31 October 2011

uncovering centre 404

Building work is under way on Centre 404 on Camden Road. At basement level, foundation for the new garden room have been excavated and old partitions taken down, uncovering the history and timeline of the building. We've found beautiful layers of old wallpaper, decorative tiles as well as old lath and paster work… as well as some less interesting, more recent additions!

We're thrilled about watching the building work progress - connecting the building to the garden, opening up the space and making Centre 404 more accessible to all.

Anne curates walk in Aldgate

Anne Thorne has curated a walk around Aldgate focused on Gender. Other walks by Muf's Liza Fior, Graham Fisher of Toynbee Hall and artist Kate Rich have looked at Faith, Philantropy and Trade taking as a study area anywhere within 10 minutes walk of Aldgate tube station. The walks are part of a much wider project done in collaboration with Publica which will see over 600 students from the Faculty of Architecture and Spatial Design and The Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Media and Design thinking about this area and developing site-specific projects.

Anne's talk looked at the Aldgate Subways, Women in the Guilds, Women in the City (or lack of), Women's Library, Brick Lane (Heba Women's Project and SsBA), the Royal London Hospital (nursing, midwifery, Florence Nightingale's influence on ward design, Elizabeth Fry) and the Jagonari women's centre and the work of Matrix Feminist Design Co-operative.

13 October 2011

refurbishment and extension to listed building in Stoke Newington

The major refurbishment and extension to 237 Stoke Newington Church Street has been completed. The Grade II listed building is part of the Clissold Park Conservation Area. ATA assisted Eaves Developments with all stages of Planning, Listed Building consent and detail design. Three stunning flats fronting onto the Park, and onto a beautiful garden at the rear, have been skilfully developed. Efficient boilers, internal insulation, solar panels and organic paints coexist with original fixtures on this mid-18th C house.

11 October 2011

A good term for Biomimicry

I miss Anna Maria Orru!
We met at ATA's office, then in Islington, in 2003. Amongst other things she was running the refurbishment of Holles House, a block of flats in the Angell Town Estate, in Brixton. I, then on my year out, was working on the new building at Boatemah Walk, also at Angell Town. We've been close friends ever since. She left ATA a few months later and spend five or six years working with other interesting people, mostly in the field of sustainable design and later of Biomimicry. Just over a year and a half ago she settled in Stockholm. Part of me envies her... She's done it, alone, with a handful of contacts and a head full of ideas.
This term she's running a course at KTH on nature-inspired architecture and urbanism - I really wish I could be there. In the first lecture they look at the work of Hans Haacke, followed on by the 'systems-thinking (the process of understanding how things influence one another within a whole) aspect of ecosystems'. If you happen to be in Gothenburg at the end of the month, check out her seminar at the Nordic Architecture Fair.
And follow her blog here.
Also out just a few days ago is Michael Pawlin's new book Biomimicry in Architecture (Anna Maria was a collaborator at Exploration Architecture). It looks interesting and has a wonderful cover photograph.

But shouldn't all of us, designers, be looking at nature more? I can't think of anything more natural that to mimic the very best.

For a good read on Biomimicry try Janine Benyus book or watch her TED talk.

10 October 2011

The UK Passivhaus Conference 2011

The UK Passivhaus Conference is going to be full of the latest information about passivhaus projects - newbuild and retrofit -  in the UK, talks by practitioners, academics, clients, contractors, and occupants, so you can find out anything and everything you wanted to know about Passivhaus. Jennie Swain from ATA will be talking about retrofit and using natural materials and Fran Bradshaw chairing one of the group sessions.
There will be discussion workshops about what are the barriers and the opportunities to developing passivhaus, and policy directions, visits to the Bere Architects refurbished Mayville Community Centre, and it looks as if it is going to be the conference of the autumn, come and join us!

Current Building Research

Last week was a great opportunity to see different approaches to building research here in the UK and in Germany.

At Insite 11 at the BRE on 'Rethink Refurbishment' we participated in the Technology Strategy Board Low Carbon Retrofit workshop; nine brief contributions on different aspects of the 'Retrofit for the Future' projects, ours on using natural and breathable materials, all fascinating, and raising lots of questions.
The Innovation Zone featured some good ideas - it'd be good to hear more about the cellulose based aerogel insulation, if it gets taken up by a manufacturer. We hope so.

On Friday Ecological Building Systems organised  'Challenges and Solutions to Thermally Upgrading Existing Masonry Walls with Internal Insulation' Among other great talks, Dr Rudolph Plagge from The Institute of Building Climatology at Dresden University of Technology spoke in detail about the science behind working with existing buildings in a sympathetic way. He showed examples like the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, where upgrading the building thermally and conserving the exquisite brickwork was undertaken so thoughtfully,  with research backup so that the Museum could be really confident of the effect of insulation on moisture travelling through walls, frost action, mould growth, and improved thermal performance. Several of us present at the workshop felt that there is a real need to develop further links with this research institution.