Remember, Architecture is about telling a story.”

- Stefan Shaw 22/08/2010

I was trawling the internet for beautiful examples of Sigurd Lewerentz’s work and came across my former university college – The Manchester School of Architecture, Continuity – and their blog of his work.

Often regarded as the master of brick, Lewerentz famously created St Mark’s church (pictured above) entirely of brick without cutting a single one, and created what some considered almost perfect, reflected in Adam Caruso’s Sigurd Lewerentz and a Material Basis for Form His wonderful arrangement of structures creates incredibly charged spaces which result in very successful schemes with no better example than Klippan.

I always enjoy talking to users of high profile architect’s buildings. I was having a conversation with someone who works for the New York Times as we strolled past Central Saint Giles, Renzo Piano Building Workshop‘s latest project in London, the subject turned to what is was like to work in the New York Times Building. Amongst what was a suspected reply of how comfortable it was, with great views and its beautiful external aesthetics was the building’s inability to deal with the New York winter.

One of the building’s key design features is a ceramic screen over a glass curtain wall system (shown above) which is used for daylight harvesting. Basically ceramics have a high thermal mass (they hold on to heat for longer) and so create a thermal boundary between the glass and outside. What was clearly not thought about is that ceramics, as well as holding onto heat very well also hold on to cold very well. This has resulted, so I am informed, with sheet ice forming on the ceramic screen during the colder winter months and the building having to close its main entrance for health and safety reasons (so you don’t get chopped in half by falling sheet ice). I suppose even the most highly regarded architects occasionally miss a detail.

I am very proud to post that this month the Architectural Review features Kingston Unit 2 rather heavily, showing work of selected students including public house study drawings of The Grapes by Carlos Dos Santos, Thomas Sellers, Alexandra Bailey and myself. It also rates the unit in its article Top Ten London Architecture Units alongside units from institutions such as The Architectural Association and The Bartlett (UCL).

I was thrilled to see that a portion of a large 1:20 section of the Grapes Public House created by Carlos Dos Santos, Alexandra Bailey, Thomas Sellers and myself in a recent edition of The Architects’ Journal. I was however disappointed when I noticed that the only credit for the work was given to Carlos. This is a shame because although a large amount of this particular portion of the section was done by Carlos and he has also been the stand out student of the year, which has resulted in him being put forward for the RIBA President’s Medals, it is upsetting that a piece of work that is a collaboration between four people is not acknowledged as such. The section not only required four skilled individuals but also their ability to work as part of a team to complete, and resulted in a piece of work we were all very proud of.

Recently I was given a tour of the Brick Lane Mosque. It is a very good example of how a building can be re-appropriated for another use, but one of the more interesting features was this carpet. Only used in one space in the building (the upper floor space above the main prayer space), it is a carpet featuring a prayer mat pattern. Personally I have a preference for the traditional hard surface with individual mats for prayer, which allows a space to be more flexible, but I do love the quirkiness of this.

As discussed in The Minaret, it is the only structure synonymous with a mosque. The inclusion of this feature is strengthened because of its integral use in the Environmental Design strategy. It is a simple brick tubular tower with an intricate water-jet cut stainless steel perforated grill set to a six pointed star pattern in plan as the crowning piece. This patterned sheet acts as the outlet for the prayer space’s passive ventilation strategy.

The rear of the proposal features a very ornate brickwork pattern based on Alvar Aalto’s Baker House method of using twisted and distorted overburnt bricks, set to the Brick Pattern generated from the Tomb of Chelebi Oghu. This pattern is used on the scheme’s facade to signify the religious parts of the building.

The aim of this project was to create something that sat comfortably. A building that was accepted by both Islamic and London cultures and that was happy in it’s context. It has taken heavily from Public Houses and addresses the corner of Shandy Park in a similar way to many examples such as The Wenlock Arms, breaking down any barrier threshold. The material selection of London Stock helps the structure to compliment it’s surroundings, being a exemplar of what can be achieved with the material. Ornamentation is kept subtle, especially on the street elevation, being used to signify the location of religious spaces and also creating visual barriers for private spaces. The rear elevations addressing the park are more extravagant in decoration but still in keeping with the scheme. Personally, I think it sits comfortably with a sense of belonging, in the true sense of the word.

The Prayer Hall is the heart of a mosque. Above is a visualization of the final proposed prayer space for the Shahjalal Mosque in Shandy Park. Taking the same principles of a lantern window to allow light in with expressed structure as previous proposals, as posted in Prayer Hall Interior Model. The space now creates a clear threshold between circulation and prayer space with the addition of colonnades flanking the space, whilst also creating a separate space to the rear for female prayer.

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