Are you VReady?

Peter Greaves

 

 

Peter Greaves on the great potential of virtual reality in architecture, the best products on the market, and how we’re using VR at Make.

 

The ‘Virtual Renaissance’
Virtual reality (VR) has had a few false starts over the years, but it’s matured into a technology ready for a wide range of consumer and commercial applications. 2016 was heralded as the year of the ‘Virtual Renaissance’, with VR moving beyond its traditional gaming and entertainment sphere into front rooms and business fields as diverse as retail, charity, education and medicine, among others.

With architects now able to use VR software to easily create and interact with computer-generated 3D environments, it’s not hard to envisage virtual reality joining CAD, physical models and the pen as an essential design tool of the future, with architects and clients able to ‘step into’ their designs at the flick of a switch.

Still from the virtual reality setup of a building Still from the virtual reality setup of a building

Exploring buildings with VR
VR is already beginning to influence real estate sales, especially in the United States. Property developers there are using it to sell off-plan homes, with customers responding positively to the opportunity to stand inside an apartment before it’s been built. This illustrates the huge advantage VR has over a CGI on a flatscreen: a realistic sense of scale.

Architects who’ve spent their lives looking at 2D plans and 3D computer models have become experts at interpreting them and imagining the space they’re trying to show. But it’s always tricky to convey this to clients. The most successful method to date has been the physical model, which is much easier to understand than flat approximations of space. But even with the speed and ease afforded by 3D printing, models still have their limitations, namely, that they’re built at a greatly reduced scale, meaning a good amount of imagination is still needed to understand the building. Architects rarely have the freedom to build a 1:1 model of even a single room of a building, and if we do manage to mock up a space, it’s usually late in the design process or even during construction. VR could potentially solve this problem, allowing architects to present fully 3D, 1:1 scale ‘models’ of buildings for clients to explore.

The best VR for architects
The four main products currently on the market for architects that Make is exploring are:

  1. Oculus Rift – kick-starting the current VR renaissance, this headset lets users look around a 3D space. Movement is limited and primarily a seated experience, with the avatar controlled with a standard gaming console controller.
  2. HTC Vive – what we use at Make, the Vive introduces ‘room scale’, with two small tracking lasers that locate the user’s head and the visuals respond as the user walks, jumps or even lies down, creating the sensation of being in a different place – a phenomenon known as ‘presence’. It also uses two wand controllers, similar to the Nintendo Wii’s remote, that let users see their hands and interact with objects within the virtual world. People can use these tracked controllers to paint with a virtual brush, or pan and rotate a model or image, simply by moving their hands.
  3. Google Cardboard – a simpler solution in which users put their smartphone inside a special cardboard box with two lenses and look inside. Here, the smartphone forms the screen and brains of the machine and can produce a visually similar 3D environment to other methods. Apart from that it’s quite limited, but it does have one major advantage: it’s extremely cheap and portable, making it easy to take to meetings or send to clients, who can download an app or model and view it in 360-degree, 3D video.
  4. PlayStation VR – promises some of the more impressive VR features at an affordable price point, which many predict will be what brings this product to living rooms across the globe. Clients, once they’ve tried on their children’s VR goggles and look around the fantastical worlds developers are creating, might rightly ask, “Why can’t I walk around in my BIM model?”

Woman using HTC Vive    Man using HTC Vive

VR at Make
At Make, we’ve used our HTC Vive on several projects so far, allowing clients to view and even ‘stand inside’ their building at full scale as we design it. The response has been overwhelmingly positive: we can more easily explain our design decisions, and they can more easily understand the building. Take ceiling height, for example: you can try to explain how certain dimensions will feel, but it’s far more effective to put a client inside the room and let them see for themselves. It’s also far less time consuming and expensive than mocking up a false ceiling somewhere. BIM modelling has such a high level of detail that a good VR tour of the model can offer a full-scale mock-up of the whole building before a single spade has broken ground.

We’ve also started printing our own version of Google Cardboard viewers to send out to clients. These can be posted flat and sent alongside project documents, drawings and renders to offer an additional description of the building, either as an immersive environment or a 3D video and flyby. The ability to convey a true sense of scale, even in this simple form, is a powerful addition to our current forms of media.

VR and the future of architecture
VR is certain to have a tremendous impact on how we communicate our designs to clients and make design decisions. Simulating the way light enters a room, the way sound insulation reacts to ambient noise, even evoking a sense of place – this and more is on the horizon once VR is combined with existing and emerging technologies.

