Archive for the 'Architecture' Category

Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined

Seven architectural practices from six countries and four continents. 23,000 square feet. 72 days. One monumental exhibition

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a private breakfast viewing of Sensing Spaces at the Royal Academy of Arts this week.  Invited by Pulsar it allowed a small group of us to experience the Architecture Reimagined exhibition in an uncrowded atmosphere, something unfamiliar for a popular exhibition at RA.

It was an exhibition I had been meaning to go to, but this opportunity was just the nudge I needed.  Offering a multi sensory experience of textures, smells, sights, sounds and lighting all combining in different ways to make each of the gallery spaces a unique and immersive experience.

Pezo von Ellrichshausen –
This space has been the ‘poster boy’ for the exhibition promo work so I wasn’t surprised that it was the first item we saw, standing above us all in the large gallery space.  Consisting of four spiral staircases hidden within wooden columns it allows you to make your way to the giddy heights of the gallery ceiling.




This offers you the usually unseen view of the gallery, the beautifully ornate golden ceiling and puts you at eye level with the angels detailed into the cornices.  You can then exit the platform down a ramp which, although unlit, gives you snippets of light through the floorboards before re-entering the bright gallery.



Kengo Kuma –
The first thing I noticed about this room was an unmistakeable air of calm as soon as we walked in.  Very low light levels and the scent of hinoki (Japanese cypress) and tatami (straw mat flooring) in the air combined to give a relaxed and welcoming feeling.  Once your eyes adjust to the relative darkness you notice the whittled sticks of bamboo softly  uplit from their base.  The concept was to “minimise materials but to maximise senses” and he certainly achieved that.



Eduardo Souto de Moura –
You almost pass through these pieces without realising they are actually part of the exhibition space.  The consideration has been placed on classic architecture and styling constructed with modern materials and techniques, in this case concrete.  What I really enjoyed was the attention to detail on each of the arches, they looked as if they could have easily been cast from the original.



Álvaro Siza –
I might have missed this piece if it wasn’t pointed out to us as it is actually outside the building as you approach.  Coloured concrete columns dot the courtyard, though looking closely only one is complete.  Taking inspiration to imitate the architecture of the nearby Burlington House.



Li Xiaodong –
This was the one area I genuinely got lost in.  A maze of hazel branches eerily backlit by an illuminated flooring system allow you to wander into various narrow pockets and viewpoints.  The pathway eventually opens up into a pit of pebbles, a welcome contrast of crunching underfoot that most of us smiled at, like we were doing something naughty in breaking the few minutes of near silence we had exploring the maze.  A large mirror reflects the pebbled space making it seem much larger and adding a tranquil sensation as you take it all in.





Diébédo Francis Kéré –
One of the most enjoyable rooms was a white corrugated plastic structure that is accompanied by a box of giant coloured straws which allow each guest to contribute to the structure, making it evolutionary and growing with every person that passes through.  This combination of interaction and coloured straws put a smile on everyone’s face, giggling in an almost childlike manner in seeing who put a straw in the highest or most obscure place.




Grafton Architects –
This was actually my favourite space, probably partly because of my lighting design bias.  Once your eyes adjust to the adjoining rooms you realise that the light is shifting.  Not just in colour, but also in intensity, mimicking daylight and moonlight over the course of 24 hours (courtesy of Pulsar).  You only need a few minutes here sitting or standing to appreciate the subtly changing conditions, but I found myself in here for much longer.





What I really liked about the whole private viewing was the relaxed atmosphere, first walking through each of the spaces with a representative from the Royal Academy giving a brief explanation on each one, and then after I wandered back through them at my own pace.  Noticing things I didn’t quite catch the first time around, or seeing something from another angle.

Wandering through in any order that you like “you are as much a part of this exhibition as the work itself“, and this encourages you to “reimagine the world around you“.

The complete exhibition is brilliant, whether you’ve been meaning to or not I would really recommend going to see it.  If you want any more information there is a short video from Kate Goodwin, the exhibition curator, here and a who’s who of the participating architects here.

The Gunpowder Plot – Exploding The Legend

“Remember, remember, the fifth of November,
Gunpowder Treason and Plot”

That’s exactly what I’m doing today, and doing so by looking back to 2005 when engineering firm Arup led an investigative analysis of the original Guy Fawkes plot to see what would have happened should his “gunpowder plot” have succeeded.

