuary to help patients with cancer.

Conceived as a two-storey pavilion, the architects have sheltered the centre from its harsh surroundings with a thick and cheerful orange masonry wall that also serves as a backdrop for carefully planted tree groves and gardens. Its positive spirit is signalled with a roof canopy that oversails its many intimate internal gardens and courtyards.

-Plan of Maggie’s Centre: click to enlarge

Axonometric diagram of Maggie’s Centre: click to enlarge

Location:  Hammersmith, London, UK

Client:  Maggie’s

Construction cost:  £2.1 m

Completed:  2008

Architect:  Rogers Stirk Harbour+ Partners

Young Vic Theatre

The Young Vic is two things: an idea and a building. Conceived in the 1960s’ spirit of iconoclasm and improvisation, it opened on 11th September 1970 as a place in which younger directors, designers, actors, writers and technicians could present the great works of the world repertoire, classics and, from time to time, new plays in exciting productions and at the lowest possible seat prices.

The ideal proportions of its intimate thrust-stage theatre, built cheaply with a rough, light-industrial feel, reinforced by low prices for unreservable seats, created in concrete a dream of the inclusive, class-free society to which its originators aspired.

Over the last thirty years, the company has established a powerful reputation at home and abroad. In particular, the Young Vic has begun to be recognised as the major theatre in this country in which young directors can develop and practice their art.

Location:  Southwark, London, UK

Client: Young Vic Theatre Co.

Construction cost:  £12.45 m

Completed: September 2006

Architect: Haworth Tompkins

Keyworth 1

Architects BDP have designed a nine-storey building on Keyworth Street, the main thoroughfare through London South Bank University.  The flexible teaching space sits alongside a west-facing glazed hall, which acts as a naturally ventilated buffer, mediating air and light from the hot, bright side of the building.  The hall contains twin wooden towers dedicated to teaching, designed as ‘Romeo & Juliet’ pairings of rooms and terrace balconies, which act as effective informal meeting spaces for students.  At foyer level there is space for exhibitions, lectures and performances, while the roof curve contains studios for the University School of Architecture.

Location:  Southwark, London, UK

Client:  London South Bank University

Construction cost:  £17 m

Completed:  2002

Architect:  BDP


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