Ken Shuttleworth on drawing

How did you get into drawing early on?

Drawing has always been a way for me to express myself. I can’t remember not drawing. My dad encouraged it early on and when I started school, I was always enormously proud if my drawings were pinned up on the classroom walls. In my spare time, at the age of six or seven, I drew houses. We didn’t have a television, so this kept me busy and I developed a bulging portfolio of dream houses and crazy fantasy structures. Illustrated reading, jigsaws and maps also fascinated me, which I guess gives an insight into to how my mind works. I would often use pictures to explain my own thought processes; I still do.

How important was drawing to your education at university?

My ability to draw gave me confidence. As with many other architects – Norman Foster, Birkin Haward, Bryan Avery, Robert Adam – drawing was, for me, a way into architecture. I could draw really quickly, a useful tool when trying to justify an idea then and there. John Lee who taught me at Leicester Polytechnic, as it was then, noted my aptitude with my Rotrings (greatly admired German technical drawing pens) and started calling me “Ken the Pen”. The name stuck.

How do you draw now?

I still sketch a lot with pens and pencils, but I also increasingly use an iPad. Sometimes I scan my drawings and continue working on them with ‘digital brushstrokes’ software, which I learned about through David Hockney’s work. I also like to paint abstracts in acrylics.

Image © Ken Shuttleworth

How do you think digital tools have changed drawing as a way to design buildings?

New generations of architects are using their computers to sketch buildings. This is a much slower and more precise process than drawing by hand and the computer creates what is essentially a fixed drawing. It’s no longer an exploratory sketch, and we don’t see it as one. This can make an early iteration of a building more definitive than it perhaps should be. Then again, 3D models allow you to have multiple points of view of any particular design. It’s so much faster to visualise the whole with a digital drawing or even a 3D print.

But it’s also valuable to have to draw a section through a building – this doesn’t happen often enough anymore – because it makes you think it through differently. All tools have to be used with a lot of discretion and intelligence. Right now I am excited by the potential of VR (virtual reality). My clients are too. As an industry I think we need to invest more in this to really reap its benefits.

What do you look for in architects applying to Make in terms of draughtsmanship?

We like to see pencil drawings as well as drawings in other media. We really want to see the range of what someone can do. This also applies to the subject matter; of course we need to see drawings of buildings, but it shows creativity and inspiration if there’re other subjects included. Once we received an application that included pressed flowers which was a good way of communicating awareness and originality.

How do you support drawing at your practice and how should the profession support it?

We have life drawing classes at Make. They are a great way to encourage our architects to use drawing as a problem solving tool. When I can’t find a solution to a problem, I often start to draw, it helps to clear the mind and to focus. I think a lot of architects do this and it should be celebrated.

The Architecture Drawing Prize is a fantastic way to promote drawing in the profession and reflect on it as a form of presentation and in the context of masters like Soane, too. I think the profession overall should embrace drawing as a way of telling its story. It is about the process of designing rather than the final building. In the world of CGIs this often gets forgotten but can be far more interesting. Digital drawing and VR sketching will be amazing tools for the profession too, no one thing should outweigh another though, each has different uses, each has different benefits, all should be embraced.

Image © Ken Shuttleworth

How would you sum up the role of drawing for you as an architect?

Drawing has always been a part of my life and I basically see it as a way to explore. It’s about curiosity. I worked with Norman Foster for some thirty years. At his practice, drawing was a fundamental part of how we thought about buildings. It was equally as important to me as I set up Make and planned our future. I sketched on theatre programmes and napkins. I still do!

And clients always respond well to sketching. I draw a lot with clients in meetings, translating our discussions pictorially. It’s not as easy for people to type up the minutes but a picture paints a thousand words.

This interview forms part of our series on The Architecture Drawing Prize: an open drawing competition curated by Make, WAF and Sir John Soane’s Museum to highlight the importance of drawing in architecture. 

You can follow Ken on Twitter or Instagram.

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Make Models: FC Barcelona

Client FC Barcelona
Scale 1:200
Dimensions 700mm(l) x 500mm(w) x 300mm(h)
Time to make 1 week
Materials Clear filament and white selective laser sintering (SLS)
Model makers Paul Miles and Petre Craciun from Make, and Digits2Widgets

The project
In 2016 Make came second in a hotly contested international competition to design the Nou Palau Blaugrana stadium for FC Barcelona. In partnership with Baena Casamor Arquitectes BCQ and MANICA Architecture, we designed a 12,500-seat sports and entertainment destination as part of a wider masterplan.

