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. 

DUTCH DESIGN WEEK

Every year in October, in Eindhoven, the nine-day Dutch Design Week (DDW) takes placeIt’s the largest design event in Northern Europe than presents works and concepts from over 2,500 designers spread over a hundred locations throughout the city. The whole city is crowded and alive. Shuttle cars with designs on top are driving people around the city from exhibition to exhibition. DDW distinguishes itself from other design events by focusing on designs for the future. It’s all about experimentation and innovation. Although big brands are presenting their work, the biggest attention goes to the new talent and especially to the show of the Design Academy of Eindhoven.  

This year I just went for one afternoon so I couldn’t see a lot. Of course I visited the Design Academy which was inspirational as always, but I also visited Maarten Baas makes time’, which was an interdisciplinary exhibition exploring the theme time. Two art works that I couldn’t forget, because they were so astonishing in their own purity, were Minuted and ‘Fleeting’ by Gijs Van Bon (http://www.gijsvanbon.nl/) 

'Minuted' writes poems on sand very slowly, with sand moved on a small belt. At the end of the belt the sand falls on to a pile.  The materialising of thought, time and poetry.” 

Fleeting" briefly creates cultural order and then lets it go into natural chaos. With an inkjet cartridge, a single line of text is written on the surface of wet white latex paint on a rotating tray at slow speed. A pivoting stick disturbs the text and fluidities the words into flowerlike forms and stretches reality.”  

The funniest exhibition I went too was ‘For Play, Shaping Sexuality’, where 30 designers explored the contemporary culture of eroticism, gratification, lust and desire. There was even an SM-Rietveld-chair designed by Bastiaan Buijs. 

It was a pity I couldn’t visit more, but hopefully next year I will have more time to spend a few days in Eindhoven. 

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. 

SRI LANKA

My sister and I went on a twelve-day backpacking trip to Sri Lanka. We arrived really early in the morning and took a train to Pinnawalla where we visited an elephant orphanage. We booked 2nd class train tickets, because everybody said that the 3rd class was not bearable. When the train arrived we didn’t see the 2nd class train wagon so we jumped into 3rd class. People were right, this was horrible. For 2,5 hours we were squeezed against a toilet door and local people were frowning at us, probably thinking "what the hell are they doing in 3rd class".

After Pinnawalla we travelled to Kandy. In Kandy there’s a really nice restaurant with delicious food and cocktails called, Slightly Chilled Lounge Bar and Restaurant. In the morning we went to the Temple of Tooth to see the ceremony. After visiting the temple we took a local bus to Dambullah to visit the Rock Temple. This temple is situated on top of a rock. A 30-minute hike gets you to the top. The temple was filled with Buddha statues.

After our visit of Dambullah, we took a tuktuk to Siriguay to climb the Lion Rock. The surprising thing about Siriguay is that we thought it was going to be really touristic, but it was totally the opposite. In the town there’s only one street with seven restaurants and that’s it. Even the Lion Rock wasn’t crowded at all. The view from the top was amazing and the rock itself has these beautiful earth tone colours.

The next day we wanted to take the earliest train to Aragumbay, but first we needed to get to an ATM, because we were out of money and couldn’t pay the hotel. In Sri Lanka, cash is king and cards are almost never accepted. Siriguay didn’t have cash machines, so we needed to drive to the nearest town. There they had 3 cash machines. All of them didn’t have money in them. My sister and I were quite stressed at this point, because we thought the errors were due to our cards. We already missed our train so we asked the tuktuk driver to bring us to Dambullah again, which was one hour away. Apparently the big banks were there. Finally, we managed to get money!

After this we returned to the train station. At the train station we met some really lovely people from London with whom we travelled to Aragumbay. After 11,5 hours, one train and two buses we finally arrived. Aragumbay is known as the surfers’ paradise. It’s a really popular destination for Californian and Australian people. Some of them just stay there for two weeks. There’s a really relaxed atmosphere, a bit like paradise. The beaches were really clean and the sea water was hot. This was the perfect spot to relax for two days.

