Hooke Park

With my thesis project platform, we went to Hooke Park, which is the Architectural Association’s woodland site in Dorset in the Southwest of EnglandWhen we arrived, we got a presentation about the history and the projects at Hooke Park from Martin Self, Director of the AA’s Woodland Campus. Many students weren’t there that week, so it was really quiet, which was a pity because we couldn’t see the people in action. On the other hand, this gave us a great opportunity to look around closely in all the buildings without disturbing anyone. 

The park covers an area of 150-hectare with 17 different species of trees. The trees and other natural growing elements are used for educational and designing purposes. It’s all about the construction and landscape-focused activities. 

The park gives the students opportunities to broaden their rural architectural expertise and to improve their knowledge of the self-sufficiency of the used materials. 

Before the AA arrived in 2002, John Makepeace used Hooke Park as an extension of the Parnham College and created a School for Woodland Industries, integrating furniture design with use of the surrounding materials. Makepeace wanted to make woodwork more bespoke. To start a school, you need buildings. That’s where Frei Otto made an entrance and made some hand-drawn sketches and gave the idea of buildings made of local materials. He saw the opportunity of making forest management more economically valuable, to use it in a productive way.  

Together with Richard Burton, Otto developed a master plan for the School for Woodland Industries.   

The first building they designed was the Prototype House in 1986, which is now known as the ‘Refectory’. They used spruce, because there was a need to thin out the woodland so other trees could grow.  

The second building on the masterplan agenda was built in 1989 and was the Workshop, which is a building constructed with a series of spruce arches. The building is excessively engineered with the process of bending the wooden pieces in shape manually. When working with your hands, you have a better feeling of the material and its capacities.  

The last building that was built before the AA took over, was Westminster Lodge in 1995, which was designed by Edward Cullinan Architects and engineered by Buro Happold.  

In 2006-2007 Andrew Freear and Elena Bartel proposed a master plan for the future of Hooke Park, which later got translated in students designing a new building every year, which they build and can use in the following years as well.  

2012 Big Shed 

‘The building is constructed from larch sourced from Hooke Park and local woodlands, and uses innovative screw connections to form the Roundwood trusses.’ 

2013 North Lodge 

‘The building has a primary structural frame of spruce sourced at Hooke Park that was fabricated and assembled using traditional pegged timber-framing techniques. The envelope is highly insulated with blown-in wood fibre, and is heated by its own wood stove and through connection to the campus’s woodchip-fuelled district heating system. The cladding is of timber slats.’ 

2014 Timber Seasoning Shelter 

The Shelter is made of beech, which is not often used as an architectural material. The purpose was to give back the value to the trees. A Norwegian boat builder created a steam-bent technique to bend the beech. He created a projecting machine which he adjusted manually so he could control the bending and have the correct curve bend.  

2014 South Student Lodge 

The lodge is made of a timber frame, clad in Western red cedar and reclaimed glass. It’s a play of building frames of potential volumes. Before it was built, the designers chalked out the volumes on the ground and walked through it to have a closer look at the circulation and how to inhabit, to embody the to-built building. 

2015 Biomass Boiler House 

The Boiler House is made from unused curved trees. It’s giving back value to those trees who are oddly formed because they followed the sun. A catalogue was made from each geometry of the trees. This is done by scanning them. After cataloguing the trees, it was a matter of composing them with the correctly fitting curve on top of each other.  

2016 Woodchip Barn 

Just like the Boiler House, the Woodchip barn was made from unused trees because of a malfunction. For this project the designers used fork trees. They wanted to enhance the problem and take advantage of the specific form, rather than to get rid of it. Also from these trees they made a catalogue by 3D scanning the trees. From non-standard-materials they made standard materials, and then made non-standard components from it. It became a digital exercise to compose the components and try out different configurations. They used the qualities of the wood to the fullest. 

After the presentation and the tour, I was already looking at the dates and how to enrol into a short summer course. It’s amazing and a dream to have so much space to really try out your designs and to realise a structure with your bare hands in the end. Despite the horrible weather and a long journey to get there, I was really amazed and so happy to have seen Hooke Park. 

