Every month architects and industry insiders share their recommendations for the best exhibitions and events to visit in London.

November 2014
Matt Quinn
Director, Pipers Design

The Barbican continues to cast a spell over visitors and residents alike. Whether you are of the opinion that this much celebrated experiment in social planning still has an abundance of knowledge to impart on future urban planners – or that it’s just another 70’s pockmarked concrete behemoth – the first display in a series of explorations about the estate entitled ‘The Barbican Exhibition: Chamberlin, Powell & Bon Architects’ offers fresh insight on the visionary creation of this 20th century icon through rare photographs by the architects and watercolours by Powell. While you may not be able to take a dip in the Barbican’s ponds (yet), there is indeed a growing movement to transform public waterways for the use of recreational bathing. ‘Urban Plunge’ at the Roca London Gallery attempts to challenge public perception by showcasing projects in London, New York and Copenhagen that “reveal imaginative ways to enrich urban water experience and humanize our cities.”


Whereas the Barbican was born out of post war experiments in high density living, the London skyline of today appears to be radically changing for the long term; a recent study by New London Architecture found that there are now proposals for over 230 new tall buildings in the capital. ‘Tall Stories: Evolution in Hong Kong Architecture 1965-2014’ at RIBA is a timely addition to the discourse as it sets the so called ‘hub-model’ of high density development around transport hubs created in the 1980’s (which London has recently adopted with vigour) from the vantage point of a historical context. Some of these new tower designs represent a seismic shift in the realm of what’s possible in the creation of complex building facades. And according to Matthias Kohler in his lecture ‘The Robotic Touch – How Robots Change Architecture’ we are still in the infant stages of a “digital building culture to come.” The possibility of merging advanced architectural design with additive fabrication processes may very quickly lead to the creation of robotically fabricated high-rises.


In the 1970’s the vision of what the future might hold for advanced building design took on a very different shape entirely. Conceived by the Finnish Architect Mattii Suuronen, the Futuro House was meant to be an easily transportable modular ski chalet, but market forces and public perception proved too great an obstacle and only about 80 were manufactured worldwide. However, one has been acquired and lovingly restored by the artist Craig Barnes. It is currently installed on the roof of Matt’s Gallery in Mile End and allows for a memorable visit inside one of these rare architectural gems.


Temporary installations that help to transform the public’s perception of how our city can change for the better have been instrumental in shaping the permanent changes we see in todays public realm design. Studio Weave, in their lecture ‘Longest, Loudest, Spiciest, Scariest’, will explore their own portfolio of interventions and discuss what it takes to create projects that truly resonate and leave a lasting impression on the human psyche.


Before the winter grip takes hold and pushes us all indoors, November may be your last chance to take advantage of Stephen Senior’s ‘London Riverside Walking Tour’. The space between Millennium Bridge and Westminster Bridge is experiencing unprecedented change, some of which has sparked opposition by everyone from skateboarders holding on to a piece of their heritage to MP’s protecting their views from the Houses of Parliament. The tour also offers a great opportunity to see the massive concrete superstructure of Herzog De Meuron’s Tate Modern extension before the facade is applied. If you are already finding it a bit chilly for a walking tour, you can always enjoy a bit of ‘Architecture on Film’ at the Barbican. ‘One Way Boogie Woogie / 27 Years Later’ by James Benning, a powerhouse of the American avant-garde, explores the passage of time on his native Milwaukee. A sequence of 60 static one-minute surveys from both 1977 and today offers a meditation on the impact of how we are continually altering our urban environments. Surely something to consider as we dramatically change our own city, the impact of which will be felt for generations to come.

Past Editors