After Aragumbay, we took two local buses to Tangalle. After the first bus everything went wrong. Before we were able to take our backpacks out of the trunk, the bus started driving. We were shouting to make it stop, but instead it drove faster and faster. My sister started running after it. She was so fast I couldn’t see her anymore, so I jumped in a tuktuk and said ‘Follow that bus!’. I picked my sister up who was still running on the highway, but we eventually lost the bus, it disappeared. While running my sister already sent a motorbike after the bus to let it stop. The motorbike lead us to a little dodgy street where the bus depot was. We were very lucky, because there we found our backpacks! After this fiasco we still made it on time to jump on the next bus to Tangalle.

In Tangalle we didn’t really visit anything, we just stayed two nights in the hotel. The beaches were beautiful, but it was impossible to swim. The sea was full of rocks and the strong current was dangerous.

After four days of resting at the beach our batteries were charged again to hit the adventure. A minivan brought us to Nuwara Eliya, which was a nine-hour drive, but first he stopped at a national park in Udawallawe where we did a safari. It is a small park with a lot of elephants and buffalos. The vegetation was weird: a part of the park looked like a scene from the Lion King, exactly like the place where the bad lion lives with his hyenas.

When we arrived in Nuwara Eliya the rain was pouring. After sunny beaches this was a bit of a bummer. It was freezing! The chauffeur didn’t find our Airbnb and even got himself in trouble to the extent that we were almost hanging off a cliff. This was definitely one of our scariest experiences ever! We were so angry of the risks he was taking that we decided to get out and ask a local tuktuk to bring us. When arriving at the Airbnb I noticed my bag, my money and passport were missing. I forgot it in the minivan. After several phone calls and a lot of stress, we finally managed to get a hang of the driver, who was already on his way to Tangalle, and convinced him to turn around again and bring me my bag.

After this disaster we just wanted to eat something and have an early sleep.The next day we needed to leave at 5am to Horton Plains, a national park where you can do a 9km hike to World’s End, one of the highest points in Sri Lanka. It was so nice to be one with nature. The walk was beautiful. In the beginning it was freezing, but after a while the sun rose and warmed us. The view from the top was absolutely stunning! When walking down, my sister kept saying: ‘I really feel like Frodo of the Lord of the Rings walking in the shire’ :D.

The next day we visited Nuwara Eliya and the tea plantations. I am a tea addict, so it was very interesting for me to see where tea comes from. It is actually the leaf of a plant that goes through a drying and fermentation process to become the tea we drink. We visited Mackwoods, one of the biggest tea plantations of Sri Lanka. We got a free tour and cup of tea. The tea leaves got handpicked by women, which is hard labour but creates a stunning view.

The day before the last day we visited Ella. We arrived late because of train problems, so we didn’t have the time anymore to climb the Ella Rock or Adam’s Peak. Instead we climbed Little Adam’s Peak, which was also already pretty impressive. I did not like Ella that much. It’s extremely touristic.

From Ella we took a beautiful train ride to Colombo. It was a 9-hour train ride but the views were breathtaking.

Despite all our bad luck I really recommend visiting Sri Lanka. It’s still pretty much untouched and not so Westernised yet, so go before it’s too late. 

MARGATE - 12 ARTHUR ROAD

The last term project will be taking place at 12 Arthur Road (the former Cecil Hotel), Margate. It is proposed that the site will house an architectural practice and we need to develop design proposals for a ‘reading room’ within a room on the ground floor of the building. The reading room will be a place where the architecture practice’s library will be housed and will provide space for book storage, book display and book reading.
The building is currently under construction and the fireplaces are covered so it was difficult to picture the room as a whole.
What really intrigued me was the layering of the walls. Because wallpaper was taken off and walls were broken down, there was a possibility to go back in time and discover the different layers that every new resident applied to the walls.
The ornaments on the ceiling give that certain extra character to the room, but I dislike the green and red painting colors that are used. We can’t constructively change the room, but I think if I place my Reading Room design in it, I probably will paint the room white.

