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A Tour Through Benny Farm

Benny Farm was first developed in the years immediately following the Second World War. Returning veterans needed homes for their families and the country needed housing to deal with the impending baby boom. In the Late 1940s the Canadian government built a number of apartment buildings on the site of what was then a former farm on the western edge of Montreal. The project was, and remains one of the largest government housing projects ever undertaken in the country. The property and the apartments were maintained for a number of years under the auspices of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and then by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, (CMHC).

In the 1950s and 1960s thanks to most residents being of the same age, community life at Benny Farm thrived due the prevalence of many young families (hello baby boom!) Historical accounts suggest that during the 1950s there were over a thousand children on the property. However in the 1980s the age homogenization began to work against Benny Farm as the mean age of residents rose to 70 years. Most of the buildings had not been well maintained, and the post-war three story walk ups with no elevators or air-conditioning were increasingly difficult for elderly residents.

In the early 1990s the the CMHC announced plans to redevelop the property with more accessible units for the aging population and reopen the door to new tenants in more modern units. In order to finance the redevelopment the agency planned to have the private sector develop the rest of the property. The scale of the private development; 1200 units in a number of 6 story buildings, the destruction of the existing post war buildings, and a fundamental change to the social role of the site caused an outcry from members of the community. What ensued next was a 20 year battle over the future of the Benny Farm site.

Arnold Bennett, and Jason Hughes helped spearhead the battle to keep Benny Farm affordable, arguing for public and affordable housing rather then private development.  For a long time it seemed that the site would end up going to private developers who would build standard condo style units that would price many area residents out of the market. While there are many people and events that were responsible for making Benny Farm what it is today, the eureka moment came when the team realized that nothing was stopping the the Habitations communautaires NDG, (HCNDG) a community-run non-profit corporation, from bidding on the parts of the site that were open to the private sector. The idea was to create a non-profit, community-run organization that would offer and manage the units at a below market rate. The proposal went over very well with the community and over 80 people had signed statements of interest by the time the HCNDG submitted a bid to the Canada Lands Corporation for three sites, with a total of 74 units. The ‘Affordable Home Ownership Initiative’ was awarded the sites after beating a number of private developers who submitted more traditional site concepts.

Claude Cormier Landscape Architects was selected to develop the master plan for the Benny Farm Housing project and created a network of promenades that ties the paths, and semi private courtyards of the project into the surrounding neighbourhood streets. An orchard of 170 ornamental crab apple trees is also distributed throughout as a nod to the sites agricultural past.

The new Benny Farm site includes a diverse mix of housing types, over 200 rental properties, a public health clinic, recreation centre, community garden, daycare, and other neighbourhood services. The property was also developed with sustainability in mind and features; Geothermal heat exchange, hybrid glycol/electric solar power, air- and water-based heat recovery. There were plans for grey-water and storm-water reuse, wetland treatment and sub-grade water-table recharge, but news reports indicate that the water reuse was never installed and I was unable to spot evidence of a  wetland on my site visit.  A non-profit, community-run utility owns and manages the energy infrastructure as well as continued  re-investment in sustainable construction for this infrastructure. The utility was set up with a legal structure similar to that of a cooperative housing development. Green Energy Benny Farm (GEBF) is owned and controlled by a voluntary, user-driven board, and the project has won at least one award; The Bronze Prize at Global Holcim Awards.

Of course most of this was laid out in the planning stage so what about now? As the pictures show, Benny Farm isn’t just a concept anymore, it is once again a living and working community. It appears that being at the cutting edge of sustainability in a non-profit housing complex has its risks. Hour.ca published an article in 2007 that reported problems with leaking geothermal pipes, that combined with other leaks have lead to a serious mould problem in one of the Co-ops, and some solar panels have leaked glycol, while some of the radiant floor heating systems didn’t balance, resulting in some residents freezing while others boiled. Some blamed a low-bid contract process while others suggested that there was not enough co-ordination between the parties involved in merging the green technologies. Most news reports on the project and issues stop after 2007 so presumably the kinks have been worked out.