The model
The model was built as part of our pitch for the project. Split down the middle, the sectional model comprises a white 3D-printed SLS element to show the exterior, and a clear 3D-printed filament section to show the orthogonal stadium, seating and interior.

The floorplates were laser-cut, and the tiered seating was 3D-printed with clear filament to show the viewer what’s going on inside the stadium.

Changeable plates show the different uses of the space in the proposed arena, from hosting basketball and hockey matches to putting on rock concerts.

Removable plate

Each level of the model interlocks around the columns and cores, bringing stability to the structure, and the model sits on a black acrylic base.

Eyes on the prize
We’re immensely proud to have delivered a world-class venue design for a world-class club. The stadium sets new industry standards for arenas around the world; it’s a compact, flexible, functional and highly efficient design that fits within the wider scheme and is rooted in the history of FC Barcelona.

#makemodelmonday

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Hotels by Make

 

 

Make’s Katy Ghahremani, who led the design of the award-winning Temple House in Chengdu for Swire’s House Collective, explains our approach to hotel design.

 

In a world where people are travelling more and more for both business and leisure, global travellers are looking for comfortable and authentic hotel experiences. At Make we have a deep understanding of what it takes to create them.

The hotelier’s vision

The best hotels have a strong, visionary hotelier behind them. We believe in listening to and understanding that vision so we can create buildings and spaces that deliver a holistic guest experience. We work with hoteliers to deliver a seamless concept that incorporates everything from a guest’s initial digital interaction on the hotel’s website through to their physical arrival, stay and, finally, to check-out.

The future is about service design, which buildings are only a part of. As lead designer, we like to be ‘conductors’ of an ‘orchestra’ that includes lighting and landscape designers as well as library and music providers. In each of our hotel projects, we strive to provide an overarching concept for guests to enjoy, one that considers all possible ways to improve people’s stay.

Delivering authenticity

Guests want to stay in hotels that reflect a sense of place and are integrated into their local community. Our hotel designs are mindful of their location and take inspiration from their context – be it country, city, neighbourhood or the building itself. The best hotels have public areas used by locals as well as guests, as this offers a glimpse of local life and sense of community. Hotel guests don’t want to stay on ‘cruise liners’ anymore, isolated from the area where their hotel is located. With the rise of Airbnb and its hospitality focus, hotels must work harder than ever to deliver a personal, friendly and authentic experience.

Embedding guest service

Designing back-of-house areas that allow hotel staff to deliver the best service is imperative. The easy flow of goods in and waste out is just as important as how guests themselves move through the building. The same goes for the journey of hot food – how it travels from the kitchens to the restaurant tables and hotel rooms – and the staff areas, as a happy staff leads to a better level of service, which in turn produces a better guest experience.

Thankfully, being thoughtful about this kind of design doesn’t necessarily mean being more costly, just more creative.

Prioritising wellbeing

At a basic level, the most important function of a hotel is to provide a safe and comfortable place for people to sleep. And yet so often rooms are not designed with sleep in mind. Whether it’s due to confusing light switches or noise coming from the corridors, sleep deprivation is all too common.

Our ambition is to design great rooms that encourage peace and calm, and allow guests to sleep, relax and work in comfort. This means thinking about the smallest details, such as allowing for privacy in the sleeping area when the hotel room’s door is opened and locating light switches and charging sockets by the bed. It’s these details, whether seen or unseen, that result in a memorable stay.

Article extracted from Make Annual 13. Visit our website to find out more about The Temple House project.

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Make calls for a cultural shift in industry’s approach to fire safety

 

 

 

By Ken Shuttleworth

 

It has been a month since the Grenfell Tower fire – an event that we as a country will never forget and that we in the property industry should never forget. It is rare, in this country at least, that our industry could play a central role in a tragedy of this magnitude and horrifying to think that our sector could be held partly to blame.

Although we cannot jump to any conclusions before the inquiry has taken place, the property industry as a whole has an enormous and immediate responsibility to take stock of its role in fire safety. If this isn’t a line in the sand to do so, then I don’t know what is.

