Categories
Architecture

Audi + Urban Future Award Istanbul

Turkish Delights

And the winner is… The Audi Urban Future Award 2012 ceremony was held with great aplomb in Istanbul amidst the frenzy of its first Design Biennale. A Champagne fuelled boat party breezily sailed past the Sultan Ahmed Mosque and Ottoman palaces, glistening in the last days of summer; past the cliff faces of flats clinging onto narrow streets with lingering cats on every corner, resplendent in the heat; en route to a manmade island on the Bosphorus. Architecture’s answer to the Oscars, Audi knows how to throw a party.

Earlier on dry land, Lavender’s Blue enjoyed the Adhocracy exhibition of the Istanbul Biennale. Curated by Milan based architect and Domus editor in chief Joseph Grima, it was held in the historic Galata Greek School.  Adhocracy celebrated the move from bureaucracy to innovation. An emphasis of process over product was another theme. Oh brave new world! Our favourite of the 60 projects was a model of an oh so contemporary villa. A pure distillation of Manser meets Meier. So relevant. So now. Who’s the architect? Some young Turk from the Golden Horn who knows his Golden Ratio?

Er, no. It’s a 1:333 scale remake of self taught Italian architect Giancarlo de Carlo’s villa for the Villaggio Matteotti exhibition. Dated 1970. “Architecture is too important to leave to the architects,” he once quipped. “Thus with the rise of middle class professionalism, architecture was driven into the realm of specialisation, where only the problems of ‘how’ were relevant, as the problems of ‘why’ were assumed to have been resolved once and for all.”  Process versus product again. De Carlo cites the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul as one of only a few buildings which possess perfect elegance and the power to enthral everybody.

Back to the party. Five hipper than thou architectural practices were invited to compete for the prestigious €100,000 prize. Each represented their home megalopolis. A 2030 vision (2020 vision plus 10?) or urban mobility anchored in its locale yet capable of global application set the scene.

Each of the architects examined mobility as a broad spectrum embracing not just transportation and accessibility but also connectivity, energy, the environment and economics. The brief included the role of the car in wider urban mobility.

Audi Urban Future Initiative, a powerhouse of thinking on future mobility, was launched in 2010. It aims to influence the transition towards a new era of mobility. A multifaceted programme establishes the dialogue between the interconnectedness of mobility, architecture and urban development. The Audi Urban Future Award, one of the Initiative’s facets, addresses a pivotal period in the evolution of the 21st century metropolis. The next 18 years – a time for cities to grow and grow up.

The goal of the 2012 Award is to stimulate the development of proposals that identify opportunities for sustainable transformative interventions in each of the five metropolises. A wide range of questions are addressed. What kinds of paradigm shifts need to take place? Who or what drives change? What technological innovations will play a role? How can existing infrastructure be adapted to a rapidly evolving urbanscape? What new infrastructure needs to be designed to increase sustainability?

In no particular order (to borrow the X Factor phrase), CRIT prepared a concept for Mumbai; Node Architecture + Urbanism represented the Pearl River Delta; Höweler + Yoon Architecture, Boswash (aka Boston to Washington); Urban Think Tank, São Paulo; and Superpool were at home flying the Ayyildiz for Istanbul.

The architects’ Vorsprung durch Technik was as dynamic as the new Audi A8. Coordinated human interaction maintains the economic miracle of Mumbai. Pearl River Delta is deconstructed and reconstructed. In Boswash the American dream is reinvented. São Paulo dances to the rhythm of newfound energy. Citizens reclaim the streets in Istanbul.

Despite the disparity of the five regions, common threads emerge. Space is an extremely scarce resource in megacities. The automobile must be adapted to deal with it efficiently. As housing becomes more expensive, sharing transport economically gains appeal. Seamless intermodal mobility is the sustainable future.

Lights, cameras, action! Americans Höweler + Yoon scooped the prize. Their ambitious architecture and planning idea ‘Shareway’, revolutionising the commute, won over the hearts and minds of the jury. At its core is a merging of private and public transport by a mobility platform. This holistically combines existing infrastructure with intelligent traffic flows and networks.

A new social consensus is heralded. A community focus takes priority over individual ownership. It means reorganising and integrating all modes of transport, yes even the Audi (or any other car), in an optimised high technology constantly flowing mobility aorta. The ‘Bundle’ is born. Over three million people can be connected between the ‘burbs and the ‘bright lights’ via the Bundle.