While the process was long and contentious Benny Farm is considered a success for sustainable, affordable housing, and community renewal. I took a walk through Benny Farm in the fall and was very impressed with the site design and landscaping in particular, while a lot of modern buildings can look very similar and repetitive each area felt different enough from the others to make each seem distinctive while still maintaining a connection with the project as a while. There is also clear evidence that the kids are back with all the toys that were scattered about. So was Benny Farm a success? I’ll let the photo’s speak for themselves and you can make up your own mind.

For a great photo-spread of the property before its renovation, take a look at The Benny Farm Condemned Housing Projects @ Citynoise. Also check out our related gallery, Cave Art (ok not really) of  Benny Farm. Reference links and other great places to visit for information about Benny Farm. Story Telling At Concordia Benny Farm Calgary Housing Action Initiative, Alternative Housing Models: Benny Farm. Canada Lands Company: Community Success Stories: Benny Farm

Montreal 2025

A copy of the Montreal 2025 part of the city of Montreal’s counter proposal to Transport Quebec’s $1.5-billion Turcot redevelopment project.
Présentation médias_2010-04-21

Panel Gallery

Welcome to Alpha Dome City

Welcome to Alpha Dome City ‘알파ㆍ돔 시티(αㆍdom city)’! It is a mixed use commercial and residential project that at first glance looks like one massive building. Alpha Dome City a project with an opening 5 trillion won (4.5 million US/CAD) price tag is under construction in Kyung ki do – sung nam si bun dang gu pankyo dong,  near the intersection of the Pankyo Expressway and the Seoul Outer Ring Highway. The project is by commission of the Pangyo Mutal Fund Administration in partnership with Lotte Engineering and Construction Consortium who will be the project manager for the Alpha Dome. Korean news puts the total number of companies involved in the consortium at 16. The project will have a mixed media centre (read movie theatre) department stores, (no doubt Lotte Department Store will make an appearance) discount stores, a hotel, galleries and other facilities, along with approximately 946 residential units. The project team indicates that the development will take lessons from Germany’s Sony Centre, and Le Defence, France.

The Korean National Housing Corporation will have a number of units in the development, indicating that the project will have a number of low cost rental units and housing for sale pursuant to the Korean National Housing Corporation’s mandate to  provide affordable housing to low-income households and also to stabilize residential property prices through the large-size housing supply.

알파 돔

In korean news a member of the project team explains the significance of the name: Alpha (α) as the first letter of the Greek alphabet ‘to No. 1’, ‘first’, ‘the light of the strong astronomical constellation of stars’,’ The most important part ‘, is central to the vision for the site. S

The Most striking aspect of Alpha Dome City ‘알파ㆍ돔 시티(αㆍdom city)’ is, well the Dome. The project is a number of commercial and residential blocks spread over a couple city blocks, with the dome as a pedestrian accessible linking structure. The dome with plans for cultural exhibition facilities in this ‘sky gallery’. The Dome itself with have multiple cuts through the roof structure to allow light to penetrate into street scape within. Inside the development preference will be given to bicycle and pedestrain traffic as the part of the new naturalism movement in Korea.  Special thanks to Chung Eun Young for research assistance.

Building the Urban Network

I came across an interesting article the other day while surfing the interweb about the future of new city building in Asia, (which is one of the few places in the world where cities spring up from scratch). In this age of bundling and value add ons comes a different vision of what a city is, how to make them more efficient, how they should be built, and how a couple of companies think they should be built. Estimates put spending on global infrastructure at $35 trillion over the next two decades and the new city market itself is likely to be worth at least $500 billion in the next ten years. How’s that for a growth industry?

Fast Company

Cisco’s Big Bet on New Songdo: Creating Cities From Scratch

By: Greg LindsayFebruary 1, 2010

The world is bracing for an influx of billions of new urbanites in the coming decades, and tech companies are rushing to build new green cities to house them. Are these companies creating a smarter metropolis — or just making money?

Stan Gale is exultant. The chairman of Gale International yanks off his tie, hitches up his pants, and mops the sweat and floppy hair from his brow. He’s beaming like a proud new papa, sprung from the waiting room and handing out cigars to whoever happens by. Beckoning me to follow, he saunters across eight lanes of traffic toward his baby, delivered prematurely days before.

