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THE CULTURE SHOW FKA Z473H/01 BRD000000
Hello and welcome to the Culture Show.
This week, we're all about architecture,
from the pants to the prize winning, from "eh?" to the "ooh!"
We've got the full site survey.
Coming up tonight...
my pick of the shortlist for this year's Stirling Prize.
What do young architects get up to when money's tight?
The joy of self build.
And hold on to your hard hats, it's the Carbuncle Cup.
This Saturday, we'll find out which building has won
the 2012 RIBA Stirling Prize.
I've been taking a look
at the nominees of the UK's
most prestigious architecture award.
Cities can be instantly recognised by the standout buildings
on their skylines.
But this year's Stirling Prize shortlist reflects a change from pointlessly protruding architecture
towards a more down-to-earth kind of building.
Most of these wouldn't jump out at you if you were scanning the skyline, but that's the point.
This is an exciting return to a richer, more intelligent kind of architecture.
Back on the shortlist is Sir David Chipperfield,
this time with the Hepworth Museum in Wakefield,
built as a tribute to the artist Barbara Hepworth.
Eye-catching, yes, but it belongs in its surroundings.
And Stanton Williams' Sainsbury Laboratory at Cambridge University,
built to work in harmony with the botanic gardens cherished by the local community.
There's a confident understatement here, a move away from shiny,
glossy monoliths, towards something you might call the anti-icon.
Architecture without bells and whistles,
but with sensitivity and intelligence.
And no-one sums this up more than superstar architect Rem Koolhaas,
ironically known for his dislike of ego-led design,
with two buildings on the shortlist.
The first, Maggie's Cancer Care Centre in Glasgow,
a ring of interlocking rectangular spaces,
set in the grounds of Gartnavel Hospital.
The second, New Court,
is a series of stacked glass blocks in the city of London,
a revamped headquarters for the Rothschild Bank, which sits next
to showstoppers such as The Gherkin, but this is far less flamboyant.
If you look at other skyscrapers that have gone up
recently around the city, they are kind of logo architecture.
But your building is quite sort of subtle and layered.
First of all, I always have liked modest buildings.
But this has been reinforced in the last ten years,
simply because I could see architecture being pushed
towards an increasingly extreme part of this spectrum.
And I really felt that, if we all hang out there,
we'll fall into a cliff, and...
And that's what happened!
And therefore, it's really important to withdraw from it.
How did you find that went down with clients, to begin with,
the kind of anti-icon approach?
Interestingly enough, it is quite a hard sell...
..I notice. And we rarely declare it in the beginning.
Do you think subtlety will become more of a common quality?
Subtlety will triumph?
-Do you think it will?
-Subtlety will triumph? No, I don't think so.
I think there are too many...
The sheer quantities we are dealing with, the economic system,
the kind of political back and forth.
All of that rule will not really lead to a mass outbreak of subtlety.
You can be confident in that.
The next building on the shortlist is far from subtle.
In fact, it's the most seen building this summer in the whole world,
the Olympic Stadium.
But with its recycled materials and design to be part-dismantled,
it has less of an impact than previous stadiums.
But enough of Olympic glory,
the last building on the list is the one I'm most excited about.
The Lyric Theatre in Belfast stands head and shoulders above the rest,
just not literally, of course.
This is the fourth Stirling Prize nomination
for architects O'Donnell and Tuomey, but these two don't do tricks.
Their architecture is free from ostentatious overstatements.
Their greatest efforts are put into the feel of the building.
It's got an amazing smell, hasn't it? It's very woody.
-It feels like being inside a...
-Inside a violin case.
-That's quite intentional.
-But it is all handmade and timber, yeah,
-and it is all jointed together by craftsmen.
-It feels like a kind of warm cave.
-There's something very cavernous about it.
-That's a nice description.
The theatre has been designed to create a sense of community
by creasing the seating so the audience can see each other, as well as a clear view of the stage.
But as well as taking care of the enormous technical requirements
of the theatre, they have remained true to their ethos of designing strong lasting buildings.
There's been a huge reaction over the last few years,
probably since the economic crisis here, against that kind of shiny
iconography that really dominated
in the Noughties and the late '90s. Do you see that as well?
I don't know. I think it's hard to say.
-We've never done shiny, really.
-You haven't. That's what I mean.
