Friday, 18 December 2009

Neues Musuem - Berlin

The Neues Museum in Berlin has opened to critical acclaim and the praise it is recieving is all down to the beautiful and painstaking renovation carried out by David Chipperfield Architects, in collaboration with conservation specialists Julian Harrap. The museum was designed by Friedrich August Steuler and built between 1841 and 1849. It's structure and contents were sensational at the time, the incredibly lightweight structure used the latest technology and was very innovative. The museum was damaged in 2 bombing raids during the Second World War and was left as a ruin in East Berlin. It was only after the Berlin wall was removed that any care was taken of the building and in 1997 David Chipperfield won the competition to rebuild it. This was not without controversy as many felt that such an important German building should not be left in the hands of a British Architect. There was also many differing opinions about the fate of the building, many wanted it restored to it's original design while others thought it should be replaced with a modernist structure. Chipperfield has not gone for either of these options but has managed to retain the buildings integrity by restoring original art work whilst also adding modern alterations.

The Ruined Building

The new central staircase and main hub of the museum. The staircase has caused a lot of controversy because of it's bold form and use of concrete. When describing the design on their website the architects say that "the new reflects the lost without imitating it". I think this has been successful, the stair has enhanced the original space and the scale, proportion and symmetry of the intervention echoes the past design without becoming a copy.

Restored Frescoes. When restoring the building the Architects worked to the principles set out in the Venice Charter and respected the historical structure in its different states of preservation. As you can see from the image above any damage to the fresco has been carefully restored with modern materials but no attempt at recreating the original artwork has been made. The damage to the building and its past as a ruin is clearly visible.

Modern alterations are bold yet simple and reflect the buildings grandeur.

Damage to Columns. This image shows how the damage to the building has been left exposed and not covered by new plaster or brickwork.

Restored Ceiling. Another example of the restoration approach used throughout the building.

The layering of old and new is what makes this building so interesting. If you knew nothing of the museums history you would still understand the spaces and be able to read its tumultuous past through the fabric of the building. The craftsmanship and the quality of the architectural detailing shines through and provides a stunning backdrop for the pieces on show as well as being artwork in their own right. Each room has been treated individually but yet they all come together to form a series of coherent spaces which are clearly legible. The modern additions are not over bearing or intrusive, although they are typical of Chipperfield's style they have been clearly considered and designed with the history of the building in mind.

New V&A Day-Lit Gallery - Construction Images

The images below are all from an article on BD Online about the MUMA Refurbishment of the V&A's Medieval and Renaissance Galleries, focusing on the creation of a new day-lit space between 2 buildings.

This was the existing lightwell which was only discovered after MUMA had been appointed to do the refurbishment. The project was initially much smaller but on discovery of this lightwell MUMA proposed a more ambitious project which was backed by the museum.

This is a visualisation of the space by MUMA. I like the almost ghostly quality of the image and the way light is represented.

The glass roof under construction. The roof cost 1.1 million and was an engineering challenge. It sits 14m above floor level and 73 glass beams span between the 2 buildings. The roof undulates as the pitch and length of the beams change, the roof slope varies between 19 and 39 degrees.

The glass beams appear to disappear into the brickwork, there are no obvious connections to distract the eye and the roof appears to float.

V&A Medieval and Renaissance Galleries

The newly refurbished Medieval and Renaissance Galleries have just opened at the V&A Museum in South Kensington. The architects were MUMA (McInnes Usher McKnight), a young architecture practice based in London. The refurbishment has taken 7 years to complete and includes the entire south east wing of the museum as well as a new day-lit gallery in the space between 2 buildings. I visited the galleries briefly on Tuesday and hope to return to spend some more time photographing the new alterations on Monday. Below are a few snaps I took on my first visit:

The New Central Staircase

The Bonita Trust Study Area

Staircase to the New Day-lit Gallery

New Glass Roof


The refurbishment of the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries is just one part of the V&A's larger Future Plan. The aim of Future Plan is to bring the V&A into the 21st century, improving facilities, such as the cafe which was also refurbished by MUMA and completed in 2006, galleries, including Ceramics (Stanton Williams) and Jewellery (Eva Jiricna Architects Ltd), and also new contemporary exhibition space by Block Architecture. The Medieval and Renaissance Galleries form a large part of this plan and have improved circulation throughout the building by introducing a central staircase and lift which for the first time links all 6 levels of the museum. I think my favourite part of the refurbishment is the new day-lit gallery which uses the previously wasted space between 2 buildings. A glass roof has been added to make the space internal but the history of the space is very clear and easily read. The curved wall of the adjacent gallery has been used to create a seating space to admire the large scale pieces on display. These include a facade of a building which survived the Great Fire of London and a spiral staircase.

