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News catch-up: Police raid Antepavilion building at Hoxton Docks

Simon Aldous

Arrested Antepavilion organiser Gray rejects Extinction Rebellion link after police raid on tensegrity installation. Plus collapsed Miami condo showed structural damage three years ago, and timber element in Accordia building facade fails safety survey

  • All Along the Watchtower, Project Bunny Rabbit’s Tensegrity Antepavilion in Hackney.
    All Along the Watchtower, Project Bunny Rabbit’s Tensegrity Antepavilion in Hackney. Credit: Luke Donavan
  • The police raid underway on Project Bunny Rabbit’s Antepavilion.
    The police raid underway on Project Bunny Rabbit’s Antepavilion. Credit: Project Bunny Rabbit @probunnyrabbit

One of the joint winners of this year’s Antepavilion competition has been the target of a police raid on the building that hosts the annual architectural installation. The raid also saw the arrest of the programme’s organiser Russell Gray.

All Along the Watchtower, designed by Project Bunny Rabbit, is a ‘tensegrity’ structure made from bamboo poles and steel cables, and based on structures pioneered by Buckminster Fuller in the 1950s. It has been installed on the roof of the Hoxton Docks building on the Regent’s Canal.

Similar structures were used last September by Extinction Rebellion in an effort to disrupt several daily newspapers. The climate emergency protest group used the structures, also made by members of Project Bunny Rabbit, to block access to printing presses. 

Speaking to Dezeen, Gray said police ‘smashed their way in through various doors and smashed the place up.’ He said he spent the night in jail and upon release the next day was told that the police would return to the building and dismantle the structure.

He added that housing the installation was not intended as 'any endorsement of Extinction Rebellion, on whom I'm neutral at best’.

According to The Guardian, Scotland Yard said it had arrested 12 people in three raids across London intended as ‘proactive action’ to prevent criminal disruption it believed was planned against media business locations over the weekend.

Gray has also been in a long-running dispute with Hackney Council, which has sought to remove previous Antepavilions claiming they do not have planning permission.


Engineer found structural damage at collapsed Miami building three years ago

While the cause of the collapse of a 12-storey housing block in Miami is still unclear, it has emerged that ‘major structural damage’ had been found by an engineer three years earlier. It has raised fears about other Large Panel System buildings in the US and UK.

Champlain Towers South, built in 1981, collapsed suddenly last Thursday night in less than 15 seconds, resulting, it is believed, in the death of nearly all its occupants. At the time of writing, 11 bodies had been found in the debris with 150 people still unaccounted for.

But the New York Times has reported that a consulting engineer found evidence of damage to the concrete slab below the building’s pool deck and ‘abundant' cracking and crumbling of the columns, beams and walls of the parking garage under the building. An extensive $12 million repair programme had been due to begin shortly.

The damage is believed to have been caused by persistent water leaks and long-term exposure to salty air, but the engineer’s report did not give any indication that the building was at risk of collapse.

The mayor of Miami-Dade County has already announced a 30-day audit of all buildings 40 years and older under the county’s jurisdiction.

State law requires all buildings that reach 40 years of age to be inspected for safety and Champlain Towers South was on notice that it required repairs if it was to be recertified as fit for occupation. The law was introduced following a previous building collapse in 1974 where four people were killed.

The Guardian reported anxiety among residents of the collapsed block’s sister building, Champlain Towers North, which was built a year later in 1982, apparently using identical materials. 

The UK’s most well-known comparable case is Ronan Point in east London which partially collapsed in 1968 just months after completion, killing four people. The disaster was blamed on the prefabricated Large Panel System used for the building. As recently as 2018, The Independent reported that at least 575 tower blocks built using the Large Panel System were still standing across the UK – containing more than 41,000 flats. 


The Glass Building, at Accordia, Cambridge, designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios.
The Glass Building, at Accordia, Cambridge, designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios. Credit: Andrew Hatfield / RIBA Collections

Stirling Prize-winning housing declared unsafe

One of the buildings in the Accordia housing development in Cambridge has failed a facade safety survey because it incorporates timber.

The Glass Building, designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, is part of the 166-home scheme that won the 2008 Stirling Prize, the first housing project to ever win the accolade.

But according to the Sunday Times, a report on the nine-flat Glass Building concluded that its balconies needed to be replaced because they are supported by oak beams. Under new rules made in response to the Grenfell Tower fire, timber is regarded as a combustible material, though many architects have argued that this is often inappropriate. 

Remedial work would require rebuilding much of the block and owners of flats in the block say they face financial ruin as they will be unable to sell their homes until they have paid for the ‘defects’ to be fixed.

