The month in architecture

Everything you need to know that happened in August 2015

Published 1 September 2015

The biggest architecture news, the latest prizes and the wackiest new projects – rounded up into one handy post each month.

  • 1. Frank Gehry turns from starchitect to masterplanner

    The world-famous architect of the Guggenheim Bilbao and Walt Disney concert hall, Frank Gehry Hon RA, has been appointed by the LA River Corp to plan the regeneration of the Los Angeles River in California. The “river”, concreted over by the Army Corps in the 1930s to provide flood protection, today represents little more than a sluggish trickle of industrial and residential waste through the city, and environmental groups have long called for it to be returned to its natural free-flowing state. Gehry has revealed that he had one condition upon accepting the commission: that water reclamation would be central to the plan. He has made proposals to turn the river into a storage and treatment facility for stormwater, as well as plans for a riverside park.

    Read more about this project on the LA Times website.

    2. Colosseum to get a face-lift

    Italy’s Culture Minister, Dario Franceschini, has announced that Rome’s iconic Colosseum is to have its floor reconstructed, to the tune of €18 million. The wooden and sand floor was removed by 19th-century excavators, and today visitors can see straight down into the labyrinth of corridors, animal chambers, and pulleys which provided the mechanics for the Colosseum’s bloodiest shows. It is hoped that with the flooring restored the amphitheatre’s usage as an entertainment venue would be restored as well, with concerts and potentially re-enactments of gladiator shows for the structure’s six million yearly visitors, although presumably without the murderous element.

    Read more about the proposed plans from The Guardian.

    3. British library is awarded Grade I listing

    In what some will consider a surprising move from Historic England, the British Library has been given a Grade I listed status, making it the youngest building to hold the accolade. Described by the public heritage body as one of the country’s “finest modern public buildings”, it was built in 1997 by Sir Colin St John Wilson and MJ Long and famously lambasted by Prince Charles and others at its completion. The library houses some of the country’s most precious documents, including two original copies of the Magna Carta, Shakespeare’s Folio, and Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook. The only other listed building of comparable youth is Lloyds of London, which was built in 1986 and listed in 2011.

    Read the full statement from Historic England.

    4. A whole city is moving

    Sweden’s northernmost town, Kiruna, is moving. At least, some of it is. Under threat of falling into the ever-expanding iron ore mine which the town was built upon, it is being rebuilt two miles away. Buildings of architectural importance, such as the church, will be taken apart and rebuilt, piece by piece. Residents, however, will not be so fortunate with their homes. Citing costs, the architects White Arkitekter AB are building new houses and apartment blocks from scratch, around a denser city centre than the original town has.

    Explore this project on the architects’ website.

    5. Robin Hood Gardens loses its final appeal

    Back in March we reported on the last-ditch attempt by the Twentieth Century Society to prevent the demolition of Brutalist housing estate, Robin Hood Gardens, in East London. To the immense disappointment of some of Britain’s foremost architects, as well as thousands of petition signees, it was announced this month that this final campaign failed to persuade Historic England of the estate’s historic value. This is despite the fact that it was designed by Alison and Peter Smithson, widely considered to be two of the most significant Brutalist architects working in the 1970s. Demolition has not been scheduled yet.

    Read more about the campaign on the 20th Century Society website.

    6. Bjarke Ingels launches Kickstarter for nuclear plant

    Danish architect Bjarke Ingels has launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund his wackiest project yet: the Amager Bakke Waste-to-Energy Plant in Copenhagen. The power plant will feature a chimney that blows smoke rings for every ton of carbon dioxide burned, and a roof that doubles up as a ski slope. More than just an eye-catching design though, Ingels and his project-partner Jacob Lange hope that the smoke rings will raise awareness of ever-rising CO2 emissions.

    See the Kickstarter campaign

    7. Architects campaign for fictional Tolkien landmark

    As though to prove that August is silly season, we end this month with the news that a group of architects have set up a crowd funding campaign to build a lifesize replica of Minas Tirith, a fictional city in J.R.R Tolkien’s well-loved trilogy The Lord of the Rings. The mega-fans are asking for £1.85 billion, with rewards for donations including getting your own included house in the city, and even a peerage. Ambitions to recreate the city as imagined in Peter Jackson’s famous film version look unlikely to materialise, with only £80,000 raised at time of writing and 18 days left to realise the target.

    See the crowdfunder site on IndieGoGo