55 episodes

Provocative and irreverent architectural talk series hosted in East London by Straight Talking Architecture Practice Fourth_space

Negroni Talks Fourthspace

    • Arts

Provocative and irreverent architectural talk series hosted in East London by Straight Talking Architecture Practice Fourth_space

    Negroni Talks #s11 - Westward Ho! From Ealing Green to Old Oak Common

    Negroni Talks #s11 - Westward Ho! From Ealing Green to Old Oak Common

    Sir John Soane built Pitzhanger Manor at a time when Ealing was considered a nice location to have a ‘country retreat’. Things have obviously moved on since 1804 and in 2024 the house can be found sitting within the hustle and bustle of the Broadway – featuring shops, restaurants, offices and 200+ years’ worth of speculative residential developments. Soane wouldn’t recognise Ealing of the 21st century, however he did understand how to create a vision and sell ideas about ‘what could be’ to his patrons. It is an interesting context in which to consider what future plans there are for the further development of the local area, and how the powers that be may draw on the past in order to do so, in a manner that the great architect himself would have done?

    With the arrival of a HS2 station site and the associated redevelopment planned for Old Oak Common and Park Royal, the London Borough of Ealing is now facing more immediate change than it has done for a long time. How will this work with existing communities and how will it impact on the identity of the area? With the local council recently bidding to be London borough of culture in 2025, questions around what Ealing has been, currently is and can become, seem all the more poignant.

    Soane was a master of creating modern mythologies, whilst having a sensitivity toward ideas of loss and rebirth. His domestic architecture is engaged with evocative ideas about space and time, and a sensitive crafting of personal spaces that display grandeur, yet retain a distinct intimacy. In creating a localised world within the world, the manor house and its orchestrated surrounding landscape is also expansive in its outlook, referencing other cultures with an ever-present awareness/sense of ‘the eternal'.

    The collaboration between Negroni Talks and Pitzhanger, came out of a feeling that the fates were somewhat aligned with the recent arrival at the Pitzhanger of prints from the Soane Collection, that recorded the vibrantly coloured roman frescos in the C2nd Villa Negroni in Rome. To bring the “Negroni Talks…!” to such prestigious architectural surroundings was too good an opportunity to miss and aligned perfectly with our ongoing desire to get new perspectives away from East london - so what better than to go to the west.

    It seems fitting to host a talk about Ealing’s future development in the timeless atmosphere of an important piece of local, national and international heritage.

    Speakers:

    Fourth_space (Chair) Eleanor Fawcett, Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation
    Natalie Campbell MBE, social entrepreneur and broadcaster
    Peter Fink, artist
    William Filmer-Sankey, Alan Baxter Associates

    • 1 hr 50 min
    Negroni Talk #47 - So Giving Co-Living: Good Intention Or Bad Invention?

    Negroni Talk #47 - So Giving Co-Living: Good Intention Or Bad Invention?

    We’re living in housing crisis, and apparently a loneliness epidemic with everyone shut away doing their own thing behind closed doors. Surely the answer to this is for human beings to move away from the isolationism of their personal pursuits in property, and head back to what human civilisation has always been about, namely sharing resources and, most importantly, space.

    The public realm traditionally offers a natural setting to promote this ‘sharing’, but can the privacy of the domestic domain also do so in practice?

    Co-living (different to co-housing) is a relatively new foray for the UK residential market and it borrows many of the elements of the co-working model. The visionary rhetoric around it states that it addresses affordability, flexibility and provides an advantageous social way of living. But with private rooms and shared everything else, who is this model of housing aimed at and what is it like to live in?

    In a post-pandemic world of cost inflation, pressure on budgets and profiteering in equal measure, it’s not hard to see that once the calculators come out, co-living is an attractive proposition for developers to double the number of inhabitants by halving the unit size. This in turn calls into the question the roles of architects, planners and the basic space standards that have been established as a matter of decency over the past few decades.

    Anyone who has lived in a converted Victorian terraced house share, knows of co-living as a mixed experience. In turn, some of the early co-living developments gave the typology a bad name, however, as with all building types, there will of course be good and bad examples. Co-living projects seem to continue springing up in cities across Europe and other parts of the world, and in some cases these seem like a genuine attempt to reduce the costs of city-centre living. Whilst the scale and number of proposals could be called into question, as can the future flexibility of the new buildings being created, there is may be potential for it to be a model of living that is helpful in the drive toward more adaptive reuse of existing buildings, which is good for the broader environment.