Integrating this level of immersion into the design process will undoubtedly lead to better-realised visions and more successful designs in the future, not just at Make but across the industry at large.

Woman using VR headset

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Property’s rising stars on the future of the industry

Laura-Le-Gal
By Laura Le Gal


The events of the past few months suggest there is a sharp divide between the way the young and old think in the UK. However, at the recent Estates Gazette roundtable entitled “Property’s next generation: the change agents”, the consensus among younger professionals in the industry was that the older generation is listening to them more than ever.

With the tide turning against some of the “old, traditional ways”, according to British Land attendee James Rolton, we are bound to see the ideas of the next generation playing more and more of a central role in the way we do things.

Held as part of the London Real Estate Forum 2016, it was an honour to be invited to take part in the event, which gathered 20 millenials across firms such as British Land, Knight Frank, The Collective, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and Leadlease.

Mr Fogg's_7
The roundtable at Mr. Fogg’s Residence in Mayfair © Garry Castel, Modo Publishing

Emily Wright, features and global editor at the Estates Gazette chaired the discussion, which centred on who the next generation is and how they can help shape the future of the built environment.

So what do the next generation think?

Below are five of the most salient points I took from the conversation:

  • What’s the definition of “next generation”?
    It’s not just a matter of age – the term encapsulates individuals who were also “wanting to set the world on fire”, as well as having reached a certain professional maturity (around 10-15 years’ experience) and the influence that comes with it.
  • What are the new challenges of the modern workplace?
    The fact that the next generation needs to be adaptable, flexible, and open to change if they want to be successful. Stability, lifelong employment in a single company, or even doing the same job one’s whole life are not something this group is likely to experience. The world is rapidly changing and technology will increasingly affect the way we live and work.
  • What is the next generation known for?
    While tech was seen as being synonymous with millennial-led innovation, there was some debate over whether there is more to the story than CRE tech (commercial real estate technology). Design also has the power to “address real social problems” and change people’s lives.
  • What are the biggest challenges or opportunities the next generation faces?
    The public sector is not as innovative as some of the private sector, often putting up barriers to unconventional new ideas, because they don’t fit in the boxes and regulations already in place. Governments and councils need to attract young people with dynamic ideas, and give them the power to change things.
  • How are the next generation changing the industry?
    Alternative development projects led by ambitious young entrepreneurs – eg Boxpark and The Collective – reduce the red tape and project timelines from start to completion. The Collective CEO Reza Merchant described his company as providing an alternative form of living and working, purposefully designed for young people.

It’s worth making one final point, that the majority of the participants of the roundtable were male and Caucasian. If we are to design for an increasingly diverse society, then increasing diversity within the sector is a challenge we must all meet head-on.

However if the energy, expertise and passion of this particular group of individuals is anything to go by and the fresh and exciting ideas that they brought to the debate, it feels like there won’t be much that we can’t achieve and change if we put our minds to it.

 

For more information on anything covered in this post please contact comms@makearchitects.com or your usual contact at Make.

 

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UK Employee Ownership Day 2016

Today Make is celebrating UK Employee Ownership Day. With numerous events running across the UK and the involvement of thousands of employee owners and other partners, EO Day is an integral part of the Employee Ownership Association (EOA) events calendar and was introduced to raise awareness of employee ownership as an economically strong and balanced business model.

Since our founding in 2004, the practice has been 100 percent employee-owned and held in an employee trust. The model has provided a robust and sustainable foundation for building – and maintaining – an incredibly successful practice.

Founder Ken Shuttleworth says, “When setting up Make, I knew I wanted something different. I envisioned a practice owned by everyone – and this was before we even knew there was something called ‘employee ownership’! That model had already proved to be a great success at John Lewis, and it went on to be a great success at Make, as well. For us, employee ownership creates a wonderful sense of belonging, of all working towards a shared goal. It’s a big part of what makes Make the great workplace it is today, and will continue to help us stand out in a competitive market as we grow.”

In only 12 years, we’ve grown from 1 to over 150 employees across studios in London, Hong Kong and Sydney. We currently rank 24th in the Architects’ Journal AJ100, a ranking of the UK’s top architectural practices, and have also been named AJ100 Employer of the Year 2016. As one of a small (but growing) number of employee-owned architectural practices in the UK, our structure provides a unique selling point in recruitment which enables us to secure the most talented professionals.

