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MAY 2014

A Day Out Of The Office

We breathlessly boarded the 08.55 to Darlington. Like skilled waitresses we had kept our homemade, oversized, A1 box perfectly level throughout our chase through Kings Cross Station.  The immaculate foam-board creation fitted perfectly on top of a  double-seat on the near-empty train. East-Coast mainline rules are clear however; the guard reminded us that seats are for people only and at Peterborough we were duly ordered to deliver our carefully crafted friend to the dedicated luggage wagon at the front of the train.

The box was purposefully constructed to house a 1:150 context model of Bishop Auckland Town Square with ‘slot-inable’ building options for the site in question.  The model was made for a meeting with Durham County Council and English Heritage at Auckland Castle that same afternoon.
Despite our ticket inspector’s fussiness, we were carried to our destination with the box and its contents in good order.

After a communal lunch with the review panel, the dozen-odd experts collected themselves around a table where the model had been assembled. The object took up so much space that notebooks occasionally and apologetically slid from the edges of the table.

For the following three hours, a multitude of building blocks representing different proposals for the new Welcome Building were inserted into the corner site. The new building is to link town and castle, engaging the new with the old, with our site at the axis of this pirouetting dance.
As we waltzed around the model, interchanging different pieces into our self-made jigsaw, a negotiation occurred between the many different people around the room, a parallel perhaps to the building itself.

During the second part of the afternoon, the presentation became more conceptual. The tower – the key feature of the proposal – was discussed in its meaning, shape and materiality. Was it a campanile, a siege tower, a lighthouse or a scaffold? Each version was debated with varying levels of approval or skepticism. We answered  questions by pulling off bits of white card or finding any handy props to add on to the model; notepads, milk jugs and i-phones were used.
We left the meeting feeling excited, there was only this box to get all the way back to the office.

Image shows part of the paper model, with multiple versions scattered about, sitting on a windowsill after the meeting.

Anne Schroell studied at the Bartlett School of Architecture. She worked for Tonkin Liu and De Matos Storey Ryan as well as practices in Luxembourg and Austria before joining Niall McLaughlin Architects in 2006.  The main projects Anne worked on are Deal Pier Café in Kent, Somerville College Student Accommodation in Oxford, Peabody Housing in London. She is currently running the Auckland Castle project which consists of 2 new buildings. One is a new gallery attached to the castle and the other is the Welcome Building and Tower for orientation and ticketing.


MARCH 2014

Assyrian Carpet

At the Assyrian collection at the British Museum, set amongst the colossal gateways of winged beasts with human heads and resplendent reliefs of bloody scenes from lion hunts, there is a large gypsum alabaster stone panel that was once a decoratively carved and painted door sill made up of inter-weaving patterns and borders, in imitation of a magnificent carpet.

Now wall-mounted in its current home, its intricacies can be clearly admired. Alabaster was discovered by the Assyrians circa 879BC to be ideal for carving fine ornament detail, and huge pieces were accordingly quarried, transported and installed as panels in the internal rooms of royal palaces where reliefs or pattern befitting a king would be carved with an astonishing level of skill within a surface depth of 10-15mm.

For Niall McLaughlin Architects T1 project, carried out for Argent on the King’s Cross redevelopment site, a motif from this ancient panel is being incorporated, along with other patterns from ancient Egypt to the twentieth century, into a number of repeating pre-cast elements that will form the building’s decorative facades and bring this enigmatic piece of deracinated design a new lease of life.

We are currently working towards achieving this in a collaboration with the client and the project’s contractor and a team of architectural pre-cast specialists. After carefully interpreting the motif and integrating it into the facade scheme; the proposed design is now being taken forward by mould makers who are utilising 3D routers to form prototypes of a pattern mould. The first results, which are being awaited with no little anticipation by the design team, will be analysed and the depth and colour of the reliefs carefully calibrated. Within a short period of time the small extract of pattern from an Assyrian carpet in existence nearly three thousand years ago will have a physical presence as part of a tapestry of other pre-cast components on this distinctive building forming, part of this ambitious development in the centre of London.

Image of Assyrian carpet pattern engraved in stone from Gottfried Semper Style in the Technical and Tectonic Arts; or, Practical Aesthetics, Getty Publications, 2004

Tim Burton studied architecture at London Metropolitan University and the ETH Zürich after a previous degree in Fine Art and Art History at Goldsmith’s College and experience within the film industry. He has also worked for Gramazio and Kohler’s Research Chair for Architecture and Digital Fabrication. Tim joined Niall McLaughlin Architects in 2012.  Since joining the practice, he has worked on a Peabody housing project in Whitechapel and the T1 Building for Argent in London’s Kings Cross. The T1 Building is a large mixed use development containing a district energy centre, an indoor sports pitch, car parking, shops, bars and 80 apartments.