22 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 Talk #34 - 26th April 2022 Diverse By Design

    Negroni Talk #34 - 26th April 2022 Diverse By Design

    Many architects and developers talk the talk but can we actually deliver diversity through design? We’re seeing some great new neighbourhoods emerging across both the UK and abroad but the commercial pressures of regeneration tend to steer us towards homogeneity. And how much can the planing process help support the creation of unplanned places, where richness and variety is often found?

    ‘Branded experiences’ can be delivered by disparate forms and snazzy exteriors, which are then united by equally aesthetically-driven public/private realm. But is there a nagging formulaic familiarity behind the facade? Is the suffocating sameness of developments the result of too much design?

    The elephant in the room is of course the motivation to ensure the necessary financial returns on large-scale investments. Unsurprisingly then, it is the type of building, type of use and type of user that will guarantee this return, which is the going concern. The definitions of who these new urban quarters are ‘created for’ remains pre-qualified and very narrow indeed. Inclusivity is exclusive. Public becomes private.

    There are growing demands of promoting diversity, with a collective ambition to move towards a non-discriminatory world. With this in mind, should there be such a thing as architecture that is orientated toward specific demographic groups?
    Featuring:

    Kat Hanna (chair)
    Helen Arvanitakis, Design District
    Anna Shapiro, AA Housing & Urbanism
    Roger Zogolovitch, Solidspace
    Pedro Gil, Studio Gil

    amongst others….

    • 1 hr 36 min
    Negroni Talk #33 Talking Shop! INSULATION

    Negroni Talk #33 Talking Shop! INSULATION

    Energy is a consumption that is killing us by degrees. Its production, usage and waste have long been a threat to the natural world and as a commodity it is now being deployed as a weapon of war.

    Energy has become a battleground between C20th business models and C21st realities. It trades in cynicism, malevolence and greed. Worse still it illustrates our hubris, our impotence, the compromise of our moral standing and our lack of a truly reforming vision for the future. The lights may be on, but is anyone actually at home?

    Guilty of a dereliction of duty, global governments have taken the easy option of dealing in imports instead of relying on self-sufficiency. They have led us down the dead-end-street of a compromised dependency on dwindling fossil fuels, rather than boldly committing to comprehensive renewable strategies. In securing supply at any cost and unwilling to countenance a disruption to our way of life, politicians have centralized our power in other people hands. With whole populations held hostage by investors and lobbyists whose interests are protected through policy, oil, gas and coal industries have us all literally over a barrel.

    So what of architecture in these disingenuous times? The pre-occupations of the creative design professional can seem hopelessly out of touch in the face of such seismic issues. However, the built environment IS a key factor in setting out what our energy requirements actually are and so determines levels of Demand, which in turn defines what the Supply is.

    Sadly there is a great deal of medieval thinking at work in the building of our buildings. Take our great British house-building industry, which kills off progressive thought and whose response is to skyrocket costs at the merest suggestion of any upgrade in building specification or performance criteria. Some 60 years ago, people went into space with nothing more than some glorified tin foil between them and the ultimate of all inhospitable environments, and yet back here on Earth we more often messily muddle through using minor modifications to tried and tested methods.

    When it comes to insulation, there is a clear economic tug of war between the floor area of buildings and the thickness of building envelope. Thinner insulation is more expensive and so a desire to build cheaply leads to less space in which to live. Questions about what we ‘value’ are therefore pertinent. With rising energy bills and the worsening cost of living forced on society at large, will the general public start to demand higher standards & revolutionary change, or will the profiteering of energy companies be allowed to continue as they are, aided by high usage linked to poor performance of building fabric?

    As insulation campaigners are vilified by the establishment, where is the collective will to fully explore holistic solutions to THE major issue facing the built environment today? With poorly serviced/insulated housing stock stubbornly accounting for 15% of UK greenhouse gas emissions, do we have any other choice but to make urgent changes as quickly as possible?

    Featuring:

    Will Ing, Architects' Journal (chair)
    Kunle Barker, Property Expert, Writer & Broadcaster
    Cameron Ford, Insulate Britain
    Tanvir Hasan, Donald Insall Associates
    Summer Islam, Material Cultures Tim O'Callaghan, nimtim architects

    amongst others….

    • 1 hr 23 min
    Negroni Talk #32

    Negroni Talk #32

    Talking Rubbish! BINS

    Local authorities have bin going mad! Whilst many architects, urban planners, housing associations and developers try to design the homes, towns and cities of the future, they are frequently hamstrung by the regulatory hurdles that are focused on the accommodation of waste management. Giant wheelie bins fill our pavements, louvered doors dominate pavement frontages, and the spaces of our streets are oriented around the turning circle of a rubbish truck.

    With a lack of clear planning policy, it seems that the mundane and everyday has taken control of the creative place making involved in housing design, pushing us towards sterile blocks, with paved wastelands between home and curb. Things were not always this way though, and there are some who refuse to accept refuse; those who are willing to fight for a ‘less rubbish’ and cleaner future. How can we extricate ourselves from the debris of bureaucracy and create places that are designed around how we want to live rather than where we put the recycling? It’s time for some trash talk!