For those interested, I would refer you to some excellent writing on BD Online, by both journalists and commentators, that picks apart some of the regulations on, and specifications of, the materials used at Grenfell and examines their appropriateness, and looks at wider issues related to building regulations.

Clearly, there is no panacea that could prevent this happening again – it goes far beyond one issue. As such, we need an all-encompassing, wholesale review of fire safety, from strategy to materials to regulatory compliance, spanning the entire design procurement, build and maintenance stages. Nothing can be taken for granted.

We also need to aim above and beyond the regulations. We should be pushing for the highest possible standards at all times, just like we do with energy use via sustainability assessment methods.

As an industry, we can start the change now.

The UK can learn a lot from other countries. In Mumbai, a modern, high-rise residential scheme is required to integrate a fire break floor at every 70m and incorporate an open deck space on every seventh floor.

In Hong Kong, intermediate refuge floors must be provided for anything higher than 40 storeys, and all residential towers must have two means of escape. The favoured solution is scissor-stairs, which need to be naturally ventilated.

In Australia all buildings above 25m in height are required to be fully sprinklered and have two means of escape. The use of external sprinklers or drenchers is also required in buildings with adjacent boundaries that fall within a specific set distance.

I feel it is important to add that I am a firm believer in the need for high-rise housing. It is a necessary part of our towns and cities, increasingly so as we look to make the most of the limited land and resources we have. I speak out against a loss of confidence in tall buildings as a result of the Grenfell disaster. With the right standards and measures in place, they have proven a safe and effective way to address urban density.

It is, however, imperative that safety is not compromised, whether building a high-rise from scratch or adapting it for reuse. We need to ensure the highest possible standards of safety are demanded in every aspect of tall building design and construction.

The inquiry will lead to changes across the board when it comes to fire safety – from the materials used to the fire detection and evacuation strategies employed in buildings of multiple occupancy and high-rise buildings. But this could take up to two years, if not longer, and I am sceptical of whether it will go far enough in unpicking the layers and effecting the wholesale change that is needed.

As an industry, though, we can start the change now. Let’s make this the line in the sand for a fundamental change in the way we promote best practice in terms of fire safety, and let’s eliminate the culture of mere compliance or box-ticking with regards to building regulations.

The tragedy of Grenfell is so seared into our collective consciousness that I imagine it will become one of those “Where were you when?” events. But more than that, it has to be, “Where are we now?” “What did we learn from it?” “How have things changed since?” This is a chance to redeem something important out of something immeasurably tragic.

Originally posted on EG 19.07.2017

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When drawing becomes architecture

By Owen Hopkins, Senior Curator of Exhibitions and Education at Sir John Soane’s Museum

Sir John Soane’s (1753–1837) biographer, Gillian Darley, describes the great neoclassical Regency architect as the ‘accidental Romantic’, as visionary as the poet William Blake or painter J.M.W. Turner. The comparison has a pictorial connotation that brings to mind the detailed and imaginative drawings that informed both Soane’s pioneering thinking and his teaching. A skilled and prolific draughtsman in his own right, he also engaged master watercolourist J.M. Gandy to help visualise his distinctive architectural vision.

Design for the Royal Gallery in the House of Lords, by J.M. Gandy.

Architectural composition to show the comparative characteristics of thirteen selected styles of architecture, by J.M. Gandy.

For Soane, drawing was fundamental to architecture – as it has been for countless architects before and since. Thinking about the nature of that relationship, we might say that it is actually through drawing that architecture – both on the level of the individual building and as a discourse – has been conceived for much of its history. Unlike the instinctual fashioning of a rudimentary shelter that constituted the first buildings, architecture is fundamentally an intellectual pursuit, with a process in which drawing plays a pivotal role. Visualising a design in a drawing requires decisions to be made: how a building should be planned, what its elevations will look like, how will it be constructed and many others besides. Once these design decisions are committed to paper or to the screen, they become communicable – whether to builder, client, public or other architects. And it is through this act of communication that a building becomes architecture, when it is brought into relation to a shared culture of ideas.

Presentation drawing of the Bank as a cutaway axonometric, by J.M. Gandy, 1830.

Imaginary view of the Rotunda and the Four Per Cent Office in ruins 30 Study for drawing 29, by J.M. Gandy.

