Event report: London Festival of Architecture 2010
The London Festival of Architecture 2010 has just drawn to a close after two weeks of events in the full swing of British summer. This year's offering was as varied and multi-levelled as ever, featuring emerging student talent, contributions from a myriad of local practices and work from elsewhere around the globe, with the International Architecture Showcase coordinated by the British Council and the Architecture Foundation.
As much as architectural imagination and diversity was an unquestionable protagonist, another clear presence marked this year's festival. Pop-up installations are nothing new - the most famous London example being the 10-year-long Serpentine Pavilion commission series - but their dominant presence during this LFA flagged up their role in the wider public's understanding of the profession, as well as their central position in curating architecture.
This Festival clearly supported the personal and experiential side of architecture. Underlining this was its 'Welcoming City' theme, which saw a plethora of temporary large-scale installations emerge, offering the public not only the chance to look at architecture, but to actively engage in some great examples of three-dimensional spaces.
Most of London's major architectural organisations joined the game. The Architecture Foundation not only commissioned an installation for their exhibition space - 'Moss Your City' by Norwegians, Pushak - but also got involved in more, like the Union Street Urban Orchard pop-up garden and the upcoming Jellyfish Theatre by Berlin-based architects Köbberling and Kaltwasser.
New London Architecture took over Store Street crescent with a temporary park, featuring the impressive Price & Myers Hy Pavilion in the middle to provide shade on sunny days and act as a stage for events. Meanwhile, near Trafalgar Square, a solar lift by Matthew Lloyd Architects, Architecture Inside Out, Shape and RIBA London made its appearance for 15 days at the Duke of York Steps and the Foldaway Bookshop by Campaign Design was fully functioning off Regent Street for the last week of the Festival. Running alongside these and still going today is the V&A 1:1 - Architects Build Small Spaces exhibition, a celebration of the pop-up installation.
Of course this is not to ignore the broad range of other events that were on offer, and all the lectures, tours, exhibitions and competitions that took place during the festival. Our highlights included the beautiful photographic essay '50 Years of London Architecture'; the imaginative Swarming Futures exhibition curated by Naja deOstos' practice partner Ricardo deOstos, presenting a snapshot of the present and a glimpse of the future of Brazilian architecture; and the RIBA's active presence behind the Nash Ramblas project and the Forgotten Spaces competition exhibition on show at the Royal Festival Hall, which explored the idea of reusing London's abandoned spaces. Tours of the NEO Bankside complex offered a unique opportunity for those anxious to get inside the swiftly rising Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners new development in Southwark. Here, they could admire the playful Tate Modern model made of sugar cubes.
Naturally, Wallpaper* couldn't resist taking part in the capital's largest architecture celebration. Our own exhibition at the New London Architecture gallery opened during the festival and will be on show until the 9th July, presenting work produced by the 30 international architects that took part in Wallpaper's 2010 Architects Directory. Partnering with the Festival organisers for LFA's main party that also launched our show, our guests had the chance to admire a selection of illustrations by British graphic designer Andrew Clark; look through copies of our July issue, displayed on the lovely Hexagon bookstand by Nendo for Quodes; taste a range of delicious drinks courtesy of Mamont vodka; and nibble on treats from the barbeque to the sounds of uplifting music from SOAS. All in all, it was a summer night to remember.
It is true; this year's festival might not have been as long or as big as its 2008 predecessor. In some ways though, it was all the better for it. Combining a manageable-sized program, lots of fun, key architecture issues such as the need for urban green spaces, the Olympic projects and creative reuse of space, while at the same time reconnecting the public with architecture's third dimension and full-scale experience, it proved to be central to the city's perception of our built environment, as well as a great day out.