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London’s only Deconstructivist Building? Peter Clash* @ Canary Wharf

April 14, 2012 6 comments

When I was at PCL at the turn of the Nineties, learning how to be an Architect, one of the big architectural movements of the time was Deconstructivism, a sometimes complex approach to design in which surfaces, plans and form were subjected to rigorous processes of fragmentation, reorganisation and manipulation. The resultant proposals were often chaotic and random in appearance, and it was often hard not to think that much of it was made up as it went along and then post rationalised to some sense of validity only at the very end… (As students of course the rigour bit was usually missing, and the post rationalising bit overly relied on…)

Still, in many ways it was the perfect antidote to the tedious formal excesses of Postmodernism, allowing students and architects alike, to really let their imaginations loose, creating many thousands of miles of paper architecture (i.e. stuff that could never be built) whilst only a relatively few practices achieved convincing projects that were actually constructed (Co-op Himmelb(l)au, Morphosis and Peter Wilson come first to mind…)

Anyway, I never really worked out why, but outside of the student environment, the Europeans and Americans were always better at Deconstructivism and seemed to take it more seriously than we did. In fact, I can only really think of one building in London that I might suggest has any Deconstructivist leanings… and that is this little building near Canary Wharf by one of my old PCL visiting tutors, Peter Clash. A building which I happened to cycle past recently, having completely forgotten all about it, and which I think still looks pretty amazing…

Tucked away at the back of the Canary Wharf Development, is what I think it is a control building for raising the bridge next to which it stands, so allowing boats through to the inner dock areas. Surprisingly I can find absolutely nothing at all about it on line, so I can’t even confirm its proper title or use, but it must have been completed before about 1991 when I left PCL, because I can clearly remember cycling over to see it when Peter told us it had been completed. Docklands then was not the place it is today, trust me… I seemed to cycle around for hours through the wilderness of E14 looking for the bloody thing…

It’s a wonderful little gem… A utilitarian, silver, metal clad base building the shape of a quarter circle, with a variety of sized and shaped openings punched through its skin. A simple staircase placed externally along one side, leading up to a control box held in its seemingly precarious position via two steels that don’t seem to have enough fixing back to the structure, whilst the “monocoque” roof curves down to an interesting flick of an eaves and on down to the floor.

Then there’s the curved services tray, playfully reflecting the form of the cables should they have been left unsupported, and the knowing, sci-fi like appearance of the control room perched rather off-puttingly at almost exactly eye level height from the bridge… It looks like the control tower could retract into the main armoured body of the building if it sensed it was in danger…

Whether Peter Clash (still working, still making lovely things) would have thought of it as Deconstructivist, I don’t know, but I suspect not. He always struck me as something of a cool dude, who would surely have resisted any such obvious attempts at categorisation…

But it made my day seeing it once again after all this time and remembering the fun we had at PCL being encouraged to do silly things in the name of architecture…

* UPDATE : I have been corrected, this building is credited to Allsop & Störmer. As such, I am somewhat confused. Everything I wrote in this post is the truth as  I remember it… I can only think that Peter Clash was maybe working at A&S and involved on this project when I knew him, and I had forgottten that…

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QlockTwo Watch

April 14, 2012 Leave a comment

I like the stylings of this new watch by Biegert & Funk…

The face is a grid of 110 letters and to tell the time you press the big shiny button on the side and it tells you in words…

There’s also an App for my Android phone, which at 70p looks pretty good, until you realise (as one reviewer points out) that by the time you’ve opened the app, waited for the inevitable advert to go away and then pressed the screen to get the time, the moments already gone…

Still the watch itself looks very fine indeed, which it should do for around €500.

It reminds me of a watch that And bought a couple of years back. A beautiful thing made by a Japanese company called TokyoFlash, it had a grid of 42 LED’s which could be used to tell the time in three ways, Hour centric, Minute centric and (our favourite) Binary… Hours of fun, especially if (like And) you could never remember how to read the dots….

And in case you’re wondering, to tell the time in binary, you only use the top two lines of the display and read the dots like this…

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