London Refocused

 

 

 

By Ken Shuttleworth, BCO Vice President

 

London is hosting the British Council for Offices (BCO) conference for the first time in seven years, and as part of my Vice Presidency Make has taken on a central role in organising it. It’s a tough call hosting an event like this in a city everyone thinks they know, so the real challenge has been putting together a calendar of tours and plenary sessions that show a new side to one of the most famous cities in the world.

So we’ve taken a different approach. As one of the global centres of commerce, London has some of the best new office stock in the world; with buildings at the forefront of design and technology, and attracts and retains some of the world’s leading companies. We have secured unprecedented access to over 50 new commercial buildings, many available exclusively to BCO delegates. The idea is to give a behind-the-scenes view of how London is catering for a wide range of occupiers who combine to make this city an unrivalled mixing pot of creativity, entrepreneurialism, trade and finance.

We’ve divided London into 14 bite-size clusters, each of which has a selection of incredible buildings that offer something interesting to learn, see or experience. From the regeneration hotspots of Battersea and King’s Cross to the Square Mile, the finance capital of the world, each tour will hopefully provoke, inspire and influence us to think about the future of office design, pushing the agenda beyond occupation densities and air con and into the real challenges of creating commercial stock that caters for the future as much as for today (keeping in mind that many of the buildings being planned, designed and built now will house a generation of workers who haven’t even been born yet).

We want to explore what an excellent commercial office will look like two decades on. What will occupiers want? What legislation is likely to be in place to protect the environment, the health of employees and the safety of contractors? How can we design now for the needs of future generations and predict what may or may not be top of their workplace requirements?

Someone who has been at the top of this game for decades is Norman Foster, Founder and Chairman of Foster + Partners, who is opening this year’s conference. Lord Foster has done more for office development than any other architect and is perfectly placed to bring the debate about the future of office space into a design sphere. He will offer his own unique perspective on London and share lessons he has learned while working on some of the most important buildings of our time.

Norman Foster

Our other keynote speaker is Ole Scheeren, Principal of Buro Ole Scheeren. He brings to the panel a completely new way of thinking about buildings, having earned his stripes working with Rem Koolhaas in Asia. He has built some of the most thought-provoking buildings of our age and now has his sights set on London. Delegates will have the chance to hear both his and Lord Foster’s perspectives on the role of office design in London’s future.

Ole Scheeren

Other speakers include Despina Katsikakis, who will be exploring the role of the workplace, how we will work in the future and how workplaces can reflect the direction of a business; and Sir Stuart Lipton, who will bring together a group of speakers to debate the changing rules over traditional locations and the impact this is having on the map of London. We’ll also be exploring the role workplaces play in the wellness agenda, and how buildings can contribute to our physical and mental health.

Despina Katsikakis

Sir Stuart Lipton

We’ve called it London Refocused, because we want people to look at London with fresh eyes and have the chance to see it like never before. We also want people to refocus their understanding of the role of offices and their impact on their surroundings, their wider cities and their occupants. Hopefully this will be an opportunity to break away from the day job and look at the bigger picture, including how we can influence the direction of our ‘unique corner of the working world’.

 

The BCO Conference runs 9-11 May in London, UK. Waiting list places available.

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Designing in Sydney

Ian Lomas

 

 

Make’s Ian Lomas, who recently relocated to Sydney, explains why designing in the city is so different from in London.

 

Light and shadow

Any first-time visitor to or returning resident of Sydney is struck by the sharp precision of its light, which crisply incises shadows and details into the city’s walls, describing an architecture of light and shadow. A heady mixture of Mediterranean heat and Alpine clarity, Sydney’s high-definition light unrelentingly highlights each shift in texture and exposes every imperfection, with shade a place of retreat.

Arriving from London, characterised by its soft light and history of understatement, the Make team has had to question our established relationships with building materials. We relish this opportunity to explore the changed personalities of our long-time friends and collaborators – concrete, stone, brick, glass and metal – and choose materials that absorb and diffuse this light.

No material celebrates these characteristics more than the original sandstone quarried in the city. The stone seems to both drink the light and emanate it. The Lands and Education Buildings of our Sandstone Precinct project are hewn from the ground they sit above, with deeply recessed loggias, reveals and cornices richly brought to life by dark shadows and the fierce sun.