A superhub located in Newark, New Jersey, displaces New York City as the capital of Boswash. Prepare for the battle of the housewives. Prada handbags at dawn. Even more fundamentally in a material world, ownership is traded for sharing. Höweler + Yoon’s new American Dream is of freedom and opportunity. Urban shape is transformed and access to mobility is the ultimate metric of city living.

Urban theorist John Thackara, chair of the interdisciplinary jury of the Audi Urban Future Award 2012, explains the choice of winner. “In our view Höweler + Yoon implemented the task most concretely. They included a high potential for implementation of ideas, at least in part, and in the competitive set timescale to 2030. The jury appreciated the thorough analysis of the social and economic context. Their concept includes both social and technical innovation on a system wide level. The jury was also impressed by the architectural quality of the implementation.”

The car shaped the city. Now it’s the turn of the city to shape the car. Corbu’s machine for living has gone mobile (Vers Une Architecture est maintenant Vers la Mode de Vie). Over to the winners for the last words: “This has been a privilege and an incredible journey. Research in our own backyard! The issues are bigger than architecture. This initiative has the potential to actually move forward with realistic ideas discourse between city planning, architecture and automotive technology. All these factors are important for a deeper understanding of design.”

Categories
Town Houses

Morpheus + The Chelsea Townhouses London

Metamorphosis

Morpheus. In Greek mythology he is the god of dreams. In modern day London he is the deliverer of über high end homes. The fulfiller of dreams. The face of Morpheus is dashing developer Andrew Murray. More anon. A forgotten site in a memorable mews is the latest location. The Chelsea Townhouses, just three of them, are each a mesomorph in mortar and marble composite.

Viewed along mutually perpendicular radii, the concertinas of the finned (to the front) and buttressed (to the back) elevations unfold in anamorphic monochrome. The triumphant triumvirate of light surface, shadowy void and dark glazing is as precisely incised as an Erhard Schön woodcut puzzle. Strips of vertical garden clinging to the rear buttresses provide light green relief.

This art of delaying access to deeper meaning is both metaphorical and physical. The Chelsea Townhouses are four up, two down. Their true verticality remains unrevealed by the delineated modernity of the façade. Two concealed levels lie below street level. Beyond the entrance doors, an airy expanse of lateral living comes as a visual and experiential surprise.

Garages are an integral part of the building envelope. “These houses are real ‘lock ups’,” explains Andrew. “You can drive straight into the garage, step into the lift, walk out of the lobby and you’re home. They’re incredibly secure.” When you’re not at home, Morpheus’ Residential Management Team cleans, carries out security checks, sets up floral arrangements in the first floor reception suite, and a Harvey Nics hamper in the double height kitchen will await you on your return.

This quintessentially upper crust concierge service is included in the purchase price (a snip at £10 million) for the first year. When you are at home, a sommelier will attend to parties while food rises up to the dining room on a mirrored servery, “London’s largest dumb waiter!” Andrew’s words.

Morpheus selected guest designers 1508 London to decorate the 900 square metres interior of the middle house. “We commissioned English designers and craftsmen for much of the furniture,” relates Andrew. “Herringbone and checked tailoring, Fromental wallpaper and Jura blue grey limestone present typical British understatement. Patinato Veneziano polished plaster and brass trimming add a touch of international glamour. Nothing is off the shelf. Everything is handmade.”

A cantilevered staircase resting on open risers with a glazed banister floats effortlessly upwards like a lightweight glacial artery. Andrew refers to it as the “natural flow”. He reckons the first floor winter garden has the best of both worlds, revelling in both display and privacy. This could be a metaphor for the house as a whole. The upper levels are filled with natural light and are used for entertaining: display. The ambiance changes on the lower levels to a duskier clubby feel: privacy. An acoustically panelled cinema and snug family room provide the ultimate underworld sanctuary.

In later Greek mythological writings, Morpheus morphs into the god of sleep. And so to bed. One of four bedrooms, the master suite occupies the whole of the top floor. To the front is the bathroom. A strip of windows facing onto a landscaped roof lights the swathing of bookended Italian marble. To the back, a roof terrace is accessed off the silk carpeted bedroom.

Over the last two decades in business, Andrew has witnessed the metamorphosis of London into the most desirable address in this world. “Demand is through the roof,” he observes. “The capital has one helluva lot of attractions, from culture – where else are museums free? – to a convenient time zone, generous tax structure, political stability, security of legal ownership and education.” Plus heavenly houses fit for the gods like The Chelsea Townhouses.

