Peter Sheard is the practice area leader for the Gensler landscaping studio. He has over 25 years professional experience in landscape architecture and urban design and forms part of the multidisciplinary master planning team. He works closely with Gensler’s architects and workplace designers to develop schemes for public realm spaces including public squares, streetscapes, parks, atria, roof gardens and interior spaces. Peter’s in-depth knowledge of the landscape planning process and sustainability ensures that his designs for architectural developments are fully integrated into their natural surroundings.
Charles Bancroft has written a fast paced and often funny thriller which places his central character, Rob Gilbert at the centre of a story of intrigue, people trafficking, violence and collapsing buildings. Not an everyday series of events one would suppose for a member of such an honourable profession but it does make for a good read. Notwithstanding the more dramatic aspects of this
novel, there is enough about tight deadlines, legal disputes, design challenges and client demands to ring a familiar bell with many who work in the field of architecture. However as events begin to catch up threateningly with Rob, it is his own tenacity and skills which allow him to survive.
However there are two themes through the book which I feel are just as fascinating as the plot; the first being the location of a lot of the action, set around Tottenham Court Road and its slightly mysterious hinterland. This little enclave of London bordered by Bloomsbury and the clutch of University buildings to the west is not quite Soho but is able to give itself the intriguing moniker of ‘Fitzrovia’. Bohemian in the extreme immediately after the War, it still retains a unique air and Bancroft evocatively captures the essence of the place. He describes its multiplicity of design and media industries, its varied building stock (a mix of elaborate Victorian brick, sober Georgian terraces and inter-War steel framed structures); its bumpy narrow streets; and its many drinking houses. There are even some passing references to the WAN offices where the mixture of lounges and break-out spaces define the contemporary face of this revitalised part of town. There are a number of scenes set in the Rising Sun, a landmark, wedding-cake of a pub where our hero Rob frequently drinks at lunchtime; bumps into exotic women; and nearly gets beaten up. Having worked in this area years ago I can attest this is not too farfetched. When not in the pub, Rob is often found nursing restorative coffees in the Café Nerro stranded at the side of noisy Tottenham Court Road surrounded by its broken paving and whirling pigeons: a sort of
dingy St Mark’s Square in miniature. Somehow, and somewhere nearby, one suspects, his practice just about carries on.
The second interesting theme weaving its way through the novel is the portrayal of the architect as both an inspiration and irritant to those he works with and employs. Mr Gilbert displays a megalomaniac approach to life and work which is not always to his credit: he is a better engineer, a better designer and better planner than those around him and eventually he pays the price for such grandiosity. Having worked with architects for nearly twenty years I can attest to the frustration and hilarity this ‘Renaissance-Man’ syndrome can evince, and Bancroft displays this characteristic in his central character to a finely tuned degree. The story presents a sort of morality tale where pride comes before a fall (literally in Mr Gilbert’s case) but reminds us how challenging, annoying and ultimately charming, architects can be to work alongside.
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Editorial , London
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