The 2017 London Festival of Architecture brings nostalgia and memory to the fore
The London Festival of Architecture returns for its 13th edition, running from 1 – 30 June, centred on the theme of ‘memory’ and directed by Tamsie Thomson, previously director of RIBA London.
The festival brings together a diverse programme of over 450 events including talks from front running architects such as Richard Rogers and Kengo Kuma who have been strategic to shaping the city’s urban environments, as well as a plethora of walking tours and open studios across the capital, which offer more nuanced and focused angles on this year’s theme.
Architecture is central to how we formulate memories – we instinctively pin them to places and environments. A public square, doorway, park or even a curb, can recall an experience previously forgotten, as if you were retracing your own historic steps. Memory is an inherently human experience, and consequently a focus of the festival’s programming is housing estates, explored in relation to London’s current housing crisis.
Insight into the newest housing developments changing the landscape of London is revealed by WilkinsonEyre at Battersea Power Station and Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners at the Riverlight development in Nine Elms conducting tours of the sites, while Alison Brooks presents an exhibition questioning future estate regeneration models, Mae Architects discuss the contemporary relevance of the decades old Boundary and Golden Lanes Estates and artist Mark Aitken presents a photographic series in the soon to be demolished Cressingham Gardens estate near Brixton.
Many of the projects initiate collaborations between architects, artists, students, writers, academics and members of the community, creating a healthy space for critical, opposing and diverse opinions. And many architecture practices are throwing open their doors for visitors to explore studios, see exhibitions and meet the people working on projects across their city.
A must visit ‘hub’ of the LFA is the Royal Docks area, where the Carlsberg Tetley Building is hosting an immersive theatre experience and tours of the local Silvertown area are being led. This area is at the beginning of a period of redevelopment, so it is a nice moment to head east, explore some derelict buildings and make some memories.
For a further taste of architectural nostalgia, the ArchFilmFest, which is running concurrently in partnership with the LFA, will explore historic urban landscapes of New York through The Fountainhead (1949), Paris through Playtime (1967) and Liverpool through Of Time and the City (2008). While exploring how film can also create fictive environments (Los Angeles plays itself, 2003, or Synecdoche, New York, 2008) that might make us question where the line between memory and imagination falls.
In a city such as London that is constantly in flux, it is important to step back and consider which memories might be at risk of being forgotten, which ones should definitely be forgotten, and the role architecture can play in creating happy new ones.