So the work we're doing now relates very much
in the character of materials.
I think we're consciously trying to make something
that feels contemporary and works for its function, but that doesn't feel, kind of, shiny new.
I would hope actually that as soon as this building is no longer new,
that you wouldn't think about it as new, you would just think about it
as part of the ground of Belfast.
You've been on the shortlist now quite a few times.
Do you think that architecture's had a turn?
Do you think this is your moment?
Some people asked us earlier, how would it feel if you won?
And I have to say, I've no idea how it would feel if we won, but I know
exactly how it will feel if we lose, because I've done that three times!
The Lyric began in the founder's front room and it's still got
a really homely feel, which is quite a feat in a building this civic.
It's made of warm tactile materials, like wood, concrete and brick.
It's an impeccably-made building,
which, trust me, is really rare in the UK.
And full of such deft touches and such complexity.
We can look up there, and look up there, and look over there,
so that every time you come back here,
there's something new to explore.
It's a very rich building.
In fact, it's as close to perfection
in a piece of architecture as you're likely to find.
This year's Stirling Prize shortlist
is a welcome return to architecture with heart.
Buildings that sit in context with their surroundings,
and work perfectly for their purpose.
The Hepworth Museum.
The Sainsbury Laboratory.
Koolhaas's Maggie's Centre
and New Court.
The Olympic Stadium
and the Lyric Theatre.
I've got absolutely no idea which building
the Stirling Prize judges are going to plump for,
but this one's definitely my winner.
I reckon this is the year we see the end
of that star-chitect, show-off kind of building,
and not before time.
Who knows how the recession's
really going to affect architecture in the future.
For now, let's enjoy what we might look back on
as a bit of a golden age in architecture.
Next, we're all familiar with the idea
that our home is our castle,
but these days, it seems many Brits
dream of building their own place as well as owning it.
Charlie Luxton thinks they've got just the right idea.
When you hear the words, "self build," what do YOU think of?
Chances are, you probably imagine something like this.
A grand design.
built with vision and care.
And who lives in a house like this?
None other than the chair
of the National Self Build Association, Ted Stevens.
DOGS PANTS Hello! Hello, Ted!
-Hello, fellas, how are you?
-You all right?
-Are you well?
-Yeah, come on in. Come on in.
Lovely. Look at this view!
That is beautiful, isn't it?
What a wonderful location!
Yes, great location on a sunny day!
So, as a self builder, did you sort of roll up your sleeves
and sort of build it yourself?
Well, it's a bit of a misnomer, self building,
people think you have to lay the bricks yourself
if you're doing a self build, but really, that isn't the way.
As I said, the vast majority of people
hire a builder to do the guts.
-Get the experts in?
Because this is one of the extraordinary things
about self build, isn't it?
That this country is incredibly behind
the rest of Europe and the rest of the world
in the amount of self build that we do?
Yeah. It's very mainstream in every other country.
About half of all the homes in most European countries
are built by people who hire an architect and builder,
or do a little bit of the work themselves.
But it's as easy as falling off a log in those countries.
Whereas in England, it's only about one in 20 homes.
It's about 5% of housing in England
is self-delivery, self build.
Currently, and yet, it's 50% in nearly every other country.
What's the role of self build
in delivering the masses of housing we need to build in this country?
Well, the big change will come
when groups of people are involved in schemes.
So rather than individuals like me building a single house,
when a gang of ten and 20 people get together,
perhaps with a developer,
perhaps with an architect or a contractor working with them,
and then you'll get real scale.
And that's the way they do it in Europe.
The shining example of this right now
is Almere in the Netherlands.
3,000 new homes,
all of them self-delivered.
There are eight simple rules to follow, which cover the height
and how close to the edge of the plot people can build.
But after that, they're left to get on with it.
And instead of it being a bit of a mess, as many feared,
Almere is in fact a really vibrant, stimulating environment,
where a two-bedroom apartment will set you back just £69,000.
So you're now actually beginning to see government support for this,
because I know when I first started looking at this sector ten years ago,
there was basically no government policy on self build -
I mean, that is beginning to change, isn't it?
It has changed and the current government
have been really supportive of it.
So we've got a £30 million investment fund
to help groups get projects away,
and the biggest thing has been
the change to the planning regulations.