The plot was an attempt to kill King James I and any other influential persons who happened to be in parliament at that time.  Guy Fawkes was captured underneath Parliament with 36 barrels of gunpowder and a slow-burning fuse and since then many historians have speculated as to whether this concoction would have actually been sufficient to execute his plan.  So a few years ago Arup set about recreating the very same scenario to determine the potential outcome once and for all.


Arup’s advanced technology and research team first used blast analysis techniques (used in investigating terrorism attacks) to accurately predict and model the effects of the explosion.  Then a replica of the building was constructed (using authentic techniques where possible) and mannequins were used to simulate the body count.  36 barrels of gunpowder were placed underneath and the result, as you can see, is quite conclusive!

To see the actual blast skip to 1.25 on the video below (or watch in more detail on the Arup site here).

“direct blast pressure, heat, impact of high-speed timber fragments and the impact of falling back to earth could also have killed many, if not all, of those present. But the extreme upward thrust would have been the primary cause of death.”

It is estimated that the explosion would have been heard five miles away, with debris falling over a 200m radius.  Substantial impact on the surrounding area to say the least.

Coinciding with the 400th anniversary of the Guy Fawkes attempt the analysis was commissioned by ITV for a documentary back in 2005.  You can watch the full documentary in eight short instalments all neatly together in a playlist here.

A Dolls’ House

Gone are the days when a dolls’ house for a young child might consist of a a shoe box and an empty cotton reel for your toy to sit on.

Usually tasked with designing buildings that are skyline defining, 20 of the world’s top architects and designers have been given a slightly smaller brief: To design a dolls’ house for Kids.

Kids is a UK charity supporting disabled children, young people and their families and  on 11th November the 20 unique dolls’ houses will be auctioned at Bonhams in London to raise money for KIDS.

The only restraints were that each dolls’ house must fit onto a 750mm x 750mm plot, and include a unique feature or element to make life easier for a child with a disability.  Creative licence then set in with each interpreting the brief in whichever way they saw fit.

All entries are absolutely fantastic in their own way but here are just some of my favourites.  You can view them all here.

Adjaye Associates

Adjaye 1

Adjaye 2



AModels 2

Duggan Morris Architects

Duggan Morris 1

Duggan Morris 2

FAT Architecture



James Ramsey Raad Studio

James Ramsey 1

James Ramsey Raad 2

Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands



Mae 1

Mae 2

Zaha Hadid Architects

Zaha Hadid 1

Zaha Hadid 2

There is so much detail included in each, proving that architects are more than capable working at the smaller end of the scale as well as the larger.

This whole competition was inspired by Sir Edwin Lutyens‘ hugely extravagant dolls’ house created for Queen Mary in 1924, albeit these entries are somewhat pared back in comparison.  Lutyens’ 4 and half tonne model featured the input of over 1500 designers, accurate furniture replicas from Windsor Castle, working lifts and running water through an intricate pipe network!  Quite staggering, even by today’s standards.

Visit to view all the entries in more detail and vote for your favourite.

Nightvision – Incredible Architecture

First things first – I’m back!  It has been exactly one month since my last post as I’ve been all sorts of busy (getting married and being away on our minimoon!).  It was also a good excuse to disconnect for a bit and come back refreshed with lots of ideas and enthusiasm for the new posts I have lined up.

To get the ball rolling again we have an absolutely spectacular video from Luke Shepard, Nightvision.

It’s hard to believe that each of these is a still image and not a continuous video clip, the whole thing is stunningly captured as thousands of images all stabilised and edited together.

Nightvision is a celebration of the “brilliance and diversity of architecture found across Europe” and took Luke a full three months to capture all the images.  Spread over 36 cities in 21 countries the video is a nod to “some of the greatest European structures”, showing them off in a “new and unique way”.

The video struck very close to me in particular.  My job as a lighting designer requires spending time researching and sourcing inspiration, particularly looking at architecture and how we can enhance and complement buildings and such through the medium of light once the sun has gone down.  Accentuating different features, illuminating different aspects, and using different colours and colour temperatures of light across each of these elements.

For the full building list and location map check out

Serpentine Pavilion Intervention

Anyone that follows me on Instagram would have noticed a few weeks ago I went and visited the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park, and the Pavilion outside.

I thought it looked pretty spectacular and intriguing on a glorious summer day, but viewing it like this at night would have been something really cool!