Ten years ago, Gale was a builder and flipper of office parks who would eventually become known for knocking down the Boston landmark Filene’s Basement and replacing it with a hole in the ground. But Gale’s fate began to change in 2001 with a phone call from South Korea. The Korean government had found his firm on the Internet and made an offer everyone else had refused. The brief: Gale would borrow $35 billion from Korea’s banks and its biggest steel company, and use the money to build from scratch a city the size of downtown Boston, only taller and denser, on a muddy man-made island in the Yellow Sea. When Gale arrived to see the site, it was miles of open water. He signed anyway.

New Songdo City won’t be finished until 2015 at least, but in August, Gale cut the ribbon on the 100-acre “Central Park” modeled, like so much of the city, on Manhattan’s. Climbing on all sides will be a mix of low-rises and sleek spires — condos, offices, even South Korea’s tallest building, the 1,001-foot Northeast Asia Trade Tower. Strolling along the park’s canal, we hear cicadas buzzing, saws whining, and pile drivers pounding down to bedrock. I ask whether he’s stocked the canal with fish yet. “It’s four days old!” he splutters, forgetting he isn’t supposed to rest until the seventh.

As far as playing God (or SimCity) goes, New Songdo is the most ambitious instant city since Brasília 50 years ago. Brasília, of course, was an instant disaster: grandiose, monstrously overscale, and immediately encircled by slums. New Songdo has to be better because there’s a lot more riding on it than whether Gale can repay his loans. It has been hailed since conception as the experimental prototype community of tomorrow. A green city, it was LEED-certified from the get-go, designed to emit a third of the greenhouse gases of a typical metropolis its size (about 300,000 people during the day). It’s an “international business district” and an “aerotropolis” — a Western-oriented city more focused on the airport and China beyond than on Seoul. And it’s supposed to be a “smart city,” studded with chips talking to one another, designated as such years before IBM found its “Smarter Planet” religion.

Being seriously ahead of the curve explains why Gale had such a hard time finding a tech partner to bring this dream to fruition. First in line was LG, one of Korea’s homegrown conglomerates. None of its ideas had made it past the prototype stage. Next up was Microsoft, which signed a deal giving it carte blanche to mold the city in its image. “Designing an entirely new city from the ground up provides a unique opportunity to create an ideal technological infrastructure,” Bill Gates boasted. But before he could even measure for drapes, Gale decided a plumber would be a better fit and threw Microsoft over for Cisco.

Last spring, the networking giant became New Songdo’s exclusive supplier of digital plumbing. More than simply installing routers and switches — or even something so banal as citywide Wi-Fi — Cisco is expected to wire every square inch of the city with synapses. From the trunk lines running beneath the streets to the filaments branching through every wall and fixture, it promises this city will “run on information.” Cisco’s control room will be New Songdo’s brain stem.

And that’s just the beginning. No longer content to sell just plumbing, the company is teaming up with Gale, 3M, United Technologies (UTC), and the architects of Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) to enter the instant-city business. At a Cisco event near New Songdo last summer, Gale stunned the room by announcing plans to eventually roll out 20 new cities across China and India, using New Songdo as a template. In the spirit of Moore’s Law, he says, each will be done faster, better, cheaper, year after year.

Cisco calls this Smart+Connected Communities initiative a potential $30 billion opportunity, a number based not only on the revenues from installation of the basic infrastructure but also on selling the consumer-facing hardware as well as the services layered on top of that hardware. Picture a Cisco-built digital infrastructure wired to Cisco’s TelePresence videoconferencing screens mounted in every home and office, with engineers listening, learning, and releasing new Cisco-branded bandwidth-hungry services in exchange for modest monthly fees. You’ve heard of software as a service? Well, Cisco intends to offer cities as a service, bundling urban necessities — water, power, traffic, telephony — into a single, Internet-enabled utility, taking a little extra off the top of every resident’s bill.

Read More!

Downtown Oklahoma – a budding tale of uban renewal.

YES for MAPS | MySpace Video

The city of Oklahoma has had some great news recently, two differrent energy companies have decided to construct or revamp their headquarters in the core. Sandridge and Devon Energy Corporation have both announced plans to move their operations into the downtown.

Devon Energy broke ground on its 50-story tower in October for its tower and the building is among the tallest under construction in America.  The new headquarters building will also be the state’s tallest building when it opens in 2012. As part of their construction plans the company is also contributing to $140 million worth of upgrades in the downtown, including new sidewalks, bicycle lanes and two-way streets. The company is also pretty with the current construction climate.  “It’s a great time to build a building. We can get it done faster and cheaper than during the boom,” said Larry Nichols, Devon’s chief executive. “We’re ahead of schedule and under budget.”

