Tag Archives: Engineering

Brutalism 50 years before Brutalism

Roof of entrance hall

Roof of entrance hall

I recently had the good fortune to pass through Dornach, effectively a suburb of Basel and an area very close to the German, Swiss and French borders. This unusual location is one reason why the the Austrian thinker and philosopher Rudolf Steiner chose to build his flagship headquarters building here in the early 20C. Sitting in a very prominant position midway up the hill overlooking the town and commanding fine views into Switzerland, Germany and France, you’ll see the second Goetheanum.

Steiner’s first attempt at this building was a very different affair but also had some ground breaking elements. It was an entirely wooden structure sitting on a concrete podium based around two intersecting domes made of of laminated timber, preserved in beeswax. The interior was entirely hand-carved and the building incorporated carved glass windows. It must have been a remarkable structure but it was also a giant fire-lighter. It burnt down a few years after it was finished, leaving just it’s concrete base behind as a stark reminder of what was there.

Front Facade

Front Facade

Rear Elevation

Rear Elevation

Front Facade

Front Facade

The second building was, not surprisingly, built entirely of unadorned concrete. It is not the most attractive of buildings and looks like a lump of grey clay. But it is the way the forms have been made that is interesting (don’t forget that this was conceived in 1920) and the fact that there isn’t a right-angle in sight which must have been a bit of a headache for the engineers and builders. I do not particularly like the building but I do find it curiously compelling and rather frustratingly I am unable to pinpoint why. I think it may be to do with the kind of haphazard nature of the forms. Unlike his contemporaries in the Expressionist “movement” who drew direct inspiration of nature and organic forms (Bruno Taut’s Glass Pavilion in Cologne for example), Steiner’s building seems to come from another place.

We are now used to seeing walls and surfaces fabricated out of poured concrete and are equally familiar with the unfinished nature of surfaces at The National Theatre and RCP(Lasdun) and of the Hayward Gallery (Engleback,Herron & Chalk). But our experience of these structures (to my mind anyway) is dominated by a pretty rigid adherence to grids, flat planes and right angles. However to use this technique of construction without a right angle in sight is a technical marvel if nothing else.

Main Staircase

Main Staircase

Main Staircase

Main Staircase

The large window at the top of the stairs places the building squarely in the early 20C and shows an unusual display of right -angles.

The large window at the top of the stairs places the building in the early 20C and shows an unusual display of right -angles.

Irrespective of one’s views about either its effectiveness as an architectural style or the ideas that gave birth to its creation, it remains an intriguing structure and one that I think was rather more influential in the domain of 20 century architecture than it is given credit for. Hold those great concrete edifices of Lasdun and Alison & Peter Smithson in mind and the hereditary link to the Goetheanum is clear. The unadorned concrete, exposed forms and solidity were key aspects of Steiner’s design and were reincarnated in architectural expression fifty years later. There are important differences however but these are to do with style rather than structure. A key and defining difference is the avoidance of right angles here vs the dominance of right-angles. The Goetheanum is clearly a building designed to fulfill a purpose beyond it’s practical function – I guess Steiner would argue that in fact the form of his building is defined precisely by it’s function but that the function itself is as much to do with spirit as it is to do with human practicalities.

As for me – I am still making up my mind about it!

Main Staircase

Main Staircase

Main Staircase

Main Staircase

Main Staircase

Main Staircase

London Docklands from Olympic Stadium roof

It has been a while since I last posted anything here.  this has been due primarily to the pressures of my commissioned work but while I was shooting at the Olympic Stadium project today I took this from the very top of the structure.  It wasn’t the best lighting but it remains a fine view and one that is not often seen and once the project is complete it will be seen even less!

 

OlympicDocklandsView©Greshoff

Time-Lapse in Middlesex

It has been a busy few months as is witnessed by the dirth of postings here!

I’ve just finished installing a long-term time-lapse set up on a construction site in Middlesex for those pillars of the civil engineering world: Conway.  Time Lapses are slightly curious things that can make even the mundane buildings interesting,  I guess seeing the passage of time (in the case many months) compressed into a minute or two kind of compresses the fascination too.

I’ve developed a PV powered system for this project that will, I hope circumvent the temperature and battery drain issues I’ve experienced in the past, particularly through the winter months.  Short duration projects don’t have this issue but battery drain plagues long term set ups like this one.

So here is how it looks this month:

27_09_13800

Escalators

   It’s been a busy week or so with great weather which is great for work but less so for doing other stuff. Yesterday, was typical I started to the West of London, then went to Teddington  in West London, then Wimbledon (SW London), the Sydenham (SE London), then Greenwich (SE) and then back home.  Which adds up to a lot of driving and quite a bit of shooting in between, but not much else.  Still, I did find myself in a DIY superstore with some impressive escalators so given the dearth of time I shot those for fun, before moving on to my next location.