This idea takes us back to Sir John Soane’s Museum – a place that above all is about architecture’s place in culture over time. Walking through the museum is to revel in the way that the myriad objects Soane assembled and then carefully arranged throughout its spaces communicate both individually and as a collective, with the meaning located not just in single objects but also in the relationships between them. Immersed in the museum, we are never far from architectural drawings, whether those on display or tucked away in drawers and cabinets. Soane was an avid collector of drawings, amassing a collection of over 30,000, including major holdings from the office of Robert Adam, William Chambers, George Dance the Younger, Wren, Hawksmoor and many others. The presence of architectural drawings throughout the museum – ranging from the highly technical to virtuoso pieces of art – reminds us that while our individual experience of the museum – indeed of any building – is a personal one, architecture itself rests on shared knowledge, expertise and history.

Designs for a Triumphal Bridge, by J.M. Gandy.

The centrality of drawing to the practice of architecture and the dissemination of architectural ideas, which Soane understood and held great store by in his own time, has inspired us to help create The Architecture Drawing Prize with Make and WAF. We hope that the Prize will inspire architects today to understand drawing both as a way to reveal and represent their ideas.

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The Architecture Drawing Prize

We are delighted to launch an architecture drawing section to the Make blog. This coincides with Make’s collaboration with Sir John Soane’s Museum and the World Architecture Festival on the newly conceived Architecture Drawing Prize.

Here we will publish articles by experts on draughtsmanship focusing on the role of drawing in the profession. We hope this will highlight the continuing importance of hand-drawing as a conceptual tool for architects as well as shed light on how digital presentation techniques can be used for better communicating approaches to design.

Credits (clockwise from top left):
London in 2145, Ken Shuttleworth (2015)
The Butterfly House, Laurie Chetwood (2003)
The Great Pyramid of Giza and St Paul’s Cathedral, Sir John Soane (c.1806-15)

Make Models: Swindon Museum and Art Gallery

Client Swindon Museum and Art Gallery Trust
Scale 1:100
Dimensions 750mm(l) x 200mm(w) x 550mm(h)
Time to make 1 week
Materials Laser-cut plywood and acrylic, 3D printed items
Model makers Paul Miles and Jonny Prevc

We go behind the scenes of the Make modelshop to find out how the team created one of their most impressive works to date, the 1:100 scale model of our new design for the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery.

SMAG model

The project
In November 2016 Make won a competition to design a new home for the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery (SMAG) in the heart of the town’s burgeoning cultural quarter, next to the Wyvern Theatre. The new building will showcase Swindon’s wide-ranging collection of artefacts, from prehistoric fossils to Roman pottery, and one of the UK’s most important collections of modern and contemporary British art. As a venue, it will engage the public with event spaces, learning centres, and galleries flexible enough to host the museum’s unique permanent collection and visiting exhibitions alike. The public realm around the building will provide a civic square and routes linking to the rest of the town centre and the Old Town.

The model
As part of the competition entry, we created a 1:100 scale model of our proposed design in a natural palette. The 3DS MAX renders were worked up in Rhino CAD modelling software, and the design was split into a series of 2D components for laser-cutting and 3D components for printing, all to be done in-house.

The 2D elements included the floorplates, core and fins, for which we used plywood, and the glazing, which we did with acrylic. These formed the structure of the model and were designed to fit together like a jigsaw, so the floorplates interlocked with the core, and the fins with the floorplates. Plywood was the material of choice as it allowed us to make the fine perforations defining the fins, and was easy to bend into the curved shape of the building’s envelope. The plinth the model sits on is a hollow box, also made from plywood, so despite its size, it’s relatively light and portable!

We 3D-printed a series of miniature display cases and artefacts that reflect SMAG’s real collection, including mannequins in costumes and a collection of typewriters, to bring the model to life. An absolute must was including a tiny replica of Apsley the gharial (a type of crocodile), the museum’s star attraction (pictured). These elements were spray-painted in copper tones to create focal points that draw people’s attention inside the model, and secured using PVA glue. We also 3D-printed all sets of stairs, the rooftop beehives, and people and trees to animate the scene and illustrate landscaping potential, both in and around the building.

One of the final touches was laser-engraving a reimagined Swindon Museum and Gallery logo, which our Graphics team designed, onto the main entrance wall.

Model on tour
The model is now with the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery Trust, where it will hopefully help them to secure the remaining funding they need to realise this new landmark for the town. Before settling there, in March 2017 the model took centre stage at the Osborne Samuel gallery in Mayfair, alongside artwork from the museum’s collection, to help raise awareness of the project.