    So, does co-living represent a new ideal for our urban environment or is it a cynical tactic within the latest ‘gold rush’ to maximise profits from valuable land?

    Speakers:

    Rob Fiehn (Chair) Amy Frearson, author and journalist
    Damien Sharkey, HUB
    Je Ahn, Studio Weave
    Gil Eaton, Third Revolution Projects Simon Bayliss, HTA Design

    • 1 hr 35 min
    Negroni Talks #46 - Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation: An Age Old Problem In Architecture?

    Negroni Talks #46 - Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation: An Age Old Problem In Architecture?

    You’re an architect until you die, it’s a vocation and not a job. At least, that’s what some people would have you believe, with starchitects continuing to design well into their 90’s and succession plans drawn up to keep their practices going after they have left this mortal coil. Meanwhile, newly qualified architects emerging from years of study are met with a culture of “welcome to the real world ” at an age where others in music, fashion, film, and the arts generally, are already shaping the culture of their time through work that is often promoted as being ‘progressive’ and therefore ‘good business’.

    It’s easy to see why the knowledgeable and experienced safe pair of hands would be attractive to a Building Industry that is extremely risk averse. Speculation is more often financial than about generating new ideas, so what does this mean for experimentation and pushing boundaries?

    Optics and Opportunity seem to play a huge role in the perception of Age in Architecture. You can still be considered a young architect well into your 40’s and whilst some ‘emerging and new’ practices are hired to sprinkle some exciting fairy dust on a project, to be consistently considered for significant schemes of a serious scale, you still need to be thought of as a larger and more established player. As with many areas of our culture, should we be worried that there is an incumbent generation that seems to dominate most of the impactful opportunities and commissions, which leaves younger people on the fringes feeling disenfranchised with a clear message that “you are good enough when you are old enough.”

    Additionally, there also seems to be a real generation gap forming within the architectural community itself, particularly when it comes to concerns surrounding the climate, inequality, social justice and housing, which primarily affect younger generations. Are those practitioners formed by the C20th, fully committed to addressing these issues with the requisite urgency, vigour and alternative thinking required in the C21st?

    As a profession, where most seem to be passionate about the potential of architecture to improve people’s lives through progressive thinking, how do we better harness the idealism of youth with the experience / knowledge that comes with age, so that it can do so more often?

    Speakers:

    Rob Fiehn (chair) Sarah Wigglesworth, Architect
    Dennis Austin, Daab Design
    Bushra Mohamed, Msoma Architects
    Adithya David Premraj, Serie Architects Neil Pinder, HomeGrown Plus

    amongst others…

    • 1 hr 44 min
    Negroni Talk #45 - The Last Bastion: A Battleground Between Value And Values?

    Negroni Talk #45 - The Last Bastion: A Battleground Between Value And Values?

    The Barbican is under siege! This might seem to be a natural and unremarkable occurrence for a medieval fortified outpost. However, the Barbican in question is a mixed-use residential and cultural complex within the City of London. Home to cinemas, concert halls, the LSO and over 4000 residents, it is also an international symbol of 'modern architecture' and a unique estate within the financial heart of London’s square mile. With its bold forms, spatial variety/complexity and an attention to materials/design detail, it is feted by architectural enthusiasts from around the world, who flock to take pictures and enjoy the activities inside, while TikTok makers dance around the elevated walkways for their followers.

    But there is now a new brutalism in town. You might think that this paragon of utopian design and example of volte-face grade II listing, would be protected by its landlords. However, surrounded on all sides and increasingly overshadowed by encroaching commercial developments, this civic landscape feels under attack, with developers circling the ramparts looking for areas to storm and pieces they can occupy. One such skirmish, is the strategic outpost of Bastion House and the old Museum of London. Soon to be vacant, these have been branded defunct and earmarked for demolition, in favour of yet another series of investor driven glass blocks that have become the dominating form of building. It seems that form does only follow finance.

    As a cultural citadel in the face of a commercial city, this then is an extreme example of a battle that is being fought in towns and cities across the country (and indeed globally). But does it have to be this way? We know that we can’t lay old buildings to waste like we have done historically, and architects responsible for intelligent retrofit projects are now celebrated as part of a new vanguard. With a strong local opposition to the proposed annexing of these buildings at the Barbican, wouldn’t it make more sense to consider a way to reuse them and ensure they are brought back into the fold as a reinvigorated part of the neighbour hood rather than become a trophy asset, looted and taken over for profiteering?

