Sunday, 20 September 2009

Derby College - Roundhouse Campus

The press releases for the redevelopment of the Roundhouse in Derby have recently gone out, with features on the scheme in both Building Design and the AJ.

While I'm happy to acknowledge that Maber Architects have done a terrific job with the restoration, the lack of coverage of the schemes exterior spaces has been disappointing. I should point out that for the best part of the last year my colleagueLee Sycamore, with able assistance from Michael Samuels, have been working their arses off to give the buildings an exciting setting!

For those not in the know, a 'roundhouse' is a large circular building, where trains are turned around and worked on. The Roundhouse at Derby is generally considered to be the first of it's type (built in 1839). Until the development began, the whole site was in ruin, but it has been listed as an exemplar scheme including listed buildings, by English Heritage. Original features and nods to the sites former use have been left all over the site, like the rails running up to the site entrance in the top image.

Last month, I was lucky enough to have a bit of a preview of the scheme, ahead of it’s grand opening in October. The exterior spaces look terrific and I am fully expecting it to have more coverage in the future, and probably some awards. I actually took loads of photo’s, but for the sake of everyone’s sanity, I’ve only posted a select few below.

A new plaza at the entrance to the College.

A view from the front plaza to the new link building (note the fancy pants, colour-changing glass).

View to link building from main avenue.

Another of the link building from the lumpy-bumpy College lawns.

View across College lawns.

Engine shed from College Lawns.

College lawns into Plaza.

View back to the Clock Tower from planted area.

Link block from another angle (note the different colour of the glazing).

Another original building.

A bit more context.

View across main public realm area from the new College building.

Note how the patterns of interior and exterior surfacing match.

More chequed paving (which again matches the interiors.

A nicely detailed wall/informal seat on the edge of the College lawn.

Nicely paving!

A view back to the new College building.

Love the glazing , although I realise this probably makes me a bit like the little girl who loves anything glittery.

The 'Roundhouse' interior is worth a look - it's a really extraordinary space.

The roof is an absolute wonder of engineering.

Edit: I see the consistently excellent, Bad British Architecture blog has picked up on the main college building: comment!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

The Best Brochure Ever!

It’s a rare day at work when another product brochure isn’t added to the ever growing pile on the edge of my desk. So you’ll appreciate that it takes something pretty special to catch my attention. Well the new Townscape brochure is certainly special…

You’ll see from the snapshot above that they’ve attempted to give their range of concrete benches, bollards and bins some international glamour, with flashy background images of spectacular locations. They’ve also, and how can I put this, decided to turn the graphics up to 11... Yes it’s busy, it‘s very colourful too, but I just get the impression that it’s not been put together by someone who earns their living as a graphic designer. More on this later, but I think that the indications are, that their photoshopping wasn’t done by the same people that gave Kate Winslett the figure of Karen Carpenter for her Vanity Fair cover. In my mind, I’m imagining that the Townscape sales team have perhaps not had a great deal to do over recent months. At some point someone had the bright idea that instead of just sitting around playing solitaire and enjoying the occasional nip of the cooking sherry, they should make their product brochure ‘a bit more exciting’.

I should probably give you a bit of background about Townscape and where they fit into my world. Townscape are the masters of exposed aggregate concrete, which was incredibly popular for benches and bins in the 70’s and 80’s (see above). They even produced a ‘bomb-proof’ bin, for councils that were a bit worried about all the Irish people hanging round their town centres. However, it strikes me that Townscape are like the Englebert Humperdink of the street furniture world - successful in one era, but forever associated with it and their more contemporary work hasn‘t really matched their previous success. None of Townscapes newer products really work for me, and I’d offer the ‘golf’ related products below, as an illustration of this (see also Enge’s “Lesbian Seagull”).

However, I still regularly specify their products and I have enough interest in them to actually open the brochure and not just chuck it away. You see like Englebert has the classic ‘Please Release Me’, Townscape have the Citizen Jet bench. The image shown below is from Poole Arts Centre (thanks to Dave Prosser and Roger Griffiths Associates), and highlights what I think is so good about it. It’s an incredibly simple and chic concrete product, that really works in a wide range of settings. I literally specify it all the time.

Anyway, back to the brochure. As I leafed through I found myself feeling at first a little bemused, then incredulous, before finally bursting into laughter. I’ve put a few selected pages from the brochure in for people to enjoy. They reminded me a little bit of watching one of those old Jason and the Argonauts films, or maybe the first time you saw Frankie Howard in his little mauve, wig…

I can only surmise that either the graphics department of Townscape are all visually dyslexic, or that they’ve got a really great sense of humour. I really hope it’s the latter. Well done guys, your brochure cheered me up no end!