#makemodelmonday

 

 

 

 

 

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City-making and Sadiq

 

 

Writing for Make, New London Architecture chairman Peter Murray gives us his view on how London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, might deliver the “good growth” he has promised.

 

Make partner Jason Parker recently gave a talk in the City of London’s Guildhall about development in the Square Mile and why its cluster of tall buildings is the way it is. He talked about the protected view corridors of St Paul’s Cathedral, the restrictions on building heights, the conservation areas and the composition of the towers – the maximum height of which is defined by the requirements of the Civil Aviation Authority and flight paths rather than urban planners.

How will Sadiq Khan set about shaping the capital as he sits down to write new his plan?

The London Jason described is one shaped by pragmatism – a system of creating pieces of city that come about as a result of argument, enquiry, and a response to geographical, commercial and electoral pressures, rather than from a grand vision of a desirable city. In light of the growing debate about tall buildings and density in London, how will Sadiq Khan set about shaping the capital as he sits down to write new his plan?

The mayor has said that he supports the idea of London accommodating as much of its economic growth as possible, and at the same time he wants to do that without impinging on the Green Belt. Thus he will need to intensify development across the city, particularly in locations with good transport capacity. This means higher-density development and, in some cases, additional taller buildings.

In the current London Plan, large-scale development is proposed to take place in Opportunity Areas. Some of these come under a single development entity, like King’s Cross and Earls Court. Others have multiple ownership, like Nine Elms and South Quay on the Isle of Dogs. The two mayoral development corporations, for the Olympic Legacy and Old Oak Common, create masterplans with developers delivering individual sites.

As of March 2015. Opportunity Areas are London’s major source of brownfield land with development potential (eg commercial or residential) and varying levels of public transport access. Typically they can accommodate at least 5,000 jobs and 2,500 new homes, along with other supporting facilities and infrastructure. Image courtesy Mayor of London website.

King’s Cross is a good example of how masterplanning can work. The developers and their consultants produced a clear layout for the site, retaining areas of key heritage and providing locations and size of buildings with a mix of uses around the site. The plan was flexible enough to change as the economic situation changed; based on a series of sound rules, it retained a level of coherence in scale and detail. The architects of individual buildings were given freedom in developing their own palette of materials in order to create variety and interest.

By contrast, South Quay, not far from Canary Wharf on the DLR, is in multiple ownership. Each landowner jockeys for taller and taller buildings, with guidance arriving late in the day from the authorities when it seemed that the density of the area could exceed even that of Central Hong Kong. Although a masterplan has now been developed, it gives no hint as to the overall form, the townscape, of this key part of the capital.

Next door at Canary Wharf, today’s development is still recognisable in drawings made as far back as 1984. The architecture has changed over time, but the shape of the development is pretty much as planned.

In addition to Opportunity Areas, the mayor will look to develop more public land, particularly some of the 5,700 acres owned by Transport for London. Since many of the sites will be around and above stations, one can expect to see denser developments taking place in town centres across the capital. One can expect plenty of debate about whether this means more clusters of towers or lower-rise but denser developments.

How do other cities do it? Vancouver’s towers are more consistent in height and less clustered than London’s, although the location of tall buildings is similarly determined by views, in this instance of the natural landscape and geography that surround the coastal city. The strategy of creating “intense, dense neighbourhoods with short commutes” was developed by city planner Larry Beasley and dubbed Vancouverism – a key element of which is the podium block, providing an animated street scene with mixed use, green space and family homes at the base and smaller apartments in the towers.

In 1977 Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, then president of France, upset by the impact of the 210m-high Montparnasse Tower, introduced a law that banned any buildings over 10 storeys high in the centre of Paris, which has over the years become increasingly museum-like, with low economic growth. In response, mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo has adopted a policy of permitting taller buildings in select locations within the central area, the first being the 180m Tour Triangle by Herzog & de Meuron. The Central Sydney Planning Strategy, meanwhile, has come up with an envelope of maximum heights created to protect the views and light of parks and places.

With the extreme pressures that London is facing to accommodate growth within a limited footprint, Khan needs to shift away from the current reactive and regulatory planning system to one that is more proactive, positive and creative if he is to provide the “good growth” he is promising in his planning consultation document A City for All Londoners. A proactive plan will give a better idea of the 3D shape of the future city than the current 2D local plans, which leave it to developers to fill in the gaps.