Render of the new Lands and Education Building

This material is now in short supply, and much of the stone quarried today looks drained by comparison. Wisely, our new extensions to these buildings don’t seek to mimic the originals but employ materials and forms that accentuate the grand sandstone base. A series of delicate diagrids appear to float in the sky above the Lands Building, while a rigorous rhythm of slumped glass bays, topped by a dramatic cornice of garden terraces, defines the reinstated shady garden court of the Education Building.

Render of the new Lands and Education Building

Topography and grid

The internet encourages us to experience the world remotely, through satellite images that serve to trick with their easy overview and tell us nothing of what it means to walk streets and experience places. From above the shifting grid iron of central Sydney, contained within a narrow peninsular jutting out into the harbour, the city seems as straightforward and recognisable as Manhattan. However, the steep hills, landscape and history have other plans.

In New York the buildings conspire to provide drama, with street canyon vistas focusing on the void of water. In Sydney the experience is more spatially complex, with the rolling topography, grid alignments and buildings playing sometime harmonious, sometime discordant melodies. This dramatic urban setting conspires to frame unexpected vistas, allowing seemingly diminutive buildings a dramatic presence, with grand set pieces often enjoyed through tightly focused slivers that tease the pedestrian.

When we were invited to participate in the Wynyard Place competition, we had to throw away our first sketch designs, which had neatly rendered Sydney in a two-dimensional plan. Our final, winning design was driven by the context, which we came to understand only after we walked the streets at length and experienced how people move, views change and the city guides you – something architects must do in all cities they work in. We deliberately took the massing apart and reassembled it to alternately anchor views down Hunter Street, open up vistas to the Shell clock tower and act as a backdrop to Wynyard Park.

Street view of the new Wynard Place building

Extracted from Make Annual 13.

 

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Cycle design for the workplace

Matt Bugg

 

 

Make’s Matt Bugg on the rising popularity of cycling in the UK and how designers are responding to the growing demands of a cycling workforce.

 

Cycling on the rise

Kuala Lumpur has its crowd-sourced cycle maps, Jakarta its car-free Sundays, Copenhagen its Cycle Snake bridge. In the Netherlands, Groningen is home to heated cycle paths and traffic signals with rain sensors, while Krommenie boasts the world’s first solar cycle lane.

And London? The Mayor is investing £770 million in cycling infrastructure across the capital to improve cycle safety and encourage more Londoners to travel by bike, as well as accommodate those who already do. Two new Cycle Superhighways have been announced, London’s first full-time Walking and Cycling Commissioner has been appointed, and a network of backstreet routes known as Quietways are due to open later this year. Another £90 million is going to the Mini-Holland programme, which is giving three outer London boroughs funding to improve streets and facilities for cyclists and pedestrians.

Visualisation of the new road layout at Blackfriars Junction

It’s not just the capital that’s racing to update its cycle infrastructure. Leeds and Cambridge are each now home to a CyclePoint – a Dutch-style, rail station-adjacent facility that offers secure bike parking plus a repairs service, info centre, rental bike concession and retail shop. With space for nearly 3,000 bikes, the Cambridge CyclePoint is Britain’s largest dedicated cycle parking facility.

All these developments are part of a wave of bike-related infrastructure transforming cities around the world – a collective effort to make cycling an integral form of transport and a normal part of everyday life, something people feel safe and comfortable doing. Popularity for cycling is certainly rising here in the UK. Running and cycling app Strava data shows that riders nationwide logged an unprecedented 803 million kilometres in 2016, while TfL expects there to be more Londoners commuting by bike than by car in 2018.

Given that many of these journeys are work commutes, it’s worth asking: how can architects use their office designs to encourage this upward trend?

The workplace response

With the rising popularity of cycling in the UK comes a growing demand from commercial occupiers for better cycling provision. In the fierce battle to attract and retain the best talent, businesses are under pressure to provide cutting-edge cycling facilities – a trend that’s transforming cycle provision in workplaces across the country. Ample bike-parking, showers and changing rooms are fast becoming obligatory features of new-build and refurbished office schemes. What does the modern office worker want from their physical workspace? Increasingly, the answer is a place to secure their bike.