    Featuring:

    Will Sandy, Will Sandy Design Studio (Chair)
    Cany Ash, Ash Sakula
    Jas Bhalla, Jas Bhalla Architects
    David Milner, Create Streets
    Chloe Phelps, Grounded Ander Zabala, Hackney Council

    amongst others….

    On The Night….

    • 1 hr 12 min
    Negroni Talk #31 - 19th October 2021

    Negroni Talk #31 - 19th October 2021

    Death By Design
    Construction has always been a dangerous (read: corrupt) game and it seems that the bigger the project, the greater the risks to workers’ safety. Fatalities on building sites were maybe to be expected in the dim and distant past, but in the 21st century haven’t we developed sufficient regulatory control, machinery or digital technologies to rule out death by architecture?

    This debate has resurfaced recently as some (football) players and activists have urged a boycott of the Qatar 2022 World Cup because of the treatment of migrant workers, who have been plunged into a form of contemporary slavery, with little regard for their lives.

    Zaha Hadid famously stated that architects have "nothing to do with the workers", despite a series of exposes in recent years and accusations of cover-ups about the scale of building site mortality rates. More broadly, the profession seems to claim ignorance and deny knowledge of scandals like the one surrounding the construction site of Istanbul Airport - so bad it was dubbed ‘the cemetery’ - whilst enjoying the publicity and rewards that these projects bring them.

    All of this begs a question over who is responsible? What is the role of the architectural profession when it comes to worker safety and where do you draw the line as the designer of a building that could likely result in hundreds or thousands of deaths? Shouldn’t architects publicly denounce their clients when they are seen to have suspect ethical standards, or is keeping quiet in order to help secure work more important?

    Featuring:

    Dr Ruth Lang (chair)
    David Ogunmuyiwa, ArchitectureDoingPlace
    Dr Ariana Markowitz, The Bartlett Development Planning Unit
    Isobel Archer, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
    amongst others….

    • 1 hr 23 min
    Negroni Talk #30 - 29th April 2021

    Negroni Talk #30 - 29th April 2021

    Architecture: Structuring Segregation?

    Poor Doors have hit the headlines are once again aimed at escalating levels of outrage, declaring that modern housing developments promote segregation and social cleansing.

    However, we live in a time when cash-strapped councils can’t deliver their own housing programmes and we rely on private developers to provide housing nationwide. With an emphasis on investment returns and the drive to remove all that is deemed to adversely affect market value, certain tenures of housing are considered ‘undesirable’ and something to be reduced through negotiation or worse still, relocated geographically out of sight.

    Meanwhile cities remain places of variety, difference and not exclusive to any one group. Across millennia different communities have lived in close proximity to each other where rich and poor live cheek-by-jowl, although instances of cohabitation are extremely rare. Is the current furore over 'poor doors' more in response to the dehumanising term (itself a journalistic construct), rather than the issues behind labelled and separate building entrances, or is it a part of the housing crisis that we feel in the 21st century should be solvable?

    As Robert Hughes has stated, historically speaking ‘there was no architecture of the poor, all they had was slums’. Are 'poor doors’ not an example of a need for separation that has always been present in the city, or are they a signal that separation legitimises class bias.

    Recent reports of a children’s playground being made inaccessible to particular ‘types’ of children within a mixed tenure development is certainly the canary down the coal mine in any debate about levels of segregation and integration. It raises a spectre; that if someone can think about children in such a way, then should they be a defining force when it comes to housing people and creating the places in which we all live?

    We can all agree that we need to build more homes and no one wants to create ghettos with the urban fabric, but in the current climate of free market economics and conservative policy, are separate entrances really a problem and if they are then what other solutions are available that could lead to greater levels of social integration?

    Featuring:

    Heather Thomas, Sapphire Independent Housing
    Dave Hill, On London
    Akil Scafe Smith, Resolve Collective
    Dinah Bornat, ZCD Architects
    amongst others….

    • 1 hr 16 min
    Negroni Talk #29 - 1st April 2021

    Negroni Talk #29 - 1st April 2021

    The Airing Architectures Dirty Laundry Series: #03 ARTWASHING

    Artists and gentrification already have an uncomfortable relationship. Creative communities have often drifted into less desirable areas where the rents are much cheaper, making unconscious changes around them and adding a ‘cool factor’ that in turn shifts the perception of a place. This process is old news and developers have cottoned on to the winning formula and sped up the process.

    Depressed areas are now targeted by local authorities and developers for improvement and the first steps usually involve some eye catching murals or pop-up pavilions that become destinations in of themselves. In a digital age, we’ve seen cultural tourists flock to these places for Instagram moments, enjoying the contrast between bold artworks and gritty urban landscapes.

    To distill this cheek-by-jowl affiliation between corporate bodies and artists even further, we are now witnessing a renewed vigour for the commissioning of pieces in or around some of the most bland and unexciting architecture and place-making. Here colourful bricolage or spray-painted ‘street art’ is used to dress up the banal, with little regard for existing communities or local heritage. In these circumstances, how do we apportion blame and complicity between the commissioner and the creative?

    Featuring:

    David Michon, Editorial Director (chair)
    Will Jennings, Artist & Writer
    Fiona Grady, Artist
    Seyi Adelekun, Artist/Assemble
    Tony Colville, Urban Splash
    amongst others….

    • 1 hr 25 min

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