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RIBA Conference 2008 – Peter Lomax Blog

4 November 2008 No Comment

Peter Lomax, TCIAT Associate of Stephen George and Partners details his take on this years RIBA Conference in Barcelona…

The Venue – Hesperia Tower

Hesperia Tower venue for the conference certainly stands out, with no similar pl_img1neighbours to compete with (there are no other 30 storey buildings with the Starship Enterprise on top).
Opulent rooms and internal spaces, great spread at breakfast and attentive staff.
Once you have negotiated the menu system for entering the lifts to get to your floor, which was somewhat challenging even when sober, the views are fantastic.
The theme of this year’s conference being Identity seemed a little tricky for the first day’s speakers to stick to and they tended to stray on to showcasing their favourites which was ok considering the quality of the projects.

Alejandro Zaera Polo of Foreign Office Architects

pl_img2used some good examples of their work to show local identity. One I know of personally, as I work in Leicester, is the new John Lewis store (part of the Highcross centre – what was the Shires). This double layered full glass façade using a pattern taken from historical John Lewis material designs gives ‘a layered transparency’, but also acts as a sunshade, privacy screening and does play quite well on traditional Indian decoration – maybe a reference to the city’s sizeable Asian population.

Another project by FOA (competition winner) is the long overdue makeover of Birmingham New Street station. This again is an external envelope design ‘wrapping’ essentially around the internal design (lovely appearance…… can’t wait to see it built, Birmingham has needed an injection of ‘wow factor’ for a long time)
Benedetta Tagliabue (Miralles-Tagliabue-EMBT studio)

The main project everyone will know of and the majority of Benedetta’s talk was about the Scottish Parliament Building – explaining the design as being inspired by Scotland’s associations with earth, stone and boats………….as this is one project that has won a lot of awards including the Stirling, one must form ones own opinion, and not put in print anything that might be construed as negative.

Ken Yeang – Architect-Planner-Ecologist

Known as a leading light in ecological skyscraper design, posted a slick presentation on ‘green’ high rise schemes. The slides were impressive visually, but I was left wanting a lot more from it in terms of what other bells and whistles were in there to make an ecologically sound building, apart from threading greenery up through the structure. A bit of post conference ‘googling’ on Ken Yeang is needed I feel.

Herman Hertzberger

Reading through Hermans cv, he is certainly knows his stuff, but in terms of a quick half hour pitch on Identity, it didn’t grab my attention.

David Mackay – MBM Arquitectes

Best known for the design of the Barcelona Olympic Village and Port, which formed the basis of his speech. This had every chance of being really interesting, but again I think there just wasn’t enough time to get into it.

Alison Brooks – ABA

Alison showcased a few of her very successful recent projects – Salt House, Accordia, Wrap House,

Hisperia Hotel

Hisperia Hotel

Herringbone House – all in a refreshing style when set alongside some of the ill-considered competition. I did like the comment from one delegate from across the pond, that he was ‘so frikkin proud of what she’s done’

Jurgen Mayer 

With a very different style, Jurgen presented some really interesting work in the second half of his speech – particularly for me, the Duplicasa house (well worth a look, beautiful detailing) and the Metropol Parasol in Seville (awesome visually, I’m going to have to go there now)
George Ferguson – RIBA Past President – Acanthus Ferguson Mann

Stepping in for a missing speaker, George ‘hoofed it’ on the subject of sustainability and didn’t disappoint, slamming the whole of Dubai for being utterly irresponsible Architecture, and running through the Old Tobacco Factory site in Bristol where the building is being re-used / refurbished and adapted giving a massively more sustainable solution than the normal demolition and rebuild, with regard to all the embodied energy involved in the foundation and frame. Great, upbeat presentation.

pl_img4I have been lucky being able to re-visit Barcelona, each time seeing a little more of the delights (keep going back to Gaudi’s work and trying to understand it) If you haven’t been, get there before La Sagrada Família gets finished…….and many thanks go to the Corus Team (Jo, Jane and Dave) for looking after us and hosting another highly successful and interesting event. Also thanks to the other guests for making it a memorable trip. The tapas restaurant we went to was really nice, easily beating the pigs hoof and chips I had in Paris the year before.

Please Note that the comments and opinions posted are those of the Architect themselves, and not those of either Corus or the respective practices they work for.

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