Employee ownership has always been in step with Make’s collaborative, non-hierarchical culture, which gives equal weight to everyone’s ideas and encourages equal participation in decision-making. Since every employee is a partner and receives an annual profit share, every ‘Maker’ is that much more invested in the success of the company. This level of dedication benefits Makers, of course, but especially clients, who can be sure that they’re always getting the best out of everyone.

Deb Oxley, CEO of the Employee Ownership Association, says: “When people have a stake in the place they work, the commitment to it and investment in it is much higher.”

More generally, the benefits of employee ownership have been proven in EOA-led research, and include improving employee health and wellbeing, increasing productivity and fostering creativity and innovation across an array of industry sectors. In addition:

  • UK employee owned companies contribute over £30 billion to the UK economy annually
  • Employee-owners have higher levels of job satisfaction, feel a greater sense of achievement and job security, and are more likely to recommend their workplace than employees in non-employee owned businesses
  • Employee owned businesses operate in a range of sectors including healthcare, social care, education, transport, manufacturing, retail and professional services

Oxley says:

“Companies such as Make Architects are great examples of the economic and social benefits that can be achieved in an employee owned environment. The EOA is proud to lead the sector-wide celebrations of employee ownership on EO Day 2016, as part of our activity to raise awareness and move employee ownership further into the mainstream of business structures.”

The Employee Ownership Association is a not-for-profit and politically independent organisation that represents businesses which are employee owned or transitioning to employee ownership across the UK.

Supporting a diverse network of more than three hundred companies, the EOA works in close partnership with its members to champion, promote and provide insight into the business case for employee ownership, and advocate the place of employee ownership within the UK economy.

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Letter from Hong Kong

Roderick-Tong---Make-Architects
By Roderick Tong


Roderick Tong with an update on the latest trends and noteworthy market developments in Hong Kong.

Art and design on the rise

Hong Kong has always been known as a financial powerhouse. These days, however, it’s fast emerging as a creative hub for a new generation of artists and designers following a growing number of design events and art venues.

One of the latest hotspots for art is the recently renovated PMQ, which is located right at the centre of the city. The building’s name comes from its previous incarnation as the Police Married Quarters. The complex has attracted lots of attention since its soft opening in mid-April 2014, and much of its success comes down to the mix of designers in residence – among them, they produce contemporary fashion, avant-garde jewellery, and stylish furniture and other product designs. Notably, there are no big-name brands.

Courtyard.jpg

View of the courtyard at PMQ

Going green

There has been a growing awareness of the importance of sustainable development among the general public in Hong Kong.

Although the construction industry is not yet subject to any statutory regulations like in the UK, certification by BEAM Plus, which is largely based on BREEAM, is now one of the prerequisites for being granted gross floor area concessions for certain green and amenity features – an effort to foster a more sustainable built environment. It’s proven an effective measure for promoting green buildings in Hong Kong, with a growing number of developers adopting BEAM Plus to plan and build.

In May 2015 the Environment Bureau unveiled Hong Kong’s first energy-saving blueprint, which aims to cut ‘energy intensity’ – the amount of energy for every unit of wealth created – by 40 percent by 2025. The government is taking the lead in promoting green building development by requiring all major new government buildings to achieve at least BEAM Plus Gold certification. It’s also striving to reduce electricity consumption in government buildings by 5 percent by 2020 and will explore further reductions come 2019/20.

Increasing office supply

Hong Kong’s Grade A office market is about to embark on an unprecedented growth spurt. According to a rough estimation by JLL, at least 20,000,000ft2 of Grade A office supply will be delivered between 2015 and 2024, with a little over half of this coming from government land sales.

The growing number of mainland Chinese companies flocking to Hong Kong has been driving demand in the office market, which is becoming more decentralised rather than relying on traditional core areas. The majority of opportunities for new Grade A office space will be in decentralised areas, the most important of which is Kowloon East. The emergence of Kowloon East as a central business district is being facilitated by the sizable office space supply in Kwun Tong, Kowloon Bay and Kai Tak (pictured) – together these areas are poised to offer more than 60,000,000ft2 of office space, which is about three times the size of total office space in Central. Several new infrastructure developments, including the MTR Shatin to Central Link (due for completion in 2020) and the already completed Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, will complement growth in Kowloon East.

bigstock-Urban-Development-At-Hong-Kong-104603090.jpg

Aerial view of the construction site at the old Hong Kong Kai Tak airport July 26, 2015. This is where new public housing and entertainment centers will be built by 2021.

