Eggs and flour: 2002’s architectural ingredients
Drowning by numbers: Clissold Leisure Centre
Though it bears the inspired stamp of a signature architect – in this case Hodder Associates – the Clissold Leisure Centre in north London ranks highly as the lottery project from hell. Completed almost three years late and £20m overbudget, the project has been blamed for helping to financially ruin the impoverished borough of Hackney. Polished modernist architecture, including a complex folded roof of steel and glass and a glazed frontage to the street, has been provided at the expense of fun for its leisure-seeking customers – even the flume ride has been puritanically split apart from the adjoining swimming pool. Since opening, the clear-glazed facade has been coated with an obscure film to prevent passers-by peering in. Flour power: Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts
Not so long ago, industry and commerce were mobilised as powerhouses to regenerate decaying cities: nowadays that role is given to the much softer enterprises of art and culture. Gateshead, Newcastle’s poorer sibling on the south bank of the Tyne, is putting nearly all its regeneration eggs in the art basket. The Gateshead Centre for Contemporary Art, newly converted for £46m out of the former Baltic flour mill on the banks of the Tyne will be followed by the even more extravagant Music Centre. Both attractions are plugged into Tyneside’s culture circuit by the graceful winking footbridge, which opened last year. All three projects claim the architectural high ground: the winking bridge was awarded the RIBA’s Stirling prize, and Dominic Williams’ competition-winning design for the Baltic centre and Foster and Partners’ music centre can be relied on to scoop up several more awards. Living it up north: No 1 Deansgate Domineering skylines, abstract sculptural forms, modern transparent materials and minimalist decor are all flaunted by the new generation of high-rise city-centre apartment blocks. After being pioneered on London’s riverfront by CZWG and Richard Rogers Partnership, the born-again building type is now sweeping through provincial cities. Manchester lays claim to one of the most inspired examples, courtesy of Crosby Homes and local star Ian Simpson Architects. No 1 Deansgate came as part of the benign fall-out of the IRA bomb of 1996, which devastated the city centre. The 17-storey block is protected from the harsh northern winds by an outer veil of glass louvres that screen the balconies that wrap around the apartments. Head egg: City Hall
London’s new £43m City Hall is to government buildings what Swiss Re is to office towers – a moulded form with low-energy aspirations as designed by Foster and Partners using the latest in computer modelling. Externally, the disconcertingly lopsided egg-shaped form serves to shade the south facade from summer sunshine. Internally, a seven-storey stepped ramp rises directly above the debating chamber like a helterskelter on speed. Even so, such architectural acrobatics have not silenced the whingers, who ask where the new Greater London Authority’s burgeoning bureaucracy could expand to and complain that the ramp might be ruled out of bounds as a safety hazard.
Running a business was never supposed to be easy, and this year’s brew of problems – sorry, challenges – could make for a raging end-of-year hangover for some business leaders.
A motley cast of characters
This was the year of the Society of Construction Law. Or at least, Building’s legal columnists seemed to think so. Their readers were treated to a year-long running commentary on the alleged merits and flaws of the society’s Delay and Disruption Protocol, from its conception at the turn of the year through to its birth on 16 October. Appropriately, Tony Bingham flagged up the society’s “guidance note” in the first issue, prophesying that “it will have a major effect on this sometimes difficult area of construction”. And this final issue closes with the SCL’s own explanation of what it was trying to achieve (see pages 40-41). But what else happened this year? Well, space is limited but here are a few of Bingham’s more intriguing tales … The one with … Mr and Mrs Grumpy and Beelzebub the Builder
Or, the dodgy householder who agreed to pay a dodgy builder cash, then tried to get him to pay up when it all went, predictably, wrong. Despite the judge’s view that the builder “habitually evades paying corporation tax, VAT and personal income tax”, and that his evidence was “evasive and untruthful”, he still won. (5 April) The one with … the flamenco dancer
Well, there wasn’t really a flamenco dancer (only on Bingham’s holiday) but Mr Stannard still sued his upstairs neighbour for nuisance after an interior redesign installed wooden floors and caused the amount of noise transmitted through the ceiling to become “more than he could bear”. The upstairs neighbour had to pay for an expert to determine what work needed doing to remove the problem, the cost of the works and the legal costs of the trial – so think hard before you get too creative in your home. (15 November) The one with … the Steinway piano
This is the tale of pianist Jean Louis Steuerman, who was forced to put his Steinway grand in storage when two attempts by his builder to install a dampproofing system failed. The unfortunate builder was hit with a bill for a whopping £47,000. (28 June) The one with … the tea and biscuits
Bingham regaled us with the story of the adjudicator who thought he might be a mediator and invited his clients to discuss their disputes over tea and biscuits. All rather unusually civilised … (18 January) The one with … the deputy prime
Sinister of Qatar Sheikh Mohammed Khalifa Hamad al-Thani, who also happens to be the deputy prime minister of Qatar, tried to get away with paying almost £200,000 less to his builder than ordered to by the adjudicator. He said he had a claim for liquidated damages for the balance and could set it off. Not impressed with this line of argument, the judge ordered the builder to be paid in full. (15 March) The one with … the clay pigeon shoots, all-night raves and burning manure
Twenty years of arguments between neighbours in Newchapel, near Gatwick, resulted in relations “as entrenched and as bitter as it is possible to imagine”, according to the judge in the case of Fowler vs Jones. The problem was a certain Ms Ellen Jones, who sold her house and moved into a caravan next door to it. She then began organising clay pigeon shoots, all-night raves and bonfires of manure and rotten vegetables – and that was before the three masked gunmen had even showed up. The upshot? Ms Jones received a fine for £10,000. (19 July) The one with … the obsessed solicitor
There was a tragic story of the solicitor who became obsessed by his own legal dispute. He sued his partners in his law firm and lost, then sued his barrister and lost, and then tried to avoid paying costs because that barrister refused to mediate and, yes you guessed it, lost again. (20 September)
Putting curves in all the right places
This year has seen the construction of some pretty spectacular curved buildings; each a different technical challenge, and each a tribute to their design and construction teams.