Devon’s building, however, is not the only construction project in Oklahoma City. In December, city voters approved a $777 million tax package for a 70-acre central park, streetcar system, convention centre, boating facilities, aquatic centers, and trails that will be built over the next nine years.

“It’s the best possible example of how a populace must tax themselves if they want public works,” says Rogers Marvel principal Rob Rogers. “I just wish we would recognize that nationally.”

When the city of Oklahoma bottomed out in the 90s, voters approved the Metropolitan Area Projects Plan (MAPS) as a means to finance the reconstruction of downtown. The MAPS initiative was the first-of-its-kind one-cent sales tax, it had a strict time limit of five years. Though voters later agreed to extended it. MAPS raised $360 million through taxation and was assisted by more than a billion dollars in private investment which went towards building a new central library, a minor-league ballpark, the Bricktown entertainment district, and other public works. Later a second “MAPS for Kids,” was implemented for city schools, and a third MAPS initiative, the previously mentioned $777 million package, was passed by voters in December. This one for the “Core to Shore” plan, which will rerouting the I-40 elevated expressway that cuts through town and expand the downtown toward the Oklahoma River.

The other booked to the downtown renewal came through the unveiling of Sandridge’s plans for a $100 million expansion of its downtown headquarters across three city blocks. What is different about the Sandridge plan however is that their plans include a renovated 1960s Pietro Belluschi tower, and a renovated Braniff Building–built in 1923 by the brothers who started the airline that the building was named after.

Sandridge’s plan goes against local practice by reusing existing buildings, rather then heading for a corporate campus out in the suburbs. The CEO of Sandridge, Tom Ward was a major reson the company stayed downtown when most of its employees wanted to head for the hills. Ward found the suburban campus plans were both too expensive and too inflexible for his growth plans and his desire to take the company from 600 to 1,500 employees.

“Their first response was that it was going to be a longer commute, and the idea was not one they embraced originally,” Ward says. “And then the Thunder came to town and a lot of things started changing.” (Ward incidentally owns a minority stake in the Oklahoma City Thunder).

If there is one thing that can be learned from downtown Oklahoma it is that resident iniatives like the MAPS program supported by private investment can make a difference in the vitality of our cities.

“If you’re an urbanist, vacancy of any kind is super tough,” said Rogers. “So the decision to go downtown and be a part of the city, to redevelop and reuse, is fundamentally about reinvigorating downtown. Everybody talks about being green, but one of the greenest things you can do is simply reuse things.”


Golden Spiral City – A Concept

spiral header

In geometry a golden spiral is a logarithmic spiral whose growth factor is related to the golden ratio. A golden spiral gets wider by a factor of φ for every quarter turn that it makes.

The golden ratio is found all throughout nature, in plants, animals and even in the human body. One of the most common examples of the golden spiral in nature is the shell of the Nautilus. Artists and architects have used it to proportion their works, in architecture the the golden rectangle, where in the ratio of the longer side to the shorter is based off of the golden ratio has been used for centuries. Notable examples include Michealangelo’s works, classical Greek temples and the Great Mosque of Kairouan. Le Corbusier utilized its proportions for his modulor system.

The Golden Spiral Plan

The Golden Spiral City plan utilizes, cycle paths and pedestrian greenways, canals, a light rail transit network, a street network and a major urban boulevard for access to the central core. As one approaches the city centre the block sizes get smaller and densities increase. The cycle paths and pedestrian greenways are shown in green, the Light Rail Transit network in red. The blue indicates the canal network, the light black the street network and the dark black shows the graceful curve of the boulevard into the central area.

Street Diagram Curved Major Road Colour

Canal Diagram 120 Large Colour no scale

Street Diagram Pedestrian Intersection Colour no scaleThe cycle paths and pedestrian greenways allow residents to use active transportation to move through the city. Providing an extensive network of seperated bicycle paths and pedestrian walkways. These routes also create a series of linear parks that thread through the city leading to larger green spaces at the intersection of the pedestrian routes.

