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Peter Murray

Based on his site investigations and knowledge built up through his career – with involvement in such major developments as Camden Lock market, Gabriel Wharf, Spitalfields Market and Trinity Buoy Wharf – Eric Reynolds of Urban Space Ltd. continued our look at London’s markets with an illustrated talk at Allies & Morrison’s offices in Southwark Street. Brian Whiteley reports.

Eric’s theme was that railways radically altered all London’s produce markets, with their long distance speedy supply removing the old requirement for cows to be kept close to the city in order to provide fresh milk as it had to be produced and consumed without refridgeration (e.g.right up to the 1890’s cows were kept in basement dairies in Spitalfields); fish could come from Aberdeen without being smoked or smelly; potatoes from Lincolnshire without wearing out teams of horses.

Once the major railway termini arrived on central London’s outskirts in the nineteenth century its traditional central markets gravitated out to them. The Great Northern Railway Company took a major first step in developing a series of warehouses and markets on land at King’s Cross. By the 1860’s the “Ten O’Clock Road” siding to the north of the station saw 39 warehouses located along it, each with its own branch line to take individual types of produce. In 1865 it handled such traffic as 85,000 tons of potatoes and 400 trucks of celery daily – and in the 1920’s recorded seasonal deliveries of 50 tons of rhubarb and 300 trucks of green peas.

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Peter Murray

In the latest talk in our ‘Planning for 10 Million’ series, Alex Lifschutz (Lifschutz Davidson Sandiland) and Colin Wilson (London Borough of Southwark) discussed the recent history of “Affordable Housing and the Planning System from Margaret Thatcher to James Murray.” Barry Coidan reports.

Alex Lifschutz bravely began by describing a planning/regeneration project that went badly wrong. His firm was involved in the original plans for the “Regeneration of King’s Street, Hammersmith.” On paper there was nothing wrong with it. Affordable housing along with less affordable homes with the development centred on Hammersmith Town Hall and a fine old cinema. Unfortunately, the scheme was overblown the local authority wanting to get as much out of the development (and developers) as possible. There were two plans, there was massive opposition by residents. The much loved local Cineworld cinema was at risk. The second plan, however, was approved at a stormy Council meeting and the cinema was to be razed to the ground.

New developers moved in and demolished the Cinema. Control of the Council changed hands and the new Labour administration stopped the development. Anger and disappointment followed. Planning and design had played second fiddle to commercial interests. That imbalance proved disastrous: the outcome was a much loved cinema demolished and nothing for the Community.

Thankfully we moved onto an uplifting success story. Coin Street Community Builders. Twenty years ago this area of London was bleak, unattractive, with few shops and restaurants, a dying residential community and a weak local economy. Today it is thriving mixed and balanced neighbourhood: a destination for millions of Londoners and visitors from overseas, with a thriving residential and business community benefiting from ever-expanding community facilities and services. How did that happen?

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Peter Murray

 

The third of this year’s Planning School looked at the always relevant subject of housing – if we need to house more people, surely the city needs to become more dense and therefore taller? Joanna Day listened to Claire Bennie and Lorraine Hughes.

There is, according to Claire Bennie, a lot of ‘fake news’ about density. It is a slippery concept that is hard to relate to on a human level. How many of us know what density we live at? Not many can define their own experience of home and environment in terms of a ‘per hectare’ measurement – the chosen unit used when we talk about density. And this unit neglects grain. Are we talking about my flat, my estate, my borough, my city or country? Each will give a different figure. And yet, the whole issue is about people, and this was Claire Bennie’s central point.

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Peter Murray

 

The final talk in this year’s Planning School was given by Euan Mills (Future Cities) and Professor Mark Brearley (London Metropolitan University). Barry Coidan reports.

Euan Mills is the Urban Planning and Design lead in charge of Future Cities Catapult’s Future of Planning Programme. Euan talked quickly: he had to he had a lot to get in a very short space of time. Technology is changing us, it’s changing how we live, work and interact. It’s changing businesses and how we do business. Where we do business, where we live is more and more in cities. But our cities are analogue, tied down with analogue planning systems. The city environment is changing rapidly driven by digitalisation and big data, but looking at the planning system you’d think the last 20 years hadn’t happened.

Not so long ago the most valuable companies by share capital were those involved in energy, metal bashing and heavy industry. Now those companies have surrendered their place to the data companies. The companies that have grown up in the last 20 years – Google, Facebook, Amazon etc – as we enter the fourth industrial revolution.

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Peter Murray

 

Eric Reynolds, the Founding Director of Urban Space Management spoke to the Society about one of his early projects – the development of Camden Lock market. Roger Cline reports.

Your reviewer lived close to Camden Lock for 30 years up to the Millennium and since then regularly has to weave his way through the crowds wandering between the tube station and the market. In fact the lock by Camden High Street is Hampstead Road Lock and the adjoining one to the east is Hawley Road Lock. From there the canal descends through many locks to the Thames at Limehouse. To the west there is a long level stretch through the Regents Park to Little Venice and beyond.

Camden Town was the centre of the piano-making industry and Dingwalls Timber Merchants specialised in making packing cases for pianos, leasing a site by the canal to receive their wood and possibly to send away the packed pianos. To have a piano in one’s front room was no longer an essential feature of households with aspirations, so Dingwall’s ceased trading around 1970.