ZAHA HADID - INVESTCORP BUILDING

The last time I went to Oxford, I didn't visit the Investcorp building of Zaha Hadid. So what better opportunity than a sunny Sunday afternoon while visiting Oxford.

The Investcorp Building for the Middle East Centre is built at St. Anthony's College in the University of Oxford.

Although there's a big difference between the old and the new building, in a certain way it connects really beautifully because of the use of mirrored stainless steel that reflects the surroundings.

"The project maintains the detached character of the college's current buildings, allowing them to be read as separate elements, while introducing a contemporary building that conveys the past, present and future evolution of the college, university and city. Its design weaves through the restricted site at St Antony's College to connect and incorporate the existing protected buildings and trees, while its stainless-steel facade softly reflects natural light to echo the building's context," said Zaha Hadid Architects.

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THE WHITNEY MUSEUM

Last year the new Whitney Museum of American Art opened at the end of the High Line next to the Hudson River. This year I didn’t make it to museum, because it was closed the day I wanted to go. This is one of my favourite museums and that’s why I still want to write a blog about it. The Whitney is a museum of Contemporary American Art, designed by Renzo Piano. It’s created in such a way that you have amazing views from every floor of the museum. Views over the city and an amazing view over the Hudson river. It’s a very open and airy museum and really pleasant to walk through and admire the work of names as Carl Andre, Donald Judd, Willem De Kooning, Claes Oldenburg, …

MOMA - MARCEL BROODTHAERS

Marcel Broodthaers was a Belgian poet and artist. I learned about him at school, but never saw his work in reality. I love the ironic and literary hints in his work. He mixes his work which is conceptual and where the idea is more important than the art as an object with the attention on daily objects of the Nouveau Réalisme.

One of his inspirations was a mussel, because he was interested in how a mussel is also a cast. The French word for mussel and mold is the same and translates as ‘moule’. On the one hand there was the transitory mussel as a symbol of live, ephemeral art; on the other side there is the house where the mussel lives in: the shell, the mold of the mussel, which is the symbol for the museum that tries to hide the art.

I love the humoristic and absurd side of his art and I’m proud that he’s a Belgian.

 

MOMA - JAPANESE CONSTELLATION

An exhibition that blew me away! As an Interior Design student this was a top of the bill exhibition to go to. A Japanese Constellation focuses on the network of architects and designers that has developed around Pritzker Prize winners Toyo Ito and SANAA. Providing an overview of Ito’s career and his influence as a mentor to a new generation of Japanese architects. The room was filled with models, sketch models, plan drawings, … I never saw such collection of insanely made models in one room. The models were made out of white foam board, wood, plastic, cardboard, … Materials I also use to make models, but never with such end result. 

WILLIAMSBURG

Until the end of the 19th century, Williamsburg in Brooklyn was a place where the elite of Manhattan went for a weekend getaway. Officially it wasn’t part of NYC. When the Williamsburg Bridge finished in 1903, it was also possible for ordinary people to take a look across the river. Brooklyn was flooded with new immigrants and people who fled from overcrowded immigrant housing on the Lower East Side. Soon Williamsburg was the most densely populated area of he city.

Nowadays it’s a place where a lot of youngsters live and come together. It’s full with little vintage shops and cozy restaurants and hipster bars. It’s a nice place to get away from the busy life of Manhattan.

Some nice restaurants and bars:
-        Rabbithole Restaurant
-        Roebling Tea Room
-        Café de la Esquina

Some nice shops:
-        Mociun
-        Mast Brothers Chocolate
-        Catbird
-        MeMe Antenna

This is just a list of my favourites but just wander around through the streets and you will bump into a lot more nice places.

Something that’s also really nice to do is Smorgasburg. It opened the weekend after I left New York so I was really devastated that I couldn’t do it this year, but I did it last year. It’s an open market full of street food stands with a beach and a view on Manhattan. A real must!