FOSBURY & SONS

In the first week of December 2016Stijn Geeraets and Maarten Van Gool opened the doors of Fosbury & Sons, a co-working space in the WATT-tower in AntwerpDuring the Christmas holidays I had a chance to go and take a look at this new and much talked-about ‘it-place’. Because of the holidays the reception and café were closed, and there were only two people working, so I can’t give a feeling of how it is when people are actually working there, but one can imagine. The interior architecture company that realised the whole project is called Going East. 

The WATT-tower is a former electricity company office building designed in 1958 by Léon StynenLéon Stynen is called a Modernist Belgian architect, but I think he is rather a brutalist than purely a modernist. The bare concrete construction inside the whole building is a beautiful example of brutalist architecture. Going East called this project the ‘3000m2 concrete jungle’, which it is. They stripped the whole place to its core structure and kept the beautiful concrete like it was and in its raw purity, and built the other elements around it.  

When walking up a narrow little staircase one is greeted with a view of a big inviting reception desk. When walking further into the space it suddenly opens up with a 6m high ceiling. Light floods in through gigantic windows. The use of materials is very high-end and the style is vintage-meets-modern with a hipster touch. To give a nice contrast to the use of wood, steel, glass and textiles, they use a lot of plants to create a more breathable and viable space. I am absolutely in love with the play of different heights, different rooms, open-closed spaces, … it’s like a big inspirational maze.   

If I wasn’t living in London, I would definitely be tempted to become a Nomad or even share an atelier. I think this is the best opportunity to also get to know new people within the creative sector and to share ideas. 

 We worked with so much love on this total project. We did exactly 11 months from concept until realization. We built the space from scratch. There was nothing except the concrete. The big challenge was to create enough open space but balance it with private workspace. Trying to find the right balance between rough and details. And being consistent with our choice of materials. - Going East

Fosbury & Sons describe themselves as: “An office with a soul, an inspiring workspace where business, culture and leisure come together. A gentlepeople’s club connecting a community of entrepreneurs, digital nomads and corporations.” - Fosbury & Sons

© Photography by Frederik Vercruysse

EURODAL

My thesis project is about turning a car park into multi-generational council housing. A car park is mainly made of big concrete slabs, so as a sort of material research for my thesis project, I went to the company Eurodal, a Belgian manufacturer of industrial concrete floor slabs. I visited the company to have a closer look at the material concrete and how it’s made 

From the highway, I could already see the stacked-up piles of concrete slabs, which made me really eager and excited to see more. Philippe Segersone of the CEO’s of the company gave me a tour and a detailed explanation of the whole working process. 

At Eurodal they make the steel moulds for the concrete by themselvesThese moulds have a maximum size of 200x200mm. Different measurements are possible within the range of 200x200mm.  

First the mould gets a coating by a robot. This coating determines the finishing look in the end. In the earlier days, it was done by hand, but with the machine the coating is spread more evenly 

After the coating a steel grid is placed in the mould to create reinforced concrete. This is done to resist tensile stresses in particular regions of the concrete that might cause unacceptable cracking and/or structural failure. 

After that it’s time to put the mixture of water, aggregate, cement and additives in the mould. This mixture will harden to become concrete. Eurodal is a central mix plant which means they offer more accurate control of the concrete quality through better measurements of the amount of water added, but must be placed closer to the work site where the concrete will be used, since hydration begins at the plant. 

When the correct weight of the concrete is ready to be poured into the mould, the mould starts to vibrate, so that when the concrete sets in the mould, all the air bubbles can leave the concrete mass.  

After the concrete is dry, a robot takes the slab out the mould and adds 3 bricks on top of it, so the next one can be stacked upon it. 

Philippe explained to me which different finishes are possible and how they are made. They use mats with a certain structure that they put inside the mould before the concrete gets poured. In the product range they have brushed, checkerplate, wave and line finishes.  

Another nice feature he explained was how to make holes within the mould. They do this by using Styrofoam. When the concrete is dry they just knock the Styrofoam out and it leaves a beautiful shape.  

It was really nice to get a better insight into the process of creating concrete slabs and the different things you can do with the material and shapes.