Categories
Town Houses

Keizersgracht + Museum van Loon

Double Dutch

A myriad of canals provides Amsterdam with such a quantity of mirrors that narcissism becomes inevitable. Reflected every moment by thousands of square metres of rippling silver amalgam, it’s as if the city is constantly being filmed by its water. Consequently each canalside building lends the impression of existing as an egotist solely preoccupied by its appearance. And each canal’s own vanity is to reflect the lights dangling under the bridge arches. They, in turn, appear as shimmering pearl necklaces.

Last winter, a heavy veil of snow hung over the city. Along Keizersgracht, one of the three original canals, cars morphed into white mounds and overhead wires dripped with crystals of ice. Snow on snow on snow. Assuming you’ve recycled your Moët & Chandon bottles at De Appel Arts Centre, tackled the Rijksmuseum, skipped the queue at the Stedelijk Extension and ruminated at the Van Gogh, something of altogether more domestic proportions yet distilling elements of all three is 672 Keizersgracht. Enter Museum van Loon.

Furniture fans will get a Louis the Hooey eyeful; antiques lovers can ogle at porcelain collections spanning three centuries; while integrated contemporary art featuring the likes of light boxes by Danielle van Ark and photographs of Juliette Lewis add an experimental twist to the mix.

“The van Loon family has frozen the house exactly as it was when it opened in 1973,” announces the surprisingly youthful Museum Director and Curator, Tonko Grever. Well that puts paid to any John Fowler type debate over which period should take prominence. “As a result priceless pieces sit next to modern miscellanea. It’s still considered unusual in Amsterdam to open your house to the public,” reveals Tonko. “Maurits van Loon was the last surviving male of the family.” He died in 2005 aged 83. The first van Loons to live here were Willem and his wife Thora. His ancestor, another Willem, was one of the founders of the Dutch East India Company.

“The former butler’s son called by the house a while back,” says Tonko. “He couldn’t believe Mr van Loon just lived in an apartment on the top two floors. I reminded him that a private pad in this part of town, away from the neon nightmare that is Damrak, is still quite a status symbol! Plus it’s pretty big by modern standards.” A handful of staff runs the house now in place of 10 to 15 servants.

Narrow dizzyingly steep vertigo inducing stairs are an all too common feature of Amsterdam houses. Not here. Dr Abraham van Hagen, newly married to the metaphorically monikered Catharina Trip, an American heiress, proved he’d a flair for fabulousness when he redecorated the house in 1752 with enviable élan. Under van Hagen’s  watchful eye, the visual candy men of the day let rip on the interiors. V HAGEN is worked into the first flight of brass and iron balustrades in the spacious staircase hall and TRIP (no puns please) on the second flight. “Museum van Loon is essentially the bones of a 17th century house dressed up in 18th century gear,” Tonko comments.

The house was built in 1672 as one of a pair of symmetrical properties. Rows of windows mirror the canal through a glass darkly across a ‘flat style’ façade. The straight entablatures and cornices of this austere branch of neoclassicism replaced the jaunty twists and turns of Dutch gables from the late 18th century onwards. The architect was Adriaan Dortsman, the John O’Connell of his day; the client, a Flemish merchant named Jeremiah van Raey; the first tenant, Rembrant’s sidekick Ferdinand Bol. “The houses occupy four plots. But Dortsman struck a deal with the authorities and got four for the price of three,” relates Tonko.

A formal garden, entered via the French doors of the garden room, is an oasis of calm away from the busy bustle of the city. It was designed by Eugénie André in 1998 who was inspired by the geometric plan drawn by Jacobus Bosch on his 1679 map of Keizersgracht. When Lavender’s Blue were there, the garden was wrapped in a thick blanket of snow. Shrubs were transmogrified into white blobs and snow on snow lay heavy on the carriage house roof. Tonko notes, “It’s a different picture in summer. The garden is used as a venue for intimate opera concerts. Last June, it was one of 25 canal gardens open to the public as part of the City on the Water tourism drive.”

During renovations the foundations were underpinned with 64 new pilings. “This provided an ideal opportunity to drop the floor level of the kitchen by 20 centimetres because the basement levels were so low,” explains Tonko. Even so, they still are. “The room was then reconstructed using photos from an old servant’s album. One photo from around 1900 shows Leida the cook’s cat perched on a bench. It’s funny – the kitchen was placed at the opposite end of the house from the raised ground floor dining room. Impractical or what?”