In order to keep these paths active and safe they are designed with lane-way style housing and studio spaces. This achieves two goals, by keeping eyes on the street the pedestrian network doesn’t become a dangerous place after dark by insuring that there will be traffic from residents. These types of housing and studio spaces are also intended to keep the selection of  rental spaces diverse and accessible.

Corridor Of Life – Ave du Parc LRT Proposal

Corridor Of Life

Live, Learn, Work & Play

Daniel Barham, Jeremy Kloet, Jade Layton, Allison Reid, Marilyne Trembley.

Concordia University 2009

Go to Chapter 1

Go to Chapter 2

Go to Chapter 3

Go to Chapter 4

1. Where We Are Today

Park Ave Corridor Development Strategy

This first section, “Where We Are Today,” introduces and  describes a series of important questions: What is the history of the communities surrounding Avenue du Parc, and the history of the Avenue du Parc tramway? How would be community react if it were reinstalled? How can these neighborhoods be described today, socioeconomically, as well as physically? The purpose of this section is to introduce the central corridor, and to provide some background on the role and importance of the study of the implementation of a tram along the avenue.

In this section you will find:
Section 1.1 – “History and Background” which describes the history of the surrounding neighborhoods and communities, provides a background of the tramway along Avenue du Parc, as well as provides a survey of residents’ reactions to the idea of implementing a new tram.

Section 1.2 – “Neighborhood Analysis” provides a detailed analysis of the corridor as a whole. For formatting purposes, the corridor was divided into three sections for analysis of key destinations, neighborhood characteristics, commercial activity, as well as dominant modes of transportation.

Section 1.3 – “Physical Analysis” is a broad look at the opportunities and constraints along the corridor; transportation flow, important streets, physical and psychological barriers, and zoning.


2. What We Want

Park Ave Corridor Development Strategy

Section 1 details the nature of our corridor, highlighting the opportunities and constraints the existing urban fabric posed on the potential LRT development. This section, “What We Want,” solidifies the vision and framework of the development strategy for the integration of the LRT system in the corridor to support the local and regional functionality. It also explores the concept for the development strategy.

In this section you will find:

Section 2.1 – “The Vision” describes the corridor we wish to create.

Section 2.2 – “The Goals” sets out three key concepts to guide the realization of the vision.

Section 2.3 – “The Concept” allows to visualize the enhancements we want to implement.


3. What It Should Look Like

Park Ave Corridor Development Strategy

With the completion of our contextual analysis, and the identification of our vision statement, section three of the Avenue du Parc Light Rail Transit proposal outlines a number of objectives and strategies that will help reinforce the primary neighbourhood functions within the transit corridor. These strategies are intended to enhance, support and provide additional opportunities for local and regional residents to LIVE, LEARN, WORK and PLAY.

The following section will be broken down into four parts:

Section 3.1 will briefly describe how the LRT will be introduced within Avenue du Parc.

Section 3.2 will describe how a balanced transportation system will be achieved.

Section 3.3 will explain how the LRT will be integrated into the corridor.

Section 3.4 will identify opportunities to enhance the vibrancy of the corridor.

Section 3.5 will Introduce the Master Plan.


4. How We Get There

Park Ave Corridor Development Strategy

The Ave du Parc Light Rail Transit project offers an opportunity to create significant improvements to the neighbourhoods it passes through and to the city as a whole. To fully capitalize on the project, the involvement of multiple stakeholders at both the local and regional scale is required.

In this section you will find:
Section 4.1 – “Moving Forward” describes the the stakeholders in the project.
Section 4.2 – “Parc LRT; Live, Learn, Work & Play” provides a summary of the projects goals, and approach.

Section 5 – Reference Materials


NVS New Russian Town Plan

Rubleovo-Arkhangelskoe represents a new town, which will be built 2 km away from the northwestern part of Moscow. This project is the largest both in Russia and Europe. It envisages construction of the residential units for more than 100.000 people, occupying the territory with the total area of 430 ha.



Neighbourhood News: Thursday June 18

A Royal Row

You may or may not be aware that recently the Prince of Whales sent a letter to the Qatari Royal Family requesting that they withdraw the plan they had previously selected for a site called the Chelsea Barracks  and take it to open consultation to come up with a plan that was in his opinion more suited to the character of the surrounding neighbourhoods. The Qataris then took the stunning step of not just revising the plan, but ditching the whole thing. Much to the delight of some… the prince and most of the surrounding residents… but to the absolute horror of others… architectural firm that lost the business, headed by Lord Rogers of Riverside (an unelected member of the British Government) and other modernists in love with the design. Now the screaming has begun, and the Prince is being charged with overstepping his authority by the deposed Lord Rogers.