So now, for example, every planning authority in the UK
has got to measure the demand there is in their area
for people who want to build their own home
and they've got to make some provision for it.
That means they've got to make land available
or encourage self build to happen in some way.
In the past, that never happened. Never happened at all.
So, finally, it seems as though, here in the UK,
we're waking up to the potential of self build
to deliver mass housing.
And here in Bristol is one of the early exemplars
of this whole approach. It's Ashley Vale.
Ashley Vale is a brilliant example
of what can happen when people work together.
This site was going to be turned into a bunch of generic boxes
by one of the big developers,
but the locals got organised and convinced the council
to sell the site to them instead,
and set about building their own development.
We've got about 40 homes on the site.
Right, so, I mean, that's not just one person building a house.
That's quite a serious development delivered through self build.
Delivered through self build, but more importantly,
delivered through community.
So the community arranged, took on the site,
the community got people involved in the process,
and it was people from the community that then
got involved in actually building their own home.
So, because we came up with 20 plots and some units in the middle,
it allowed us to get the plot prices down to around £25-£45,000.
-Which included the infrastructure, as well.
That is cheap! That is REALLY cheap!
What's the cost to then build a house?
Well, how long is a piece of string?!
You know, a lot of the houses on this site were probably built
between a cost of about £40,000
up to probably about £120,000 for the build cost.
Right, so some people in this development
have got themselves a house for about £75,000 or £80,000?
Now, you're not just getting
a house that's cheaper,
but you're getting something
that you've been involved in the process, which is just...
you know, you almost can't put value to that.
If the government is keen for the housing sector
to help jumpstart our ailing economy,
then it seems to me self build is a perfect model.
Developer-led projects are all about maximising profit,
and those profits go straight to their shareholders.
Self-build, the other hand, is all about spreading the money locally.
The money you pay a local joiner on a Friday is going to find its way
into a local curry house that night,
and into local shops the following day.
Could these new self build projects hold the key
to bringing us out of recession?
In Leeds, The Lilac Project is now underway.
It's a co-housing scheme
with a real emphasis on sustainability.
What's it going to look like when it's finished?
These are the two-storey houses.
There's houses here.
In here, there'll be a beautifully landscaped area,
with food and play all happening here.
There'll be a pond in the middle.
'The walls of these houses are made from - wait for it - straw.
'ModCell is a system where bales are pinned together
'with sharpened wooden broom handles, inside a timber frame,
'which is then rendered with lime.
'It's cheap, it's plentiful, and it's done locally.
'ModCell have set up a flying factory at a nearby farm,
'keeping transport costs down.'
The timber cladding, lime render,
-super insulated, super airtight.
Is it really affordable?
I mean, how much is your house going to cost?
And what is going to be the running costs?
The energy bill is going to be the heating bill,
which is only going to be about £60 a year.
£60 a year, to have a nice, warm home?
-Can't wait! Can't wait!
-Brilliant, isn't it?!
More sustainable, cheaper houses. What's not to love?
Could it be that we're on the cusp of a revolution?
Let's say you're interested in a self build.
What we need to do to get this thing to speed up?
To make this revolution happen?
Well, it's about people in the end,
and the power that they've got. So I would call on groups of people,
young people, it's perfect for them.
Make a bit of noise. You don't have to set fire to cars,
but convince people in councils
and in planning authorities that it's a good way of building,
and THEN, then, it really will take off.
Now, you may not have heard of the Carbuncle Cup,
but the clue's in the name.
This is the one gong over which no architect gloats.
The organisers hope that by spotlighting the bad,
they might encourage the good.
I met up with one of this year's judges, Owen Hatherley,
to take a tour around some of Britain's most 'orrible edifices.
A lot of modern buildings in Britain, I think, look a bit ugly.
You don't need me, or Prince Charles, to tell you this.
But what is proposed seems to me
like a monstrous carbuncle.
Just look around you. And take a look at something like this.
Pig-ugly stuff! Lots of it.
Cluttering up the streets, offending my eye at every turn.
In 2006, architectural journal Building Design
launched its controversial Carbuncle Cup.
The cup is awarded to any architect
whose work over the previous 12 months
has not quite come up to the aesthetic standards
of, say, Bob the Builder.
The roll call of previous winners has not been pretty.