On the first floor, surprisingly (the house is deeper than it’s wide), there are only four bedrooms. “Maurits van Loon recalled screens dividing up the bedrooms for privacy. The children had to share rooms with their siblings,” Tonko tells us. “My favourite room is the Sheep Room. You’d have no problem falling asleep there. Just count the sheep!” He’s referring to the strikingly patterned wallpaper which depicts sheep running amok amidst foliage and flowers. It was printed in Nîmes on 18th century woodblocks. Tiny square projections accommodating powder rooms flank the rear elevation.

An ostentatious Polonaise bed – the Regency type that left behind the clean lines of Georgian sobriety and tipsily headed down the helter skelter of Victorian floridity – dominates the Master Bedroom. “When the house is closed to the public, Maurits van Loon and his guests used to stay in the state rooms. Look!” points Tonko. “To the left of the bed is a modern phone. But the formality of the past is present too. A fake door next to the real bedroom door contains extra panels to align it with the fireplace.” Actually there are jib doors galore in the house concealing a rabbit warren of bookshelves, cupboards and even a staircase.

Lila Acheson Wallace, co founder of Reader’s Digest, once quipped, “A painting is like a man. If you can live without it, then there isn’t much point having it.” Since the van Loons bought this sybaritic stretch of Keizersgracht in 1884, they have managed to accumulate 150 portraits, mostly of themselves. Jan Miense Molenaer, the 17th century’s answer to Mario Testino, painted a symbolic van Loon family portrait called The Four Ages or The Five Senses which hangs in the Red Drawing Room. Who could blame them for being vaingloriously proud to have lived here for generations?

Categories
Architecture Town Houses

William Thackeray + Small Dublin Houses

Perfectly Formed

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It’s the Tardis effect. Buildings that are larger than they look. Dublin has them aplenty. Perhaps it’s a Franco-Irish leftover from Marie-Antoinette’s pining to play at cottage living under the shadow of Versailles. Sir William Chambers’ 1758 Casino Marino, Italian for ‘little house by the sea’, is the Irish capital’s very own Très Petit Trianon.

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In the 18th and 19th centuries, terraced dwellings with all the appearance of being single storey (ok, some of them actually are) sprung up across the city. Bungalows they ain’t. These are miniature sophisticated architectural gems in the grand manner.

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This low lying building boom really took off when the Dublin to Dún Laoghaire (née Dun Leary née Kingstown) railway was completed in 1834. These little houses were erected – standalone, semi or together – along the coast from Sandymount near the city centre southwards to Monkstown. The closest equivalent English style of the early versions is Regency.

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While some are all on one level, most have a flight of eight or so steps leading to a distinguished doorcase. Despite lacking the verticality of the townhouses lining the streets and squares of the city centre, these small houses still boast the typical Dublin doorcase treatment with attached columns separating the central door from sidelights and a half umbrella fanlight overhead. Many are three bay with a tall sash window on either side of the doorcase. Below the door is typically a string course and beneath it the shorter windows of a semi basement continue the lines of the windows above.

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The symmetry and classical proportions of these ‘upside downside’ houses as they are sometimes affectionately called, their main floor raised to piano nobile status, so evocative of French and Italian villas but in maquette form, raise questions about their origins.

The Wide Street Commission of 1757, which lent Dublin such lasting gracefulness, could not rid the city of cholera or beggars. Middle class people quickly took advantage as speculators built summer houses or ‘bathing lodges’ along the stops of the new railway line.

Monkstown was one such area of sudden growth. It doesn’t get a mention in Pettigrew and Oulton’s directory of 1834 but a year later was recorded as being well populated. In 1843 Thackeray records in The Irish Sketchbook:

‘Walking away from the pier and King George’s column, you arrive upon rows after rows of pleasure-houses, wither all Dublin flocks during the summer-time – for every one must have his sea-bathing; and they say that the country houses to the west of the town are empty, or to be had for very small prices, while for those on the coast, especially towards Kingstown, there is the readiest sale at large prices.’

He continues, ‘I have paid frequent visits to one, of which the rent is as great as that of a tolerable London house; and there seem to be others suited to all purses; for instance there are long lines of two-roomed houses, stretching far back and away from the sea, accommodating, doubtless, small commercial men, or small families, or some of those travelling dandies we have just been talking about, and whose costume is so cheap and so splendid.’

