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Six of the Best

Jan 12 2007 13:48
Nick Simpson
A guide to some stunning feats of engineering in London that you may have missed.
Palestra - An ideal example of green development

Blinded by fluid mechanics coursework and yearly fieldtrips it is easy to lose track of what exactly we are doing here at Imperial. Thankfully we live in London, unique in the maintenance of it?s old street pattern, new buildings tend to be individual rather than generic high-rise blocks that typify American skylines. We all know of Swiss Re and Lloyds Building along with the smattering of other superstar architect designs found in the City of London but there is a huge range of really innovative structures to be found elsewhere. To help you on your way I have hand picked six projects, all local to central(ish) London that really inspire me, so here goes:

Palestra, 197 Blackfriars Road, Southwark

Opened in July of this year, Palestra is the most recently completed building in this list. The architects, AMC Alsop, have provided a highly flexible floor plan while a combination of roof top photovoltaic cells and 14 wind turbines will reduce the carbon emission of the building by 3,300 tonnes during the building?s lifetime. Achieving a BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) rating of Very Good the structure sets a high standard in environmentally friendly building with a minimal carbon footprint without loss of all important functionality.

Broadgate Tower, City of London

Broadgate Tower

Still under construction, the knife like Broadgate Tower and accompanying 201 Bishopsgate office complex lies north of Liverpool Street station. Train lines passing underneath the site severely limit foundation solutions, the result is a huge structure spanning across the train lines and supporting a corner of the Tower itself, creating a public plaza below. Designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill with the contractor Bovis Land Lease the design is not dissimilar from the forthcoming Minerva Tower by Nicholas Grimshaw. The 35 storey tower will feature the worlds first double-decker hall-call lifts, a step forward in mass vertical transport supplied by KONE. Don?t miss out on seeing the unclad superstructure being erected behind Exchange House, another iconic SOM building near Liverpool Street Station.

Vauxhall Bus Interchange, Vauxhall Cross

Vauxhall Bus Interchange

Vauxhall Bus Station is a ribbon like stainless structure providing shelter for what is now the second busiest bus station in London (after Victoria). Servicing over 2,000 buses a day the Arup design is a balanced mix of style and utility. A large inclined cantilever at the northern end of the structure dips south and houses 200 sq metres of photovoltaic cells, providing a third of the bus stations power demand. Meanwhile a mild steel portal frame carries the stainless steel cladding through cold rolled purlins. The cladding thickens at the bottom of the structure (from 1.6mm to 2.0mm) to cope with accidental impact loads while its bright, durable finish does not tarnish with air pollution. Meanwhile the St Georges development opposite the bus station is not yet compete yet the facade is already showing signs of darkening. The development doesn?t just stop at the station itself, the project improved public services with public lavatories while pedestrian access to the nearby overland and underground rail networks was revamped. Less obvious is the improved traffic management helping reduce congestion by creating special routes for buses to circulate around the station.

Floral Street Bridge, Royal Ballet School, Covent Garden

Floral Street Bridge

Floral Street Bridge links two side of the Royal Ballet School at Covent Garden. The design is by Wilikinson Eyre Architects, an internationally award winning British firm who also worked on the phenomenal Gateshead Millennium Bridge and Pier 6 Footbridge at Gatwick Airport. The structural system devised by Flint Neill Partnership consist of a box section spine beam spanning between two buildings, across a narrow street. It carries 23 square hoops, each rotating 4 degrees to create the spiraling envelope. Site constraints in the busy tourist district of Covent Garden eliminated the possibility of on site construction so the bridge was assembled off site before being transported by lorry to the location and lifted into position. The project cost a total of £450,000 when completed in 2003.

Queen Elizabeth II Great Court Roof, The British Museum

The British Museum

Ted Happold, a founder of the Buro Happold consultancy is well known for championing the use of light weight timber gridshells. A gridshell, such as that used on the perimeter of St. Mary?s Axe Tower is a discretisation of a shell by replacing the continuous surface with nodes interlinked by members. A perfect Happold example is the timber gridshell covering the Queen Elizabeth II Great Court at the British Museum creates the largest enclosed courtyard in Europe. Providing vast amounts of natural light to the exhibits, solar gain is controlled by natural and perimeter displacement ventilation. The three way spanning shell is supported on its perimeter by 20 columns transferring load directly to the foundations rather than on to the pre-exisitng surrounding structure. The double glazed envelope provides a stable environment and extension to the original 1823 Robert Smirke building. It manages to maintain the temperature with in 1 degree Celsius and relative humidity within 5%, a requirement of the valuable exhibits held within.

Serpentine Gallery Pavillion 2002, Battersea Power Station

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion

For many years Arup has held the contract to develop the annual Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in Kensington Gardens. The latest Rem Koolhaas offering has dominated the departments homepage for months but the 2002 design by Japanese architect Toyo Ito is still in use. Bought up as a marketing pavilion by Parkview International, developers of the Battersea power station site, it is hoped this striking design will help stimulate the much needed redevelopment around the Sir Giles Gilbert Scott monster. Cecil Balmond (head of Arup?s Advanced Geometry Unit) helped develop an algorithm which creates the pavilions unique geometry. This in itself raised a new set of problems; far beyond the scope of existing codes the thin members required specialized iterative non-linear analysis to ensure the extreme slenderness would not result in buckling. To indicate how slender these members really are, the heat distortion from welding the separate panels of the structure had to be considered in the design. In the final design, a steel envelope is coupled with a bare concrete floor slabs to form the second storey.

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Discussion about “Six of the Best”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
1. david   
Jun 22 2009 11:12

nice work but i would require the floor-plans of the six especially the Vauxhall interchange as it relates to sustainable architecture

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