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The Weston Williamson mission statement talks about Creating Civilised Cities so quite often I am asked what constitutes a civilised city. The big picture answer is that our work encourages people to use safe, efficient, convenient, well designed public transport rather than their cars and free the streets for pedestrians and cyclists.
Valerie Le Vaillant, who recently became Master of the Company of Architects, has announced that apprenticeships are to be her major focus for the year. This is a subject close to my heart. I am as passionate about social mobility as others rightly are about race and gender equality. To me social mobility embraces all types of inequality and disadvantage. As a member of Valerie's Education Committee under John Assael as Chair, I will do everything I can to help.
The story goes that Ernest Hemingway was challenged to write a novel in six words. His brilliant response was “For Sale. Baby shoes, never worn”. It conjures up a tale of grief, heartbreak and tragedy. All in six words.
I’ve just read Jeroen De Flander’s book “The Art of Performance”. He cites numerous examples where people of all ages and abilities have achieved greatness through demonstrating three stages of behaviour: 1. Passion and Purpose 2. Deep Practice and 3. Persistence.
At Dubai Cityscape I gave a presentation promoting the advantages of Polycentric Cities citing London as an example. London was formed from small distinct communities such as Chelsea, Dalston, Hampstead and Brixton, which have grown together into a fantastic world city. The extensive underground rail system has helped enormously bind the city together but even now there are distinct communities.
I remember a TV interview with Paul McCartney and (I think) Michael Parkinson where they were discussing the writing of 'I saw her standing there'. McCartney proudly sang his first lines 'She was just seventeen. She could have been a beauty queen’ when John Lennon suggested the second line should be 'You know what I mean'.
I’ve just been listening to Carly Simon talking about the writing of 'You're so Vain'. It's a brilliant pop song - in August 2014, the UK's Official Charts Company crowned it the ultimate song of the 1970s. Like most creations it feels as though it came together easily and perfectly.
This month, Kuwait is hosting a symposium on the subject of “Happiness in the City”. The event will provide a unique platform for cultural, creative and technical minds from the UK and the Gulf to explore the issue of how our built environments can be designed to promote happiness and wellbeing. The symposium has been organised by the RIBA in conjunction with the DiT.
As we contemplate how our high streets must reinvent themselves in light of the rise of online and the shift toward the experiential, it is perhaps not a coincidence that we are seeing the shopping centre break free from its internalised focus and look much more urban.
The emphasis on reducing carbon emissions is forcing all of us to examine the way we travel. Greta Thunberg sailed to New York over 15 days rather than flying in six hours. This is commercially unsustainable for most businesses. But there could be other solutions.
Exploring the concept of remote airport check-in facilities and how they could be applied to a central London setting. Utilising the existing Royal Mail underground infrastructure to create a network of check-in facilities which are integrated with the transport network serving London's airports.
Last month I took part in a seminar organised by Blueprint Magazine on the Future of the Architect. I started my presentation with the classic image of Buzz Aldrin of Apollo 11 on the surface of the moon. I was 12 at the time of the Apollo 11 mission and that single event made a lasting impression on me, along with a belief that we as a race can conquer any obstacle to achieve our ambitions.
The excitement of visiting a new global city is unbounded - the buildings,
the spaces, the infrastructure, the people, the culture - all to be experienced
and explored. First impressions are said to stick, so with a few days in
Toronto supporting the growth of our new studio, I set about making some initial
judgements on how the city made me feel.
Many architects view the completion of their projects as the day the building is handed over and they move on to other things. The shop has opened for trading, the occupants have moved in to the office, the builders have moved out of the house, the snagging done, the final completion certificate issued. Like an artist who finishes a painting, sells it and never sees it again, we get sucked in to the project and when it has “ended”, seldom give it another thought or learn other than immediate superficial lessons from it.
I started the run at 10.20 am at Greenwich knowing that I would be running for the next 4-5 hours, which is a daunting prospect. It had been 14 years since my last marathon and although I had trained for this I suddenly felt very nervous. But looking around me, I realised that everyone else would be experiencing the same emotions and gradually started to relax.
Here at WW+P we are constantly seeking ideas to improve the urban environment. We are passionate about creating civilised cities and only too aware of how inhumane city living can be. A good example of this is on our own doorstep.
The most popular bus stop typology in suburban Melbourne is a sign post. The demand for parking often results in buses stopping in trafficed lanes, making vehicle and cyclist navigation dangerous, and leaving passengers disembarking into the road.
In order to prepare for the London Marathon I managed an alcohol free ‘dry’ January and actually enjoyed it so much I continued into February and March and have decided to avoid alcohol for the rest of the year. It’s actually surprising and reassuring how easy it’s been for these first few months.