London’s population has grown every year since 1988, and in the last five years has grown much faster than anticipated in the 2011 London Plan. The population projections of the 2016 plan show London growing from 8.2 million in 2011 to 10.1 million in 2036. Image courtesy Mayor of London website.

Providing a clearer idea of the shape of the future city will give greater certainty to developers and communities alike; it will reassure local people about what is going up in their backyard, reduce land speculation and make development less of a gamble. The London Plan sets out where development happens and what density it might be, but gives little thought to what it is going to look like or what form it might take.

As the mayor writes his own version of the London Plan, he has the opportunity to not just say what the London of the future will contain, how many people it can accommodate and what sort of jobs they will do, but also give us an idea of what it is actually going to be like.

 

Peter Murray is the chairman of New London Architecture and The London Society, and president of the creative agency Wordsearch. A trained architect, he founded Blueprint Magazine and the London Festival of Architecture.

Article extracted from Make Annual 13.

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Digital Danube

 

Juraj Porubský, editor of Forbes Slovakia, banishes old stereotypes for good with his account of today’s dynamic world of tech in the Danube Valley.

 

 

You pass the Vienna Opera House, go up the stairs to the Albertina gallery, then past the Imperial Butterfly House, and there it is. The Hofburg Palace, heart of the once-mighty Habsburg Monarchy. You enter the majestic building with thoughts of Empress Elisabeth but instead find a completely 21st-century spectacle. The great halls of the palace are lit up by young entrepreneurs, start-ups and chats about the next big business ideas. It is the Pioneers Festival, the biggest start-up summit in the region.

You close your eyes and listen to the mixture of different languages: German, Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, but mostly English. If it weren’t for all the English, you could easily imagine going back in time, enjoying the Viennese Café Central, maybe meeting Sigmund Freud. You might take the Pressburger Train from Vienna and jump out in the heart of Pressburg, as Bratislava used to be called. You could stroll the boulevards of Budapest, the most dynamic city of the empire at the beginning of the 20th century, or admire the work of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in the famous Villa Tugendhat from the 1930s, which sits nicely above Brno.

But when you open your eyes again, you’re still at the Hofburg Palace and see that the present is much different from the traditional, romantic view of the Danube Valley. Today it is young, high-tech, open and full of energy. It has a vibrant start-up environment and attracts innovators such as Hyperloop, creators of a mode of transportation with the potential to move passengers faster than aeroplane speed, connecting Vienna and Bratislava with less than ten minutes of travel time.

The Pioneers Festival, now in its sixth year, hosts 2,500 tech innovators from over 100 countries at the Hofburg Imperial Palace in Vienna. Image copyright Michael Holmes.

Tech change

In a world where computers can be as dangerous as arms, where major elections are won or lost on the battlefields of social media networks, it is the heart of Central Europe that holds the three major cybersecurity companies: Eset, Avast and AVG. Just recently Eset detected the source of the attack on Tesco Bank that took away money from the accounts of 9,000 customers. These companies are global, but with owners and headquarters located in the region, they support the business environment and invest a lot in local real estate projects – like the famous Savoy-Carlton Hotel, in the heart of Bratislava, which was bought by the owners of Eset this year.

If you want to understand the transition this region is going through, just think about other companies – for instance Prezi, a Hungarian software firm that offers a world-class way of making presentations, or Pixel Federation, a Slovak gaming studio whose TrainStation game has over 20 million players worldwide. These businesses have grown from local backgrounds but enjoy the opportunities of the global digital market. They are part of the driving force behind the new development of the local environment.

Starting out in the mid-90s, there was no state aid, no push from universities. Just a bunch of local entrepreneurs with global know-how and some money they earned thanks to the business opportunities presented by the marvellous new world wide web. They understood the power of sharing knowledge, contacts and money, and supporting others to develop interesting new ideas.

After a couple of years, supporting a start-up became a sexy hobby for local businessmen, big corporations and even governments. The EU’s Joint European Resources for Micro to Medium Enterprises (JEREMIE) programme supported the biggest venture fund in Slovakia, pledging €16 million, while Vienna and the Austrian government offer incentives to the Pioneers Festival, which also gets backing from Red Bull’s Austrian cofounder, billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz. South Moravia in the Czech Republic has a great municipality programme for start-ups called JIC. But the core of this movement is entrepreneurs. Nowadays, it’s not just about money but also the talent to execute an idea.