BRIEF THESIS PROJECT

My interest for the topic of my thesis project started during the research for my dissertation about brutalism and a brutalist interior. During this search I figured out why I love brutalism so much and why I have such a big interest in this style.  

I like the way tower blocks are communities where all different kind of people are living and sharing at least one common thing, the tower, their building. The way this whole movement became an evolution of a certain way of thinking, of how we live together and how different cultures are brought together. 

It was all about the utopian belief in making new cities, making cities within cities and making a city within a building, creating high-density buildings. It’s about creating communities within a building.  

Aside from the positive thoughts the high-rise brutalist buildings brought with them, there were also a lot of negative critiques about these structures.  

Paved walking trails are pretty common in brutalist building projects. These ‘air paths’ for pedestrians were often places of criminality. Because of bad maintenance there were filthy slums, juvenility and the scary bits of society. In the end brutalism was often associated with poverty.  

Councils rehoused people from streets and neighbourhood communities, often breaking up extended families and destroying social links. The intimate association of house and street was ruptured. In particular, it meant that parents could not easily monitor children’s playtime.  

Peter Chadwick once said that there is this negative redundant space around the building which prompts anti-social behaviour. I can agree with that because I live in a 7- floor high brutalist tower block and I don’t know the people I live with because there is a lack of communication between the community. This is because there is not enough space, or at least space intended to start conversation. So first I thought about approaching this problem by creating little interventions within the communal spaces like the entrance, the elevator, the ‘air path’ and the roof. But this would become a too small scaled project, almost like a furniture installation.  

That’s when I started thinking on a largely bigger-scale idea. I wanted to reflect the positive and improve the negative elements of the brutalist high-rise interior into a similar structure. That’s when I came to the idea of a car park.  

You can’t go more brutal then a car park. A car park is designed for heavy and shifting loads of moving vehicles and the structures are made of heavy, chunky concrete. The structure of the building is left without any redundant ornaments. The building is there purely for its function. It is literally just stacking up floors vertically.  

Rethinking the function of a car park in London is actually something to really think about, especially in the nearby future. London is the most expensive city in the world to park your car. London has low levels of car ownership and it’s declining over the years because fewer young people in London consider having a car a necessity. Is there still a need for car parks? And what happens with them if they aren’t needed anymore?  

So I stranded upon this beautiful car park in Lewisham in South-East London, which is attached to a shopping centre. Lewisham is situated between Greenwich and Southwark. Why specifically that one? I had never been to Lewisham, but my practise mentor gave me the idea, because Lewisham is apparently upcoming and there is a planned regeneration of Lewisham town centre. A lot of new buildings are popping up and there are a lot of construction sites. I took the trainThe car park is within a 4-minute walk from the station. What shocked me is that there’s a waiting list of 14,000 people for council housing in Lewisham. So I really want my design to be council housing.  

In this car park I want to apply something of the way of the brutalist heroism to the idea of a new kind of interior, an improved brutalist interior, a Neo-Utopian interior.  

The built environment can be a challenging place for all of us, at every age and stage in our lives – whether as a child, adult, disabled, non-disabled, as part of our ageing population. How the home is affected as lifestyle and social/economic structures change through a life cycle is still a big challenge with the range of housing currently available. How does life changes from child to adult to old age affect the way we live? How does this approach the political and socio-economic side of living.  

In Belgium there is a new trend that’s called ‘Kangaroo Building’. The principle of kangaroo living is simple: old and young under one roof. The formula means that a younger couple moves in with an older couple. The original house has been converted into two separate dwellings. This has many advantages. For example, many young families that are inhibited by the high land and construction prices, can build. Older people, for whom their home is often too big when the kids are out of the house, can continue to live together "at home". In a broader sense, this means kangaroo is a win-win situation. The two entities enjoy each other's proximity and support each other. They retain their privacy and can still be assured that there is always someone nearby. As a resident of a kangaroo house, you decide how to live together-and-touch-apart- organizes.  

