‘Architecture is concealed unto itself: Helmuth Plessner and his influence on twentieth-century architecture’, written by Gerald Adler has just been published in the latest issue of the journal Architecture Philosophy. This is the journal of the International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture, and is a special issue devoted to papers presented at its major conference in 2016 at Bamberg University, Germany. The conference topic was ‘The Human in Architecture and Philosophy’ and Adler presented a paper on Plessner, one of the key philosophers of Weimar-era ‘Philosophical Anthropology’. He elucidates Plessner’s ‘place’-centred philosophy, and contrasts this with the time-centred thinking of his far more well-known peer Martin Heidegger. Adler presents the architectural implications of Plessner’s thinking, demonstrating this through the design of his own house (by Lucy Hillebrand), and by allusions to the pragmatic approach of the Viennese architect Josef Frank. The article will be of interest to those who wish to go beyond mere appearances to get to the philosophical underpinnings of design. It will also come as an antidote to those who recoil at ‘philosophy’ (and certainly the difficulties of Heidegger’s writing), and to those with an interest in the wider cultural and anthropological implications for architecture.
Guest-edited by the conference organisers, Martin Düchs and Christain Illies, the journal contains a number of interesting articles, including ones by keynote speakers Karsten Harries and the (recently topical) Roger Scruton.
This week’s PhD Seminar Series will take place in the PGR Hub, Digital Crit Space on Wednesday 14 November from 16.00 – 17.30, given by Maria Dimitriou, a Kent School of Architecture PhD Candidate in Architectural Heritage and Conservation. Her talk, based on her research is titled, ‘Transformation of Industrial Heritage: The Case of Volos, Greece’.
De-industrialization poses a major challenge for the preservation of the heritage of industrial towns in Europe. Volos, an industrial harbour town in central Greece, provides a typical example of this phenomenon. Redundancy and decay of many of the city’s 20th-century industrial buildings threaten the survival of a significant aspect of the heritage of Volos. Infusing new life in these buildings requires the involvement of a wide range of stakeholders as well as the development of new management and conservation strategies. For this reason, the urgent contribution to the European discussion on preservation and future maintenance of such areas will require vital solutions that will save them from falling into ruin.
This dissertation applies an interdisciplinary approach that will seek to identify an innovative model for the strategic management and re-use of the industrial heritage of Volos. It provides new ways to understand preservation theory and management objectives for industrial heritage sites by analyzing existing mechanisms for their preservation through values and practices. In addition, this research identifies characteristics and values aimed at expanding the framework of historic industrial preservation practice. It argues that management strategies based on traditional preservation practices are insufficient for interpreting the complexity of these historic places, and that historical industrial preservation is best served by attending to the range of values and processes associated with the historic landscape and its protection.
The first PhD Seminar Series of the year took place earlier this week with Khaled Sedki presenting his research, ‘The role of architecture in the urban modernisation and social transformation of the historic city and the representations of time.’
This presentation gave an overview of a dissertation on French architect, archaeologist and planner, Michel Écochard, and his work in Damascus between 1931 and 1968. It focused on the ways in which the architect’s work had influenced the urban modernisation of the city in relation to social and cultural transformations, during this period, and explores, in reverse, the City’s impact over his views on architecture and the development of his concepts and methods. The study relates concepts of time-geography in understanding the role of architecture in the representation of time, and develops a method based on New-Historicism to produce a narrative of history which evades reduction and escapes canons and celebrates complexity and multiplicity. The aim of the presentation was to bring the subjects of this study out of anonymity and to share some ontological concerns about architecture and illustrate some of the methods and concepts used to tackle this and to invite others to participate in this exchange.
On Thursday 22 November, CREAte (Centre for Research in European Architecture) will be hosting a great debate on the direction of design teaching in the School. CREAte have invited four leading guests to join a conversation about the broader aims of the upcoming Stage 3 BA (Hons) Architecture Collective Dwelling and Architectural Design projects.
This lecture, taking place today from 2.00 – 2.30pm in the Digital Crit Space, looks at the impact-related conservation workshop organised by Nikolaos Karydis on the island of Lesvos in Greece. Following the earthquakes the hit the island in 2017, this workshop aimed to familiarise local conservation professionals with the island’s vernacular structures and their impressive earthquake behaviour. The latter had been analysed in Karydis’ book Eresos (2003) as well as in his recent paper of 2015. Despite these publications, Lesvos’ architects and engineers were not familiar with these structures and their earthquake-resistant qualities. The workshop was an opportunity to make Karydis’ new research available to these professionals. It also raised awareness of the dangers of the use of cement and reinforced concrete in the repair of these stone and timber structures. At first, local engineers were reluctant to abandon these incompatible methods. Still, during the workshop, most of the participants were convinced that these structures can be repaired with natural materials following the building logic of Lesvos’ vernacular buildings. This helped to develop a new attitude to the historic structures of Lesvos and their future preservation.
Timothy Brittain-Catlin has been appointed to Historic England’s national advisory committee. This group advises the heritage and conservation body on policy matters and casework (excluding London) where they are novel, contentious or set a precedent; it plays a key role in supporting Historic England with the intellectual, informed, balanced, long-term tools required to maintain public confidence, sometimes working on decisions which are part of a story several hundred years old. The committee is chaired by the distinguished archeologist Professor Michael Fulford CBE.
CREAte members have long-standing connections with Historic England and its predecessor English Heritage, with both Dr Brittain-Catlin and Professor Gerry Adler contributing monographs to the British C20 Architects monograph series. Dr Brittain-Catlin wrote Historic England’s Introduction to Historic Assets: 19th and 20th Century Convents and Monasteries (2016), which acts both as an authoritative statement of the heritage value of these important buildings and also as a primer for the general reader.