At Make we have a team of specialists in building and property-related cycle design. We take a progressive attitude towards the integration and delivery of cyclist and pedestrian-friendly spaces, particularly in our office designs. In doing so, we encourage low-carbon transport and help make cycling a safe and convenient option for commuters, including those with disabilities.

Take our work on 5 Broadgate, a new world-class office building in the City of London for UBS. Exceeding best-practice cycling facilities formed a key strand of the transport plan. In pursuit of British Land’s ‘Places People Prefer’ sustainability strategy, we provided an exemplary cycling facility with a dedicated cycle ramp and separate mezzanine level containing 523 cycle spaces, 500-plus lockers, and 50 showers and dressing areas.

Substantial cycle provision also proved integral to our designs for 80 Charlotte Street and Rathbone Square, both mixed use office and residential developments. The former includes 226 secure and covered cycle parking spaces, plus shower/changing facilities; the latter, meanwhile, has nearly 500 cycle parking spaces – including dedicated office, retail and residential provision – and heated lockers and showers.

And then there’s Make’s own studio at 32 Cleveland Street, a converted car park completed in 2015. Intent on giving our employees cycle provision, we repurposed a redundant lightwell to maximise our limited space and open up access to wall rack storage for 30 bikes, plus showers and lockers.

The next steps

As designers, we’re faced with the challenge of producing efficient, innovative designs for workplace cycle provision – ones that not only address cyclists’ individual needs but also integrate into the wider infrastructure. This means considering the population at large and allowing for a far greater cycle provision in our public realm projects. There’s even scope to embrace automation. Just look at ECO Cycle in Japan, which provides large-scale automated underground cycle parking facilities – a boon for densely populated cities.

Ultimately, we share the view of architecture writer and friend Peter Murray, who is adamant that “cities which have fewer cars and more active transportation are better cities to live in.” As noted in TfL’s London Cycling Design Standards, which Murray provides training and guidance on, cycling is fast becoming a mass transportation mode, and new developments must reflect this shift and allow for future growth too. We support the guidance these standards provide, and we strive to produce workplace designs that further this vision.

This post has been adapted from Make Annual 12.

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Harold on Tour

Make’s Cycle to MIPIM team had been looking for ways to raise money for children’s charity Coram, the official charity of the ride, and was thinking of producing and selling 3D-printed cartoon figurines to be mounted on cycle handlebars. After discussions with Coram and event organisers Club Peloton, though, it was decided that we would instead print figurines of Coram’s puppet mascot, Harold the Giraffe, and give one to each ride captain to display on their handlebars during the ride. It would be a perfect opportunity to help Coram increase its visibility during the event.

After deciding on Harold’s dimensions, we worked with specialty 3D printing shop iMakr on computer-modelling the geometry. The first five prototypes, printed in-house at Make, were successfully tested on a training ride to Brighton, after which we did the next 20 for the ride captains – plus one for a Coram trustee who’d specially requested one. With each Harold taking one hour to hand-paint, we were lucky to have a number of volunteers help bring him to life.

170223_giraffe-painting_mf-33 170223_giraffe-painting_mf-47 170223_giraffe-painting_mf-68

The Harolds will be presented to Coram before the riders depart on 9 March, at which point each Harold will be proudly displayed on the ride captains’ handlebars for the duration of the 6-day, 1,000-mile ride to Cannes. Riders and supporters can chart and follow his journey using the hashtag #HaroldOnTour.

Coram is an incredible charity, so we at Make, along with our friends at Club Peloton, are thrilled to be able to help them like this. We encourage everyone to get involved and help make Harold famous!

170223_giraffe-painting_mf-55

Follow the action on Twitter:

@ClubPeloton
@Make_MattBugg
#HaroldOnTour
#CycletoMIPIM

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Are you VReady?

Peter Greaves

 

 

Peter Greaves on the great potential of virtual reality in architecture, the best products on the market, and how we’re using VR at Make.