Roderick joined Make in 2006 and relocated to Beijing in 2009 to focus on our China projects. In 2011 he moved to Hong Kong to set up our office there and oversee the construction of Dunbar Place, Make’s first building to complete in the city.

For more information on anything covered in this post please email comms@makearchitects.com or speak to your usual contact at Make.

Long life, loose fit

by James Goodfellow

‘The circular economy’ is a phrase that’s thankfully becoming increasingly well known within the built environment industry, but sadly one that seems to be taking much longer to action in a meaningful way. The concept of course is about reducing our reliance on raw materials, minimising waste, and maximising the longevity of the final product to get as long a life from it as possible before recycling the materials for use again. Essentially, it looks to replace the ‘Take, Make, Dispose’ linear economy that has dominated our culture for so long with a ‘Maintain, Reuse and Recycle’ circular one.

Linear economy

For us it’s quite simple. We try look at it as a ‘Long Life, Loose Fit’ approach. We see it as trying to get as much from a building and the process of constructing it as possible. This applies not only to the lifetime of the building itself but also to the materials used to construct it.

Circular economy

We as architects approach the circular economy at four levels, asking ourselves key questions at the start of the design process:

Firstly, at the very centre is the building. Can we maintain or repair an existing structure?
 Small changes to the way we design buildings now will help enormously later when buildings are broken down and recycled.

Circular economy - Building (c) Make

Take our 55 Baker Street project, in which the 1950s building was considered to be at the end of its life. We proposed retaining the existing structure, and we were able to keep over 70% of the concrete frame and 50% of the existing fabric. Internally, the soffits of the concrete slabs were exposed to provide thermal mass, and bespoke chilled beams were hung from the concrete ceilings to provide cooling. Externally, the cladding was upgraded to meet the highest standards through improved thermal and solar performance.

55 Baker Street construction

55 Baker Street

This brought the existing building up to modern-day standards and provided renewed life to a building that would have otherwise been demolished.

Circular economy - components

Next we assess the components. Could we reuse or redistribute parts of the current fabric, or can we introduce modular or prefabricated construction? Like Meccano, a much-loved childhood toy, what can be reused or changed? How can we make the most of different pieces of kit? At our Pure Hammersmith site, we used prefabricated units manufactured off-site and inserted a finished product into the building structure.

 

We can now design in a way that allows components to be removed or deconstructed in the future and reconditioned for use again.

Circular economy - elements

Thirdly, we analyse the elements. Can we use reclaimed or refurbished elements? And how can we optimise materials or bring repetition to our design to enhance what we have? With 5 Broadgate we optimised the size of the cladding panels to work within standard stainless steel coil widths, which minimised waste through offcuts.

Circular economy - materials

Finally, we consider the materials we use. This is really interesting for Make and something we embrace passionately. What is the recycled content of the materials we specify? What could it be? And what is their durability? The Copper Box was one of the few legacy buildings at the 2012 London Olympics, and we are now enormously proud to see this world-class sporting facility open to the community. The cladding has 70% recycled content, and you can see how it’s changing naturally over time, adding further intrigue to the building.

Copper Box

One day, all this copper will be rolled up and reused somewhere else. And that gives us enormous pride too.

5 Broadgate cladding

With 5 Broadgate we analysed all the components within the building, and when selecting materials considered the recycled content as part of the selection process. We then tracked all these elements through procurement and construction, enabling us to establish that 38.64% of total material value derives from reused and recycled content. By undertaking this study, we now have a benchmark to compare future projects against as we strive continue to take make further improvements.

 

So that’s four layers, each of which gives us the opportunity to maintain, reuse and recycle, and ensure a ‘Long Life, Loose Fit’ approach. The ultimate aim of course is to create a new generation of flexible buildings that extends the life of its constituents and that one day will be completely recyclable – something we believe is becoming increasingly plausible if we all embrace a circular economy.

Circular economy

 

 

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Unique Cities – Questions of Identity

By Greg Willis

What makes a city liveable? That was the question posed recently by a national newspaper. Readers were invited to share pictures and stories in response. From graffiti to open air barbeques, street scenes to ice creams, identifiable monuments to ubiquitous landscapes, the collection was so broad as to make the answer to the question self-evident: the only thing in common was the originality of the response.

