Sir Jeremy Dixon, Dixon Jones: "Flexibility is a real problem for architects when it dominates a project"
Lunchtime at World Architecture Day was a busy affair with stands by Kone, UKTI, Article 25, RIBA Bookshops and the WAN Tender Alerts team flooded with interested architects and developers from across the globe enjoying delicious lunch bags from Carluccio’s. Those who weren’t absorbed in the stands clustered in small networking groups along the floor-to-ceiling windows at Cannon Place to enjoy the panoramic views across the city of London, with St Paul’s Cathedral on one side, the tip of The Shard on the other and the Gherkin to the north-east, sandwiched between the construction sites of The Pinnacle and 20 Fenchurch Street.
Once our animated attendees had filtered back to their seats, the Urban Regeneration panel took to the stage headed by Richard Chairman, Chairman of WAN. He was joined by panellists Jeremy Dixon of Dixon Jones, Roger Madelin from developers Argent, David West of Studio Egret West and Hiro Aso from John McAslan + Partners, standing in for John McAslan who was unable to make it on the day.
Dixon and Aso kicked off the debate with short presentations of their latest schemes, the regeneration of Exhibition Road in South Kensington and the redevelopment of King’s Cross Station respectively. These two case studies then fed into a vibrant panel discussion instigated by West who stated that ‘it is of great importance for architects to add an additional layer to the project and understand the nuances of the place’, causing ripples of agreement from architects in the audience.
This soon led to a debate about flexibility in architectural design. In both the Education and Healthcare panels the issue of flexibility as a significant element of successful and indeed effective design was enforced by all involved however in the Urban Regeneration debate, both Dixon and Aso seemed adamant that introducing flexible design into the sector had a negative effect on the final outcome. Dixon confessed that ‘flexibility is a real problem for architects when it dominates a project’ but Aso went one stage further by asserting that ‘flexibility doesn’t belong in design. Design is about commitment and everything we design has a specific function’.
One of the defining points to emerge from the Urban Regeneration debate was the power of networking and forging working relationships with like-minded individuals. Madelin affirmed ‘if we can have the right people with the right expertise and the right power, things go a lot smoother’, an opinion clearly shared with his fellow panellists.
Reports from World Architecture Day