 

The ‘Virtual Renaissance’
Virtual reality (VR) has had a few false starts over the years, but it’s matured into a technology ready for a wide range of consumer and commercial applications. 2016 was heralded as the year of the ‘Virtual Renaissance’, with VR moving beyond its traditional gaming and entertainment sphere into front rooms and business fields as diverse as retail, charity, education and medicine, among others.

With architects now able to use VR software to easily create and interact with computer-generated 3D environments, it’s not hard to envisage virtual reality joining CAD, physical models and the pen as an essential design tool of the future, with architects and clients able to ‘step into’ their designs at the flick of a switch.

Still from the virtual reality setup of a building Still from the virtual reality setup of a building

Exploring buildings with VR
VR is already beginning to influence real estate sales, especially in the United States. Property developers there are using it to sell off-plan homes, with customers responding positively to the opportunity to stand inside an apartment before it’s been built. This illustrates the huge advantage VR has over a CGI on a flatscreen: a realistic sense of scale.

Architects who’ve spent their lives looking at 2D plans and 3D computer models have become experts at interpreting them and imagining the space they’re trying to show. But it’s always tricky to convey this to clients. The most successful method to date has been the physical model, which is much easier to understand than flat approximations of space. But even with the speed and ease afforded by 3D printing, models still have their limitations, namely, that they’re built at a greatly reduced scale, meaning a good amount of imagination is still needed to understand the building. Architects rarely have the freedom to build a 1:1 model of even a single room of a building, and if we do manage to mock up a space, it’s usually late in the design process or even during construction. VR could potentially solve this problem, allowing architects to present fully 3D, 1:1 scale ‘models’ of buildings for clients to explore.

The best VR for architects
The four main products currently on the market for architects that Make is exploring are:

  1. Oculus Rift – kick-starting the current VR renaissance, this headset lets users look around a 3D space. Movement is limited and primarily a seated experience, with the avatar controlled with a standard gaming console controller.
  2. HTC Vive – what we use at Make, the Vive introduces ‘room scale’, with two small tracking lasers that locate the user’s head and the visuals respond as the user walks, jumps or even lies down, creating the sensation of being in a different place – a phenomenon known as ‘presence’. It also uses two wand controllers, similar to the Nintendo Wii’s remote, that let users see their hands and interact with objects within the virtual world. People can use these tracked controllers to paint with a virtual brush, or pan and rotate a model or image, simply by moving their hands.
  3. Google Cardboard – a simpler solution in which users put their smartphone inside a special cardboard box with two lenses and look inside. Here, the smartphone forms the screen and brains of the machine and can produce a visually similar 3D environment to other methods. Apart from that it’s quite limited, but it does have one major advantage: it’s extremely cheap and portable, making it easy to take to meetings or send to clients, who can download an app or model and view it in 360-degree, 3D video.
  4. PlayStation VR – promises some of the more impressive VR features at an affordable price point, which many predict will be what brings this product to living rooms across the globe. Clients, once they’ve tried on their children’s VR goggles and look around the fantastical worlds developers are creating, might rightly ask, “Why can’t I walk around in my BIM model?”

Woman using HTC Vive    Man using HTC Vive

VR at Make
At Make, we’ve used our HTC Vive on several projects so far, allowing clients to view and even ‘stand inside’ their building at full scale as we design it. The response has been overwhelmingly positive: we can more easily explain our design decisions, and they can more easily understand the building. Take ceiling height, for example: you can try to explain how certain dimensions will feel, but it’s far more effective to put a client inside the room and let them see for themselves. It’s also far less time consuming and expensive than mocking up a false ceiling somewhere. BIM modelling has such a high level of detail that a good VR tour of the model can offer a full-scale mock-up of the whole building before a single spade has broken ground.

We’ve also started printing our own version of Google Cardboard viewers to send out to clients. These can be posted flat and sent alongside project documents, drawings and renders to offer an additional description of the building, either as an immersive environment or a 3D video and flyby. The ability to convey a true sense of scale, even in this simple form, is a powerful addition to our current forms of media.

VR and the future of architecture
VR is certain to have a tremendous impact on how we communicate our designs to clients and make design decisions. Simulating the way light enters a room, the way sound insulation reacts to ambient noise, even evoking a sense of place – this and more is on the horizon once VR is combined with existing and emerging technologies.