The appointment is made by Duncan Wilson, the chief executive of Historic England, and follows a competitive selection process.
On Friday 11 May, Dr Karydis gave a lecture at Trinity College, University of Oxford. Entitled ‘Visualising Justinian’s Church of the Holy Apostles at Constantinople’, the lecture presented Karydis’ work on the church of the Holy Apostles, which will be published in a forthcoming Dumbarton Oaks volume. Other lectures Karydis delivered during this academic year included a paper on Early Byzantine Architecture at the Institut National de l’Histoire de l’Art in Paris (30/10/2017), and a lecture on 19th-Century, Greek Revival Architecture at the National Technical University of Athens (12/1/2018). A video recording of this lecture can be found through the following link: http://www.blod.gr/lectures/Pages/viewspeaker.aspx?SpeakerID=4982
Historic England has announced this week that a number of major postmodern buildings will receive listed building status, thus preserving this important period of British architecture for posterity. Dr Timothy Brittain-Catlin, CREAte member and deputy chairman of the Twentieth Century Society which campaigned for the change, hailed this as a major event in architectural conservation history.
Dr Brittain-Catlin said ‘The Twentieth Century Society sees this announcement as an important turning point. Many of these buildings were at serious risk, and some were already being damaged or destroyed. This decision by Historic England comes as a result of a long campaign by the Society to draw attention to the monuments of British postmodernism and the risk they are at. We were the first to organise a major symposium on the issue, we made a presentation at the RIBA with a group of highly influential speakers, and we have organised walking tours and sell-out lectures to spread the word. It is important when making the case to protect buildings that show that there is wide public interest in them.
‘We won an important battle to protect James Stirling’s No 1, Poultry in the City of London from mutilation, and this latest decision shows that we were in the vanguard of the movement to protect Britain’s best postmodern heritage.
‘We supported the successful campaign to protect Sir Terry Farrell’s Comyn Ching development in 2016. KSA and the CREAte research centre value very greatly our connection with Sir Terry and we are delighted to be playing this an active role.’
Architectural historians Elain Harwood and Geraint Franklin from Historic England recently published their book on post-modern buildings in Britain in collaboration with the Twentieth Century society.
Image: Dr Timothy Brittain-Catlin, Charles Jencks’ Thematic House has been listed at Grade I.
Former MArch student, Megan Catt, has published her paper, ‘The Reality of Wellbeing-Focused Design in Dementia Care – A Case Study of Acute Dementia Wards in the UK’ in the Health Environments Research and Design Journal (HERD), a USA based journal, supported by Kent School of Architecture’s Dr Giridharan Renganathan.
The paper studies the design of dementia wards in NHS hospitals, looking at wellbeing-focused design, an approach that considers the effects of the built environment on an occupant’s physical and psychological health. Dementia is a pressing health concern in the UK, with a high psychological care requirement. The potential for the built environment to reduce the impact of symptoms is significant, with an established body of research proving that by making even small adjustments to spatial design (with considerations for light, sound, quality of space, promoting social interaction and independence, maintaining privacy and dignity and triggering memories) improvements to patient health and care outcomes can be achieved, such as reducing falls, time spent in hospital, or blood pressure and stress. Design concepts for achieving these and other health improvements were analysed in the paper, and compiled into a framework of criteria that could be used to test for evidence of a ‘good’ dementia environment. The framework was used in several case studies, at wards which had recently undergone wellbeing-driven refurbishments. The observations, staff interviews, and testing against the framework, carried out during these visits highlighted successes and failures of the projects, showing where further progression is required in the creation of wards that passively assist health.
The research for this paper was originally undertaken for Megan’s MArch dissertation at KSA, where she looked at the design of wards for both dementia and maternity patients, two very different patient groups, each with specific psychological care needs. Since graduating in 2016, Megan has continued her research into the subject, focusing on design for dementia, with continued support from Giridharan Renganathan, who has helped me to develop the paper for publishing.
On 19 April, Dr Timothy Brittain-Catlin joined a review of work from the Azrieli Global Studio at the Peter Guo-hua Fu School of Architecture at McGill University in Montreal. The Studio, funded by the Azrieli Foundation, is a collaboration between McGill and Carleton Universities in Canada, and the Technion and Tel Aviv University in Israel, and brings together MArch students from both countries to explore extreme environments through intensive research and design projects.
McGill students presented their work on sites around the Dead Sea and Negev Desert at a crit in Montreal just before their Israeli partners set off for the far north of Canada. Dr Brittain-Catlin reviewed their projects in a panel with project tutor Professor Howard Davies; School Director, Professor Martin Bressani; Mary-Jean Eastman, principal and founding partner of the global New York architectural practice Perkins Eastman; and architect & assistant professor at Keimyung University, Henry Tsang. Associate Professor Aaron Sprecher and Tom Shaked of the Technion and Dan Shapira of Tel Aviv University also attended.
The partnership between KSA and McGill goes back to 2010 when Dr Brittain-Catlin first joined Professor Bressani’s students for postgraduate seminars on nineteenth-century gothic revival architecture. With Professor Emeritus Jan de Maeyer of KU Leuven, they published Gothic Revival Worldwide: A.W.N. Pugin’s Global Influence last year.
Dr Brittain-Catlin joined a crit panel the following day to review projects from the vertical MArch / Stage 3 studio led by the renowned Quebec architect Gilles Saucier, whose practice Saucier + Perrotte won this year’s Gold Medal of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada.
Featured Image: Professor Howard Davies; Dr Timothy Brittain-Catlin; Mary-Jean Eastman, principal and founding partner of the global New York architectural practice Perkins Eastman; architect & assistant professor at Keimyung University, Henry Tsang; and Professor Martin Bressani.