I think the refurbishment is succesful and the new displays are beautifully designed (also my MUMA), the lighting scheme is particularly interesting and lighting has been used throughout the galleries to create different atmospheres. The new alterations are obvious and do not try to blend in with the existing building or to compete with it. The subtle use of modern materials; including polished concrete, glass and steel, has created a contemporary space which complements the existing architecture.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Derelict London

Derelict London is a website set up by Paul Talling as a photographic portrait of a different side of London. It is a collection of images of derelict or ruined buildings throughout London; some people have also contributed memories of the buildings or pleas to save them from demolition. Derelict London is also now a book. It is a fascinating record of these buildings and areas of London where regeneration has yet to take effect or that have simply been forgotten. It also provides a different view of the city that we are so used to seeing and brings to light the plight of some of these wonderful buildings. All his images are copyrighted so I couldn't include any on the blog but please visit his website, there is a lot of inspiration for sites!

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Cambridge Science Park

This is a project that I did whilst working for Aros Architects that has just completed. I was involved with designing and detailing the reception, atrium and common parts refurbishment. The reception scheme involved new flooring, lighting and soft seating as well as a new reception desk and decorative panel which is made from transparent fins coated in dichroic film. The images below are courtesy of Collins Construction and Aros Architects.

Quay 2c

Yesterday we went on a studio visit to Quay 2c which is a multi disciplinary practice based in Peckham. The practice was set up by Ken Taylor and Julia Manheim. They live and work in Quay House which was the project they set the studio up around. It was once a milk depot and industrial site with a one storey traditional shed structure and milk yard, they got planning permission for a much larger dwelling which mirrors the proportions of the semi detached period properties on the rest of the road. They were inspired by the seaside and aimed to use as much of the existing structure as possible. Throughout the building you can see evidence of materials being recycled and original structure being retained. They lived in the building during all the work and budget was a key issue.

Spaces and Narrations Crit

The week before the crit went very quickly but I was happy with what I achieved in the time and spent Thursday afternoon pinning up and preparing for Friday so I felt quite relaxed when it came to presenting my work. I did continue with the exhibition theme deciding to make it an exhibition about memory and the history of the everyday. Below is what I presented:

The large fireplace piece was the part I was happiest with. The wax casts were also quite successful when the main studio lights were turned off. If I had more time I would have improved the way that I made and presented some of the work but considering the time span of the project I was pleased with how it turned out. The feedback I got was good and I thought the way the crits were structured by Robin and Pete was excellent as it meant that we did not run over our allotted time and everyone got a chance to discuss the work being presented. The feedback sheets were also very helpful in focusing our presentations and recording the group discussions. There was a lot of interesting work up in the studio and it was really nice to see what everyone had been making. I was really impressed with the scale of some of the work and the quality of what people had made. There was also a lot of variety in what people presented which made it interesting to watch.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Group Tutorial

Today we had a group tutorial with Pete and Ken. Our work had to be pinned up on the wall for discussion by 10 am. I spent quite a long time this week mounting and presenting my work in preperation for next weeks crit, I also experimented with the idea of mounting some of my work like museum pieces. Below is an image of the work I pinned up:

The tutorial went well and I got some very usefull feedback which included ideas about how to present the work next week. I have decided to present the work as a museum 'exhibition'. As part of the brief we had to write a 300 word text to accompany our 2D and 3D outcomes, my text is going to be in the form of an exhibition guide. I am happy with this idea and think that it will fulfill the brief and help me to explore my research concerns in greater detail. It was decided that the centre piece of the exhibition would be a larger mold of the fireplace assembled on the wall of the gallery with a selection of wax casts that I will light from behind to make them appear almost ghostly. These 3D outcomes will the presented along with my initial set of photographs of the house. I am now setting up a layout for my exhibition guide and trying to think of some names.