Business engine for development

So how do the region’s cities cope with this fresh wave of economic activity? Of course Vienna regularly enjoys the top spots in many rankings of standard of living, but what about Budapest, Bratislava, Brno? They’ve been all going through massive development, and though the old hearts of these towns will keep their spirit, some of the newer parts will completely change.

As towns attract more and more millennials, some of the old parts will get a much-needed revival. Just think about the famous ‘ruin pubs’ in Budapest’s District VII (the old Jewish Quarter), very close to Andrássy Avenue, a main high street of the Hungarian capital. These formerly empty buildings have been turned into bars (often doubling as cultural venues) that are now an important part of the city’s nightlife and have helped to revitalise the district.

As businesses grow and towns need more offices, some of the brownfields in the region are being completely redeveloped. The best example is the Mlynské Nivy quarter in Bratislava, which used to be occupied by old industrial halls but now will host major blue-chip brands, including Swiss Re, Microsoft, Accenture and PwC. Many of them are bringing their ‘shared services centres’ to Slovakia, employing tens of thousands of people in the country.

The mixed use Sky Park development in Bratislava, by Zaha Hadid Architects. The scheme will deliver three residential towers and two office buildings. Image courtesy Penta Investments.

Danube Valley vision

In case you get lost in this fast-moving new world of Central Europe, you still have the leading navigation company Sygic, based in Bratislava, sitting in the new heart of the town. However, not even the best navigation can solve the problems of infrastructure and transportation. These will continue to be main issues for all the countries coming out of the old socialist era. It will take a lot of public investment and skills to find smart solutions.

Bratislava’s EU funds are mostly limited to infrastructure projects outside of the most developed towns, and after 2020 they will shrink anyway. Money will then have to come from public funds, or private developers will need to calculate extra costs into their projects, a trend you can already see in Bratislava.

Of course you can still be a dreamer, because at the outskirts of Bratislava AeroMobil is building a plant for its flying car. Who knows, maybe we’ll have self-flying cars in the near future that will bring these four countries of the Danube Valley even closer. (A more likely scenario is that they might help people in places like China, Africa or Australia, where infrastructure is often lacking.)

Until then, with distances here easily accessible by car, a common history and a young generation with no borders in their minds, this place offers unique potential for the future. Some people say that the Habsburg Empire was the most prosperous period for this region. I say the coming one can offer much more.

 

Juraj Porubský is the editor-in-chief of Forbes Slovakia and former editor-in-chief of Pravda, one of Slovakia’s major daily newspapers.

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2036: A Floor Space Odyssey

 

 

Property writer Peter Bill takes us through the key points of the City of London’s recently published City Plan 2036: Shaping the Future City.

 

“The best jobs in the future are going to be what I call STEMpathy jobs,” wrote New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman late last year. “Jobs that blend STEM skills (science, technology, engineering, math) with human empathy. We don’t know what many of them will look like yet.” Indeed. But we do know enough about human empathy to know that nothing of much value gets done in spare bedrooms by pyjama-clad loners – something the City of London holds to be true, for the next 20 years at least.

Corporation planners are devoting much of 2017 to figuring out how the Square Mile might look and feel in 2036. Consultation closed last December on the 75-page City Plan 2036: Shaping the Future City, which provides plenty of clues for architects, planning consultants and developers. Clues are embedded in questions and maps showing what they might want and where. A draft local plan will be published this autumn, with adoption chalked in for summer 2019. But this year is for exploring opportunities.

View over Liverpool Street Station of the City of London tower cluster, with Make’s 5 Broadgate in the right foreground. (c) John Madden

Where to start? Begin with the dull but reassuring 187-page London Labour Market Projections 2016, published by the Greater London Authority last June. Key sentence: “Demand for professional occupations, and managers [will account for] three quarters, or 979,000, of additional jobs between 2014 and 2041.” At 100ft² per worker, that works out at damn near 100,000,000ft² of space – about 220 Gherkins, London-wide. How many the City will attract is, of course, the corporation’s only concern.

