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Backchat: Sign Up ... Sign Off - March 2014

Dieter Kleiner & Jan-Carlos Kucharek

Dieter Kleiner, director of RCKa, gives us three of his specification favourites. Jan-Carlos Kucharek enjoys three of this issue’s out-takes

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Lafarge Ductal Ultra high performance concrete

The cladding of our TNG Youth & Community Centre in Lewisham had to be both beautiful and robust. This product allowed us to cast bespoke panels against sections of the polycarbonate upper levels to achieve a continuous, sinusoidal profile. The material, with a tactile, porcelain-like quality, picks up every nuance of the mould yet is 100 times stronger than regular concrete, so can take major abuse but is light enough to hang from a CLT/Timber framed building.

KME Tecu Bronze

Tecu Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, and we’ve used it recently to form the roof of our Twisted House extension in Wimbledon. We wanted something that measured the subtle geometry of the twisted-pyramid shaped roof so installed it in a standing-seam arrangement. The product has a beautiful quality, and will weather gracefully over time to a dark, nutty-brown colour. It’s not a ‘blingy’ material; instead it has a crafted, hand-made quality that is understated and elegant, and allows itself to be manipulated into unusual forms.

Bolon Woven Vinyl Flooring

Bolon is a Swedish flooring product that we’ve used numerous times in both domestic and commercial projects. It combines the benefits of vinyl flooring – hardwearing and impervious to spills – with the tactile qualities of carpet. The product is available in a huge range of colours and patterns, and some weaves are designed to vary depending on the angle from which they are viewed, which means they have a dynamic quality that changes as you move through a space. It’s an exciting product and we are constantly finding new ways of using it.

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No cash flow

If the coalition’s taught us anything in imposing its punishing cuts across the public sector, it’s that we need to think money a bit more. Not thinking money was how New Labour got us into this mess in the first place. If we all did a fewer vocational courses and more Economics and IT, we wouldn’t be in this state. Thank God for the completing Think Money campus in Manchester. Although next to the Ship Canal, it’s got its own – although this one doesn’t go anywhere. It just dead ends, which is just as well. If it did, you might get distracted at your desk wondering where it went, and the point here is to concentrate on thinking money.

Scotch Bonnet

Elizabeth Bennett’s pallid cheek would surely develop a blush of shame on hearing of imminent reparations to that place that nigh scandalously divested the Bennett family of social position and fortune. Scotland’s ‘First House’ in Gretna, the Toll Bar Cottage will, but this year, be vexatiously restored in its former guise as a place of illicit conjoinment for those choosing a life forever excluded from polite company. It is a truth generally acknowledged that its coffee shop will ‘create a ambience’ and purvey a hit of the Kenyan to gird wayward youth before they solicit the services of the ‘anvil priests’. Oh, Mr Darcy!

Black hut down under

You’d assume the only clients for these old caravan-style huts would be Channel 4 documentary makers looking for props for the next series of ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’, but no! Somerset firm Blackdown Shepherd Huts reveals there’s been a ‘global surge’ in self-build huts, doubling its order book this year. Looks like everyone wants a piece of flat-pack action – it even has orders from Australia for huts for ‘mining operations, healing retreats and vineyard wineries’. That’s the international market – the domestic one’s probably just pre-orders from the government to deal with a housing crisis that, like a caravan, is just impossible to address.  


Research underpins practice – as celebrated by the RIBA President’s Awards. Counter intuitive as it may sound, this medal-winning investigation advances the cause of ‘good’ microbes and probiotic design

Imagine buildings boosting our immune system

Winner of the RIBA President’s Awards for Research, history & theory, the Global South is the focus of this study of the influence of socialist nations on the architecture and urbanisation of newly decolonised countries

Architecture and urbanism in post-colonial nations

This study by Eli Hatleskog and Flora Samuel, winner of the RIBA President’s Awards for Research – cities and community, investigates how collaborative mapping of social value can help create cohesive, happy communities

Collaboration is key to effective mapping of social value

The race to meet emissions reductions targets by 2030 means construction must now focus on embodied carbon, according to the winner of the RIBA President’s Award for Research – climate change

Whole life carbon must be architects’ priority