From 9 to 18 June is Architecture week.
But what with the dome, Tate Modern, the Lowry and what have you, the public might well be forgiven for thinking that it is Architecture Year.
Designed to promote awareness of architecture and help explain how good architectural development can be achieved, this is the fourth time the event has been staged.
Last year, it kicked off with a breakfast for the great and the good in the almost completed Tate Modern. The event was opened by Janet Street-Porter, now editor of the Independent on Sunday, describing how lucky it was that she was kicked out of her only job as a trainee architect after three weeks.
The development of Tate Modern has probably done more to raise the profile of architecture than all the Architecture Weeks put together. The fact that the architects in question are the relatively unknown Swiss team of Herzog & de Meuron has made a change from the well-publicised mega-projects by the usual suspects. It also helps that it is a conversion of a well-known building, as does the fact that the project is so clearly a balance between art and practicality.
It is always fascinating to be told about something that interests you by somebody who really knows about it
However, what has really captured the public imagination about Bankside is the television programmes that have been made about it, where the whole cast of players has been seen to be doing or not doing their bit.
Most important has been the emphasis the filmmakers have placed on the continuous steely presence of Nicholas Serota, Britain’s most exceptional client.
The other project that has boosted the perception of architecture is the London Eye. Not only is it a delicious piece of engineering but, in a period of little over three months, it seems to have become universally popular, despite the best efforts of the press to take the mick during construction. The wheel, too, has been the subject of television documentaries, so it is fitting that this year Architecture Week opens with Architecture Revolution. Each one of the wheel’s 32 capsules will be taken over by a well-known architect or architectural enthusiast (Professor Richard MacCormac, Marco Goldschmied, the London Evening Standard’s Rowan Moore, Sir Jeremy Dixon and so on), and 30 passengers will be invited to sign up for the round-trip and listen to their views on the views.
It’s a great stunt and highly appropriate, not only because the London Eye is genuinely popular, but because it has come about largely as a result of the determination of David Marks and Julia Barfield, two young architects who refused to take no for an answer. It is a reflection of the changing attitude to the nature of procurement that the architects themselves are shareholders in the project, which in effect makes them the client.
Architecture Revolution is the sort of temporary operation one can imagine becoming a regular fixture. It is always fascinating to be told about something that interests you by somebody who really knows about it. Thirty people is about the size of the walking groups you see conducted around the sites of Jack the Ripper’s crimes (Architecture Week boasts many similar architecture walks), and the transparent capsules offer the most effective classroom imaginable. You could opt to listen to Lord Foster explain how he proposes to pedestrianise Trafalgar Square, or Charlie Dimmock on urban planting.
For a full list of Architecture Week events, see www.artscouncil.org.uk/Arch_week/ Gus Alexander runs his own architectural practice in Clerkenwell, London.