RIBA Regional Awards 2014: London
Daisy Froud, Hackney: Steen Eiler Rasmussen, in London: The Unique City, locates the source of the capital’s character at the confluence of tradition and liberalism. Long-established as both trading city and seat of power, London has a strongly-defined centre that, through economic and demographic pressures, has trickled largely unplanned into the land beyond. Cultural forces – particularly a preference for single houses over stacked dwellings, and belief in the importance of open space – then shaped the form of that ever-expanding hinterland of neighbourhoods (until it was ‘belted’ with green last century.)
Rasmussen wrote in 1934, but his words still apply. And that is one thing I love about working in London – things do not change. London is both invigorated and haunted by the masonry weight of its past. For the practitioner, all architectural opportunity is here: from permanent palaces, both despotic and democratic – and regularly in need of extension or renovation – to world-famous temporary pavilions. Meanwhile the idea of the ‘village’ hangs on in communities, even in the densest inner areas. This may seem perverse, especially when one is trying to build something, but ultimately it can produce wonderfully localised yet contemporary forms. Particularly in brick. We do beautiful things with brick!
But in London everything also changes, and changes fast, as epitomised by debates over whether we are ‘losing control’ of our skyline. ‘Creative destruction’ is our status quo. It’s normal not to visit an area for a month or two, then return to find a new tower popping up or a vast crater opening down. This tension between the drive to remain a ‘global city’, and the lingering imperative to provide for citizens through production of public spaces and affordable housing, makes London a fascinating (if troubling) place to operate. And all the time, the big grey river keeps rumbling through, reminding us of connections – and responsibilities – to both our past and to the rest of the world.
Daisy Froud, The AOC, Hackney
Building of the Year: Saw Swee Hock Student Centre
Architect of the Year: Haworth Tompkins
Emerging Architect of the Year: RCKa
Small Project: Tree House
Client of the Year: LB Hackney Local Education Partnership with Mouchel Babcock
Sustainability Award: Brent Civic Centre
Award for Preserving the Historic Environment: Tate Britain Millbank Project