It is hardly surprising that it is the uniqueness of our cities which define our emotional reaction to them. After all, cities are made of people and people are as diverse as the cities in which we inhabit. That there is an inextricable link between identity, uniqueness and that which we determine as being liveable only highlights the problem of non-organic growth in many modern urban conurbations.

Organic and non-organic growth

Non-organic growth could be described as when a large urban centre comes into being quickly to meet a specific or a series of time-critical needs. Very few successful urban environments arrive fully formed, with the possible exception of Disneyland. (Although it is debatable whether one could describe this as being liveable and it’s probably not even considered unique considering the proliferation of the brand around the world).

In contrast, organic growth allows multiple peoples, events, markets and cultures to shape the environment in which they live, occur, serve and inhabit. Critically, organic growth also has room for the misguided or the temporary, allowing the loved, workable, pragmatic and lasting environments to remain. It could thus be argued that it is the ability for cities to grow organically, shaped by many different elements with the potential to change, adapt and renew, which gives birth to that which may be considered unique and therefore what we like to define as a place’s identity.

Ultimately, what makes a city liveable is the very fact that, by definition, it is living – capable of change, not complete, alive with possibility – like the occupants who inhabit it, completely unique.

Organic Growth

Organic growth

Inorganic Growth

Inorganic growth

Is it possible to ‘design in’ uniqueness?

Protecting the uniqueness of an area could be argued as championing its identity, or at least acknowledging it and responding to it. The appropriateness of any design response in reinforcing the unique character of an area is of course subjective, with approaches ranging from being complementary and sympathetic to being contrasting and challenging. Both attitudes however, still acknowledge the presence of an original identity.

What happens when there is no, or little, conceived present identity from which to respond? What of those times when non-organic growth is unavoidable? This is a more unique challenge for the designer. One could employ a unifying element to the overall project, a kind of rubber stamp to the component parts which points us to the sense of the whole, however obviously. While this might indeed reinforce an identity, it’s hardly the most persuasive argument for uniqueness. In striving to impose a character, there is a danger of crowding out those myriad of possibilities which might appeal to the multitudes of communities who reside there. A more subtle approach might be one of scale. Care and attention should be given to every element of our cities; streets, neighbourhoods, districts and conurbations. Large or small, macro or micro, every scale of our cities serves to form its identity. Surely our own uniqueness is determined by the minutiae of our fingerprints as well as the more obvious characteristics of our facial features? The skill of the designers and planners is to navigate through the various scales with uniqueness of design which in turn enforces the strength of the overall identity.

Ask the community what they want

Ask the community what they want

How then should we approach the ‘design of densification’, so that the city in which these new homes are being built retains its character?

It is a misconception that densification need be the enemy of character. Instead, considered densification should be championed as the preservation of character; it can allow for the protection of the elements of the city which are standard bearers of its identity while allowing the city to survive, grow and thrive. The successful densification of urban areas should allow for the red line protection of those jewels of our cities which we should jealously guard; the parks, the canals, the squares, the notable buildings in which we all stake a common claim.

Densification should not only be protecting the unique areas of our cities, it should also actively contribute to the character of its landscape. Density should not be a simple multiplication of a base unit, the designer should look for opportunities in densification – height offers views and critical mass requires amenities. Density therefore, should equate to a myriad of possibilities, each unique and identifiable.

The ingredients only a dense city can provide

The ingredients only a dense city can provide

Unique cities

Unique cities

 

This essay was extracted from the Future Spaces Foundation report: Vital Cities not Garden Cities: the answer to the nation’s housing shortage?

 

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Relevant Cities

By John Prevc

Cities need to keep pace with societal changes in order to ensure that they remain relevant for their inhabitants. This means designing flexible and adaptable cities where streets, spaces and buildings are able to slowly metamorphosize into places that resonate in their own time. Cities need to mature carefully, keeping the best and most significant markers of their culture and identity and hence preserving their individuality and essence.

We are unable to accurately guess where we will be even in the not-too-distant future. Keeping our cities relevant for the communities that inhabit them requires an understanding of the human condition and in particular our social and economic interdependence and our need to exchange information with each other. The human condition is consistent and universal, adapting to the context of place and time. Relevant cities are therefore a product of time and how we as humans interface with it.

Today’s relevant cities

Successful cities are cities that offer people opportunities to improve their lives. Whether it’s through an increase in employment opportunities, better housing, a well-established social infrastructure, a connected and well-maintained transport system or simply a cool place to be and hang out, it’s choice that’s the differentiator.

