UNESCO Event in Tehran on World Architecture Today

It’s World Architecture Day today! I was asked by Sinan Pakand of University of Tehran if I could participate in an event he’s involved with in conjunction with the UNESCO office in Tehran. I met Sinand about seven years ago when I went to Iran as part of the Architectural Association’s Visiting Schools Programme, and he was one of the students.

I sent this message.

‘I’m proud to be asked to contribute to this most worthy event. I spent only ten days in Tehran in 2011 and it was a truly life-changing experience, to see the city and its buildings, to meet the people taking part in the AA Visiting School Programme and elsewhere. We also some time in Isfahan.

It was inspiring for me as a writer in architecture to have this time in Iran, to get a first-hand glimpse of the breadth of architectural possibility and its power. I always try to use examples from buildings I saw in that time in my lectures now, and in fact I will be doing so this week, telling undergraduate architecture students about  Tehran’s Azadi Tower in relation to city gateways and entrances, and also about the arches used in the structure of the Shah mosque, Isfahan, the maydan and the Masjid-i Imam.

I wish you all success with this event.’

Always great to hear what students are doing, and to be asked to participate is lovely and generous too.

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Uncommon Exhibition

The book Uncommon Building, edited by Honor Gavin and Adam Kaasa, has now been selected to be part of an exhibition Making Space: Art and Architecture on the representation of architecture in art, at University of Derby, 1 August to 22 September. See more from the links below:
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Temple Press and the London Metropolitan Archive

This week, as part of the Lightboxes and Lettering project that Rendezvous Projects is running, we went with our volunteer group for an introductory session at the London Metropolitan Archive. There, we had a really interesting talk and tour of the building by Sally Bevan, the Senior Archivist, telling about the materials the archive holds and some of the processes about how it gets there.

This is the original and very beautiful entrance hall, which we saw as part of the tour. Earlier, we’d been taken into the archive itself and the hugeness of the holdings. Sally talked about them in terms of metres, as in ‘500 metres linear’.

The building was originally built for a printers, Temple Press, which is why it’s so perfect for an archive of this size., having been designed to hold enormous and weighty machinery.

In the late 1970s I used to walk past the gauntlet of , on my way to ‘A’ level classes at Kingsway Princeton FE college. We used to go to the same pub that the Temple Press printers, and I remember making some sort of feminist point by insisting on being there while a stripper was doing her thing at lunchtimes and after class.





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Bristol’s finest

The Emerging show in Bristol was at The Station in Silver Street, featuring work by Rediat Abayneh, who I was visiting and two other interesting artists on the Creative Futures programme, Polly Garnett and Sam Grainger.

Rediat’s work is this fabulous merging of new technologies and representations of ancient civilisations. The exhibition also had a great VR component, one of the only times I’ve seen it used to such great effect. The images depict aspects of her culture and her upbringing that she remembers, such as this one, the grocer checking the eggs before selling them to you, and a fascinating graphic novel series of moments in the process of a betrothal and a wedding.

Later this year, she will be going to Ethiopia to make a film, so watch this space.

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‘Lightboxes and Lettering’ – Rendezvous Projects’ new HLF-funded project

Our Community Interest Company, Rendezvous Projects, has been granted £58,200 by the Heritage Lottery Fund for a project exploring the history of the print industry in east London.

‘Lightboxes and Lettering’ will explore the importance of the industry in the 20th century, including radical and community presses as well as larger commercial businesses, over a year-long project until early 2019. With a group of volunteers working with us, we will  explore the pre-digital era of lithography, silkscreen, letterpress and other processes in Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest, gathering archive material and interviewing current and former print workers. Members of the public will have the opportunity to work with artists responding to the processes and the material we uncover, and the project will culminate with an exhibition, publication and website mapping the changing industry.

This is a clip fromLondon Live, with Lucy Harrison introducing the project.

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Lost and Found at the People’s Palace

I’m delighted to be writing a piece, titled as this post, for the Writingplace journal, which launched following the conference of the same name at TUDelft, back in 2013. This was my presentation title: ‘Ghosts Buildings, Public Places: Re/writing the User Narrative’. At that point my PhD title was about ‘ghost buildings’ but still using Alexandra Palace as the case study.

This is an outline:
‘The people’s palace, Alexandra Palace in north London ((1873; rebuilt 1875, 1988), is alive with voices – redolent with the history of popular entertainment, from music hall to the first HD television transmission in 1936 courtesy of the BBC, a tenant of the Palace. In order to evoke fully its narrative, the writing must be too. Using imaginative and critical writing, historiography and creative non-fiction, this piece demonstrates a method of re/producing place, exploring and exemplifying the use of writing in and as architecture, as a tool in possible regeneration through inscription of its existence in writing inspired by observation, plans and images, first-person accounts, interviews and archive work.’

It’s great to be back in the Palace and thinking about that work after all this time (enough time, by now so that it’s a pleasure rather than a torment to go there again!).

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Roman reflections in Hertfordshire

Or should that be Hertford-chester, given the extent of Roman remains in the area? These are some of the reflections (literal):
This is from the section of mirrored ceiling in the hypocaust at St Albans, close by the Verulamium Museum that houses objects from the city of that name. It’s also the site of recently uncovered Roman remains.
The hypocaust is a pavilion in the park surrounding the museum that houses a mosaic, some of which is visible in the photograph.  It was designed by muf architecture/art in 2004.

Finely crushed oyster shells were used as aggregate, a common practice in ancient Rome and more shells were rolled into the surface. The shells give the exterior a shine and create a textured surface.  The rosette windows were formed by placing rosette-shaped rubber forms in the concrete moulds.

The roof is  planted with sedum, and the roof lifts at either end to form a glazed strip. Mirrored acrylic is fixed to the soffit on the approach side to give glimpses of the mosaic to approaching visitors and allow people inside an inverted reflection of the town.

The Roman remains are themselves astonishing; the hypocaust is itself a wonderful surrounding for it, given a focus inwards and outwards too. Walking across the park towards it is a short but rather wonderful journey in itself.

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