Friday, 29 June 2012

feature : A Moveable Theatre

drawing thanks to : beardofavon

The recently discovered remains of the Curtain Theatre got me thinking about the first London playhouse associated with Shakespeare, The Theatre, situated a couple of hundred yards up Curtain Road, Shoreditch.  It had got me thinking about it mainly because The Theatre had become, due to circumstance, the first moveable theatre.


Built in 1576, a year before The Curtain, The Theatre is thought to be the first playhouse built solely for theatrical productions (as opposed to bear-baiting), and Shakespeare became associated with it in 1594.  He’d become playwright and actor for the Chamberlain’s Men, the company of Richard Burbage, the greatest actor of the day, and son of the builder of The Theatre, James Burbage.


But by 1597 Giles Allen, The Theatre’s puritan landlord, started to disapprove of the productions of the Chamberlain’s Men, forcing them to move down the road to The Curtain......but only temporarily.  James Burbage had died the same year, leaving Richard and his actor brother Cuthbert the soon-to-expire lease on the now-deserted playhouse.  But Allen wasn’t interested in extending the lease, being intent upon pulling the playhouse down and building a new property.  However, a clause in the lease gave the Burbages the perfect solution to this theatrical impasse, making them early architectural recyclers in the process. 


On a bitter night at the end of December 1598, just before the expiry of the lease, the brothers, with the help of master carpenter Peter Street and twelve able men, knocked out the dowels that held The Theatre’s oak post and beam joints together, and dismantled the structure.


The timbers and materials were stored at Peter Street’s yard until spring 1599, then ferried over the Thames to Bankside where they were reconstructed, this time into the greatest playhouse of the day: The Globe.


 by Richard Woollen, guest author

Richard Burbage (1568 – 1619)

image thanks to : wikipedia


photo thanks to : mymuseumoflondon


A team of archaeologists from the Museum of London have rediscovered the theatre's original footings.

photo thanks to : abc


image thanks to : gallery


The Globe

photo thanks to : greatgorillarun

Thursday, 21 June 2012

feature : Euro 2012 Football Stadiums

photo thanks to : inbedwithmaradona

Poland and Ukraine are not your usual candidates for good architecture. Sure, there’s loads of tradition and history, but the newer buildings are few and far between and even then rarely make it to any top 10 lists.

And then there was the Euro 2012 and all eyes on the joint host countries. If I am honest, expectation of anything with any credibility was low. To my surprise they have not entirely disappointed.

In all there are 8 stadiums – four in each country. Five of the eight are brand new, whilst 3 were major reconstructions.

To their credit they were all completed on time and generally follow a typical tried and tested construction method and form. The spectators seem happy enough, but this is a far cry from Italia ’90 where we were treated to some of the most iconic football stadium design ever seen – “cathedrals to soccer”.

The recession has no doubt something to do with it, but more realistically it is the mindset of those in charge. What a missed opportunity !

Fortunately there is one that stands out for me. It is not the biggest, not the most expensive and will not even host the knockout phases of the tournament. It will certainly not be seen with fireworks shooting out of an over-engineered exo-skeletal frame either. My choice is the Municipal Stadium in Wroclaw, Poland, and I like it because it is understated.

Designed in the shape of a giant paper lantern by JSK Architects and completed by September 2011, the outer walls are covered by a transparent, glass fibre mesh coated with Teflon and can be internally illuminated depending who is playing there. Steel rings around the perimeter have given rise to its nickname, Stadium-Lantern. At a rather modest cost of only Euro 170 M, half of the spend on the other stadiums, the money saved could have been used on building more accommodation for the spectators, but that is another story . . .

by Darren Maddison

photos thanks to : duniabola

photo thanks to : escapetopoland

Monday, 11 June 2012

feature : Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012 by Herzog & De Meuron and Ai Weiwei

This year’s Serpentine Gallery Pavilion has been designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron and the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei  - a partnership that famously brought us the Beijing National Stadium, aka the Bird’s Nest.

In a year that coincidentally brings the Olympics from China to London, the resulting structure is pleasantly surprising. Like all good design it is one simple idea that captures people’s imagination. This one is a story of respect, retracing the footprints of those 11 pavilions that went before.

Half-buried in the ground, an intricate array of angled steps and layers resembles an early Libeskind drawing. The roof, a floating water-filled platform, picks up on the 2009 pavilion by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, but takes on a new, purer feel, firmly grounded by the intricate layers of a real-life archaeological dig.

The underlying concept, however, is not a new one. As a student in the late 80s (and no doubt before) you would often see theoretical projects that included some kind of historical abstraction and overlay of buildings that stood before. The difference here demonstrates how British Architecture has shifted its thinking – in a good way.

The fame and reputation that precede this Swiss-Chinese partnership have given them the courage to do what they believe is right for the site. It is engaging, serene and understated. It is timeless, yet simultaneously routed to a moment in time. More art installation than architecture it conveniently dodges any question of style and therefore walks a fine line between fame and infamy.

It would be so easy to get caught up the Olympic frenzy that is London 2012 and repeat the iconic Beijing wow factor. The new pavilion, however, is iconic by its un-wow factor. Bravo !

by Darren Maddison

all photos / images thanks to : Serpentine Gallery

Friday, 8 June 2012

feature : Piano's Shard Sonority

A short while ago Europe gained its tallest building when the uppermost steel parts of The Shard were lifted into place, but more importantly Londoners were finally able to appreciate this exciting structure in all its dynamic splendour.

The shape of the Shard was offered to Irving Sellar, its developer, in a simple sketch that its Italian architect Renzo Piano quickly produced after being told the building would be mixed use.  Large lower floors for offices with smaller middle floors for a hotel, and the smallest upper floors for apartments.  Piano is an architect who hates “style”, but loves “intelligence”, and talks much about “vibration” and “maybe tension between the place and the built object”.

Now that the Shard has gained its full form, a walk around its base, amongst the contractors and commuters, with neck craned, offers surprises everywhere.  It is multi-faceted far more than I’d imagined, with overlapping corners and planes, but I suppose that is the nature of shards.  I’d made the mistake of reading the Shard as a pyramid with appendages, likening it to one of my favourite American structures: the Transamerica in San Francisco.

But Piano did not want to build another “American fridge”, more something “sharp but subtle”.  To me it’s more a steeple.  So they’re going to open the doors and let in the people.....up to the 72nd floor observation deck.  And what a treat that is going to be, because, if nothing else, architecture constructed in depressed economic times such as we now live in bring hope of a better tomorrow.

As for how the world sees his creation, Piano says we should “judge the Shard in 10 years time”.  In the meantime, we now wait to see the point of it; the point of all architecture: the interior spaces.

by Richard Woollen, guest author

all photos by Richard Woollen