This year, a strong field of ham-fisted,
comical constructions made the list.
Among the nominees were Anish Kapoor's Olympic commission,
For once, words fail me.
A library in Birmingham with a strange shard
sticking out of the end.
And Belfast's Titanic Museum, which is meant to represent
the collision of the famous ocean liner
with the iceberg that sank it.
Developers and architects hate this award and who can blame them?
Who'd want to win it?
But in an age of shoddily designed,
over-marketed, profit-driven architecture,
we need this prize more than ever before.
The writer Owen Hatherley
has spent the last few years
surveying the state of our architecture
in his two books, A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain,
and his latest, A New Kind of Bleak.
He's also served as a judge on the Carbuncle panel,
so who better to be my guide around this year's winner,
the Cutty Sark.
Owen, why did you pick this building?
It was partly due to the fact that
it took something that worked quite well
architecturally and as public space,
and they've managed to make it crap.
You can sort of see that the idea was, you know,
once it sailed on the sea,
and now it's going to sail on some, like, sea of glass.
And the whole idea is just completely infantile.
Why do you think they've raised it up
and encased it in this glass donut?
I think there's two reasons,
one of which is so people can go, "Ooh, wow!"
And feel that the 12 quid that they've spent on it is worthwhile.
On the other, and I quote, was
"to create a corporate function room to rival that of Tate Modern."
-Was it a hard choice this year?
Usually, there's a bit of a fight over it.
But this time, it was unanimous,
which I think says a lot about this building.
There was just complete agreement
that this was the worst building built in the last year.
How does it go down with architects and developers
that win this prize, or are nominated?
Sometimes they take it with a certain amount of irony.
The developers of Mann Island in Liverpool, which was nominated,
contacted us to tell us it was finished. It'd been nominated previously
but wasn't eligible, because it was under construction.
So finally, we could get at it.
They're probably quite relieved it didn't actually win!
But, you know, sometimes it's taken with a certain amount of irony.
This year's shortlist was controversial, wasn't it?
Yes, this year, it went to Nicholas Grimshaw,
who's quite a well-respected architect,
designed a lot of important things, like the Waterloo Eurostar terminal
and Oxford Ice Rink, and lots of things that are very well regarded.
And we got much more response this time -
dozens and dozens of letters.
The general gist seems to be, you know,
"This can't be the winner! It's by Grimshaw!
"He's a good architect."
And I think, in many ways, that's all the more reason to give it to him.
You know, that he should know better.
So what's the point of the prize?
One of the reasons for it is, I don't think people,
especially in the world of architecture itself,
realise how bad British architecture actually is.
That we've, especially in the last 15 years,
but really for quite some time,
tolerated really, really, really, bad buildings.
And it's just a way of going,
"Stop doing this, please!"
It's a sort of naming and shaming thing, really.
That's the idea behind it.
And hoping desperately that people might take heed.
And do you think they're taking heed?
It's been going for six years now!
No! But six years isn't a long time.
Got plenty of time to drive the point home, I think.
Next tonight, in such a grim economic climate,
young and inexperienced architects
must have nothing more to do than sharpen their pencils, right?
Wrong. Here's Olly Wainwright.
The architecture of the 20th century
can be understood as the economy made real.
A physical barometer of financial capital.
In times of recession, cities are often left with half-finished stumps,
haunted by the ghosts of former boom times,
while architects are left with time on their hands.
But in the past, these periods have proved to be
some of the most creative and dynamic,
with optimistic new movements
emerging from the depths of economic gloom.
Out of the 1930s depression came the brave new world of modernism,
and the glamour of deco.
The oil crisis of the '70s spawned futuristic ecological utopias,
and marked the beginnings of sustainable design.
While the '90s downturn saw a cool new wave of minimalist chic,
a Puritan backlash against the excesses of the '80s.
In this recession, the current generation of graduates is taking advantage
of the glut of empty spaces, to try out new ways of working.
Young collective, Assemble,
have transformed an abandoned warehouse into both their workshop
and a lively cultural space, called Sugarhouse Studios.
But their first project was creating a temporary cinema
within the shell of an abandoned petrol station.
We started by noticing the multitude of empty petrol stations in London,
and we thought they presented an amazing opportunity
to turn this kind of ex- bit of automobile infrastructure
into a kind of new type of public space.