Escalator, London, Escalator, London, Escalator, London, Escalator, London,

Kings Cross Station, Dome Roof, London (MacAslan, Vinci & Arups)

Kings Cross, John MacAslan, Arup, London

I took a train to Nottingham last week and had a few minutes in the station waiting for it to come in.  Having just had it’s first birthday the John MacAslan structure is looking good and well worth a few pics while waiting.

It was built by the French company Vinci and was engineered by Arups.

Here is a time-lapse of the construction courtesy of The Telegraph:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/road-and-rail-transport/9142586/Timelapse-building-new-Kings-Cross-station-dome.html

Ashford M20 cycle & Footbridge – Nicoll Russell Architects with Jacobs

I took some time out after a shopping trip to Sainsbury’s in Ashford recently and strolled over the (now not-so) new foot bridge that joins the Eureka and Warren Business parks together.  Great for getting to the cinema!

It was conceived by a practice based in far away Dundee:  Nicoll Russell Architects and according to their website it is designed to create a kind of memorable gateway to Ashford. Jacobs did the engineering and overall I think it is a success despite gaining early and unfortunate local notoriety as as suicide point  – not something you can lay at the door of the designers who have certainly created a visually striking structure.

Ashford M20 Foot Cycle Bridge, Nicoll Russell Architects, Jacobs Engineering Ashford M20 Foot Cycle Bridge, Nicoll Russell Architects, Jacobs Engineering Ashford M20 Foot Cycle Bridge, Nicoll Russell Architects, Jacobs Engineering Ashford M20 Foot Cycle Bridge, Nicoll Russell Architects, Jacobs Engineering

Some snaps taken out of the car window whilst driving back through London today

Making use of those idle minutes waiting for the lights to turn green.

There are some very colourful buildings going up at the moment and some curious naked women too!

London Streetviews London Streetviews London Streetviews London Streetviews London Streetviews London Streetviews

London Streetviews

Periphery

A few years back I undertook a film based project looking at the edges of communities and in particular the structures to be found there.  I worked mostly on 6×12 and it was to be my last project undertaken on film. (I may well return to film, so let’s say last for the moment!)

I thought, given that those marvellous icons of industrial design, the Richborough power station cooling towers were blown sky high today in 2012, it would be a good time to show my Periphery project image of the towers in all their glory.

Richborough

(And there is no doubt that even with the likes of Instagram, film images do have a quality of their own)

With two shoots, I had a busy day yesterday but found myself with a two hour gap, sitting in my car, without a trendy coffee shop in sight, in the rain, in one of London’s less pictorially celebrated areas and not far from that wonder of sixties civil engineering(?), the A4 Brentford flyover.

A4 Great West Road, West London

Sorry, it look rather pathetic this size, it really does need to be be big to be effective!!!

Littlebourne – Queen of the Kent Barns

At last I’ve been able to get into the Littlebourne Barn and it was worth the wait.  It is a fabulous space dating from 1340.  I was given a little booklet by Betty which is so concise and well written, there seems little point in trying to rehash it here, so instead (with permission) I have reproduced parts of it.  It was written by Peter Bell, Lead conservator at Canterbury City Council.

(from the Peter Bell and CCC booklet:)

INTRODUCTION

In Kent’s rich tradition of timber-framed buildings, the aisled barns represent the best of the carpenter’s art.  It was their scale and status in the hierarchy of farm buildings which presented such a challenge to the carpenters of the Middle Ages.  Littlebourne Barn is one of the finest and the best preserved of this most imposing of building types.

EXTERIOR

Littlebourne Barn has all the characteristics of the Kentish aisled Barn: the steeply pitched roof; the long roof slope which sweeps down from the ridge to the low eaves; the oak-boarded walls and the close relationship to the farmhouse and other farm buildings which have long since disappeared.  The timber framed walls stand on brick bearer walls which keep the frame and its wooden cladding away from the damp earth.  They are clad in riven vertical oak boards which are tarred to keep out the weather. The gaps between each board allowed ventilation to the crops within.  The two hipped porches were added in 1961.  The original entrances would have been below the aisle plate.

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

INTERIOR

The barn is 172ft long, divided into 7 1/2 bays.  According to carpenters marks found in the architectural survey, it originally had nine bays. t is aisled on all four sides, ie it has an aisle or outshot on each of the main body of the building.  This was the usual way of achieving greater width that the length of the standard tie beam.  The timber frame consists of arcade posts which support arcade plates, which run the length of the barn supporting the rafters.

This section may help!

Barn Section

Tie beams span between the arcade posts at high level and in turn support the crown posts, collar purlins and collars.  Crown-post roof construction gives considerable strength to the upper part of the roof and resists the tendency of rafters to crack.  It was widely used in the 14C and together with diagonal braces between most of the principal timbers and notably the curved shores between arcade posts and post plates, resulted in a remarkably stable structure.  (with thanks to Peter Bell and the Littlebourne Barn Committee)

And now some pictures: I’ve included a few in colour this time but as before I think in general Black & White work better!

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England