I want to propose a concept, plan, strategy, and building form that can work for people of all ages, paying particular attention to personal, social and economic changes in people’s lives over time. The aim is to foster more inclusive intergenerational communities. The multi-generation module will be designed to be inclusive for all, and can accommodate varied and changing life styles over time.  

It will be all about understanding the people – their needs, their concerns, and what they really want from a building – and engaging the more social aspects of the built environment that others overlook.  

It will be a concept that addresses the use of space throughout our lifecycle 

I will do this on the 3th, 4th and 5th floor of the car park and take sections as the Trellick Tower and Unite d’Habitation as inspiration.  

As my Artefact I created a construction of tetris-shaped blocks in different materials which are aging in 3 stages. “Generations” come in contact with each other and the open space between them is communal space to engage communication.  

THE (NEW) DESIGN MUSEUM

In 2010 the Pawson office won the competition to oversee the transformation of the former Commonwealth Institute in London into a new permanent home for the Design Museum. The Grade 2* listed building, with its signature hyperbolic paraboloid roof structure, was designed by Robert Matthews, Johnson-Marshall & Partners and originally opened to the public in 1962. Driving the process of reclaiming this iconic example of post-war British Modernism as a contemporary cultural space has been the wish to preserve and enhance its inherent architectural qualities for future generations of Londoners and visitors to the city. The aim is a building that feels as though it has retuned itself, enabling people to experience what is already there in fresh ways. The new Design Museum opened its doors to the public for the first time on November 25th. 

The architectural process is driven by spatial and structural thinking, but it is also profoundly shaped by ideas of use. From the very beginning, the imagined epilogue of colonisation is playing out in the mind of all those involved. Lines are drawn and details developed, but all the time, it is the scope for human narrative that is being created.” - http://johnpawson.com 

I wasn’t blown away by the design, I liked it but found it not extremely impressive. I liked the simplicity, and the vertical and horizontal lines that continue throughout the building. I like the openness and the relationship with the beautiful roof structure. Spatially the design museum works although there could have been a bit more walking space on the stairs from the ground floor to the first floor where people can have a seat. Another thing that I liked is the use of materials and the use of light which created beautiful lines 

In the end, altogether, it is a nice play of volume, surface and light. Pure in its own simplicity. 

First Press!! - De Standaard Magazine

Two weeks ago, An Bogaerts, A Belgian journalist approached me to do an interview about brutalism and why it’s so trending amongst my generation. The article appeared in the weekend addition of De Standaard, a Flemish Belgian newspaper. You can read it through the attached link with the English translation underneath the article. 

WARSAW

In order to celebrate the end of our dissertations, two friends and I decided to go on a short trip. A place that we could visit in two days, and more importantly: cheap. Warsaw turned out to be the perfect destination. Having not heard or read much about the city, we went in with a pretty open mind. Long story short: it exceeded our expectations in every sense.

As a capital, it’s pretty quiet. The city has lots of open space and is very clean. These open spaces are mostly unused and are calling for opportunities.

The city has a very eclectic architecture style. In the old town, the buildings have beautiful rustic coloured tints and are dotted with tromp-l’oeils, recalling scenes from a movie set.

With every corner we turned, Warsaw took a different appearance. It felt like a combination of different cities. Some streets felt really westernised, while others managed to maintain their Soviet characteristics.

Since writing my dissertation about Brutalism, having looked at tower blocks and social housing as case studies, I have a certain admiration for this kind of buildings. Unlike most social housing, the buildings found in Warsaw felt not very well integrated in the urban fabric but rather disconnected, as if they were blocks dropped into the city.

A visit to the Neon Museumlikely to be the most random museum I’ve ever seenleft us confused yet intrigued. It was just a room full of Neon texts on the wall, which created nice pictures.

Poland’s signature dish; pierogi, is a sort of dumpling stuffed with meats, cheese or mushrooms and cabbage, then fried or boiled. A nice, yet really understated restaurant to enjoy these is ‘Na Bednarskiej Pierogi’ in the old town.

Another signature dish is the Polish steak tartar. It’s made with pickles, pickled mushrooms, onions and capers. We went to a restaurant called ‘U Kucharzy’, where they play live music and make the steak tartar from scratch at your table. It was one of the best tartars I have ever eaten!