Thursday, 12 November 2009


Yesterday I made a new mold of an exposed brick fireplace surround. The bricks are in the proccess of being stripped back and still have a layer of very old cream paint on them. I wasn't sure how this mold was going to work as some of the brick had been filled in and some was very damaged. The mold did not come off in one piece, it broke where the brick was damaged but you can clearly see where a concrete filler has been used and where there is paint on the bricks:

I left this mold in a warm place to dry and photographed it every half an hour. The weather was very bad and the light went quite early so several of the later photos are taken under artificial light. I then put these photographs onto a timeline to map the drying process:

Experimenting with Molding

My first molds were just impressions in plasticine, the plasticine picked up the detail of the surfaces well and picked up some dust and paint but it did not really give any feeling for the space:

After attending an introduction to the workshop I became interested in using alginate, a natural molding material used by dentists to take impressions of patients teeth. It is a completely natural and non harmful method of molding and is often used for casting body parts for prosthetics. My first mold was of a cast iron fireplace. The mold did not come off in one piece as it stuck to the paint on the fireplace and in some places has pulled off the paint altogether. I left the mold on a sheet of paper after photographing it and noticed that within a few hours it had started to dry out and curl up. This is an image of the mold after I first removed it from the fireplace and also when it had dried:

I continued to experiment with molding different areas of the house, some were more successful than others. I think the wood carving worked best as the mold stayed in one piece and picked up all the detail but I think the ones that have fallen apart and picked up some of paint and dust are the more interesting:

I would like to document the proccess of the molds drying and try to capture an element of time passing. I also want to try casting one of the molds and am thinking about using wax to do this. At my tutorial we also discussed using film or audio to add another dimension to the molds, I haven't decided exactly how I want to do this yet but I like the idea of recording the sounds of the house.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Spaces, Narrations and Representations

Introductory Project Weeks 1-6 The brief for this project was to collect 5 references which relate to our research concerns and represent spatial sequences in different media. The references were:

1. A short spatial sequence from a film
2. A spatial sequence from a novel or book (max 300 words)
3. An architectural sequence from a building we have visited.
4. A painting, abstract of figurative that establishes a relationship between the spectator and the virtual space of the painting.
5.A spatial sequence from a piece of sculpture or installation art.

We spent the first week of the project discussing our research concerns in small groups and had to come up with 6 words that described our ideas. My 6 words were: alteration, intervention, evolution, ownership, context and memory

I have quite clear ideas about what I want to research and explore during the year so found it quite easy to pick my words and find my examples. I am interested in the evolution of our built environment; the disused and forgotten spaces within cities and our treatment of historic buildings. With these ideas in mind I quickly decided on a piece of sculpture: after researching the artist my ideas developed and I found a piece a piece of text in a novel and a film sequence. The architectural sequence was inspired my a building I had visited whilst on holiday in the summer and the painting by the Turner Prize exhibition at the Tate Britain.

My final 5 references were:

1. Scene 1, The Old Steel Works from 'The Full Monty' by Peter Cattaneo.

2. Time Passes from The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf:

" Nothing stirred in the drawing-room or in the dining-room or on the staircase. Only through the rusty hinges and swollen sea-moistened woodwork certain airs, detached from the body of the wind (the house was ramshackle after all) crept round corners and ventured indoors. Almost one might imagine them, as they entered the drawing-room, questioning and wondering, toying with the flap of hanging wallpaper, asking, would it hang much longer, when would it fall? Then smoothly brushing the walls, they passed on musingly as if asking the red and yellow roses on the wallpaper whether they would fade and questioning (gently, for there was time at their disposal) the torn letters in the wastepaper basket, the flowers, the books, all of which were now open to them and asking: Were they allies? Were they enemies? How long would they endure?"

3. The Danish Jewish Museum by Daniel Libeskind.

4. Richard Wright - No Title, Installation from the Gagosian Gallery NY 2005

5. House by Rachel Whiteread, London 1993

After finding our 5 examples we then had to use them to create a spatial sequence of our own in both a 2D and 3D format. It was quite a difficult leap to move from analysing the references to creating our own piece of work and I initially found it difficult to see where I could go with my idea. After some group discussions and further research I decided to look at the idea of negative space and casting, this was mainly influenced by my sculpture reference; House by Rachel Whiteread. I still did not know what I wanted to cast though but decided to buy some plastacine and experiment with it in my own house. This led to a series of 3 small impressions of a fireplace surround, wooden carving and a brick pattern. I liked the impressions so much I decided to photograph some of the more interesting and unusual parts of the house and presented the images with the impressions at a tutorial.

The tutorial went well and after discussing the ideas with Ken (course director) I decided to continue using my house as a subject for the project. I moved from London into the house in Epsom, Surrey in August and it is currently being refurbished. It is a grade 2 listed Georgian cottage (built around 1660) with a later Victorian extention which used to be a shop but is now part of the house. All the alterations over the years have a created a rich history which is very visable throughout the building. It is these memories which I would like to capture through my molding.