For a one off event United Visual Artists used a dramatic light show to bring “the cloud-like structure to life with an electrical storm“.

Serpentine 1

Serpentine 2

The intent was to make the architecture seemingly “breathe” as if alive, evoking the idea of a living structure.

Serpentine 3

This year’s Gallery Pavilion was designed by award-winning Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto and will remain until 20 October.  If you get a chance it’s well worth a visit.

The Chemical Brothers – Velodrome

With the spectacular closing ceremony behind us we’re now in that awkward post-Olympic, pre-Paralympic, sport-less void.  In an attempt to fill the inevitable lull of the past weeks’ worth of near-constant streaming and watching of sport I came across CG Studio Crystal‘s animation of The Chemical Brothers‘ official Olympic anthem, Velodrome.

The flurry of colour and neon streaks are a fantastic compliment for the electronic song, and the Tron-inspired graphics are perfectly in tune with the events that took place on the track.

The stunning velodrome, by Hopkins Architects, is definitely my favourite of the Olympic venues.

Don’t get me wrong, the Olympic Stadium and the Aquatics Centre are both stunning, but as a keen cyclist myself there is a reasonable amount of bias behind my opinion!

Climbing A Shard Of Glass

At 310m upwards from London Bridge, The Shard is the tallest building in the European Union.  Quite a title I’m sure you’ll agree, as is the testament that it is the most secure site in London outside the Olympic Park.

And it’s that testament that Place Hacking‘s Bradley L. Garrett and Ejectable‘s Marc Explo, were keen to explore.  Literally.

We waited for the guard to finish his current round and go into his hut…  …we grabbed onto the scaffolding pipes and swung off the bridge. Hanging on the freezing pipes, we pulled ourselves on top of the walkway and laid down out of view, waiting for a reaction in case anyone had seen or heard us. It didn’t seem so.

Quickly, we scampered across the yard and found the central stair case, again pausing to see if there was any reaction from the yard, phones ringing or doors opening. It was silent.

A final burst of enthusiasm took us from metal stairs to wooden ladders. We threw open one last hatch and found ourselves on top of the Shard at 76 stories.

As I climbed up on the counterweight of the crane, my breath caught. It was a combination of the icy wind and the sheer scale of the endeavor that shocked me.

The train lines going into London Bridge look like the Thames, it’s all flow.

Garrett and Explo are part of a small group of people refusing to let adventure die, and for the mundane to consume their life.  Their tales are ones of infiltrating buildings from the service tunnels below, throwing parties at the top of high-rise towers, and some truly amazing photos.  Not least with this adventure to the top of The Shard.

All the breathtaking photos, and full story of the adventure here.

Lego Architecture

Lego are particularly good at reproducing (with startling accuracy) classic architectural works.  The Empire State BuildingFallingwater, and, amongst others, the one I’ve been eyeing up for a while – the 4,287 piece Tower Bridge model.

So when I discovered that Icon Magazine had invited a group of British architects to ‘remake’ some of these models the opportunity to check out the results was just too good to miss.

Atmos Studio

Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect behind Falling Water, once said that “stone is the mass residue of intense heat”.  Atmos Studio have drawn on this quote as inspiration with their entry in creating “Meltingwater”, baking the model in the oven for 20 minutes until it started to melt, reminiscent of the water in the original.


It is said that the slabs of rough rock throughout the flooring in Fallingwater were intended to be cut flush with the floor, but as a client request they were left to remember the origin of the rock from its surroundings.  AOC have used the same idea in synthesis in combining available materials and memories from what they had to hand in the studio – Lego’s 6080 King’s Castle from 1984, remodeled with new integrity.


DSDHA took the approach of a “conservation-meets-contemporary-architecture solution”, raising the already recognisable Rockefeller Centre a further 20 storeys up into the Manhattan skyline.  As the new ‘tallest tower in town’ it allows for commercial space, and increased residential skyscrapers offering one of the more practical entries to this Lego challenge!

Adjaye Associates

A slight modification to the original saw Adjaye Associates turn the world famous White House into, well, the Silver House.  Allowing the familiar architectural facade to remain, they propose taking the remaining structure and building it below into a simple cube, “a pure impenetrable form”!  Very futuristic.