One of the architectural highlights of the trip was the Jewish Museum designed by Rainer Mahlamäki and Ilmari Lahdelma. The outside was a bit disappointing, but the inside was beautiful. The walls and the ceiling were woven organically into one another, recalling a cave or grotto.

Praga, on the other side of the bridge, felt like entering another city. A lot of the buildings are still derelict, yet there are a lot of new development being built. It’s full of design and architecture firms and looks like it’s an upcoming area of Warsaw. A

really nice restaurant to visit is the Soho Factory. It’s a restaurant in an old factory with an open kitchen concept serving great local dishes with modern twists.

Walking around aimlessly around Warsaw left us confused, excited and glad we took the time to visit this wonderfully eclectic city. 

DISSERTATION - CONCLUSION

Why is it that brutalist architecture knows an upswing these days? Because of the transcendent architecture, its heroic attitude and the way these buildings dominate their surroundings 

Maybe there is the additional possibility that younger people might have gotten a little bored with the sleek towers and bland quality of a lot of new architecture. We are unconsciously falling in love with the nostalgic aspect of the movement and the fascination for concrete.  

Brutalist buildings function well when things are shared, when there is a social cohesion, because that’s what the architects intended. This shows particularly in the tower blocks and high density building schemes with shared amenities. That’s what is part of the philosophy of the development: a sense that apartments are for immediate functional needs, whilst the cultural and social components of living are out ‘in the open’.  

Nowadays, most buildings are either for corporate use or impossibly expensive apartments in the private sector. In the Barbican there is a ‘public’ feeling in a way that very few modern developments have. This is of course an illusion, because the apartments are private and very expensive, but there is a sort of welcoming quality to the public space and a sense of exploration in three dimensions. This is certainly because of the beautiful open public terrace, the public arts centre and the path walks.  

When brutalism started, it was everywhere and in everything. All things were brutal, all things were concrete. Today, brutalism is still alive. Nowadays, it doesn’t only use concrete, but also adds steel, glass and other materials. Architects still design and build brutalist buildings.  

Architects like LiebeskindMies Van Der Rohe and even Zaha Hadid call themselves modernists, but are in a way also brutalists. They have a certain brutalist attitude and aesthetic in the use of powerful, repetitive graphic shapes 

During this search about why there is a revival I figured out why I love brutalism so much and why I have such a big interest in this style. I love the abstract, clean, geometric forms that are used, the story of repetition, the maze-like feeling. I like the way tower blocks are communities where all different kind of people are living and sharing at least one common thing: the tower, their building. The way this whole movement became an evolution of a certain way of thinking, of how we live together and how different cultures are brought together. When you’re on the balcony of a tower block you feel like you’re part of something larger.  

I associate the Stoic cool of Brutalism with the fact that we are looking to the essence today. Materialism has had its day and sobriety and tranquillity are the new luxury. The building and its construction is shown for what it is and celebrates its simplicity and poetry.  

Nowadays the progressive brutalist architecture seems to get the recognition it deserves.  

After my whole research into what a brutalist Interior is, I found out that the question should not be ‘What is a brutalist Interior’, but should rather be ‘How could the spirit of brutalism be rendered in interior design?’. It’s difficult to define a brutalist interior, because every architect has a different approach to the interior design 

Brutalism is all about the impression of the outside: a chunky block of concrete in different shapes. The inside of tower blocks is not as impressive as the outside volume of concrete. It’s about creating more living surface, high-density housing. In tower blocks the interior is trying to create a liveable place within a small surface area. In Lampens’ house this is not the case: his houses are large dwellings built in a completely different context. In all cases however the architect tries to create a more spacious vibe by using big windows. The relationship between outside and inside feels really important. In the Barbican and Arlington House, the less important rooms (in the architect’s eyes) such as the hallway, the kitchen and the bathroom don’t deserve direct light and views to the outside. That’s where Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower created an excellent solution by bringing the light in every room. The same thing happens in the Lampens house. Because of the window play, he creates incidences of light in every place of the house.  