“The prince always goes round the back to wield his influence, using phone calls or, in the case of the Chelsea Barracks, a private letter. It is an abuse of power because he is not willing to debate. He has made his representations two and a half years late and anyone else would have been shown the door. We should examine some of the ethics of this situation. Someone who is unelected, will not debate but will use the power bestowed by his birthright must be questioned.”

The Super Creative Plan by Lord Rogers

The Super Creative Plan by Lord Rogers

Personally while I can understand the need to bitch by the looser in this case it should be noted that the first master plan by Lord Rogers wasn’t exactly a gem of public consultation, and didn’t have the support of the surrounding residents. Plus to some it extent what good is it to be a prince if you can not write a letter telling other Royal Families what you think about things? Then Lord Rogers goes on to insult the Qataris by suggesting that “the Qataris never sorted out the difference between royalty and government.” Suggesting that they somehow had no idea that Prince Charles isn’t actually in charge of anything, that the Prince tricked them into thinking that he had some sort of power. Right…. so Lord Rogers is suggesting that the Qataris have no idea how the legal system and system of governance works in England? Because they don’t have TVs and Access to the Internet? Because they don’t have their own giant legal team who knows this stuff? PLEASE!  Try to accept your loss like a real Lord, Mr Rogers. Have a little dignity, and try not to insult the intelligence of one of the largest development corporations in the world. Or its unlikely they will be knocking on your door for any new contracts any time soon, and as one of the articles puts it, “Rogers has been paid millions, so I wouldn’t feel too sorry for him.”

The Wall Street Journal

Prince Charles Tears Down Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood

charlesIn front of the Palace of Westminster, the so-called Mother of Parliaments that is the heart of the British democratic system, stands a well-tended bronze statue of broad-belted, big-booted Oliver Cromwell. He was the “Lord Protector” who ruled during the short-lived republic that followed the English Civil War and the execution of King Charles I. Cromwell might be excused a wry smile right now because another royal Charles is, some say, challenging the dearly held British principle of a constitutional monarchy. And all because of a row over architecture. Prince Charles, a vehement antimodernist, is up to his old tricks again.

The row has now escalated, with an English Baron — Lord Rogers of Riverside, better known as the architect Richard Rogers — calling for an official tribunal to examine the role of Prince Charles in state affairs. Mr. Rogers is incandescent with rage, and no wonder. It has emerged that the prince personally wrote to the Qatari prime minister (himself of royal blood) to ensure that a £6 billion ($9.85 billion) Rogers-designed housing development in the upmarket London enclave of Chelsea was withdrawn by its developer.

That developer, Qatari Diar, happens to be a company owned by the Qatari royal family. Prince has therefore spoken unto prince, ignoring the usual planning-approval process, the British government — everybody. Charles’s letter — the substance of which has been leaked, though not the actual text — decried the Rogers design. The neoclassical style of another architect, Quinlan Terry, was much more preferable, Prince Charles said. Last week Qatari Diar duly dropped Mr. Rogers like a hot potato, just as the architect’s design for the former Chelsea Barracks site was being recommended for approval by both local planners and the various national architecture and conservation agencies. Read More


Only Charles has kept his dignity on Chelsea Barracks

The quiet dignity maintained by Lord Rogers for the past few months while all and sundry speculated about his doomed Chelsea Barracks scheme was comprehensively shattered this week, as you may have seen reported here and there.

In a hissy fit of architectural proportions, His Lordship took to the airwaves on Tuesday to accuse Prince Charles of “unconstitutional meddling”. Rogers added insult to injury in that day’s Guardian, muttering about “abuses of power” and calling for a public inquiry to examine the Prince’s role in constitutional society. Harsh words from the mild-mannered Rogers, but given the way in which he and his practice have been treated on this perhaps you can’t blame him for throwing his toys out of the pram in such a fashion.