Integrating this level of immersion into the design process will undoubtedly lead to better-realised visions and more successful designs in the future, not just at Make but across the industry at large.

Woman using VR headset

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Property’s rising stars on the future of the industry

Laura-Le-Gal
By Laura Le Gal


The events of the past few months suggest there is a sharp divide between the way the young and old think in the UK. However, at the recent Estates Gazette roundtable entitled “Property’s next generation: the change agents”, the consensus among younger professionals in the industry was that the older generation is listening to them more than ever.

With the tide turning against some of the “old, traditional ways”, according to British Land attendee James Rolton, we are bound to see the ideas of the next generation playing more and more of a central role in the way we do things.

Held as part of the London Real Estate Forum 2016, it was an honour to be invited to take part in the event, which gathered 20 millenials across firms such as British Land, Knight Frank, The Collective, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and Leadlease.

Mr Fogg's_7
The roundtable at Mr. Fogg’s Residence in Mayfair © Garry Castel, Modo Publishing

Emily Wright, features and global editor at the Estates Gazette chaired the discussion, which centred on who the next generation is and how they can help shape the future of the built environment.

So what do the next generation think?

Below are five of the most salient points I took from the conversation:

  • What’s the definition of “next generation”?
    It’s not just a matter of age – the term encapsulates individuals who were also “wanting to set the world on fire”, as well as having reached a certain professional maturity (around 10-15 years’ experience) and the influence that comes with it.
  • What are the new challenges of the modern workplace?
    The fact that the next generation needs to be adaptable, flexible, and open to change if they want to be successful. Stability, lifelong employment in a single company, or even doing the same job one’s whole life are not something this group is likely to experience. The world is rapidly changing and technology will increasingly affect the way we live and work.
  • What is the next generation known for?
    While tech was seen as being synonymous with millennial-led innovation, there was some debate over whether there is more to the story than CRE tech (commercial real estate technology). Design also has the power to “address real social problems” and change people’s lives.
  • What are the biggest challenges or opportunities the next generation faces?
    The public sector is not as innovative as some of the private sector, often putting up barriers to unconventional new ideas, because they don’t fit in the boxes and regulations already in place. Governments and councils need to attract young people with dynamic ideas, and give them the power to change things.
  • How are the next generation changing the industry?
    Alternative development projects led by ambitious young entrepreneurs – eg Boxpark and The Collective – reduce the red tape and project timelines from start to completion. The Collective CEO Reza Merchant described his company as providing an alternative form of living and working, purposefully designed for young people.

It’s worth making one final point, that the majority of the participants of the roundtable were male and Caucasian. If we are to design for an increasingly diverse society, then increasing diversity within the sector is a challenge we must all meet head-on.

However if the energy, expertise and passion of this particular group of individuals is anything to go by and the fresh and exciting ideas that they brought to the debate, it feels like there won’t be much that we can’t achieve and change if we put our minds to it.

 

For more information on anything covered in this post please contact comms@makearchitects.com or your usual contact at Make.

 

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UK Employee Ownership Day 2016

Today Make is celebrating UK Employee Ownership Day. With numerous events running across the UK and the involvement of thousands of employee owners and other partners, EO Day is an integral part of the Employee Ownership Association (EOA) events calendar and was introduced to raise awareness of employee ownership as an economically strong and balanced business model.

Since our founding in 2004, the practice has been 100 percent employee-owned and held in an employee trust. The model has provided a robust and sustainable foundation for building – and maintaining – an incredibly successful practice.

Founder Ken Shuttleworth says, “When setting up Make, I knew I wanted something different. I envisioned a practice owned by everyone – and this was before we even knew there was something called ‘employee ownership’! That model had already proved to be a great success at John Lewis, and it went on to be a great success at Make, as well. For us, employee ownership creates a wonderful sense of belonging, of all working towards a shared goal. It’s a big part of what makes Make the great workplace it is today, and will continue to help us stand out in a competitive market as we grow.”

In only 12 years, we’ve grown from 1 to over 150 employees across studios in London, Hong Kong and Sydney. We currently rank 24th in the Architects’ Journal AJ100, a ranking of the UK’s top architectural practices, and have also been named AJ100 Employer of the Year 2016. As one of a small (but growing) number of employee-owned architectural practices in the UK, our structure provides a unique selling point in recruitment which enables us to secure the most talented professionals.

