16 January 2015

Rethinking the Urban Landscape at The Building Centre

The Building Centre exists to promote innovation in the built environment and one that it does this is through exhibitions in its Central London office. I have always found these exhibitions easily digestible and very informative so, like RIBA, it is a place I like to visit regularly.

It also helps that The Building Centre is a brisk twenty minute walk from my office so the round trip is good exercise too.

There are several small exhibitions on at the same time, the model of London was still there from my last visit, and the one that I was there to see this time was Rethinking the Urban Landscape. This was looking at the use of green infrastructure in developments.

In some ways this is an obvious point, and has been demonstrated in things like the Garden Cities, but it is a lesson that is periodically overlooked when developers' money sees no value in the space between buildings.

As with other exhibitions I've seen at The Building Centre, there was an invigorating mix of pictures, words and models.

Between them they packed a lot of information into a small space and I had to skim through some of it due to the time constraints of a lunchtime visit.

There was good and bad in what I saw.

All of the schemes looked good and some looked spectacular. The Olympic Park got plenty of coverage but I had already seen that and I was more interested in the schemes that were new to me.

Of these the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon impressed me the most. This is a long breakwater that ends with the semi-circular stone-clad power plant, you can see it behind the gas holder below. It looks magnificent though it also looks a long walk out to see it.

The disappointments were that many of the schemes were really quite small and several of them were linked to major regeneration projects like the Olympic Park. Three of them, including the gasholder, are part of the Kings Cross development and I can see them from my office window.

There is nothing wrong with small schemes, or large regeneration projects, but the impression that I got from the exhibition and from walking around London is that they idea of green spaces has got a long way to go before it becomes the default and is no longer worthy of an exhibition.

Still, something is much better than nothing and any signs that the spaces between buildings are become important again are most welcome.

The Building Centre knows its subject and knows how to show it off in exhibitions like this one. And that makes a visit there informative, rewarding and uplifting.

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