Every month architects and industry insiders share their recommendations for the best exhibitions and events to visit in London.
June is here and with it the London Festival of Architecture. This year’s festival theme of memory has provoked a record number of events: 590 at the last count.
The LFA has a dual purpose: to be the showcase of the profession, and to engage with people who are passionate about their buildings, neighbourhoods and city. A festival for and by Londoners. This passion for the city manifests throughout the festival with events such as the informal and sociable Chit Chat II in Walthamstow to Gariel Gbadamosi discussing Childhood Memories of Vauxhall. These and many other events give the opportunity to pause and reflect on the city and its impact on our lives. That this great city evokes such an emotional response is often taken for granted, and the London Festival of Architecture creates the space to consider our deeper connections to place.
The theme of memory has been explored in a multitude of ways. It was the screening of the film The Destruction of Memory that was the seminal moment in selecting this year’s theme so we are delighted that JW3 will be screening it later this month. The film considers the destruction of culture as an act of war and how the embodied memories can be recovered. While the film deals with examples removed in time and place the underlying discussion relates keenly to current discussions on how we develop London and what is valued. There is an opportunity to debate the topic in further detail at an event curated by the British Council and Historic England hosted at the V&A - Memory and Authenticity - chaired by Rob Bevan with a panel discussion exploring the politics and challenges of protecting and preserving cultural heritage in post-conflict contexts. What we value and choose to keep is further explored in an event the LFA is curating with Historic England - Memory and the Modern. This event, chaired by Olly Wainwright, will consider how we value our architectural heritage and how we decide on what is worth saving. It will offer examples of how listing has enhanced our understanding of London, presented challenges to new development, and posed healthy challenges to our architectural preconceptions.
The history of London and its recent past is explored in an amazing season at the BFI which also takes a broader look at our relationship with our built environment. In This Was Tomorrow historian Patrick Wright looks at the demonisation of the tower block and our relationship with social housing estates. This theme is further explored by the Twentieth Century Society on their Tour of the Brandon Estate with the Sir John Soane Museum’s Owen Hopkins, an exhibition at ZCD Architects of Madeleine Waller’s photographs Celebrating 40 years of the Christchurch Estate, and the Footprints of London tour Modernism and Model Dwellings: Housing in Bethnal Green tracing the history of British social housing and design from its 19th century roots to the great surge of council building in the 20th century.
The constant change experienced by London can be seen on the Derelict London Tour of Silvertown, an area once bustling with industry, now eerily quiet but about to be transformed into the new ‘city in the east’. The tour visits the exteriors of sites including the iconic Millennium Mills, the derelict Tate Institute, the remains of Tay Wharf and some original picket line graffiti. These buildings, like so much of London’s historic infrastructure, is lying vacant awaiting a new purpose. Tate Harmer’s event Reusing London’s Lost infrastructure held in Brunel’s spectacular sink shaft with Sir Nick Grimshaw considers how this forgotten infrastructure can be used in exciting new ways: something picked up in the LFA’s collaboration with the GLA and London Borough of Newham for new creative workspaces under the Silvertown flyover. This design competition asked architects to create a response to the opportunity and logistical challenges that this forgotten space under the flyover can provide. The winning design will be announced in June.
For all of those interested in how we can empower the whole profession to achieve all of these fantastic ideas there is the Women in the Built Environment networking breakfast hosted by Mount Anvil. It’s an important event: London architecture succeeds when it is inclusive, engaging and willing to reach out to new audiences.
That’s what the London Festival of Architecture is all about. It’s going to be a busy June!