In the tower blocks, the designer let the owner decide how to furnish the flat. In the house Van WassenhoveJuliaan Lampens designed the totality, even the chairs. In both cases it’s almost impossible to change anything because of the structure. All the systems, like heating, ventilation, electrics, water and the rubbish disposal are processed in the building. The problem being that today, these systems are outdated, which creates difficulties.  

The outside is very dense and overwhelming, but because of the big windows becomes airy again. The same thing happens inside, so in a way the exterior is reflected into the interior. In the tower blocks there’s no cohesion between the exterior and the interior, but in the house Van Wassenhove there’s a complete cohesion between them. However, in a way they are also juxtaposed, because the house is a play of geometric forms and the landscape is organic.  

This idea goes beyond just the interior. For most of the brutalist architects it’s more a political statement they want to make by building these chunky concrete buildings and megastructures. It was all about the utopian belief in making new cities, making cities within cities and making a city within a building, creating high-density buildings. It’s about creating communities within a building. It’s about breaking loose with tradition. In most of the cases the exterior gets reflected into the interior. Brutalism goes back to the pre-historic way of thinking, of admiring the materials for their inherent qualities as they are found.  

The socialist organisations had great belief in the future, progress, technology and this all starts with understanding the world and its needs. Concrete symbolised this future and technology.  

This dissertation will be a starting point for next year’s project. I will try to apply something of the brutalist heroism to the idea of a new kind of interior.  

DISSERTATION - HOUSE VAN WASSENHOVE

For my last brutalist interior, I decided to visit a residential villa instead of a tower block. The house Van Wassenhove is situated in Sint-Martens-Latem, Belgium and is designed by Juliaan LampensLampens is one of the most important postwar architects in Flanders, although the recognition for his work is quite recent.  

When I arrived in the street where the house is situated, I drove past it. It was only when I really searched for it that I saw the house appearing behind trees and green. The building almost melted together with the surroundings. The concrete already turned greenish in some places. From afar it looked like a big bunker.  

When I entered the house, I didn’t know where to watch and what to explore first. The nice contrast of the concrete and the wood was the red thread throughout the whole interior.  

After my tour, I sat down downstairs for another half hour just looking around and being amazed by this creation. I love that the whole house is a play of geometric forms and a play of light and shadow. I absolutely love this place, but it’s too open for me to live in.  

I’m happy to share these beautiful impressions through some photographs with you… 

DISSERTATION - TRELLICK TOWER

To catch a glimpse of and feel the atmosphere of the Trellick Tower, I booked an AirBnb for one night. I booked a room in the flat of a very kind woman on the 18th floor. The apartment was a 4-persons flat with 2 bedrooms. The 2 bedrooms, the living area and the kitchen looked like they had about the same surface area and looked like squares. The owner of the place had kept the interior completely intact. I really liked and appreciated that she kept it the way it originally was. It’s just a really beautiful and authentic looking place. Everything is painted white; the floors, the walls and the ceiling.  

I could definitely see myself living in Trellick Tower. Everybody is very social and has a certain appreciation for the building. Waking up with the view from my room was amazing.  

This is my view of the Trellick Tower through the eyes of my camera… 

DISSERTATION - THE BARBICAN

Who would have predicted I would become an absolute addict to the Barbican? Certainly not me! At least 2 times a month I go to the Barbican to have lunch, have a little break on the terrace and a nice walk on the levelled walkways. This complex of buildings takes brutalism and utopian town planning to the next level. The apartments might be small, but the gardens and the lake compensate with a feeling of openness. For me the Barbican is a place to de-stress, an oasis in the middle of City London. The plants, the water and the bush-hammered concrete make the buildings look more natural than a sleek concrete tower. There’s something human about it.  

To fully explore The Barbican, I wanted to rent a room with AirBnb, but this proved to be out of my budget. So I came up with another plan to get inside. I searched for apartments for sale and found a 2-bedroom apartment for £1250000. Now I don’t think a real estate agent would believe that a 25-year old can afford such an expensive apartment. So my mother made a phone call that I was going to check out some apartments for her inside the Barbican. Her requirements: one or two-bedroom apartment, as authentic as it could be and I need to make as many photographs as possible so she has a better picture of the apartment.  

