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Exchange House Lecture and Visit - 20 September

Fiona Mckay


AIA/UK gathered at Skidmore Owings & Merrill’s London office on the 20th of September to celebrate the 2015 AIA 25-year award given to Exchange House. The evening featured a presentation on the project by Kent Jackson, Dmitri Jajich, and Graham Wiseman, all of SOM representing the architectural, structural and master planning aspects of the multidisciplinary design. The group then visited Exchange House (adjacent to SOM’s office), including a tour of the lobby, award plaque recently installed on the building , and drinks in Exchange Square. 

The project was selected for the award by AIA National for its clear and elegant solution to the constraints of the site which spans over railroad tracks of Liverpool Street Station. Designed in an era when local planners favoured historicist buildings clad in stone which were sympathetic to the older buildings in London, Exchange House challenged this with a brave and direct expression of its structure. 

The team showed design studies and development of the arch shape including different heights, curved and faceted profiles, and even an inverted catenary option. The final design was selected for its optimal structural efficiency. The arches on the two primary facades were held away from the building’s glass enclosure as a means of protection from fire within the building. 

At ground level, the project helped to frame the new Exchange Square at the center of the Broadgate masterplan (also above the railroad tracks). Also, the building’s clear span has enabled a strong connection between Exchange Square and the rapidly-developing area of Shoreditch to the north. 

Exchange House is the first project in the UK to win the AIA 25-year award. The project’s completion also coincided closely with the creation of SOM’s office in London , and the creation of AIA’s UK Chapter of which SOM was a founding member.

AIA UK Board 2017: Call for Nominations!

Fiona Mckay

If you are interested in getting involved with the AIA UK Chapter, please consider nominating yourself for a position on the 2017 board of directors. You are welcome to make nominations for the board of directors and the four officer positions. The officer positions are ideally held by a US licensed architects, but we will accept foreign licensed architects for nominations as well.

The only requirement for a board of director’s positions is enthusiasm and a willingness to help with events and other chapter activities throughout the year. If you would like to find out more about the positions, Please contact Michael Lischer, FAIA at We look forward to hearing from you!

Mentorship Update: One-on-Ones and Meet and Greet 2

Fiona Mckay

On 27 June AIA UK Mentorship Program held its second event. The group of emerging professionals and seasoned architects were hosted by Herman Miller for one-on-one speed mentoring. The evening began with nibbles and refreshments. Karen Fugle, an Executive Coach specialising in work with designers, was to present an introduction to mentorship and coaching, but was unable to attend due to illness so Katharine Storr stepped in to explain the mentoring process. Stephan Reinke, Lester Korzilius, Lorraine King, Michael Lischer, Fred Geiger and Dragan Krstevski then introduced themselves as the night’s mentors and spoke briefly of their experiences. 

For the rest of the evening, the mentors dispersed themselves across the various Herman Miller landscapes on display. The mentees then rotated around the showroom in pairs, with each pair allowed approximately 15 minutes to chat with a mentor. The evening ended with a group debrief at which it was agreed that one-on-one speed mentoring was a useful format and the mentorship program should continue with alternative formats - some formal evenings and other less formal ones – for discussing architectural practice, networking and support. 
On 26 September, a group gathered informally at The Blackfriar for the mentorship program's third event of the year. The evening saw round table discussions over beer and under the relief sculptures of Henry Poole for which the Blackfriar is known. Conversations in a cozy corner of the pub ranged across a variety of topics. There were discussions on the differences between working in continental Europe versus the UK; on the merits of virtual technologies and how clients interact with digital models versus physical models; on issues such as practice management and what architects can learn from the world of tech start-ups; and eventually on how architects can take a playful approach to problem solving and team building. 

As NCARB rolls out the ARE 5.0 this month, the next meeting will be a peer mentoring session. We will be addressing topics such as understanding the difference between the ARE 4.0 and 5.0 as well as advice on taking exams in the UK and what resources are available through the AIA UK chapter.

Author: Katharine Storr 

AIA UK Film Night: The Price of Desire - 25 October 2016

Fiona Mckay

The 2016 Autumn series kicked off with the much anticipated movie The Price of Desire, which we were finally able to get from Munro Films. Many thanks to them for all their assistance.

