Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Through accident more than by design I found myself taking lots of photos of accomodation over the weekend. I've already voiced my doubts about Pan's Labyrinth Peninsula being able to attract adequate punters due to the dire nature of the surrounding hubbub. Leaving the nightlife etc. aside, the design is also not hugely distinctive. They're tall buildings, and a bit bit glittery, so don't get me wrong - I give a lot of points out for tallness and glitteriness. But they're hardly going to win international awards.

So what of the other residential buildings I've looked at?

tall housesWorst of the bunch are these, to the south of the main docklands complex. The houses around where I used to go to school were yellow brick, probably built in the 60's, and about as entertaining to look at as a turd (apart from that one day when we watched through the chemistry lab windows a dare-devil ladder acrobat with a HUGE drill install cavity wall insulation in one of them). These blocks of flats seem to be aiming for the same look, but figured 15 storeys is better than 2. How ridiculous do those roofs look??

broadgate tower from the distanceSecond from bottom is this riverside warehouse conversion. I took the photo to show Broadgate Tower looking not unlike the radiator of a Rolls Royce (not so long ago I saw a latest model Rolls outside the Tate Britain - an uglier concoction of car and... car I have never seen.) Took ages to find that link to the Rolls photo - why is it that bluechip companies known for excellence in design insist on having such bloated flash websites?

But the warehouse conversion... the top floors really are extremely ugly. There are some great warehouse conversions out there - Butlers Wharf, Catherine Docks, the ones across the canal from me - but the ones in this photo are certainly not among them.

Won't bother posting a photo but these are also pretty naff. An original and geometrically interesting design in search of function, balance, character and memorability. Slightly better is this block, but only by virtue of the circular balconies. Not sure of the utilility of these - you can't have a conversation with the corner of the building in the way - but they look nice from below. What might have been better would be to alternate, floor by floor, butting the balcomies at the corners and in the middle of the walls. Did I mention I wanted to be an architect when I was bout 12?

OK - enough filler. Now we move on to the stars of the city living show.

Surprisingly for a skyscraper themed blog, they are all low-rise.
Docklands dock with flats
The triangular buildings in the bottom left are great! in the shadow of all these monoliths (and one building that looks like a giant microchip) are some chalet style buildings. Anachronistic given the setting, but this just adds to their charm. The photo doesn't do it justice, but they're brightly coloured too.

habitat style flatsIn third place are these flats, again down by the river. I'm no architectural expert, but it's quite obvious they're inspired by the Habitat '67 building in Montreal - the hive of flats that was meant to revolutionise the built environment... but didn't. With this being one exception. I would guess it's in wapping, and I'll add it to my 'to visit' list. It doesn't stand out, but it's probably one of London's more adventurous buildings.

Now on to the joint winners.

Mile end student accomodation close upMile end student accomodationAbout 3 years ago, a few months after moving to Bow, I too a walk along the canal to meet Karen and Muzo in Victoria Park. Whilst walking along I was slightly perplexed by the buildings across the canal, which seemed to be packed with hundreds of nubile young women (not that I'm complaining). Since then I've discovered that these are the accommodation village for Queen Mary University.

Mile end student accomodation close upI went to Uni in Warwick, where most of the accommodation lives and breathes sensible in bucketloads. Queen Mary's halls are refreshingly original, bright and welcoming and, I would guess, manage to avoid the Peckham trap: creating a futuristic architectural utopia at the expense of incubating crime and ill-feeling.

Mile end student accomodationI can't be complementary enough about the buildings - interesting self-consistent, harmonious materials, colours and shapes. Little quirky features (such as the bar joining both halves of the turquoize one) which seem to serve no practical purpose, but add interest all the same.

They're wonderful. I'll try and find out who the architect is. On the off chance that someone would want to visit them, they are here.

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