I visited 7 properties and these were my impressions through the camera… 

DISSERTATION - INTO BRUTALISM

My interest for the topic of my dissertation started at the beginning of my first master at the Royal College of Art. The whole year we did projects in Margate, an English east coast town. For the first semester I was assigned to the Arlington House, a significant brutalist tower block. After digging into the past and the architectural elements of the building I was intrigued by the brutalist way of building.  

This brought me to my first question: Why do I admire this style? How come I like these big heavy chunks of concrete? Is it because of the repetitive shapes? The material use? The brutalist aesthetic dates mainly from the 60s and 70s, and has become related to other celebrations of mid-century modern. Why does the brutalist style feel current and exciting for someone of my generation?  

I have also noticed I am not the only person interested in brutalism. At the beginning of 2016, several lectures about brutalism were programmed and a lot of books appeared about the subject. On trend websites brutalism was THE topic! There is a certain buzz, enough to speak of a brutalism revival. Which brings me to my second question: Why is there a revival of the brutalist movement? Brutalism is increasingly popular among students, designers, architects. Why is that? Could it be the ambitious scale of the projects or the emotional power of the forms that makes brutalism so attractive? Or is it the idea of living in a megastructure and sharing amenities? Or are there other reasons why brutalism is revisited by many architects, writers, etc., nowadays?  

After going to lectures and events, reading books and looking at a lot of photographs and hear people talking about brutalism, my last question is: What is a brutalist interior? Why are people always talking about brutalist architecture, but never about a brutalist interior? Does a typical brutalist interior even exist? Does it reflect the exterior? Is there a cohesion between the exterior and the interior?  

My dissertation was a search into the uprising trend of brutalism. It explored the idea of a brutalist interior mainly by looking at the interiors designed for Arlington House in Margate, the Barbican and the Trellick Tower in London and the house Van Wassenhove in Sint-Martens- Latem, Belgium.  

I wanted to try to understand what the design priorities of the time were and how they contributed to a way of living. It was also an inner search into what I admire about the brutalist way of building.  

In the next few blogs I will show some interior impressions from the The Barbican, the Trellick Tower and The House Van Wassenhove through pictures and will write a synopsis of my conclusion. 

SWITCH HOUSE

Switch House, the new building extension of Tate Modern designed by Herzog & De Meuron, opened its doors in June 2016. It is built on what was previously a storage space for oil called The Tanks. This space is now used for performance art, installations, film and other art that interacts with the visitor. I love the way the architects kept this space almost like it was, with the rough unadorned concrete. A funny consequence of keeping the structure largely intact is that there are little stairs leading to nowhere. The doors to which they used to lead are now filled.

The first thing I noticed when arriving at The Tanks was the monumentally staircase which brings you to the ground level. I love the beautiful natural flow it has. It’s like a grandiose sculpture.

I liked the work ‘Zero To Infinity’ of the British-Pakistani artist Rasheed Araeen. He created a modular installation consisting of one hundred blue square wooden open- framed boxes. The boxes are regularly rearranged. You can see the pictures of the transformations on the wall.

Another work I liked was The Revolving Vane by German artist Charlotte Posenenske. From the outside it looks like a black box with doors. When standing in the box there’s completely darkness with a play of natural light coming in.

I wanted to take the elevator to the highest floor where the view point is, and walk my way down again. However, this was impossible. The elevator never stopped on the ground floor or was totally packed. After waiting for 20 minutes I gave up. By walking up the stairs I had a look at every floor and at every turn of a corner, a beautiful view of the lines and materials of the buildings appeared. On the second, third and fourth floor there are free collection displays, for example the collection of Living Cities. Living Cities is an exhibition where artists display their thoughts about globalisation. Artists from Newcastle, Beirut, Los Angeles, ... explore parallels and differences between cities in which they find themselves.

On the 4th floor there is the Artist Room with Louise Bourgeois’ work exhibited at the moment. I’m a big fan of her work, especially how she achieves to create such a powerful personal feeling in her art. She is an expressionist that reflects difficulties she coped with in her youth in her work. Art is like therapy for her.