The Price Of Desire is the controversial story of how the bisexual Irish artist’s Eileen Gray’s influential contribution to 20th century architecture and design was almost wiped from history by the egotistical ‘Father of Modernism’, Le Corbusier. The film unfolds how her relationship with philanderer Jean Badovici, editor of influential L’Architecture Vivante, and the man who made Le Corbusier famous, further fuelled the rift between the two architects, and consigned her legacy to a century of neglect and long-overdue recognition.

Set substantially on the Côte d’Azur in and around her most abiding work, the villa e1027, The Price of Desire explores the events surrounding Le Corbusier’s eventual erasure of both Gray’s physical ownership of the property as well as her intellectual property right to be recognised as the architect of her work. 
A triangular tale of insidious chauvinism, The Price of Desire resonates as a universal female experience while cinematically evoking the essential aesthetic of Eileen Gray. 

VILLA e1027: Eileen Gray designed and built this first-ever modernist house in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France in 1926 for her lover, the architectural journalist Jean Badovici. Le Corbusier, the architect he promoted, so effaced and defaced Gray’s moral right to be recognised as the author of her work that her legacy as one of the most influential inspirations of a century of modern architecture and design was consigned to oblivion for almost a century.

After the Second World War, Jean Badovici made some feeble efforts to request that Le Corbusier remove the vandalistic murals he had painted on its plain white walls, and even promised Eileen Gray that he would put the house back into her name. Le Corbusier was having none of it however, and sadly Jean Badovici died intestate, leaving the fate the ownership of the house to the whims of Le Corbusier, who in turn drowned on his daily swim in the Mediterranean below it. Eileen Gray survived them all and was finally made a fellow of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland in recognition of this work in 1995. 

The film was very well received by those in attendance, and the discussion that followed was very lively. We shall be winding up the Autumn & 2016 Film Series with a screening of Koolhaas Houselife at 1900hrs on 22 November at the BFI. 

We look forward to welcoming more of you to that screening, and many thanks to all who have attended our screenings this year!

Author: Christopher Musangi AIA

Walk on air – Brighton’s new Vertical Promenade Pier

Fiona Mckay

AIA UK is delighted to have supported a sold out lecture entitled “Walk on air – Brighton’s new Vertical Promenade Pier”. The joint AIA, RIBA, IStructE event took place on Tuesday the 18th of October 2016 at the RIBA’s Jarvis Auditorium. The focus of the talk was the recently completed British Airways i360 (BAi360) in Brighton, the world’s tallest moving observation tower. David Marks and Julia Barfield of Marks Barfield Architects and Dr John Roberts of Jacobs explained the thinking behind its concept, design, engineering and construction.  

It is thought that this was only the second time Architects and Engineers have shared the platform at RIBA to talk jointly about a project. Julia Barfield referred to the collaboration as a “great example of the symbiotic relationship between Architecture and Engineering”. Building on the success of the London Eye, the BAi360 is an ambitious project which aims to offer a unique visitor experience. Standing at the foot of what used to be the West Pier, the tower is almost exactly half as high as the pier was long. Just as the original pier welcomed Victorian society to ‘walk on water’, the new attraction invites visitors to gain a different perspective on the city and ‘walk on air’. This is achieved with a state of the art glass pod which can accommodate up to 200 people. The pod ascends to a height of 138 metres, offering slowly unfolding 360-degree views over Brighton and Hove, the South Downs, the South Coast and the Channel. At the landward end of the pier, two existing Victorian cast iron tollbooths, designed by Eugenius Birch, were restored to their former glory.

The tower’s unprecedented slender ratio of 1:41 meant that Engineers had to push the boundaries of what is structurally possible, overcoming challenges such as wind forces and turbulence. The talk featured construction photos and videos from the steel manufacturing and the construction sequence. The tower was constructed from the ground by jacking-up the 17 steel cans, which make up the 162 m tower, one under the other starting from the top. This avoided work at height and was the safest way of building.

The entrepreneurial approach behind the development allowed Marks Barfield to ensure that the project gives back to the city with 1% of ticket sales going back into the local community in perpetuity.

The talk concluded with a Q&A session followed by drinks reception.

1.5 CES Credits were available for attending the talk.

AIA Continental Europe Conference - Girne, North Cyprus

Fiona Mckay

AIA Continental Europe held its latest bi-annual conference in Girne, North Cyprus, from 29 Sep to 2 Oct 2016.  Whereas this latest CE event generally followed the traditional conference format – a series of tours, seminars and lectures interspersed with lunches, dinners and networking opportunities – the Girne Conference also added a new, parallel event to the format, and North Cyprus lent its own particular flavour to the mix. 

