If you walk from our Shoreditch office down Bishopsgate you will find yourself in Londinium, Roman London. The line of Bishopsgate St follows that of Ermine St which was the major Roman road north from London Bridge. Tombs once lined the path as it approached the City, just as they did along the Appian Way in Rome. The essential plan of the City of London was laid out by the Romans when they built their wall around Londinium at the end of the second century, after Boudica and her tribes burnt the settlement. Eighty years earlier, the Romans had constructed a fort where the Barbican stands today and, in their defensive plan, they extended its walls south to the Thames and in an easterly arc that met the river where the Tower of London stands now.
Yet, in the mile between Bishopsgate and the Barbican, very little has survived from the centuries in which stone from the Londinium wall was pillaged for other buildings. It is possible to seek access to some corporate premises with lone fragments marooned in the basement. Or if you visit the London Wall Underground Car Park in EC2 you will bizarrely find a section of Roman Wall lodged in parking place 52. Furthermore this fragment of the wall will alleged be integrated into a private member’s club, The Shower Club… a modern variant on the Roman Baths no doubt.
(Christies Lot 70, Sale 5483, Alberto Burri (1915-1995) Italia 90 offset lithograph in colours, 1990 Estimate: £500-700, by famous Italian mixed-media artist Alberto Burri (1915-1995) for the 1990 World Cup: Italia 90 is one of six versions produced for the 1990 World Cup, each with a different coloured central football pitch placed inside the contrasting black and white colosseum.)
When ‘practice’ (noun) is applied to architecture it suggests ideas of space: work place, office, institution, ethos.
When ‘practise’ (verb) is applied to architecture it suggests ideas of event: repetition, action. If applied to practising architecture, then this proposes that the result will be manifest in something. But what exactly? Is it in building(s) as architects so desperately pursue (even Philip Johnson said architects will design for nothing to get something built). If building was the goal of architecture, our office would then have to refute the ‘paper architecture’ of our founding thesis which researched John Hejduk’s Ten Texan Houses (all unbuilt). The legitimate contemporary expression of architecture is hardly building – Beatriz Colomina has long since opined that the book not the building is the legimate expression of architecture. We understood buildings through books, magazines and so ‘No’ architecture is not building and yet architecture has moved beyond print. So further than the big books (SMLXL and ‘Yes Is More’) to ‘Yes’: Yesterday’s paper architecture is today’s ‘screen architecture’. DeZeen, ArchDaily, Coolhunter are our pages: in digital, on the web, highly accessible and therefore more difficult to find Google withstanding.
Every contract drawing that WHAT_architecture issues features in its title block the rallying call of ‘Life Beyond Buildings’. What does this mean? We have spent a lot of time in the education sector – a nursery begats a school begats a university begats a city. Yet for the architect, SMLXL is not only about scale, but also about career progression. My time in education has a somewhat paradoxical conclusion: by studying in a school, teaching at a school and ultimately designing and building schools I have begrudgingly realised you ‘can teach under a tree’.
Learning is not about space, it is about people. The design of schools ought to be about the subjugation of space to the facilitation of events. Hence Life Without Buildings!
WHAT_architecture likes to ‘play with architecture’ . In doing so we aim to put the fun-back-into functionalism. To enjoy work. The Game of Architecture is played out everyday in the machinations of the press, the egomania of the architect, the contrivedness of predetermined competitions, in the awariding out of seasonal prizes. Yet the casting of architecture as a game to be played can also be strategic, tactical and ultimately rewarding for both player, spectator and society.
The greatest architecture you can make won’t be because you are the greatest architect but because you are the greatest client you will ever have… “there’s only one good client and that is yourself”. “The Parthenon doesn’t haven’t an exterior…. skyscrapers don’t have interiors!” And in response to modern office fluorescent lighting was Johnson’s work station desk lamps: “Homeliness… in the office.” “We don’t tear up our work: we build it.” “Architects are the employers of developers.” “We would do it for nothing if we can eat.”
On Saturday 16 November, 1000s will take to the streets in a global day of action to free the Arctic 30 and there are over 50 events planned in the UK.
28 activists and two freelance journalists were arrested following a peaceful protest against Russian energy giant Gazprom’s Arctic drilling plans. Gazprom and Shell are about to sign an all-important deal that could see the two embark on an Arctic oil rush worth up to half a trillion dollars.
Gazprom were critical to the arrest and detention of the Arctic 30. Shell could use its influence as a key financial partner to help secure the release of our friends, but so far it has stayed silent on the matter. By continuing this silence, Shell is complicit in the ongoing detention of the 30.
On Saturday 16th November 2013, we’ll go to Shell petrol stations across the UK and demand that they speak out against the detention of the Arctic 30. One of those stations is right next door to our office in TransWorld House…
Autostadt / elevator car stacking system