So how do successful cities optimise choice? We believe that one of the most significant factors is greater density. The exchange of information is at the heart of both economic and social success in the community. Through increased density connections are improved. Dense cities encourage social inclusion, foster business development, improve connections between members of the community and help to reinforce identity and a sense of place through design excellence.

High density life

High density brings life to the city

How do we deliver design excellence within a high-density city location? Our starting point would be to ask the community what it is that they feel they need. Consulting with the community and broader stakeholders will make cities more relevant. The specifics of place and the maintenance of uniqueness is something that lives in those who experience the area on a day-to-day basis. It is when a community is asked to adopt a commercial or political vision imposed from those on the outside that relevance is lost.

We can no longer consider the family unit in the traditional way. We are a more mobile society, more often than not living away from our families as we follow work opportunities. We live on our own for much longer at both ends of our lives and the fear of isolation brings us closer to those living and working around us. Our city communities are an extended family and often bring more relevance to our lives than our own blood line.

These social changes, together with an escalation in property prices especially in London, suggest that homes need to become more affordable either through a policy of subsidy or/and the consideration of smaller homes for single person habitation. Smaller homes will not however help families with children. Families with children are finding it increasingly difficult to afford three and four bedroom homes. If we are to encourage whole life city living and a more balanced community we will need to build variety of size and tenure.

Cities with greater densities encourage people to walk and cycle as distances between destinations are reduced and more accessible. Improvements in health and wellbeing are tangible results of this, with all of the social, environmental and economic benefits that this brings. The reduction in the pace of movement increases opportunities for people to meet informally and exchange information. This improves social cohesion and has economic benefit. It also makes for a more vibrant and active public realm which is safer.

Lower car use

Dense cities have lower car use than small suburban towns

Dense cities are green cities in both the physical and figurative sense. They offer visual and functional amenity at all scales, from the balcony to the private garden through to the public square and park. Density is a balance between building and open space giving people an environment where there are clear and well-defined boundaries between their public and private lives.

Density improves choice not only in terms of jobs and housing but also in terms of the types of goods and services available on the high street. Competition increases choice, reduces costs and improves quality. A significant population within the local community allows the market to offer a bespoke service which is adaptive and flexible following the societal needs which it will reflect if it is to be successful. For cities to remain relevant they need to be nimble and responsive adapting to the community they serve.

Flexible buildings

Flexible cities enable buildings to evolve with time

 

This essay was extracted from the Future Spaces Foundation report: Vital Cities not Garden Cities: the answer to the nation’s housing shortage?

 

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Greener Cities

by Frances Gannon

The value of green
Describing his vision of the ‘Town-Country’ Garden City, Ebenezer Howard said: “Human society and the beauty of nature are meant to be enjoyed together.” This chimes with contemporary research relating a connection to nature to people’s psychological state and social cohesion. Close proximity to nature has been linked to healthier babies, less lonely and depressed seniors, and more productive workers. Dutch researchers have investigated the value of ‘Vitamin G’, the effect of green space in the living environment on health, well-being and social safety. The Biophilia and Biourbanism movements are strengthening, asserting that humans seek connections with and gain positive feelings from ‘the rest of life’, including the whole of the natural world, be it plants, animals or the weather.

Vitamin G

Vitamin G: Visibility in a green city is just as important as direct use

Increasing densities = intense green
Accommodating an increasing population in higher density urban environments gives the opportunity to intensify the connection to nature. Rather than walking for 20 minutes through a suburban sprawl of tarmac driveways and fenced-off back gardens to reach a park, in dense urban environment accessible green places can be layered throughout. Faced with urban growth and limited land, the Singaporean Government has developed a strategy to transform Singapore from a ‘Garden City’ to a ‘City in a Garden’. This aims to raise the quality of life by creating a city that is nestled in an environment of trees, flowers, parks and rich bio-diversity. Key elements in bringing parks and green spaces right to the doorsteps of people’s homes and workplaces are: roadside greenery, planting and maintaining one million trees and creating a network of ‘park connectors’, green corridors which link between parks. Singapore is also tackling ‘vertical green’ with roof gardens and green balconies becoming the default.