Student Charrette - The CE Chapter held its first Student Design Charrette during the Girne Conference at the nearby Girne American University.  The students and faculty came locally from the American University, Cyprus International University and other invited schools of architecture in Spain, the Czech Republic and Hungary.  Some of the students attending these universities came from even more diverse locations in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, insuring a multicultural atmosphere.

The 4-day Charrette focused on the adaptive reuse of the Old Bazaar in the centre of Girne.  Selected conference attendees mentored the students over the 4 days, and all conference attendees were able to interact with them during evening sessions and the jury presentations.  This allowed students and attendees alike to benefit from this alternative method of exploring Cypriot culture. 

The Student Charrette was sponsored locally by the Girne American University, the Cyprus International University and Girne Municipality, with support from Graphisoft.  As part of its mandate to promote education, additional financial support came from Laufen, which – along with the London Roca Gallery – also sponsors the UK Student Charrette held this October. 

North Cyprus – Girne is a city with a long and fascinating history.   Perhaps better known by its English name, Kyrenia, the Mediterranean harbour town has been home successively to ancient Egyptians, Hittites, Persians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Lusignans, Genevans, Venetians, Ottomans and most recently the British.  It is certainly a good place to observe the effect of different cultures on the built environment over time; however, the current divide between the two halves of Cyprus also rendered a special poignancy to universal cultural identity issues. 

Since the civil strife and mass relocations of citizens in the 1970s, the island of Cyprus has been partitioned between the Turkish speaking populations in the north and the Greek speaking populations in the south. South Cyprus (the Republic of Cyprus) is predominately Greek Orthodox, and is part of the EU; however, North Cyprus (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus) is Muslim, and is recognised internationally only by Turkey.  

Although there is positive talk of reconciliation and reunification, the current relationship with South Cyprus remains unresolved.  In the context of the volatile eastern Mediterranean, peaceful North Cyprus has a vague feeling of remoteness, even isolation, but this can be misleading. As the welcome and participation of the local government and institutions in the conferenced demonstrated, the country is energetic, well-educated and keen to encourage visitors and cross communication. For whatever reason, the attendance at this year’s conference was a little less than for previous ones.  Those that did not attend missed a compelling experience.

 AIA UK Board Directors, Chris Musangi, AIA, and Lorraine King, AIA, relax in the Cyprus sunshine.

 AIA UK Board Directors, Chris Musangi, AIA, and Lorraine King, AIA, relax in the Cyprus sunshine.

Seen positively, the smaller group gave an intimacy to the conference that was well appreciated.  Most of the group stayed in one hotel – a large, well-run resort hotel complete with a Mediterranean beach, multiple pools, a casino, a conference centre, etc. – and were able to eat together, learn together, and chill out together while tightening bonds of friendship. Without a doubt, the feel good factor, nurtured by Turkish hospitality was high. 

Two lectures on historical architecture familiarised the conference with local heritage.  A panel of speakers from both sides of the divided city of Nicosia, spoke on the difficulties and challenges of town planning in a city split down its centre by a barricaded, international border - the Green Line - and called for reinforcement of their bi-communal, team work recommendations.

Local lecturers and guides were supplemented by Continental Europe AIA members speaking of their own experiences on universal topics such as adaptive reuse of buildings, sustainability, rural architecture and decay, acoustic environments, public spaces and floating bridges.  As is customary with CE Conferences, two chapter sponsors – Graphisoft and Swiss Pearl – gave short talks. See HERE for full Conference programme and other details. 

Conference tours were taken to see the Old Bazaar and historical harbour of Girne and the vernacular buildings in the nearby Karmi Village. In Nicosia, a walking tour explored architectural highlights in North Nicosia, before crossing the Green Line into South Nicosia, to experience the different architecture and atmosphere between the North and South sides of the city

Tower 25 / White Walls by Atelier Jean Nouvel, South Nicosia

Special reference should be made to the Conference Committee, including, Ali Yapicioglu, AIA, (Chair) and Bari Wetmore Salathe, AIA, with help from Sandra Zettersten, AIA.  The Student Charrette Coordinator was Dr Balkiz Yapicioglu.  All in all, the conference generated a grand total of 19.75 (+ 4 for Monday extension) CEUs along with many memories of good friends, brilliant weather and a brilliant programme.