Plan 2036 declines to enumerate how many of those jobs will land in the City – wisely perhaps, given its dull-dog image among the under-30s and EY’s worries expressed late last year about 83,000 banking jobs on the line as we Brexit. GLA economists predict 80,000 more jobs in the Square Mile by 2041, up 20% from today’s figure of 400,000. Nearly 20 Gherkins-full. The word ‘office’ has a quill-pen ring; ‘workspace’ has overtones of sweated labour. So let’s first see where the City might allow Friedman’s STEMpathy space.

The bad news is that half the space needed by 2036 has already been designed and granted permission, including 14 towers. “Schemes under construction and permitted but not commenced could accommodate the Local Plan’s projected increase in office jobs in the City up to 2026,” says Plan 36, without mentioning the diameter of the pipeline. But it’s not hard to root out City figures showing a 4,700,000ft² pipeline. Say 10 Gherkins, which sounds about right, given 20 are needed by 2036.

Do not despair. Work has begun on the biggest of the 14 towers, the 1,400,000ft² 22 Bishopsgate scheme. This 67-floor skyscraper will be towering over the City by 2020. It just needs two or three other big developments to begin and a few more to be abandoned and the pipeline will shrivel like a punctured inner tube. Then what? Actually “then where?” is the better question. The Eastern Cluster is where. Think of the gap between the Cheesegrater and the Walkie Talkie and east out to Aldgate.

City tower cluster including consented schemes, with Make’s 1 Leadenhall in the centre foreground. Visualisation courtesy of Millerhare for Brookfield.

Anyone with an interest in the next generation of towers will have been exploring this area since last summer, when the City released a plan delineating an Eastern Cluster. A 3D model of the area has since been produced and published. “This work is at an early stage but has already confirmed the limits of change in the Cluster that include impacts on the wider setting for the Tower of London,” says Plan 36. “The Local Plan review will consider whether any changes should be made to the area of the Cluster.” My italics.

Read that quote carefully, and remember the answer lies in the question. Move on. “What should the City look and feel like in 2036?” is the key question. “The current Local Plan evolved from the 2011 City of London Core Strategy, which was based on evidence collected prior to 2011. The Local Plan now requires updating to address recent development trends and to reflect the City’s emerging priorities and aspirations.” To translate: “The old plan is out of date. We need a new post-Brexit plan.”

Here comes the key phrase: “One option would be to identify a ‘Commercial Core’ where only offices and complementary uses will be permitted, with a more flexible approach to other land uses including housing outside the Commercial Core, though this may impact on space suitable for SMEs.” Bets are hedged, so as not to annoy small businesses. But to baldly translate: “If things get bad, we may need to delineate a formal Central Business District – the sort of thing that most other cities on the planet operate.”

A CBD would include Broadgate, and maybe further north and east into areas where under-30s might feel comfortable. “There may be potential for further business intensification in this area, particularly linking with the Tech City area around Shoreditch and Old Street.” Groovy. Meaning more developments like the 320,000ft² Fruit and Wool Exchange, now being rebuilt by Exemplar. But what might fill the areas between a new CBD and the 2,000-year-old Roman boundaries of the Square Mile?

1 Leadenhall, by Make, along Leadenhall Street. The scheme received a resolution to grant planning consent in January 2017. Visualisation courtesy of Millerhare for Brookfield.

More homes? A few. “Should we indicate where further residential development would be permitted?” asks Plan 36. The GLA is pressing for the present 110-units-a-year ceiling to be raised to 141 a year. The City has 8,000 full-time residents and 1,400 second-home owners. There is no indication more would be welcome. Over 200 flats are being built near St Bartholomew’s Hospital, close to Smithfield Market, an ancient blood-soaked spot which gets wary attention in Plan 36.

“Smithfield has been the home of a meat market for hundreds of years […] we will need to reconcile the needs of the meat market with greater pedestrian pressure resulting from Crossrail and the emerging Cultural Hub.” For “emerging cultural hub,” read the by-no-means-certain relocation of the Museum of London to empty market buildings. Will meat-trading be replaced by a Leadenhall-in-the-West gallery of shops and cafés? Maybe. But any proposal risks the porters’ terrible wrath. Don’t bank on it happening before 2036.

Make’s 40 Leadenhall Street scheme, which will house up to 10,000 people upon completion, is one of the biggest schemes to ever receive planning permission in the City. Visualisation courtesy of DBOX.

 

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