London Festival of Architecture 2012

View of Union Street and a tall, circular light wood panel structure with multiple pieces of paper in different sizes with print attached to it. There are shops with flats above, a person on a bike and a number of other people in the background
The Union Press temporary small-scale printing house, by Public Works, has popped up on SE1’s Union Street for the duration of the festival
(Image credit: TBC)

With the 2012 London Festival of Architecture (opens in new tab) reaching a crescendo this weekend, we thought it time to bring you the highlights of what has been a fortnight of thought-provoking architectural celebrations. Under the theme of the 'Playful City' - referencing the impending Olympics (opens in new tab), but also appealing to the child within use - this year's events spanned a variety of 'hubs' across the British capital.

The first weekend honed in on Southwark, where community events like the Gibbon's Rent Garden (opens in new tab), the Union Street Printing Press, by Public Works (opens in new tab), and the Reunion Public House ensured a lively couple of days. Our highlights also included the Architecture Foundation's (opens in new tab) gorgeous 'Bureau Spectacular: Three Little Words', featuring an installation inspired by practice founder Jimenez Lai's architectural comic strips (on display until the end of August).

Moving on to the City of London hub, we marvelled at the future face of the capital, as envisaged by the Developing City (opens in new tab)exhibition (on until 9 September). Meanwhile, architects competed to create the cleverest and best-looking structures out of cans at the Canstruction event in Canary Wharf. Squire and Partners (opens in new tab) were deservedly crowned the winners with their gazebo-style structure, incorporating 2,580 cans that were carefully secured in hand-cut wooden inserts.

The London Pleasure Gardens (opens in new tab) hub had to battle some bad weather, but launched triumphantly regardless a few days ago. Here, visitors can stroll among follies, pavilions and pop ups in the East London park, as well as sit down and relax on one of the pews and perches (opens in new tab) conceived by architects for the RIBA London (opens in new tab) competition.

The Fitzrovia and Hoxton hubs also pulled in the crowds. The recently renovated Villa Tugendhat (opens in new tab) flung open its doors, and architect Harry Dobbs (opens in new tab) created the imaginative 'Weather - It's Raining or Not' collection of parasol-shaped structures. Another witty play on the British weather obsession came in the shape of design studio Troika's 'The Weather Yesterday' (opens in new tab) light installation.

Last but by no means least comes the Kings Cross hub, which will close the festival with a bang this weekend. David Rockwell's Imagination Playground (opens in new tab) will make a guest appearance, while Squire and Partners are organizing a picnic over the pavement for visitors. And the recently opened Kings Cross Filling Station, designed by Carmody Groarke (opens in new tab) architects, will provide evenings of exiting conversation with its series of talks and events.

There is already talk about turning the biannual festival into an annual event. So, here's hoping London will play host to another inspiring selection of architectural events in the summer of 2013.

Close up view of the circular light wood structure on Union Street with multiple pieces of paper with print attached to it and sandbags placed underneath

As part of the Bankside Urban Forest scheme and Better Bankside, the Union Press invited local residents, journalists and even passers-by to create a one off publication

(Image credit: TBC)

Two men in hi-vis clothing with one driving a rolling machine and the other holding the printing press in place by standing on it. They are in the middle of a road

The Union Press’ ad hoc printing took place in the street

(Image credit: TBC)

Two men in hi-vis clothing placing a large sheet of paper over a painted piece of wood. They are in the middle of a road

The printing in action

(Image credit: TBC)

View of Gibbon's Rent alley during the day. There are multiple buildings, a brick wall with a metal deterrent on top and a view of The Shard in the distance

The tiny street of Gibbon's Rent in Southwark - pictured before its festival transformation...
Photography by Mikey Lee

(Image credit: Mikey Lee)

View of Gibbon's Rent alley with multiple green plants in grey and green pots of varying heights during the day

... and after. Emerging Australian architect, Andrew Burns, and award-winning landscape architect, Sarah Eberle, turned it into a vibrant community garden
Photography by Mikey Lee

(Image credit: Mikey Lee)