FAT (Fashion Architecture Taste) have transformed the iconic Fallingwater into an entirely unrecognisable “Falling Acre City”.  Laid out in a rigid grid it offers organisation and structure.  Each piece, or ‘element’ of the city, represents anything from a large ‘megastructure’ (their word, not mine) to the much smaller single room units.  The order to the city comes as you may notice, as the buildings become progressively less dense as you move from north to south, which in an ordered world could help give you a sense of relative positioning should you lose your bearings.


“Fallingwater was designed to be fully integrated with nature, so that the house and the human experience of it change and evolve with each season; it is almost a living, breathing entity.”  That’s exactly what Make have achieved with this model, emphasising their philosophy of architecture being allowed to move with changing times.

Foster + Partners

Foster + Partners have thought typically outside the box, bringing together the two Lego models of Fallingwater and the Empire State Building in the fusion of a “mixed-use development”.  If you can’t see the Empire State Building within the model, it’s because it has been inverted to provide shade to lower spaces whilst increasing floor space up above.  Rather proudly they have used all pieces from both models to provide a building that offers you somewhere to live and work, even down to the signage forming a rotating sail to power the building.  Yes that’s right, even Lego can be sustainable.

All photos by Peter Guenzel.

London – Paris

A recent trip to the “La Ville-Lumière” opened my eyes to a few cultural differences that exist between London and Paris.  Nothing huge, just little variances I noticed which caught my ever keen attention.

Quite a few elements, unsurprisingly, revolve around Paris’ excellent Metro system.

London typically offers an average singer-guitarist, occasionally someone more talented and entertaining, but nearly always an individual.  Paris swings full spectrum and it isn’t uncommon to have large classical bands or even a string quartet performing for your loose change.

One of London’s more talented

A classical twist from Paris

Metro tickets are deceptively small, I guess the French used to be much more environmentally aware than Londoners were.  Then London got Oyster, which takes the notion of reusable tickets to another level.

The credit card size Oyster

The smaller Metro ticket, about one third of the size

Station Signage
Whereas London feels that consistency is best in the station signage, Paris offers a bit more character and individuality to the station name and decoration.  From the upper-class and elegant Louvre Rivoli, to the beautiful mosaic style of Chemin Vert and of course the more traditional Varenne.

Paris seems to have realised that strangers don’t actually want to sit next to each other, to the point in London where I’ve seen people avoid an empty seat just because there is someone in the adjacent seat!

Crammed together in London

Spaced out in Paris

LED maps (similar to the Barcelona Metro) offer location at a glance.  I have my suspicions, however, that London could be holding back on this concept for, ahem, budgetary reasons.

Particularly helpful for tourists

Door Signage
London sticks to silhouette line art for this, whereas Paris, even with the bizarre introduction of a rabbit character, gets the message across in a much more light-hearted graphic representation.

Spikes automatically emerge as the doors close?

Cruelty to animals?

Paris has had a bicycle hire scheme, or “Vélib”, since 2007 and from what I observed it is still running well, though you wonder how much Barclay’s corporate colour scheme had to do with them winning the London advertising bid, especially when you compare it to the Parisian equivalent that seemingly  blends into the street.

Vélib cycle hire

Boris Bikes

A bit cheeky, but I also love how the French are, almost painfully, obvious in their directions and signage for both large landmarks, and exit routes, clearly overstating on both fronts.

Sorry, where is Notre Dame again?

Which way out?

Overall, and all tongue-in-cheek comments aside, I completely recommend Paris as a city.  Beautiful architecture and museums, fantastic scenery and incredible food – there’s very little not to like!

Tron – Projection Mapping

In the past couple of months the technology of projection mapping has really exploded on the scene, especially within advertising.  Far from being a brief trend, or short-lived fashionable gimmick, I believe that the boundary pushing technology is here for the long haul and is only going to get more impressive.

I mentioned Toyota’s most impressive Get Your Energy Back only last month and since then I’ve seen the 3D mapping technology scaled up to an awe-inspiring hisorical building in Amsterdam, animating a magical and surreal fairytale at the H&M flagship store.

Now HP have had their turn to celebrate the launch of their new ePrint range in association with the new film Tron:Legacy by mapping, and projecting onto, the roof of Queen Elizabeth Hall on Southbank.

“An immersive visual spectacle augmented with snippets from Daft Punk’s soundtrack and orignal sound FX from the film”.  Brilliant.

(Recommend viewing the video in full screen)

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