Building Design quoted its regulations columnist Andrew Mellow as saying that a ‘lack of understanding of risk’ was leading to calls for ‘unnecessary remediation’ at some buildings. 

And while stressing that he didn’t know the details of the case, he said that, in the event of a fire, oak frame was likely to char rather than burn, while the balconies could be remediated without much effect on the building.  


Charles Jencks' postmodern home to open to public

Long time home of Charles Jencks, architectural historian and co-founder of the Maggie’s Centres, will open to the public this September, as what has been described as a postmodern version of John Soane’s museum.

Jencks, who died in 2019, was dubbed the godfather of postmodernist architecture, defining what the term meant in his writings and lectures in the 1970s. 

His home, in London’s Holland Park, was built in the 1840s but became almost a museum to his theorising, with interiors designed by architects such as Terry Farrell, Piers Gough and Michael Graves. Jencks said of it: ‘If you can’t take the kitsch, get out of the kitchen.’  

The building, now known as Cosmic House, was Grade I listed in 2018, the only post-war house to have such a listing. And it was Jencks himself who, in 2017, made the original planning application for his home to be turned into a museum.
At the time, designer and postmodernism aficionado Adam Nathaniel Furman called it  ‘one of the most important examples of postmodern design in the world’. He compared it to John Soane’s Museum as being ‘both the home of one of the most important architectural thinkers of the past 100 years’, while also itself being a compendium of postmodernism.

The Cosmic House will open to small groups on 24 September and will also host exhibitions, talks and residencies.


Liverpool could lose World Heritage status next month

Liverpool’s waterfront area faces losing its World Heritage Site status next month following a recommendation by Unesco’s World Heritage Committee. 

The committee’s latest report recommended the moves ‘with deep regret’ saying that new developments in the area had led to a ‘serious deterioration and irreversible loss of attributes’.

It said the city had repeatedly failed to comply with requests to protect the site, specifically mentioning Chapman Taylor’s £5.5 billion Liverpool Waters project and the approved plans for Everton FC's new stadium at Bramley Moore Dock.

The AJ reported a backlash from architects over the recommendation. It spoke to Adam Hall, co-founder of Falconer Chester Hall, which designed a tower in the Liverpool Waters scheme. Hall said the ‘heritage assets’ within Liverpool Waters were being protected but that ‘much of the area is simply empty, windswept quaysides on which new, high-quality development seems entirely appropriate’.

Save Britain’s Heritage meanwhile urged Unesco to defer any decision for 12 months. The conservation campaign group pointed out that the city had recently elected a new mayor and executive team to run its council. 

A letter published in The Times from various Liverpool names argued that the site was ‘in a far superior state than when the status was granted’ and urged members of Unesco to visit the city before making any decision.

Liverpool gained its status in 2004 in recognition of a ‘supreme example of a commercial port’. It is one of 32 such sites in the UK, which also include Stonehenge, the Palace of Westminster and the city of Bath.

Since the World Heritage list was launched in 1978, only two have ever been removed from the list: the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman in 2007 and Dresden Elbe Valley in Germany in 2009.


How the National Trust’s Manchester viaduct could look above Castlefield.
How the National Trust’s Manchester viaduct could look above Castlefield. Credit: ©Twelve Architects & Masterplanners

National Trust to open Manchester high line

The National Trust is behind the latest initiative to create a UK version of the New York High Line – whereby a disused railway line is transformed into a linear park – this time in Manchester.

It has appointed London practice Twelve Architects to transform a grade II listed Victorian viaduct in Manchester into a ‘green oasis’.

It follows proposals for high lines in Leeds and London's Hammersmith, Peckham and – most likely to come to fruition – Camden, where a design competition was won in February by James Corner Field Operations, which also led the team behind the New York original.

At 330m, the Manchester high line will be a seventh of the length of the original and is also being billed as temporary – a pop-up project that will explore what a long-term future for the viaduct could be.

It also seems the user experience will be rather more regimented than is usually the way with parks. Twelve Architects talks of visitors entering the viaduct through a welcome area where they will wait to begin their prebooked tours in groups of 20, in the meantime enjoying facilities such as a food truck and composting toilets – which sounds as if they’re anticipating quite a wait.

The welcome area is described as the first of ‘three unique zones’. The second will be a walk along the viaduct as it is now with minimal changes, while the third, showing what the viaduct could be, will be filled with plants and shrubs within Corten steel planters as a reference to the industrial red brick buildings found in the area.

The viaduct was built in 1892 but has been unused since 1969.


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