01.02 Now Prohibited

The consequence of new building regulations is to have a long term impact on our environment; these changes should be recorded and understood in this wider context.

Familiar

Freezing form in time sometimes stagnates historical and contemporary progress. Well known architecture, which form a familiar part of the physical characteristics which we know; are now no longer possible. Will this create a surge in the number of listed buildings? Doesthis impact on intrinsic value? and do these acts add an extra construction and maintenance cost for the owners effecting decisions on both when and how to build?

Changes

As changes from old to new become necessary it will be important to remember the context in which the declining forms once existed. The varied nuances which were introduced to the field of construction, form and ultimately use. How they speak about functions which have either adapted or been lost from daily life, but from which our current trends and activities have sprung…

Aspirations

The new regulations and policies have affected what we can aspire to build architecturally. Looking abroad, many well-known constructs, places and processes are loved for the very reasons which would prohibit their existence in England.


This article was written in 2010 and as such is written in the context of the social and political conditions of the time

01.01 Empty London

There are approximately a 100,000 buildings registered empty, not to mention the many more ‘not lived in’ buildings. The presence of empty is in affluent areas as well as the deprived and in the city centre as well as the suburbs. Empty buildings have come to fill up so much of our streets that it strongly governs a large part of what our urban environment is like. It is Anti-social, Anti-econonomic & anti-environment and it affects all of us.

01-01-empty-london

The waste is offensive and the impression is the most prominent sign of a stagnant city. This affects our tourism, our productivity and our daily lives. London seems to have lost the ability and desire to evolve naturally with time. Adaptation and change of use happens but at a pace barely visible and in the meantime buildings are left hollow and lifeless faster than they are put back into use.

On a national and local scale small measures could make a big difference. Making things better is not always complicated and as in most cases much could be gained by preventive interventions. Important lessons could be learnt from both Denmark & Holland. A long term strategy that includes improved regulations, a better planning process, as well as funding options and a loosening of user classes could no doubt improve how buildings adapt and find continual use through ever changing social and economic factors.

Not only is London looking tired, it is looking abandoned and left behind!


This article was written in 2010 and is written in the context of the social and political conditions of the time

08.01 A planned end to Strike action & privacy…

Today, the Conservative party confirm their plans (that if elected in 2015) they will change their future policies to drastically limit the efficacy of strike action on grounds that the current legal framework (which the upcoming strikes operate under) are not democratic and proportionate. On the same day the party announce their aims to bypass established democratic constructs to overrule a European law. This will in effect oblige telephonic communication companies to continue mass collection of personal data exchanged by their civilian clients. The process of rushing ’emergency legislation’ into law based on changes to a European law passed 6 weeks previously (plenty of time to prioritize a bill’s traditional passage through parliament). The emergency legislation however, allows the incumbent leaders of the dominant parties to bypass the democratic constructs where MP’s present, discuss and review bills before they are made into law (or rejected through the voting system). The desire to bypass democratic processes on the day when criticizing union workers, working within the law, in an attempt to limit the legal framework in which they can operate is hypocritical at best.

The significant aims of the planed restrictions are (1) to require a 50% threshold in favour of action before a strike can take place (2) to make picketing rules (limiting size and location) legally binding and thus an offence (3) limit mandated/voted actions to occur within 3 months.

The hypocrisy of this position extends if you examine both the low turnout percentage or support that sitting MPs, and party’s receive; which is never in danger of approaching the 50% mark. Similarly, the laws restricting union voting to postal ballots does not (by law) allow union action to engage with contemporary digital forms of voting as most voting system now do such as general elections.

What this signifies is the growing separation between the embodied power of citizen action to affect political decision making. This divide is increasingly pursued by the consensus at the apex of the dominant political parties, which this latest decision typifies.


This article was written in 2015 and as such is written in the context of the social and political conditions of the time

 

08.03 The Distopic

Distopic Futures present
The appearance of ‘cyber Monday’ on the digital advent calendar brings to the fore the way in which our consumerist digital culture has real, tangible spacial manifestations. As reported by several prominent and differently positioned media outlets (the Guardian, Daily mail and Panorama (programme still to be aired); the working conditions of the temporary seasonal staff is nothing short of Orwelian (with particular focus on Amazon’s Peterborough and Jersey Marine (Wales) “fulfillment centres”). The machinery consistently judging performance of staff with no contractual rights in purely numerical terms, counting items ‘picked’ and the pace at which this occurs as we feed our ever insatiable appetite for objects. The firm hierarchy embodied in the hue of badge attached to the operator emphasising the type of employment and therefore social hierarchy. That there are a silent but growing minority of unrepresented workers dragging on the coattails of the seasonal, cyclic commercial market offering temporary opportunities for paltry monetary reward becomes just another story in the milieu of life.

But beyond this depressing tale of contemporary socio-economic polarisation, there is also the realisation that this practice, the creation of virtual superstores require large built warehouses of monstrous scale that dwarf the supermarket (with the Peterborough site being at over 500,000sqm), creating spaces too vast for their interiors to be caught on camera. So often the physical spaces that the virtual world requires are displaced in foreign territories, it is to some irony that the spacelessness of the Amazon software requires such distopic hardware.


This article was written in 2015 and as such is written in the context of the social and political conditions of the time

 

08.02 Activist Memorial

This month seems a poignant time to remember the Rent Strikes of 1915 led by activist Mary Barbour. Almost 100 years after her multidisciplinary activism – campaigners are making calls for Mary’s importance to be officially commemorated by the errection of a monument in her memory.

It hasn’t gone unnoticed that the approaching centenary of the Rent Strikes also coincides with the governments welfare reforms with a controversial piece of legislation dubbed the “bedroom tax” already causing consternation and protests around the UK.

Mary’s work was not only a series of unaffiliated actions but an ideology realised through actions pursued relentlessly through her political office. A clarity of rhetoric action and political integrity sadly lacking from out current political oeuvre.

Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it

George Santayana


This article was written in 2015 and as such is written in the context of the social and political conditions of the time