The design team was, I am told, assured of its position on the scheme by Qatari Diar no fewer than ten days before they unceremoniously withdrew the proposals from planning. Rogers was informed of the withdrawal just a single hour before the rest of us were. Curiously though, the Evening Standard knew enough to predict such a thing would happen the evening before. This has been a story dictated by private briefings from all manner of interested parties. No wonder none of us had the faintest idea what was going on.

One thing is clear, though. Throughout it all, Prince Charles has remained tight-lipped as to the nature of his “intervention”, as that is what we are calling it. An intervention is something that an alcoholic’s family and friends carry out to stop them from abusing their health. Perhaps the Prince sees himself as the kindly, benevolent figure preventing Chelsea from taking to the intoxicating liquer of modernism. We don’t know. Clarence House has steadfastly refused to confirm or deny any involvement by the Prince on Chelsea Barracks. As far as I am aware, the Prince has not mentioned either Lord Rogers or the development by name at any point in this whole furore. Read More


Richard Rogers Gets Fired

Architect Richard Rogers is in a steaming bate. He’s really very cross. There he stands, on the cusp of 76, a long and windy career in modernism behind him.

He has been feted by breathless peers and is quite the most modish and prosperous of intellectual Center Lefties in Western Europe. And yet he has just had his year ruined by two royal families.

Stamp, stamp, stamp go two little booties. Curses hurtle through the air. Kyboshed by hereditary princes! Lord Rogers of Riverside, an unelected member of the British Parliament, cries that it is an undemocratic outrage.

Having worked for months on a 3-billion-pound building proposal in central London’s former Chelsea Barracks, Rogers learned last week that the developers have pulled out of the glass-and-steel scheme at the 11th hour.

Why? Because Britain’s Prince Charles did not like the look of the thing.

The prince, whose traditionalist views are well known, wrote to one of the development’s leading financiers. We do not know the exact wording because the letter was private. It is understood, however, to have expressed horror at the aesthetic damage the shiny, angular Rogers design would have done to one of London’s more architecturally conservative quarters.

The recipient of the letter, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, is not only prime minister and foreign affairs minister of the Arab emirate of Qatar but also a member of that prosperous territory’s royal family. We can only imagine what happened. A flunky, bowing low, intones: “A hand-written letter for you, O Sheikh, written on the notepaper of Clarence House, London residence of the Prince of Wales.” The Sheikh strokes his luxuriant moustachings, plops another date into his mouth and licks his sticky fingertips before breaking the seal on the English Basildon Bond envelope. Read More


Chelsea Barracks Developer Draws up New Shortlist

Chelsea_Barracks_site_D3ADAChelsea Barracks developer Qatari Diar is preparing to invite a dozen practices including SOM, Allies & Morrison, Edaw and Demetri Porphyrios to pitch for its revised masterplan.

Firms will shortly be asked by the Middle Eastern developer if they are interested in coming up with alternatives to the abandoned Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners design with a view to selecting a shortlist of no more than six practices and choosing a winner by the end of the year, BD understands.

But the architects will be under pressure to refuse to take part after Labour MP Ken Purchase tabled an early day motion on Tuesday calling for a boycott.

Qatari Diar has approached consultants including Cabe and the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment for unpaid advice. And a source close to the developer said it was keen to “crack on” with a new scheme.

“It is on the cusp of approaching firms to form a long list of possible bidders,” the source said. “Some will say no from the off but others will have a look.”

Despite its ejection from the project, Rogers Stirk Harbour is believed to have been paid between £10 million and £20 million for its work on the scheme, originally for developer Christian Candy’s CPC Group.

“Rogers has been paid millions, so I wouldn’t feel too sorry for him,” the source added. Read More.

NVS: New Town

This animated cartoon film shows how to set about replanning a town. Post war period. New Towns, overcrowded inner cities, building out of town.

British Government Public Information Films
Director: Halas & Batchelor 1948

NVS: Vivre Sur La Mer

From Squint Opera, Introducing our recent film ‘Monaco: Vivre sur la Mer’, commissioned as a central part of the consortium’s submission in a prestigious international competition to design a new offshore extension to the coast of Monaco.

Shot on location in Monte Carlo and the Cote d’Azur, the film follows the adventures of a jogger around the city. As she runs, the rhythm of her footsteps spark off a series of magical events and bit by bit the new extension to the city is rolled out onto the sea.