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Building buff Ronaldo's unlikely choice of architect

Simon Aldous

FCBS hits the back of the net with Ronaldo's Manchester hotel contract. Also this week, Architects Declare takes on Schumacher, Pringle crosses the floor to chair the RIBA, Sunak promises design champions to guide infrastructure billions and Adjaye goes to Jo'burg

Design for Cristiano Ronaldo's Piccadilly Hotel by FCBStudios
Design for Cristiano Ronaldo's Piccadilly Hotel by FCBStudios

Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios (FCBS) has an unlikely client in the form of Portuguese football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, for whom it is designing a hotel in Manchester.

He is not the first former Manchester United player seeking to build in the city. 2015 saw the opening of the unsubtly named Hotel Football, designed by AEW for Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Phil Neville, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs. The latter two have also spent the past few years facing various tribulations in their efforts to realise their St Michael’s office and residential tower, originally hiring Ken Shuttleworth’s Make before replacing it with Hodder + Partners. 

But this pales in terms of celebrity sizzle with Ronaldo, widely recognised as one of the best footballers in the world and a man anxious to reveal his rippling six-pack at any opportunity. His CR7 brand has produced a range of clothing, which he himself models on its website.

So FCBS may not seem the obvious choice of architects. The Bath-based practice eschews any hint of bling in favour of serious-minded projects mostly in the educational and community sectors. One can only speculate as to how it won the job, beating Stephenson Studio. Were the directors personally interviewed by Ronaldo? Perhaps they impressed with their keepy-uppie skills.

The CR7 hotel is one of a series in collaboration with Portuguese hotel group Pestana, and its locations seem to be following the footballer’s career path. 

It already has branches in his home city of Funchal, Madeira, and in Lisbon, where he started his professional career. And as well as Manchester, there is one planned for Madrid, where he also played. However, he has yet to announce any such plans for Turin, home to his current club Juventus.

The 11-storey Manchester CR7 won planning permission last week and will replace a derelict 1840 hotel building on Piccadilly, as well as involving refurbishment of the adjacent grade II-listed Halls Building. 

Neville and Giggs’ St Michael’s project incurred fierce criticism from conservation bodies because of the buildings that would have been demolished, and FCBS has faced similar charges with calls for the previous hotel building to be integrated into the new one rather than demolished.

In this case, such criticism has proved less disruptive, with Manchester City Council ruling that replacing the dilapidated building would ‘enhance the setting of adjacent heritage assets’. In that respect, then, FCBS has proved a very wise choice.


Architects Declare sends ultimatum to ZHA

Hot on the heels of Patrik Schumacher’s court defeat over control of Zaha Hadid Architects, the practice has faced further grief from fellow signatories of the Architects Declare statement.

This pledges to change working practices in order to combat the climate crisis, and many have felt it sat uncomfortably with some of the projects ZHA was taking on, particularly the £2.9 billion Western Sydney International Airport, which it won by beating submissions from RSHP and Fosters – also Architects Declare signatories. 

But Schumacher’s recent remarks on climate change – warning against being ‘too radical’ – seem to have tipped the Architects Declare steering group over the edge.

Writing in the Architects’ Journal, the group said his comments were ‘scientifically flawed’ and ‘fundamentally in conflict’ with the group’s commitment to ‘advocate for faster change in our industry towards regenerative practices’.

While Schumacher had argued that economic growth was necessary to fight climate change, the group countered that while the global economy had grown exponentially, so too had greenhouse gas emissions ‘and a whole host of environmental damage indicators’.

It said that Architects Declare signatory practices that ‘appear determined to continue with business as usual’ were seriously undermining the endeavour’s credibility, and called on them to ‘either join the wave of positive change or have the integrity to withdraw’.

The steering group includes principals from Marks Barfield, Haworth Tompkins and Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios.

Speaking to the group, Dezeen’s Tom Ravenscroft asked whether it would consider expelling studios that failed to follow its core principles. It replied that it was not possible for it to monitor the activities of ‘over 1,000 practices’ that have signed the declaration, but it was ‘considering tightening the declaration points’.

A ZHA spokesperson said that the practice remained ‘fully committed to the declaration’.


Jack Pringle chair elect of the RIBA Board of Trustees.
Jack Pringle chair elect of the RIBA Board of Trustees.

Yesterday’s critics become tomorrow’s leaders in RIBA turnaround

Former RIBA president Jack Pringle is having a busy autumn. Having quit Perkins & Will to set up his own practice, he has now been appointed chair elect of the RIBA’s new board.

The move marks a major turnaround from the situation earlier this year. In April RIBA council appointed lawyer and champion of the arts Nigel Carrington, to chair the board.

The choice was met with some dismay, with Pringle among those leading the charge. ‘’We are a learned institute of architects that educates and supports architects,’ he said. ‘We should be headed by one of us.’

AHMM’s Simon Allford, now RIBA president elect, urged members to ‘storm the building, taking it back for architects and architecture’. 

Less than eight months later, both Allford and Pringle are set to be guiding the institute themselves.

Allford's call proved a prelude to his successful campaign to be elected RIBA president, a post he will take up next September; while Pringle, who was RIBA president from 2005 to 2007, will take up his role in January. 

The board is intended to free-up RIBA Council from having to deal with the 'operational minutiae' of running the institute.

Meanwhile, the RIBA received a boost to its bank balance as it sold its remaining 42.5% stake in NBS, the trading name of its commercial arm RIBA Enterprises. NBS has been sold to Swedish-based construction software firm Byggfakta Group for an undisclosed eight-figure sum.

RIBA president Alan Jones said the money would ‘secure the RIBA’s long-term future'. 


Government pledges design champions and billions for infrastructure

The government continues to state that spending on construction will form a major part of measures to boost the economy following the biggest slump in 300 years.

And, excitingly, it says that it will appoint design champions for all major infrastructure projects, supported by design panels where appropriate.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has pledged £100 billion of capital spending next year, and a £7.1 billion National Home Building fund to ‘unlock’ 860,000 homes over the next four years. ‘Unlocking’ seems to cover boosting development through land remediation, infrastructure investment and loan finance for smaller building firms, including custom and self-builders.

Sunak also confirmed £58 billion investment in road and rail transport in the next five years and the setting up of a National Infrastructure Bank to channel £600 billion into capital projects over the same period.

dRMM director Sadie Morgan, who chairs the National Infrastructure Commission’s design group, said the pledge to appoint design champions had been one of the group’s recommendations and she hoped it would prove ‘a watershed moment in improving the quality of design’.


Adjaye's Johannesburg library will aim to empower

Adjaye Associates is designing a library in Johannesburg, made of eight domed structures built from rammed earth.

The Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library is named after South Africa’s second post-apartheid president and will celebrate African history. It will include a research centre, auditorium and a museum.

Practice principal David Adajye said the library would be ‘an opportunity to realise Mbeki’s ambitions ‘to advance and empower an African renaissance’, adding that its architecture would tap into the ‘collective memory of the continent’.

The 5,400m2 scheme is on two levels: one underground and one above, which will comprise the rammed-earth domes, designed to evoke traditional African granaries.

It will not be Adaye’s first Johannesburg project. 2018 saw the opening of its 15-storey apartment and hotel building, Hallmark House, while last year it completed a memorial to musician Hugh Masekela.


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