Functional green
Green spaces provide a setting for relaxing or sunbathing, meeting and entertaining, walking, jogging, playing, gardening or bird-watching. In a subliminal way, walking past trees keeps us in touch with the seasons. Modern life is often disconnected from food production and there is value in re-establishing that connection: be it views of wheat fields, grazing animals, tomatoes in allotment polytunnels or lettuces growing in window boxes. Reducing suburban sprawl leaves more land available for food production, protecting that possibility for future generations and as-yet unknown challenges. Trees and planting in cities reduces air pollution and the urban ‘heat island’ effect. It reduces flooding and pressure on drainage infrastructure. Planting provides habitat for animals, birds and insects. It gives character and identity to an area and enhances local pride in the environment.

Embedded green
A wide variety of green spaces should be embedded at all scales of the city. The greater the density of the inhabitants, the more parks there should be and the closer they will be to each resident. Filling streets with trees and planted verges is an easy win in terms of visual amenity, environmental benefits and birdsong. Private individual back-gardens are the default British model for families and later life but investment needs to be made in other models in order to maximise value and relevance to a wider variety of households.

Most balconies built today are too small to be valued amenity spaces, usually home to drying washing and bikes. Making balconies large enough to be real useable ‘outdoor rooms’ with space for planting would make apartment-living immediately more appealing to a wider demographic, perhaps reducing the flight of young families to the suburbs. A simple move, such as offsetting apartment layouts on alternate floors so that a double-height outdoor space which is much more bright and airy. Built-in window boxes encourage micro-scale gardening, personal expression and character, giving visual amenity to many. Green and brown roofs play an important role in providing habitats for birds and insects, reducing water run-off, increasing insulation as well as visual amenity, without necessarily having to be accessible useable spaces.

Open space

There are many different types of open space that can be used in a dense urban setting to give residents the benefit of the vitamin G effect

Shared green
Shared private spaces, such as roof gardens or courtyard gardens are very popular in other European countries but not so common in the UK. Allotments or community gardens are being set up in neighbourhood parks and empty sites but these could also be established on roofs or in courtyards of new residential developments. Gardening, composting and play equipment, for example, can be much more effective on a scale bigger than a single household. The key is finding the size of the community where a sense of individual investment, responsibility and defensible space is maintained – easiest with a group of families perhaps. The exploration of semi-private or shared spaces can unlock many opportunities. Commercial units can also provide amenity in a city, such as a plant nursery or urban farm or café garden.

The built environment must always make way for some areas of ‘deep rooted’ green: mature trees or parkland that can become long-term habitats for plants and animals. Embedding nature at all scales and vertical levels of a building, a street and a city brings a vital connection into everyday lives.

Maximising green

Maximising green space in a dense city:
1. Juliet balcony
2. Balcony
3. Roof terrace
4. Private garden
5. Communal garden
6. Playground
7 Public square
8. Park
9. Avenues and boulevards

 

This essay was extracted from the Future Spaces Foundation report: Vital Cities not Garden Cities: the answer to the nation’s housing shortage?

 

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Completing the architecture

Tracey Wiles

 

 

Tracey Wiles reflects on the design ethos of Make’s successful and expanding interiors team.

Make is not particularly well known for its interior design, but over the last ten years the team has had the privilege of delivering fully integrated interiors for many of our buildings. We now have a growing team and an amazing portfolio of exemplar interiors projects encompassing virtually every sector, with more exciting opportunities in the pipeline – including working collaboratively for the first time with other architectural practices. We have recently been commissioned to design the interiors for two large-scale residential buildings designed by Stanton Williams for the Canary Wharf Group, encompassing more than 300 apartments – an incredibly exciting opportunity for the team!

Many architects believe they can do both interiors and architecture. This can certainly be true, but the result is only exemplary if the architect has a focused passion for interior design. Our dedicated interiors team includes both formally trained architects and interior designers, and some who are a combination of both! What we all have in common is a love of detail and a passion for carrying an architectural concept from macro to micro so that it is seamlessly integrated into a design.

We especially relish the challenge of delivering ‘turnkey’ projects, where we design, select and procure every aspect of a building. It is on these all-encompassing projects that the expertise and passion of Make’s interiors team really makes an impact. We are now working towards the possibility of realising every last detail of our buildings, both exterior and interior.

Our designs reflect our belief that the journey through a building starts as soon as it comes into view. Its context, its presence on the street, its facade and its threshold all feed directly into the interior – the hierarchy of spaces, their scale, proportions and detail. It is important to trace the steps of the end user, whether visitor, resident or employee, to fully understand their experience of transitioning through a space. We spend a great deal of time sketching, model making and mentally walking through our buildings to familiarise ourselves with the user’s journey.