We looked at all the classic cinematic iconography,
like flip-up cinema seats and beautiful red velvet curtains,
and we tried to figure out ways
of remaking them with a very limited budget.
Assemble's next project, Folly For a Flyover,
posed as a building trapped beneath A12 motorway.
Influenced by red brick Hackney houses nearby,
it was hand-built by volunteers with reclaimed local materials,
and for a six-week period, hosted a pop-up program
of canal side cinema, performance and play.
That was really about, kind of, exploring the potential
for an as-yet unused space created when the motorway was built,
to, kind of, offer a new type of public space in the area.
And the fact that things which make it dangerous, or make it unused,
like being undercover and kind of slightly out of the way,
can actually be qualities and assets,
if they're celebrated in the right way.
I mean, this is quite unusual work for architects to be doing.
Do you think the role of the architect is changing,
or has changed, since the recession?
I suppose we didn't want to get stuck behind a desk,
and we're interested in the kind of,
the way things were built,
and the way nails went into wood,
as much as the decisions
about which sites were used and how things were designed.
Just around the corner at Three Mills,
a young practice, who call themselves We Made That,
have worked in close consultation with the local community
to create a new kind of play space, Wild Kingdom.
The site was re-landscaped last year,
and from that landscaping,
they found lots and lots of lumps of granite,
and bits and pieces.
So we try to be quite opportunistic
with how we use those things.
How we use this landform to create something that's playable.
It was very much, I think, about
almost making it appear like it grew out of the landscape.
You have some things that natural, some things reclaimed from site,
and some things that are brought in as new,
but they come together to create this slightly other environment,
which is what we're always aiming for with the Wild Kingdom.
In the 90s recession, lots of practices got by doing extensions for rich people,
whereas your work is engaged with the public sector.
Is that a change, across the board?
It was an architect that told me
the best time to set up a practice is in a recession,
because you're doing it because you love it,
and finding projects you're interested in.
You don't do it because you can make a fast buck,
you do it because you're passionate about doing that.
And if you do that, and you can do it during a recession,
then you can certainly survive into the future.
So I'm optimistic.
The new wave of young designers
are taking the lead with a hands-on approach,
and building their projects themselves,
like this clever theatre-come-bar space in Hackney Wick.
A lot of our designs sort of start out
with a set of rules that are given
by the dimensions of the scaffold boards.
So the stadium seating,
two boards up, three boards back,
and that's kind of where you start with.
We've used school chairs and, I think,
chairs from Indian restaurants
that have been cut down and kind of re-upholstered.
And then the lino which lines all of the vertical surfaces
was from the media centre of the Olympic Park.
And they had a couple of thousand square foot of it or something,
so we had some of that, and whacked that up.
I mean, one of the biggest things here was, like,
the bar has got to make money to fund the theatre,
but you can't have noise from the bar and restaurant.
So we were trying to separate the sound barrier,
and getting the lino
from the Olympics was one of the biggest parts of that.
Practice's first commission was to make a temporary bar
for the roof of a multi-storey car park in Peckham.
Frank's Cafe was constructed
from scaffolding planks, ratchet straps, and a big, red tarpaulin,
all put together by an army of volunteers
in just 25 days.
We decided it was a summer project. It was going to be fun.
And then we just e-mailed all our friends.
And loads of them had just finished university,
and so a troupe turned up.
And 300 scaffolding boards arrived at the bottom of the car park.
So the first challenge was working out
how to get them from the bottom to the top.
It was kind of an amazing place to be.
It felt like this island above the city
and beyond all bureaucracy,
and beyond normal rules.
And we were on that island with our friends,
building this crazy thing,
which we didn't really have any expectations
of what it would be, beyond completing it.
While most of these projects are temporary structures, put up for fleeting festivities,
they are causing important ripples.
They're driven by a light-footed,
bottom-up approach, and an energetic desire to build,
with as much interest in the process as the final product.
It's a promising start.
That's just about it for tonight.
Join us next week to look at the work
of New York artist, Rashid Johnson,
and check out Sundance hit, Beasts of the Southern Wild.
We'll leave you tonight with DJ Roger Sanchez,
and his musical tribute to the formidable architect, Zaha Hadid.
MUSIC: "Zaha Hadid" by Roger Sanchez
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd