Astroturfing Leed

April 6, 2014 — Leave a comment


LEED and BREEAM are the two competing certification schemes for ‘green’ building in Architecture. I have made a few BREEAM reports and have read a little up on LEED in case I should ever need to take part in certifying a building I’m working on. These schemes are a little bit of hassle and consume some time, also some points to gain credits in the scheme look a little easy to achieve especially considering the different regulations we have here in Finland say to the UK where the BREEAM scheme is based. But overall I think these to certification systems are fantastic. Why is that?

Well the short answer is that they add value to a project. The longer answer is that they add a layer of QA to the design that can be justified back to the client and contractor. It also allows the design team to quantify and properly cost environmental measures that save money to the project in the long-term but are often more expensive up front. They encourage environmental standards up and allow clients to better audit their assets down the line. These two tools in short should be used a lot more. They help make building more environmentally friendly and they help drive change not only in the building industry but in the way we use buildings.

They are gaining in popularity so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that an Astroturfing organisation has been set up in the USA to oppose LEED. The organisation is called leedexposed and thanks to Lloyd Alter at Treehugger and Sara Johnson at Architect Magazine the arguments they make have been debunked and the man behind the Astroturf organisation has been partially exposed to the light. The man behind it is Rick Berman, who appears to be able to say anything for the right price. I have a simple idea just boycott the companies who fund his company (and tell them why) here is the list.

OMA in Pasila

January 27, 2014 — Leave a comment

oma_pasilaOMA has teamed up with YIT one of the big developers active in Finland and submitted a design for the Pasila One competition. No one else tabled a bid so the city has a difficult decision to make and no reference group to refer to. The Pasila area has three basic redevelopment zones and Pasila One is the most eyecatching. It is the redevelopment of the train station and surrounding area, a large amount of service space and three super blocks worth of mixed use development three times the size of Kamppi in central Helsinki. The city wants to make it into a business and media hub, and clearly Pasila One sitting ontop of a crossroads between road and train access corridors has vast potential to be a great, busy, urban center ready to contribute an urban buzz to the surrounding area.

How good is the proposal though?



Week Review 6

September 29, 2013 — Leave a comment

Soviet era miners' cable car

Chiaturas’ extreme geography made the use of a cable car system widespread. Since the 50′s this soviet era system hasn’t had much work done on it.

In central Turkey, an ancient people dug, over 200 underground cities. The deepest of these, under the present day town of Derinkuyu, goes over 250 feet below the Earth’s surface.

Ross Langdon RIP.

The Brutalist masterpiece that is Preston Bus Station has gotten a reprieve from being knocked down.

Another post looking at mapping the age of buildings in different cities, a good overview here.

Week Review 5

September 10, 2013 — Leave a comment

De Karel Doorman

Ibelings Van Tilburg has reused an old Department store due to be demolished as a plinth for a new housing hi-rise in Rotterdam. It’s a Densification, mixed use project that is very compelling, perhaps even a little controversial, read more with this nice write-up by Anneke Bokern in Uncube.

If you are walking in London watch out for the Walkie-Scorchie otherwise known as 20 Fenchurch Street by Rafael Viñoly building which can melt cars developers have blamed the problem on “the current elevation of the sun in the sky

Engineers will construct a mile-long ice wall around the Fukushima nuclear plant in an attempt to stop the continuing leak of radioactive water, and set to cast a cool $320 million.

Anyone who in their job has to use some sort of CAD tool will know how the complexities of the interface make for a frustrating block to the flow of design thinking and conceptualizing. You have to concentrate on mastering the interface at the expense of understanding and designing the thing in question. Elon Musks video showing a little of what they are doing at SpaceX hints at the exciting, intuitive future of CAD. (via)

Week Review 4

September 4, 2013 — Leave a comment


The above picture is of Amsterdam with the buildings coloured by date of construction. A dataset of 9,866,539 buildings to come up with this amazing map. It is a mesmerizing experience and informative, Rotterdam bombed by the Nazis in WWII is light blue compared to the red of Amsterdam which wasn’t bombed. (via)

How do you get rid of a listed building when you are redeveloping? Add a new elevation and ‘partially demolish it’ as is the case in my hometown of Edinburgh with the old Scottish Provident building on St. Andrews Square. It’s a beautiful 60′s building in its own right and in context I agree with Malcolm Fraser. Keep it.

UCL’s New Hall Housing a student apartment block in London had won this years Carbuncle Cup in the UK. An award for the worst building. Why is it so bad, well read this article on the Guardian about it. Cheap, ugly,designed to maximise paid student numbers  cramming them together like battery hens. Not only this but like in the example in Edinburgh above planning regulations have been bent and floated cynically. A deserved winner.

Scottish Castles are cheaper than New York Apartments, is this really a surprise? What are the three rules of Property development again? Location, Location, Location.

Week Review 3

July 21, 2013 — Leave a comment
In china the largest building in the world has opened.

In china the largest building in the world has opened.

Anyone mulling over the worlds current economic problems should look at the white elephants of Spain. Following my post about the catacombs of Paris an old one but good one about the caves of Nottingham. Any time you are in a shopping center you are being monitored. The future of construction via the always excellent architechnophilia.


Photo of the catacombs by Frozenchipmunk

Paris, otherwise known as the city of Light could have another title too, it has one of the most extensive underground networks of tunnels of any city. You can visit some of the catacombs and this article in WSJ gives a great general overview of them and also the subculture that has grown up of cataphiles who go down (illegally) into the underground Paris. I knew a little of the story of the underground Paris of course having been there before and as a child having been down to see the skeletal catacombs myself.

But it was on my last most recent trip to Paris I picked up a book about Paris called Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb, which has a chapter in it about the building of the catacombs, its an amazing story worth quickly retelling and all quotes are from Graham Robb’s Chapter concerning it.

While many people are familiar with Baron Haussmanns urban modernisation of Paris which established the wide boulevards and centerpiece Grand Avenues and monuments of the picture postcard Paris of today, most people are unfamiliar with the name of Charles-Axel Guillaumot the Architect who ‘built’ the catacombs.

In 1774 along the Rue d’Enfer a quarter mile long sinkhole opened up engulfing the houses on either side of it. Enfer being the french word for hell, the sinkhole quickly became known as the mouth of hell. In 1777 Charles-Axel Guillaumot was appointed the first inspecteur généraux des carrières, and it was clear that the reason for the sinkhole was there was a long abandoned and forgotten mine under the street, the stone of which had been used earlier for the building of Paris and then covered over. As the city expanded this long forgotten quarry now endagered the buildings above it.

The work over the next years was massive, there were three teams the Excavation team to clear the underground galleries of rubble, the Masonry Team to reinforce the roof and the Cartography team to map it all out.

the ‘Cartography’ team would create a map of the underground labyrinth on a scale of 1:216 – which meant that the map of abandoned quarries would be more detailed than any map that had ever been produced of the streets of Paris.

As the teams made their way through the abandoned quarries and mapped them out the picture gradually must have become clear and Guillaumot realised that there was not a single quarry but a whole range of them. That they didn’t occur just below the streets but often stacked one on top of each other.

The miners had dug away as much stone as they dared, leaving just enough to support the roof. Years later, other miners had found the worked-out quarries, and dug down to lower layers. The floor of each quarry then became the roof of yet another mine, so that now, instead of finding solid rock beneath the tunnel floor, Guillaumot encountered vast cavities buttressed only by a few teetering piles of stone.

Guillaumot in short discovered that not just the Rue D’Enfer but half of 18thC Paris was in danger of falling into the mouth of hell. So while the people of France were vexed about the cost of Versailles and the Royal Court, Guillaumot relatively quietly went about building on an even more massive scale.

If those galleries had been placed end to end, they would have reached the edge of the Massif Central, two hundred miles away.

part of a mapshowing paris block above with underground routes

part of a mapshowing paris block above with underground routes

The underground city surpassed that of the city above not just in the quality of its map. While many of the buildings in Paris were not even numbered the galleries below had their own numbering system, a lesser Architect might have just filled up the voids with rock and sand but Guillaumot

turned each cloche into a beautiful, swirling cone of stonework that might have been copied from a strange, inverted cathedral….Tunnels that had been clumsily hacked out by ignorant hands were dressed with freestone and dignified with coursed limestone walls.

Gradually these 200 miles of catacombs had been discovered mapped and reinforced and in the 1780′s when the vast rotting pits of the Parisian dead threatend the cities water supply Guillaumot had a neat proposal. In 1786 the first of many millions of corpses were moved to what is now known as the Catacombs on the left bank.

It was said that the number of skeletons that made the journey to La Tombe-Issoire was ten times greater than the living population of Paris.

Not only had Guillaumot saved Paris but he had built a shadow Paris and he had populated it. Guillaumont remained as inspector of quarries until his death in 1807, his gravestone disappeared sometime in the 1880s and, his bones were gathered up to be placed in the catacombs to join the city he’d built.

The catacombs by Doc Searls

The catacombs by Doc Searls

Nowadays it is illegal to venture under the city except on official business or to visit the Catacombs the macabre section of the subterranean Paris given over as an ossiary.

Further Reading:

Ground Control

July 2, 2013 — Leave a comment

GroundControlGround Control by Anna Minton (Amazon us /uk)

Anna Minton has carefully researched and traced the outline of the policies in the UK behind not only the privatisation of public buildings and space, but have also shaped how we use and think about the city. Grand regeneration projects have turned public space with potential value to everyone into private, corporately managed and policed space, from which the original inhabitants have been all but excluded. Housing Projects have divided communities, created fear and loathing. CCTV and policing policy have exacerbated social divisions.

This thoroughly researched book takes us historically through the key projects and key policies that have brought us to this situation. From the Docklands in the late Eighties under Thaterism through to the present day taking in other major developments across the country. In Liverpool with Liverpool One and Manchester in Exchange Square to name a few of the other major developments that follow this model.

It’s a more encompassing book than just looking at the Urban developments though. It clearly links crime and fear of crime in the UK to the changes in the law and running of developments and housing in the UK. Government policies have reinforced or created these negative effects, the Pathfinder scheme, ASBO’s and Secured by Design. These policies along with the rise of gated communities all over the UK and of CCTV cameras (more in the UK that in the rest of Europe combined) which actually increases the fear and insecurity in society as well as social exclusion. As an example of good writing which clearly links social policy to concrete outcomes in the urban fabric of cities and with actual social outcomes this book sets the bar.

Published in 2009 around the last crash in 2012 an extra chapter was added to cover the Olympic Games of 2012 itself probably worthy of a book. In the conclusion Anna Minton tries to find some silver lining to the dark clouds. Urban Space Management stands out as the lone example she can muster, their Development in Trinity Buoy Wharf an example of how things could have been all over the country. It’s compelling but sobering stuff a must read for anyone in this field and hopefully it has helped to shine a light on an area of public policy which is so opaque but which we should be much more engaged with.

I can’t help but to link this book to The New Aesthetic, the blog by James Bridle that recognises the crossover of the net into the physical world. The use of drones and (mentioned in this book) the mosquito, CCTV and gated communities, all examples of places that exist because of new technology and the ability to produce action at a distance to monitor,control and segregate from anywhere anonymously. Is Britain becoming a visible artifact of the network of control and commerce which has grown up in the last twenty five years in the UK? I sure hope it’s not that bad.

Week Review 2

June 22, 2013 — Leave a comment


Photo above is from Spomenik #1 by Jan Kempenaers who took three years travelling to the remotest parts of former Yugoslavia to capture these strange monuments read about them here.

Did Atopia and not Thomas Heatherwick come up with the design of the 2012 Olympic flame cauldron? Heatherwick denies it but look at this from the Guardian article which broke the story

Locog has been disbanded, but its former design principle, Kevin Owens, described the situation as “unfortunate”. “Atopia really are forward thinkers,” he said. “Strands of their work became part of what was taken forward, and I wish there was a way we could acknowledge that.” Via

Atopia’s work looks the same and aside from a few details is also conceptually and functionally the same.

A lovely well put together website on Scottish Brutalism called Scottish Brutalism but they haven’t documented anything outside of Strathclyde yet, come on guys what’s keeping you?

Christoph Ingenhoven, Meinhard von Gerkan and Pierre de Meuron are all lightly grilled by Spiegel as to why their big German Architecture projects are so massively over cost. This is a must read, it’s so rare to see behind the curtain so to speak of projects which while being great Architecture have failed in some way to deliver otherwise, along the way there is some deep insight into team working in projects.

Berg | C.F. Møller’s proposed design is a 34-storey skyscraper made of wood. On deeper investigation though it has a concrete core!

Kone have invented a new carbon fibre lift cable which will make possible 1km high lifts double todays limit, effectively doubling the limit of skyscrapers in the process.

The New Aesthetic, if you name it you should own it.

Week Review 1

June 15, 2013 — Leave a comment


ALA win the Heksinki Central Library Competition. The best of the six shortlisted entries wins, and a kind of homecoming from the preeminent office in Helsinki finally with a major public building in their hometown.

Pritzker Architecture Prize committee will not honor Denise Scott Brown‘s request for Pritzker recognition. It makes them look bad twice over refusing to acknowledge the fact of their collaboration, and for looking totally sexist too! See Kazys piece.

Jarret Walker of Human Transit nails it with cynisism is consent. Nothing should be welcomed more than constructive complaints.

The BBC charts out the future of thinking and breathing buildings and of cities as ecosystems.

2013 RIBA Awards winners announced. I’ve only had a cursory look at this but the list looks long and deep on quality.

Mayor Bloomberg unveils $20B plan to build new NYC defenses against climate change.

Following the first proper post on declad about The Lego House, some more lego news.

To inspire more co-creations, LEGO has launched its Cuusoo platform in beta. Anyone can submit a project idea and those that reach 10,000 votes will be reviewed by LEGO and potentially turned into real products. If the project reaches production, the person who submitted the idea will receive 1% of the total net sales of the product. Via

Hapy Birthday Kevin Roche.