Our speaker, Eric Reynolds, was one of three partners who took over the Dingwall’s lease from British Waterways. He is managing Director of Urban Space Management ,but has other interests in structures made of Shipping Containers, interim use of land and many charitable organisations. Running the market was really a sideline for all three partners, Eric was a boat-builder so the dock just upstream of the lock was put to good use, another partner was a doctor and the third was a surveyor. In the seventies the alternative lifestyles of young people created a market for non-essential items which could be made at home and sold at a stall on a Saturday.

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Peter Murray

 

Hugh Broughton Architects has been engaged in the careful restoration of the TUC’s London headquarters Congress House for the last 23 years. The Grade II* listed Modernist building in Fitzrovia, is just north of New Oxford Street and a few minutes’ walk from the British Museum. Jo East was part of our tour of the new spaces.

The latest Society tour of a building took us to Congress House, the HQ of the TUC. Our guide for the evening was Adam Knight of Hugh Broughton Architects who have recently completed the latest stage of a sympathetic refurbishment of this large imposing Post War institution.

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Peter Murray

 

The Travellers Club in Pall Mall were generous enough to invite members of the Society for a private tour. Jo East was lucky enough to get a ticket and reports. 

Our host for the day was Club Secretary David Broadhead. Asked to explain his role he denotes himself as “Headmaster of a Public School for Adults”. Having been in post 10 years he brings with him as a former hotelier all the nous and knowhow to both look after this Grade 1 listed building and its 1300 members.

Assembling in the Outer Morning Room, one of the five major rooms we were to see on our visit, David explained the club’s history: Founded in 1819 after the Napoleonic Wars the club was set up as a meeting place for anyone who ventured 500 miles from Trafalgar Square. Undertaking what we would now know today as “networking” tales would be exchanged, the latest maps pored over and anecdotes shared and bested. Obviously today to travel 500 miles is considerably easier than at its founding so the rules have been changed. Now members must have travelled to four countries! This isn’t the end of the process however: There is a waiting list, members can only be proposed, seconded, gain five additional signatures of support and then dine with the Club’s membership committee before being accepted. Although the Foreign Secretary of the time is offered honorary membership – of which the present incumbent has taken full use.

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Peter Murray

 

The latest of the Society’s Saturday walks saw Blue Badge Guide Angela Morgan take 25 members to see the delights of Camberwell. Hannah Murphy reports (and took these photographs).

The tour began in Camberwell Green, a spacious common in the heart of Camberwell. Angela, our Blue Badge tour guide, explained that ‘Camber’ means crooked and that Camberwell literally meant ‘Crooked Well’. Historically Camberwell Green and St Giles Church, a Victorian gothic church on the hill, formed the heart of a village surrounded by farms and market gardens.

We ventured up Denmark Hill, noting the ceramic Camberwell Beauty above a shopfront. The Camberwell Beauty, also known as Morning Glory, is a maroon butterfly with blue spots and a yellow petticoat and was given its name after it was first sighted in Britain in 1748 near Camberwell.

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Peter Murray

 

15 May saw the Society meet at Pilbrow and Partners to hear Rebecca Barrett, Principal Adviser of the London Heritage at Risk team at Historic England talk about some of London’s most interesting and unusual sites at risk. Ian Morrison reports.

The event was introduced by Fred Pilbrow of the practice, who described some of the work his firm is doing with heritage sites (including 8 Albert Embankment; the Wren church of St. Mary Somerset; and the old EMD cinema in Walthamstow) before handing over to Rebecca Barrett.

Rebecca heads the team at Historic England which produces the annual Heritage at Risk (HAR) Register. This gives priority to sites (mainly residential buildings and places of worship but also monuments, parks, public buildings, gardens and cemeteries) at risk of falling into serious neglect and disrepair. The causes can range from one-off events such as a fire to functional redundancy through to lack of maintenance.

This year is the 20th anniversary of the register. The current version (2017) contains 5290 assets, which is 97 fewer than in 2016. There is a lot of churn as new ones come on and repair or restoration enables others to be removed. There are still 450 from the first register in 1998. The aim is to see an annual net reduction.

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Peter Murray

 

This year the London Society has arranged a series of members-only visits to see behind the scenes at some of the capital’s most innovative architectural, design and engineering practices, and to hear the principals talk about the history and the vision of their businesses.

Last month we were the guests of Bob Allies of Allies and Morrison. Barry Coidan reports.

It’s not often you win an architectural competition by having no kids in the drawing, but Bob Allies believes that was why he and Graham Morrison won the open competition to design a new public landscape at the Mound in Edinburgh in 1983. They began working together in the evenings but after this success they formed the partnership the following year.

The design was deliberately austere – not to detract from the landscape of the site and the two public building that dominate it. The design used local sandstone – traditional material in a traditional way. Only fragments of the original scheme now remain.

By the 1990s, the UK was in the midst of a serious economic recession, yet plans for a new Embassy in Dublin went ahead despite government cut backs. Winning the design competition for the Embassy was Allies and Morrison (A&M)’s big break. The design was presented as a hand line drawing – before computer assisted design – an approach which the practice became known for, along with scale models which are an important means the practice uses to communicate its design ideas. An early example of which was the model for the new Abbey Mills Pumping station in east London. The original pump house was designed by Joseph Bazalgette in the 1860s. These public commissions got the practice going, allowing it to weather the 1990’s recession.

Following these early successes, Bob then gave us a taste of some of the work Allies and Morrison has carried out over the years.

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