The influence of the classical tradition in Ireland is easily traced to Sir William Robinson’s seminal 17th century Royal Hospital Kilmainham. James Gandon and Thomas Ivory flew the flag throughout 18th century Dublin. In the 19th century Francis Johnson, John Skipton Mulvany and the two generations of William Murray kept neoclassicism to the forefront of development. Chambers provided the precedential style of the mini villas; now all that was required was a forerunner in scale.

That comes in the form of an early domestic work by James Gandon. In 1790 he designed Sandymount Park for his friend the landscape painter William Ashford. Like a piece of couture, this house reaches a high standard of splendour which filtered down in a diluted prêt-à-faire fashion to the masses.

The three bay symmetrical single storey over raised basement entrance front extends on either side by a blind bay with a niche at piano nobile level. A rectangular pediment (is there such a thing?) surrounded by one helluvan urn is plonked above the central doorcase. A peak round to the side elevation reveals that Sandymount Park is in fact a three storey dwelling: clerestory windows are squeezed under the eaves.

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Single storey with or without a basement houses are an Ireland-wide phenomenon. Urban builders may have been inspired by their country counterparts. Gaultier Lodge, County Waterford; The Grove, County Down; and Fisherwick Lodge all express emphatic horizontality, a love of the longitudinal.

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A printed source of inspiration can be added to these built form examples. In 1833 John Loudon published his voluminous Encyclopaedia of Cottage, Farm and Villa Architect. On one of its 1,400 pages, he illustrates The Villa of Hanwayfield which is three bays wide by three bays deep over a raised basement. A pitched roof behind a low parapet rises above the symmetrical elevations, similar to Dublin’s little villas. A few months after its publication, Loudon mentioned in two magazines that his doorstop of an Encyclopaedia had been a bestseller in Ireland. This coincided with the development of Dublin Bay.

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Whatever the inspiration was, the fad stuck. Towards the end of the 19th century, Portobello in South Dublin was developed on a grid pattern of one and one-and-a-half storey terraced housing. The material (brick) and the fenestration (plate glass) may have been Victorian but the upside downside model ruled.

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Today, these mini villas of Dublin are much sought after hot property. Larger than life characters like Colin Farrell love them – he owns one in Irishtown. But still, a peculiar descriptive term eludes them. Their distant country cousin is a cottage orné. With that in mind, Lavender’s Blue declare ‘cottage grandiose’ as the correct terminology henceforth.5 Small Dublin Houses lvbmag.com

Categories
Design

Audi Party + Royal College of Art London

Audi Do

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Racy young talent from the Royal College of Art bombarded us with their brilliance at West London Audi. This seven storey glazed cathedral to movement is the world’s largest Audi Centre.

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Wilkinson Eyre, famed for the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, designed the £45m building. The top two floors are given over to the Audi Quattro Rooms with great views across – naturally enough – the M4.

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The Natural Audi project is a collaboration between the Audi Design Team based in Ingolstadt and London’s RCA. The 10 final designs were presented to a VIP audience which included leading figures from the design industry and Lavender’s Blue.

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Earlier, arriving in a chauffeur driven Audi R8, doormen running at the ready on arrival, helped get the evening off to a good start.

An open brief without limits was stimulated by the ‘natural’ remit. Student talent rose to the challenge and then some, exploring all sorts from magnetic levitation to biochemical sensors with the goal to enhance the relationship between machine and human.

Frank Rimili and Christine Labonte from the Audi Design team mentored the students. He says of this fusion of design and technology:

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“At Audi Design we are constantly searching for input to widen our horizons. This time we chose to work with young designers, some of who are in disciplines other than vehicle design, such as fashion and textiles, to open our minds to exciting, groundbreaking and innovative ideas.”

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Talking in the top floor gallery of the Audi Quattro Rooms, its rounded skylight reminiscent of a gargantuan car sun roof, Audi Designer Dr Cornelia Menzel told us,

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“We are always ahead of our time with our thoughts. We are very curious and are looking for an intellectual discussion with the generation ahead of us. London being so international is a melting pot of creative freedom. When you design a car it should look like it’s moving even when it’s still. A car should appeal to our five senses.”

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True to form, the 2012 Audi Urban Future Award is taking place at this year’s Design Biennale. In Istanbul. This time it’s architecture. The aim is to develop an online layer of the physical city which can enhance the efficiency, fun and social interactivity of future mobility. Suitcases at the ready. Vorsprung durch Technik.