Employee ownership has always been in step with Make’s collaborative, non-hierarchical culture, which gives equal weight to everyone’s ideas and encourages equal participation in decision-making. Since every employee is a partner and receives an annual profit share, every ‘Maker’ is that much more invested in the success of the company. This level of dedication benefits Makers, of course, but especially clients, who can be sure that they’re always getting the best out of everyone.

Deb Oxley, CEO of the Employee Ownership Association, says: “When people have a stake in the place they work, the commitment to it and investment in it is much higher.”

More generally, the benefits of employee ownership have been proven in EOA-led research, and include improving employee health and wellbeing, increasing productivity and fostering creativity and innovation across an array of industry sectors. In addition:

  • UK employee owned companies contribute over £30 billion to the UK economy annually
  • Employee-owners have higher levels of job satisfaction, feel a greater sense of achievement and job security, and are more likely to recommend their workplace than employees in non-employee owned businesses
  • Employee owned businesses operate in a range of sectors including healthcare, social care, education, transport, manufacturing, retail and professional services

Oxley says:

“Companies such as Make Architects are great examples of the economic and social benefits that can be achieved in an employee owned environment. The EOA is proud to lead the sector-wide celebrations of employee ownership on EO Day 2016, as part of our activity to raise awareness and move employee ownership further into the mainstream of business structures.”

The Employee Ownership Association is a not-for-profit and politically independent organisation that represents businesses which are employee owned or transitioning to employee ownership across the UK.

Supporting a diverse network of more than three hundred companies, the EOA works in close partnership with its members to champion, promote and provide insight into the business case for employee ownership, and advocate the place of employee ownership within the UK economy.

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Letter from Hong Kong

Roderick-Tong---Make-Architects
By Roderick Tong


Roderick Tong with an update on the latest trends and noteworthy market developments in Hong Kong.

Art and design on the rise

Hong Kong has always been known as a financial powerhouse. These days, however, it’s fast emerging as a creative hub for a new generation of artists and designers following a growing number of design events and art venues.

One of the latest hotspots for art is the recently renovated PMQ, which is located right at the centre of the city. The building’s name comes from its previous incarnation as the Police Married Quarters. The complex has attracted lots of attention since its soft opening in mid-April 2014, and much of its success comes down to the mix of designers in residence – among them, they produce contemporary fashion, avant-garde jewellery, and stylish furniture and other product designs. Notably, there are no big-name brands.

Courtyard.jpg

View of the courtyard at PMQ

Going green

There has been a growing awareness of the importance of sustainable development among the general public in Hong Kong.

Although the construction industry is not yet subject to any statutory regulations like in the UK, certification by BEAM Plus, which is largely based on BREEAM, is now one of the prerequisites for being granted gross floor area concessions for certain green and amenity features – an effort to foster a more sustainable built environment. It’s proven an effective measure for promoting green buildings in Hong Kong, with a growing number of developers adopting BEAM Plus to plan and build.

In May 2015 the Environment Bureau unveiled Hong Kong’s first energy-saving blueprint, which aims to cut ‘energy intensity’ – the amount of energy for every unit of wealth created – by 40 percent by 2025. The government is taking the lead in promoting green building development by requiring all major new government buildings to achieve at least BEAM Plus Gold certification. It’s also striving to reduce electricity consumption in government buildings by 5 percent by 2020 and will explore further reductions come 2019/20.

Increasing office supply

Hong Kong’s Grade A office market is about to embark on an unprecedented growth spurt. According to a rough estimation by JLL, at least 20,000,000ft2 of Grade A office supply will be delivered between 2015 and 2024, with a little over half of this coming from government land sales.

The growing number of mainland Chinese companies flocking to Hong Kong has been driving demand in the office market, which is becoming more decentralised rather than relying on traditional core areas. The majority of opportunities for new Grade A office space will be in decentralised areas, the most important of which is Kowloon East. The emergence of Kowloon East as a central business district is being facilitated by the sizable office space supply in Kwun Tong, Kowloon Bay and Kai Tak (pictured) – together these areas are poised to offer more than 60,000,000ft2 of office space, which is about three times the size of total office space in Central. Several new infrastructure developments, including the MTR Shatin to Central Link (due for completion in 2020) and the already completed Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, will complement growth in Kowloon East.

bigstock-Urban-Development-At-Hong-Kong-104603090.jpg

Aerial view of the construction site at the old Hong Kong Kai Tak airport July 26, 2015. This is where new public housing and entertainment centers will be built by 2021.

Roderick joined Make in 2006 and relocated to Beijing in 2009 to focus on our China projects. In 2011 he moved to Hong Kong to set up our office there and oversee the construction of Dunbar Place, Make’s first building to complete in the city.

For more information on anything covered in this post please email comms@makearchitects.com or speak to your usual contact at Make.

Long life, loose fit

by James Goodfellow

‘The circular economy’ is a phrase that’s thankfully becoming increasingly well known within the built environment industry, but sadly one that seems to be taking much longer to action in a meaningful way. The concept of course is about reducing our reliance on raw materials, minimising waste, and maximising the longevity of the final product to get as long a life from it as possible before recycling the materials for use again. Essentially, it looks to replace the ‘Take, Make, Dispose’ linear economy that has dominated our culture for so long with a ‘Maintain, Reuse and Recycle’ circular one.

Linear economy

For us it’s quite simple. We try look at it as a ‘Long Life, Loose Fit’ approach. We see it as trying to get as much from a building and the process of constructing it as possible. This applies not only to the lifetime of the building itself but also to the materials used to construct it.

Circular economy

We as architects approach the circular economy at four levels, asking ourselves key questions at the start of the design process:

Firstly, at the very centre is the building. Can we maintain or repair an existing structure?
 Small changes to the way we design buildings now will help enormously later when buildings are broken down and recycled.

Circular economy - Building (c) Make

Take our 55 Baker Street project, in which the 1950s building was considered to be at the end of its life. We proposed retaining the existing structure, and we were able to keep over 70% of the concrete frame and 50% of the existing fabric. Internally, the soffits of the concrete slabs were exposed to provide thermal mass, and bespoke chilled beams were hung from the concrete ceilings to provide cooling. Externally, the cladding was upgraded to meet the highest standards through improved thermal and solar performance.

55 Baker Street construction

55 Baker Street

This brought the existing building up to modern-day standards and provided renewed life to a building that would have otherwise been demolished.

Circular economy - components

Next we assess the components. Could we reuse or redistribute parts of the current fabric, or can we introduce modular or prefabricated construction? Like Meccano, a much-loved childhood toy, what can be reused or changed? How can we make the most of different pieces of kit? At our Pure Hammersmith site, we used prefabricated units manufactured off-site and inserted a finished product into the building structure.

 

We can now design in a way that allows components to be removed or deconstructed in the future and reconditioned for use again.

Circular economy - elements

Thirdly, we analyse the elements. Can we use reclaimed or refurbished elements? And how can we optimise materials or bring repetition to our design to enhance what we have? With 5 Broadgate we optimised the size of the cladding panels to work within standard stainless steel coil widths, which minimised waste through offcuts.

Circular economy - materials

Finally, we consider the materials we use. This is really interesting for Make and something we embrace passionately. What is the recycled content of the materials we specify? What could it be? And what is their durability? The Copper Box was one of the few legacy buildings at the 2012 London Olympics, and we are now enormously proud to see this world-class sporting facility open to the community. The cladding has 70% recycled content, and you can see how it’s changing naturally over time, adding further intrigue to the building.

Copper Box

One day, all this copper will be rolled up and reused somewhere else. And that gives us enormous pride too.

5 Broadgate cladding

With 5 Broadgate we analysed all the components within the building, and when selecting materials considered the recycled content as part of the selection process. We then tracked all these elements through procurement and construction, enabling us to establish that 38.64% of total material value derives from reused and recycled content. By undertaking this study, we now have a benchmark to compare future projects against as we strive continue to take make further improvements.

 

So that’s four layers, each of which gives us the opportunity to maintain, reuse and recycle, and ensure a ‘Long Life, Loose Fit’ approach. The ultimate aim of course is to create a new generation of flexible buildings that extends the life of its constituents and that one day will be completely recyclable – something we believe is becoming increasingly plausible if we all embrace a circular economy.

Circular economy

 

 

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Unique Cities – Questions of Identity

By Greg Willis

What makes a city liveable? That was the question posed recently by a national newspaper. Readers were invited to share pictures and stories in response. From graffiti to open air barbeques, street scenes to ice creams, identifiable monuments to ubiquitous landscapes, the collection was so broad as to make the answer to the question self-evident: the only thing in common was the originality of the response.

It is hardly surprising that it is the uniqueness of our cities which define our emotional reaction to them. After all, cities are made of people and people are as diverse as the cities in which we inhabit. That there is an inextricable link between identity, uniqueness and that which we determine as being liveable only highlights the problem of non-organic growth in many modern urban conurbations.

Organic and non-organic growth

Non-organic growth could be described as when a large urban centre comes into being quickly to meet a specific or a series of time-critical needs. Very few successful urban environments arrive fully formed, with the possible exception of Disneyland. (Although it is debatable whether one could describe this as being liveable and it’s probably not even considered unique considering the proliferation of the brand around the world).

In contrast, organic growth allows multiple peoples, events, markets and cultures to shape the environment in which they live, occur, serve and inhabit. Critically, organic growth also has room for the misguided or the temporary, allowing the loved, workable, pragmatic and lasting environments to remain. It could thus be argued that it is the ability for cities to grow organically, shaped by many different elements with the potential to change, adapt and renew, which gives birth to that which may be considered unique and therefore what we like to define as a place’s identity.

Ultimately, what makes a city liveable is the very fact that, by definition, it is living – capable of change, not complete, alive with possibility – like the occupants who inhabit it, completely unique.

Organic Growth

Organic growth

Inorganic Growth

Inorganic growth

Is it possible to ‘design in’ uniqueness?

Protecting the uniqueness of an area could be argued as championing its identity, or at least acknowledging it and responding to it. The appropriateness of any design response in reinforcing the unique character of an area is of course subjective, with approaches ranging from being complementary and sympathetic to being contrasting and challenging. Both attitudes however, still acknowledge the presence of an original identity.

What happens when there is no, or little, conceived present identity from which to respond? What of those times when non-organic growth is unavoidable? This is a more unique challenge for the designer. One could employ a unifying element to the overall project, a kind of rubber stamp to the component parts which points us to the sense of the whole, however obviously. While this might indeed reinforce an identity, it’s hardly the most persuasive argument for uniqueness. In striving to impose a character, there is a danger of crowding out those myriad of possibilities which might appeal to the multitudes of communities who reside there. A more subtle approach might be one of scale. Care and attention should be given to every element of our cities; streets, neighbourhoods, districts and conurbations. Large or small, macro or micro, every scale of our cities serves to form its identity. Surely our own uniqueness is determined by the minutiae of our fingerprints as well as the more obvious characteristics of our facial features? The skill of the designers and planners is to navigate through the various scales with uniqueness of design which in turn enforces the strength of the overall identity.

Ask the community what they want

Ask the community what they want

How then should we approach the ‘design of densification’, so that the city in which these new homes are being built retains its character?

It is a misconception that densification need be the enemy of character. Instead, considered densification should be championed as the preservation of character; it can allow for the protection of the elements of the city which are standard bearers of its identity while allowing the city to survive, grow and thrive. The successful densification of urban areas should allow for the red line protection of those jewels of our cities which we should jealously guard; the parks, the canals, the squares, the notable buildings in which we all stake a common claim.

Densification should not only be protecting the unique areas of our cities, it should also actively contribute to the character of its landscape. Density should not be a simple multiplication of a base unit, the designer should look for opportunities in densification – height offers views and critical mass requires amenities. Density therefore, should equate to a myriad of possibilities, each unique and identifiable.

The ingredients only a dense city can provide

The ingredients only a dense city can provide

Unique cities

Unique cities

 

This essay was extracted from the Future Spaces Foundation report: Vital Cities not Garden Cities: the answer to the nation’s housing shortage?

 

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