Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Silicon Roundabout?

The much lauded silicon roundabout is an almost mythical place, located at the junction between City road and Old street it’s synonymous as an entrance to one of London’s more creative quarters gentrified to a degree and now branded ‘East London Tech City’ by the present Governments pr machine. The idea is that as the entrance to London’s answer to Silicon Valley we will witness a tech city from Hoxton to Stratford further east.

Ok so this is lovely and an acknowledgement of the success of entrepreneurialism in the area but someone seems to of forgot about the epicentre of all this creativeness, old street roundabout itself.

The roundabout’s location like many of London’s roads has become a thoroughfare for cars with people precariously placed around it edge. At its centre is Old Street tube station which to some who have travelled through it feels more like decrepit bunker of confusing ramps and tunnels designed keep you ‘in’ rather than exit.

 By its nature as an ‘underground’ station way finding has never been its strong point, in fact I cannot think of any strong points apart from feeling so run down and awful that it’s almost become part of the experience.  Above the roundabout are inaccessible green spaces hosting a range of tired looking plants, protruding air vents and an apparent ‘urban sculpture’ above.  If you are lucky enough to find the exit, past the inbuilt shopping precinct ( if you can call it that) the five ramps leading you out of the station are mostly open  to the elements apart from the south east entrance where we are treated to an ungainly architectural folly, but why just this ramp, does it not rain on the other four?  

Around the periphery of the roundabout some urban renewal has occurred, Tonkin Liu’s Promenade of Light is a brilliant exercise to show perhaps the future of Old street and how it could be. Unfortunately it ends there. The masterplan was to include the roundabout itself but because of the bureaucratic nature of local governance nothing has happened since.

Development around Silicon roundabout is undergoing a transformation not through any initiatives but purely because of the locality and development potential this area has. There are many schemes in the pipeline that are either a precursor to the future of the area or a terrible mistake. A mix of hotels large scale residential and office buildings all bringing differing improvements to the area depending on your point of view. 
Hoxton has always been a place of surprises and small scale enterprise but the increasingly large developments are perhaps ignoring the reason why the place works. The nature of the place is very old London and should be kept as such to preserve this very reason.

What is sad is that the spin by the Government mentions very little about urban improvement or for that matter how degraded old street roundabout really is. Words need to be turned into reality, dreams into the physical. Relying on private enterprise alone is not enough to bring business to an area you need to commit investment to bring investment. Silicone roundabout really is a dream rather than a reality.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Trad or Mod?

Like a strange slightly deranged argument the old vs modern question has arisen. Not that it’s ever really  gone away but recently a comment made by Paul Finch regarding his admiration for modernist structures at the nearly to be complete Olympic site in London has ruffled a few classical feathers especially Robert Adam’s.  

It’s an inconclusive if fraught argument often very opinionated and bias but you do have to hand it to Robert Adam for standing up for a breed of architect that is often seen as tertiary to mainstream architecture in Britain today. Often it’s hard to quantify why there is such a divide and really why there is so much negativity to anything that isn’t achingly along the lines of the modern idiom.

I believe that there is space for both and that we should respect a traditional standpoint as well as a modern one. It is ignorant to ignore the past but it is also arrogant to dismiss the future. The real argument should be vented about integrity. 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The poor old high street bank

When internet banking fails and our normal virtual conception of money is abruptly not working sometimes we have to venture to the bank.

On a recent visit to my local bank I noticed that the Artex inspired rough plastered ceiling had been replaced. The ubiquitous refurbishment had occurred. I wasn’t expecting much to be honest and my preconceptions were not let down either. New carpet ,stick on plastic signs, corporate coloured institutional like seating, perspex over protective shields for the members of staff, super graphics of the local area, all very dour predictable banking interior.

Local banks are certainly not places to be inspired I think hospital waiting rooms have more excitement going for them. They are places more associated with a discount chemists these days rather than the lofty aspirational temples of old. On a normal high street the bank was the grandiose building, sending a sense of authority and permanence throughout the community. They were also interesting spaces too often giving the impression of stability and order.

Today’s banking is a very different beast divided into infinite financial variations but still integral to our everyday lives, so why have things been streamlined to the bare minimum. 
To some degree technology has had an impact on the local banks usual patrons. The rise of the internet and the shuffling around of funds has been handed over to us. The banks too through their many arms probably now see high street banking as a far less glamorous devision compared to their aspirational higher profile jobs.  

It is obvious that corporate identity to banks is very important but the image represented to the public today seems so  blatantly about profitability that it’s risking the adverse effect of actually looking like we the normal customer are being neglected. But where this neglect occurs on street level up in the headquarter office complexes where the major banks reside money it seems is of no object.  Lavish lobby’s leading to high concept workplaces are the order of the day far removed from the almost utilitarian spaces Joe public has to put up with. It leads to a division demographically that I think is something to be looked at. Are banks losing touch with the very reason why they exist? are banks too big to care anymore? don't we deserve better?

There are of course examples of high street banks showcasing new flagship branches and it is commendable that some banks usually smaller ones are trying harder to forge an identity that values the customers needs not only in a functional way but also aspirational and dare I say it 'interesting' too. But all too often we witness the sub standard world that is the high street bank a place of nondescript dreariness perhaps one day this will change but I will not be holding my breath.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Christian Harrup Design / first book publication/ 'Plus design. Beautiful design for living' by Monsa Barcelona

Bend light by Christian Harrup Design, one of 5 projects featured in 'Plus design'

Easy chair , Light 4 and Light 3 by Christian Harrup Design, one of 5 projects featured in 'Plus design'

Christian Harrup Design was invited last year to participate in a publication promoting beautiful design. Altogether the book features  55 international designers. 5 projects from Christian Harrup Design are featured in the book bend, light 3, light 4, SL01 stack link chair and easy chair. Plus Design is published by Monsa publications Barcelona and I thank them very much for allowing me to contribute to this wonderful book.

For more information on the book or to purchase follow the link