View of Gibbon's Rent alley filled with people and green plants in grey and green pots during the day

The Gibbon's Rent garden hosted the London Festival of Architecture’s opening party

(Image credit: Mikey Lee)

View from above of Gibbon's Rent alley filled with people and green plants in grey pots

The Gibbon's Rent garden hosted the London Festival of Architecture’s opening party
Photography by Mikey Lee

(Image credit: Mikey Lee)

View of the 'Bureau Spectacular: Three Little Words' exhibition from outside through two windows. White, blue and pink installations can be seen along with a number of people

The 'Bureau Spectacular: Three Little Words' exhibition at the Architecture Foundation's Project Space features an installation inspired by Jimenez Lai's architectural comic strips
Photography courtesy of Daniel Hewitt

(Image credit: Daniel Hewitt)

Close up view of a white and pink installation through which you can see another white and blue installation and a person in the distance

Installation view at the Architecture Foundation's Project Space
Photography courtesy of Daniel Hewitt

(Image credit: Daniel Hewitt)

View of a white and blue installation which has a man dressed in yellow sitting inside it talking to a woman who is standing up. Through the centre of the installation you can see another white and pink installation and several other people

'I see architecture as hard on the outside and soft on the inside', said Jimenez Lai at the opening of the exhibition
Photography courtesy of Daniel Hewitt

(Image credit: Daniel Hewitt)

View of a black and red structure on stoney ground under a cloudy blue sky. There are buildings and several people in the background

London Pleasure Gardens is the capital’s newest open air festival and events venue at the Royal Victoria Docks
Photography by Agnese Sanvito

(Image credit: Agnese Sanvito)

Alternative view of a black and red structure on stoney ground under a cloudy blue sky. There are buildings, an ice cream van and several people in the background

Comprising follies and pop up installations, including an oyster bar, the London Pleasure Gardens launched during the festival and will remain open for the rest of the summer
Photography by Agnese Sanvito

(Image credit: Agnese Sanvito)

Interior view of a black and red structure with checked flooring. There are several people sitting inside and two people can be seen outside through a square opening at the back

The RIBA London spearheaded a series of architectural installations in the gardens
Photography by Agnese Sanvito

(Image credit: Agnese Sanvito)

View of two orange and off-white coloured mini houses with various black designs all over. There is a man standing on top of the orange house and several people sitting on the ground close by. In the background there is fencing, hoarding, greenery and a building

The spirit of the park matches the festival’s ‘Playful City’ theme perfectly
Photography by Agnese Sanvito

(Image credit: Agnese Sanvito)

View of The Oyster Bar by Visitor Studio which has a black and wooden structure. There are several people inside and there is a white gazebo and greenery close by

The Oyster Bar by Visitor Studio is one of the London Pleasure Gardens key attractions
Photography by Agnese Sanvito

(Image credit: Agnese Sanvito)

View of people sitting on a curved wooden bench under a blue cloudy sky. There is a building, greenery and several people in the background

The RIBA London was also behind the Pews & Perches competition, the products of which are installed around the gardens
Photography by Agnese Sanvito

(Image credit: Agnese Sanvito)

View of a metal and wood panel bench by architecture student Edward Grocott. There are several people sitting on the bench and standing near it. Buildings can be seen in the background along with water at Royal Victoria Docks

Visitors take a break on a bench by architecture student Edward Grocott
Photography by Agnese Sanvito

(Image credit: Agnese Sanvito)

View of Imagine National Playground by David Rockwell - a play area with blue building blocks and pieces. There are three children playing in the grassy playground and greenery in the background

David Rockwell’s Imagine National Playground will be part of the Kings Cross hub during the 2012 London Festival of Architecture this weekend
Courtesy of Imagination Playground by David Rockwell

(Image credit: TBC)

View of a woman in a black dress on a wooden and rope swing. Behind the swing is a bar with shelves of drinks and a sign in front that reads 'Come and play at King's Cross

Squire and Partners are planning an urban picnic at Kings Cross, which includes the St Chad's Place swing
Photography courtesy Agnese Sanvito

(Image credit: Agnese Sanvito)

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).