When finally arriving at the 10th floor it was definitely worth the climb. The view was beautiful. You can walk around the building so you have a 360° view.

One thing I really don’t understand is that the architects were allowed to build a building with a viewpoint right next to an apartment block. There are signs ‘Please respect the neighbour’s privacy’, but seriously: who wouldn’t take a look inside the apartments? I would be very angry if I was living there. 

SHOW RCA - GRADUATE EXHIBITION 2016

The annual Royal College of Art graduate shows will took place across the College’s two campuses in Battersea and Kensington. The show 2016 gave an opportunity to experience the very best of emerging contemporary art and design practice from all the RCA's taught MA programs. Over 575 art and design postgraduate students exhibited their work.

RCA Kensington
School of Architecture – Architecture, Interior Design
School of Communication– Animation, Information Experience Design, Visual Communication
School of Design – Design Interactions, Design Products, Global Innovation Design,    Innovation Design Engineering, Service Design, Vehicle Design

RCA Battersea
School of Fine Art – Moving Image, Painting, Performance, Photography, Print, Sculpture
School of Material – Ceramics & Glass, Jewellery & Metal, Textiles
School of Humanities – Critical & Historical Studies, Critical Writing in Art & Design, Curating Contemporary Art, V&A/RCA History of Design

These are some of the projects I love the most. I was in particular amazed by vehicle design and textiles. 

THE SERPENTINE GALLERY - PARK NIGHTS PRELUDE - ON ARCHITECTURE

Bjarke Ingels, Kunlé Adayemi, Frank Barkow and Regine Leibinger, Yona Friedman and Asif Khan discussed their designs for the 2016 Pavilion and Summer Houses with Julia Peyton-Jones and Hans Ulrich Obrist, in a series of panels moderated by Vicky Richardson. 

Bjarke Ingels started his process by looking at what was already done in the other pavilions; the materials, structures and how the architect worked.

He kept the climate, tactility and strategy in mind while designing and searching for materials.

He not only thought like an architect but also like an artist.

The material he used in the end was glassfibre from a company called Lay Light in the middle of Denmark. The material reflects the light and gives a certain glow to the pavilion. It’s a light material that’s not yet used a lot.

His inspiration came from everyday life. He tried to make the ordinary extraordinary, driven by material and structure. The way the bricks are put together creates everything.

Everyone sees something else in the design; either a big gate, a glove fitting over the pavilion, a cave or a giant matrix. Ingels created a grand gesture that made the little lawn look like a big, heroic cathedral. The design unfolds a lot of possibilities and meanings depending on the perspective. The design has a certain quality of interaction, inhabitation.

On the other hand, it is also just” a gigantic play of sliding boxes next to each other. We design buildings that do what we say”, Ingels stated. Creating a place where people’s happiness can be expressed is one of the key aspects of his buildings. Focussing on human happiness allows you to celebrate and maximize human enjoyment. That’s why the design is so playful.

For me the pavilion is like a sexy pavilion that opens with a gigantic zipper. 

In the second part of the talk the designers of the Summer Houses talked about their designs.

Asif Kahn dug in Caroline’s and the temples history. His design is a game of orientation. It’s an analysis of the sun orientation. The temple was built in the direction of the sunrise on Caroline’s birthday. The table in the middle reflects the sun.

Kunlé Adayemi follows the rules of classic Architecture. He designed probably the most literal Summer House. His design reflects the rotation of the void. And is built like ruins found in nature. He respected the geometry. He researched the temple, looked at the plan and the forms and learned from the environment. He crossed the boundary between architecture, interior and furniture design and creates an open space for people to sit and hang out. For him, this project was also an opportunity to explore materials. The design is hard on the outside, covered with sandstone, and soft on the inside, covered with fabric.

Yona Friedman says that architecture is a composition of parts that mean something. He created a modular system for the user, the inhabitant.

Frank Barkow and Regine Leibinger took their Inspiration from rotating rooms. The pavilion offers a 360 degree view of the park. They built with the idea of walking through contemporary architecture. It’s an escape with infinity creating infinity and the unpredictable.