Loxford Disembowelment

A former student writes: “Loxford was a strange building in which to study architecture, its staggered brick residential tower sat above the 3 storey podium that contained the studios. There was never a connection between the students that lived in the tower and those that worked beneath. The stairwells were deliberately separated and the two groups would only meet in the latterly re-modified refectory; architecture students strung out from ‘all-nighters’, caning espressos to get them through the pending crit and 1st year sociology students arriving for breakfast at 9.55am, still sporting their pyjamas.

The studio space (pictured) holds one lasting memory, of the first day of my final year of undergraduate study. My peers had not seen each other for a year and there was the inevitable hubbub and babbling of one hundred conversations. Suddenly we were interrupted by a resonant bark of ‘shut the **** up’, in an alien tone. Our new head of year was new to us and us to him, there was to be no messing about; his first utterance had seen to that. In the coming year we all got down to business.”

Anon. Former Student.

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The Holden Gallery at the Manchester School of Art is exhibiting the work of a group of MA students from the Academy of Fine Art in Helsinki and although the flyer states that the work is “…characterised as much by the attention to the sense of trace, the index of the artists mark, as by the deployment of sentiment via popular imagery”, it is a very funny and most enjoyable show.

Among the works on show is a collection of hilarious photographs by Eeva-Maija Priha of a young lady kissing the lips of notable European statues, a group of carved wooden rockets each with a pediment, attached by Panu Rytkönen, (very reminiscent of the Manchester Central Library) and a series of brown paper bags with grotesque cartoon faces cut from them by Janne Kiiskilä.

The show continues until the 1st February

Vincent Harris Vigilantes Awake!

Rumours reach CiA of changes afoot in one of Manchester’s most significant pieces of urban design, Library Walk, which mediates between Vincent Harris’s pantheon-inspired Central Library and his rather more Scandinavian-classical Town Hall Extension. All potential VHV should be concerned because of

a) The crassness of the City Council’s stewardship of the city’s patrimony – as evidenced by the laughable application of No Parking signs to Harris’s gracefully austere elevations.

and

b) The previous vandalism visited on Harris’s Rates Hall in the Town Hall Extension “with the introduction of a burolandschaft office plan attemting to ‘humanise’ a previously clearly hierarchical space” (Canniffe & Jefferies 1998).

One might hope this robust but vulnerable example of municipal pride will receive the same sensitive treatment and restoration as Harris’s Sheffield City Hall, reinvigorated by Penoyre & Prasad, but one fears the worst…perhaps a Starbucks … or yet another branch of Kro?

So crucial is the ensemble of Harris’s buildings on St. Peter’s Square that it features in the central section of this film of the digital model of the city produced by Arup.

I feel a campaign coming on…

Pseudo-Wood Demolished

13th January 2008

The First Church of Christ Scientist, Castlemere Street, Rochdale is being demolished. Built between 1911-14 the architect was Thomas Butterworth of 78 King Street Manchester, the same address as the office of Wood and Sellers. It is obviously based Wood’s Daisy Bank Road Church. Is this School of Wood or did the Master himself lend a hand?

Most recently used by Jehovah’s Witnesses the building was in a pathetic state with windows bricked up, walls pasted with render, and a suspended ceiling inside. Possibly the walls were too insubstantial for the thrust of
the huge open trussed roof. Following the destruction of Durnford School in 2002 our stock of Wood is going down fast.

EMBT Housing, Barcelona

The slightly warped orthogonal form of the housing next to the Santa Caterina market contrasts strongly with the flowing roof canopy of the market building. The contextual deformations of the housing appear responsive and natural in the tight urban landscape. The walls are sheer and pale with an apparently arbitrary splattering of windows arranged on them. This simplicity is reinforced by the manner in which the openings are treated. Each window is covered with an austere and unpretentious wooden louvered panel, mounted on runners. When necessary, these can slide in front of the openings to stop direct sunlight from overheating the interior, while still encouraging air movement through the gaps between the individual blades.

Enric Miralles – Benedetta Tagliabu

Adolf Loos: Anachronistically Alpine?

Following the Christmas post below, a few slides of the Khuner House by Adolf Loos (1930).Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Contemporary to the whitewashed masterpieces of his last phase…this country house that is so vernacular, so anachronistically alpine, so rustic, raises a theoretical question…to what extent this manifest contradiction of languages reveals a poetic dissociation, a sort of architectural schizophrenia..…If, set in the world of the metropolis, Moller House shows the extreme reticence of nihilismus, Khuner Country House…speaks the dialect of the place. Loos substitutes the logical modesty of building works with deep roots in their site for the fetishism of the ‘grand form’, of the narcissistic search for poetic consistency: “To bring materials from far away is more a question of money than of architecture. In mountains rich in timber, one builds in wood; on a stony mountain, stones will be used”.*From Adolf Loos by Benedetto Gravagnuolo, p204