    The outcome, could well set a dangerous precedent for key parts of our twentieth century heritage….

    Speakers:

    Helen Barrett, journalist (chair) Robert Elms, broadcaster
    Tyler Goodwin, Seaforth Land
    Dr Ruth Lang, Design Museum Future Observatory
    Jan-Marc Petroschka and Barbican Quarter Action

    amongst others…

    • 1 hr 24 min
    Negroni Talk #44 - Fabric Of Fear: A Discussion About Designing Out Danger In The Urban Realm.

    Negroni Talk #44 - Fabric Of Fear: A Discussion About Designing Out Danger In The Urban Realm.

    One headphone out, keys in hand and checking the street behind you is a familiar experience for a lot of people on their way home, particularly women and those from marginalised groups. And these feelings are not purely anecdotal, as a recent report from the fitness app Strava revealed that UK women are twice as likely to feel unsafe on a run when compared to the global average. In a similar vein, Arup’s Queering Public Spaces study showed that many LGBTQ+ people feel they have to switch or hide their identities when entering a public space or avoid particular areas altogether. How did one of the richest nations on the planet end up with cities that terrify their occupants, particularly once the sun sets?

    It’s clear we need a rethink of how we shape the cities of the future if they are to be truly inclusive places. Those in law enforcement who are meant to protect the public have been found wanting on a number of occasions in the last few years for instance. And state-funded campaigns often seen to place the onus on keeping safe with the vulnerable themselves. So the question is who should be designing our urban landscapes when it has clearly gone so badly for so long? Does profit affect safety when we prioritise endless housing over the creation of mixed-use developments with an abundance of life and fewer dark streets? How do we make sure that everyone feels responsible for tackling fear and not just those we suffer from it? And how much of a case can be made for our cities maintaining a degree of unpredictability: after all a lot of us who have moved from smaller settlements to the ‘big city’ did so with the intention of making the most of the frisson of unknown excitement that comes with collectively living with large numbers of strangers?

    From the spray can to the development plan, there are tactics to raise awareness and shine a light (sometimes literally) on the problem. We need to gather solutions and challenge a system that is clearly broken for the most vulnerable in society.

    Speakers:

    Helen Parton (chair)
    PFarah Benis, FFA Security Group & Catcalls of London
    Hanna Benihoud, Artist Deborah Saunt, DSDHA Martyn Evans, LandsecU+I Sarah Ackland, PhD researcher, muf architecture/art

    amongst others….

    On the night….

    • 1 hr 24 min
    Negroni Talks #43 - Mods or Trads? History and Histrionics In Architecture

    Negroni Talks #43 - Mods or Trads? History and Histrionics In Architecture

    Mods or Trads? History and Histrionics In Architecture

    According to social media, we are in the middle of a culture war for both the past and future of architecture. Lines have been drawn and tribes are assembling on a beach with the tide coming in. On one side we have groups that want to protect our modernist heritage and seem to enjoy high-quality contemporary architecture. On the other is a growing collective that extoll the virtues of traditional aesthetics, often following a stylistic approach to buildings based on historical and classical principles and proportions.

    Of course, the reality is much more nuanced, complex and intertwined. The challenge of creating decent cities is highly political and wedded to the constraints and opportunities of financing, and there is the small matter of public opinion. However, it is important that we don’t dismiss the debates raging about preservation, adaptation and the creation of new buildings. The vast majority of people seem to be united by a desire to make places and spaces that are pleasant to live in, with much agreement on maintaining a sense of humanism in our built environment, making architecture that people can relate to, as well as protecting the natural world wherever possible.

    This discussion allows us the opportunity to consider the very definition of ‘tradition’ in architecture, especially when you consider that modernism is now 100 years old! Why are places whose identities are tied to post-war building programmes and ‘brutalism’ still viewed as the antithesis to our concept of 'the historic’ and ‘heritage’? In being 25 years into a new millennium, within a multicultural, inter-generational society, what does ‘heritage’ mean anyway? Whose heritage are we talking about and at what point do we draw lines on a timeline of style? Ultimately, does it matter what a building looks like on the outside if the people inside are happy and healthy?

    Speakers:

    RF HW & TCS (chair)
    Cath Slessor, Twentieth Century Society
    Robert Adam, Robert Adam Consultancy Ltd David Kohn, David Kohn Architects Selasi Setufe, Be FirstNick

    amongst others….

    • 1 hr 29 min

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