Harrods Escalator Hall Private home

The interiors team does not sit in isolation in the Make studio – we are fully integrated and work alongside the project teams. Our approach is not to simply ‘plug’ interiors into buildings; instead we carefully consider scale, materials, detail, services, joinery, furniture, fittings and accessories, all under the umbrella of a strong overarching concept. We create interiors responsibly, addressing programme, servicing and maintenance, with a robust understanding of buildability. Our concepts are always unique to each individual project, addressing client, agent and market briefs and responding to a range of different budgets with solutions that range from off-the-shelf adaption to fully bespoke designs.

One of the most important crossovers between interiors and architecture is the maintainability and usability of services. We take great care to ensure that these are compatible with the intended user and that visual impact is minimised. Working as a fully integrated architecture and interiors team means we have the advantage of understanding the services from the perspective of the user, the installer and the maintenance staff.

We have become adept at using off-site modular prefabrication, which allows services to be integrated and components delivered to site fully finished. Every part of the fit-out is treated like a building component. This minimises wet trades on site, thus reducing construction programmes, the crossover of trades, wastage and defects.

Joinery is a particular passion of mine – not only its quality and craftsmanship but also its ability to define and form interior spaces and integrate services. We also consider furniture selection to be an integral part of the design process. This aspect is always of the utmost importance to the end user so we never treat it as an afterthought or a separate package, but rather as part of a holistic design ethos.

Make’s Rathbone Square development is a fantastic example of a ‘turnkey’ project that fully embodies the interiors team’s design philosophy. The detailing, materiality and expression have become a ‘red thread’ that is pulled through the scheme from beyond the site boundary into the heart of the buildings and all the way through to the apartments themselves.

The moment the user touches the bespoke entrance gate they experience a feeling of quality, permanence and longevity. The subsequent door uses a handle with a similar texture and feel and the bespoke lighting and signage are designed using the same material. These meticulously considered, high-quality details are entirely unique to the project and create an amazing journey that gives the user a sense of belonging and a strong connection to the buildings.

Rathbone Square

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BIM

Johannes-Renner

 

 

Johannes Renner, Make’s project technology manager, discusses BIM and its increasingly important role in the design and delivery of projects.
 
With the advent of Building Information Modelling (BIM) and the move away from traditional two-dimensional drafting methods, we are fully aware of the implications this has for the future of architecture. The UK Government is heavily promoting and mandating the use of BIM on all its projects by 2016 and because of this, our clients are increasingly asking for BIM and, to some extent, simply expecting it! To meet and exceed client expectations, Make has been implementing BIM on new projects at the very early stages, because the provision of a BIM model gives certainty to the client and creates confidence in the final outcome.

However, at Make we are not just adopting BIM to fulfil what is required; we want to go further and leverage the power of this amazing new technology. By utilising the full spectrum that is available through the use of BIM, we can improve our efficiency and the ability to adjust quickly to changing demands. Using the model not just for drawing documentation and production but also to harvest building information to populate and create detailed schedules, is a huge benefit of this process.

We are currently using BIM on four large-scale projects, ranging from residential to mixed use and commercial buildings – including our state-of-the-art 5 Broadgate scheme, where we implemented BIM before other companies were even considering it, putting us way ahead of the competition.

5-Broadgate-Make-(c)John-Madden

By not restricting ourselves to just one BIM authoring software, we will always have access to the latest trends and innovations available from the building software industry. This gives us incredible flexibility to respond to different design challenges and client requirements, enabling us to improve collaboration and coordination with engineers, consultants and co-architects. Ultimately this means we always get the best available design solution for our clients.

We have established a core BIM group at Make, bringing together a wide range of expertise and experience. Having this team on hand provides valuable support to our design teams throughout the project lifecycle: from commencement through to design, construction and the hand-over of a data-rich model to the client at the end of the project.

MAKE_BIM_Strategy

Make’s BIM team gives ad-hoc advice to the architects to guide them through the process, as well as providing practical training and knowledge-sharing throughout the studio. This long-term approach gives us a competitive advantage and is helping us to get ready for the future, where BIM will be fully embedded in our daily work as a fundamental part of the design process. Additionally we always research how to connect new and different technologies developed across other industries, to further enhance the use of BIM models. We are now ready to take BIM to the next level.

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