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MAY 2014

a+u Feature on Somerville College Accommodation

The Japanese journal a+u has published an account of the practice’s student accommodation for Somerville College, Oxford. The theme of this month’s publication is ‘New Landscapes of Wooden Architecture’ and features an international selection of projects that explore new aspects of wood technology and its potential within cities. The article gives a description on the themes and processes behind the project, placing it within the context of the historic university city and the surrounding Radcliffe Infirmary Quarter.

It is illustrated with working details of the bespoke timber glazing for the stair tower lanterns, as well as the prefabricated timber projecting bay window units for the student bedrooms, with their integral desk and bench seat overlooking the street.

‘We chose to make the glazed elements in the stair towers and student rooms in wood because we wanted them to be like warm lanterns, internally lit in the evening, bringing light to the narrow street…Wood allowed us to make more three-dimensional details…we owe a debt to Louis Kahn’s work at Philip Exeter Academy Library.’  NM


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.