Tag Archives: Olympic Games

The future of architecture – Alejandro Nieto

We asked ten architects – each of whom joined Make in a different year since 2004 – to write about how they see architecture and the built environment changing over the next ten years. Here is Make partner Alejandro.

Alejandro Nieto
Alejandro Nieto
Make Partner since 2011

Ten years ago, I arrived in London from Venezuela – the country in which I grew up, studied and dreamt about becoming an architect. This is therefore a good time to look back and reflect both personally and collectively on all those years and what we have learned and achieved, but more importantly, on how we can make a positive impact on what we do next.

The contrast I experienced on my arrival in the UK and the juxtaposition of the two countries allowed me to develop a broader vision and a more pragmatic understanding. The fact that the Olympics were held in London made me think this was ‘the right place to be’ as an architect, as a developer and as a citizen. Everything was possible; London was not only ‘an Olympic city’ but also the model for a new type of architecture.

But sometimes too much is too much. We saw how the world economy collapsed. There was a deafening silence in the architectural discourse; fewer projects were getting built, while lots of people lost their jobs. We were in a situation similar to the place where I came from. This seemed to be a good moment to rethink creatively and act in a measured way, learning from architecture that good ideas always have limits.

I believe that these experiences have set the ground for an architecture which is more rational, collaborative and affordable. It is willing to explore new ways of solving problems and integrate new technologies with environmental issues to produce long-standing, more efficient and ultimately more beautiful buildings, like the ones we try to design at Make. So I am optimistic about what is to come – I expect that the next ten years will be even better and I hope to be part of it … so count me in!

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Hand-to-Hand Combat

Every once in a while the Olympic Games give fans the chance to see an incredible team in total domination. Remember the 1992 US basketball dream team, with Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson? Or the 1980 US ice hockey team which managed, against all the odds, to upset the mighty Soviets?

This time round, in London, it’s the sport of handball which featured a dominant dream team. French men’s handball, to be precise.

‘Les Experts’, as they’re known back home, are arguably the greatest handball team of all time: gold medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008; world champions in 2009 and 2011; European champions in 2010. No other handball team in history has triumphed in so many world-class tournaments.

Competing in the Make-designed Copper Box, in London’s Olympic Park, they were the favourites to take the gold medal again this time round.

  

But how does one explain the total world dominance of the French men? For the last 20 years their defensive play has been outstanding, a constant thorn in the side for teams that challenge them. With three strong players at the back, the team creates a wall that attackers struggle to breach. The final line of defence is goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer, considered the world’s best for his position.

Consistency has played its part in France’s success, too. Most sports have a regular turnover of coaches. Not French handball, however. This men’s team has known only two coaches in the past 25 years, something which has helped foster long-term strategy and player development.

Now that Les Experts have won gold once again in London, France will see thousands of skilled youngsters striving for a place in the national squad. There are now more than 400,000 players licensed to the French handball federation. That number’s sure to grow.

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All Rhodes to London

This summer, there was a very strange vehicle on the roads north of London: an enormous bicycle-powered procession of dancers, musicians and actors, at the head of which will be a six-metre high mechanical puppet.

It’s all part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, the cultural programme of the London Olympics. Called Godiva Awakes, the puppet represents Lady Godiva, the medieval noblewoman who, according to legend, rode naked on horseback through the city of Coventry as a protest against taxation.

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Both Zandra Rhodes and Make have collaborated on this rather unorthodox project. The former as designer of the puppet’s clothing, and the latter as architects of the structure in which the puppet will be housed after the Games.

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For Zandra, it’s yet another design that will reinforce her reputation as something of a maverick. The daughter of a truck driver, she was the brightest talent in a new wave of London-based designers who took Britain to the forefront of the international fashion scene in the 1960s and 1970s. Her work – edgy, impulsive and overtly feminine – was to define the era. Her trademark innovations such as jewelled safety pins, denim tears and exposed seams, earned her the popular epithet the ‘Princess of Punk.’One fan – and client – was soul singer Diana Ross. “Diana looked magnificent in my red chiffon and pleated jackets,” Zandra remembers. “She’d invite me as a VIP to her shows. It was wonderful.”

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Zandra later worked with Freddie Mercury and Brian May of rock band Queen on their live show costumes. “They’d come to my studio in the evenings and we’d exchange ideas. I never knew them too well because they were always off on tour, and I didn’t have the time to be a groupie,” she jokes.

By the 1980s, Zandra was a global fashion icon. But she was still taken by surprise when another Diana, this time the Princess of Wales, came knocking on her door.

“I remember we both wanted to have a huge slit up one side of her dress, but she said she couldn’t possibly do so because the paparazzi would try to take pictures of her knickers as soon as she got out of the car.”

Zandra’s list of past clients might already read like a who’s who of popular culture, but she still harbours ambitions to work alongside one further star in particular. “Oh, Lady Gaga is great,” asserts Zandra. “There’d be a synergy between her and me. We’d create something spectacular.”

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