Thursday, April 25, 2013

Emotion Recollected in Sustainability - Carbeth's Hideaway Huts

If you go down to the woods today, you're in for a big surprise... that's if like me, you've only just discovered the eldritch charm at Carbeth. The huts made the news when Carbeth Hutters Community Hutters were granted a loan which is helping the community to buy their land.

The development of huts in the area north of Milngavie has existed since 1919. During the second world war, families from Clydebank stayed at Carbeth to escape the bombing of industry on the Clyde. Gradually, more huts were built and a small community was formed. Today, Carbeth is part of The Thousand Huts movement, which aims to promote hutting as a sustainable way of living that gives city-dwellers contact with the countryside. Around 140 self-powered cabins, huts and shacks form the collective, all of which rely on water standpipes, solar panels and wind turbines to sustain the inhabitants. 

In an age of convenience and energy expenditure, Carbeth makes a useful case-study of our relationship with place and how sustainability ethics inevitably stand to influence the future of design. It is intriguing to reflect that the community's original settlers may only have been searching for a calm oasis outside Glasgow when they began hand-building the community 80 years ago. Perhaps unbeknown to them, they were in fact laying the foundations for an eco-friendly ideal which today, is actively supported by people enjoying the same tranquility in the wooded retreat.

Architects such as Torsten Ottesjo show that improvisation and functionality are common concerns in the architecture profession. Surprising that the values of self-reliance and responsibility for fuel-use should take root in communities like Carbeth.

See also artist Frances McCourt's photography works like the one above compiled for an exhibition at Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Spomeniks - Lost Between Sculpture and Architecture

Jan Kempenaer's series of photographic works focusing on Spomeniks, the abstract, concrete monuments punctuating the boundaries of the countries once comprising the former Yugoslavia, is available to view here. Kampenaer's work is preoccupied with the 18th century Picturesque tradition and his photographs of these oddly incongruous structures consider the enforcement of societal rules upon the natural landscape. Out of the many hundreds of Spomeniks commissioned in the years following World War II, most have since been demolished or neglected, their location only discoverable through committed research or spontaneous encounter in the wooded, mountainous regions where they were constructed. The isolation of these once magnificent emblems of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia raises interesting questions around the function of architecture which could be thought of as ideologically defunct. Should the Spomeniks be confined to history or should their use be reconsidered, as perhaps Kempenaer's photographs intend.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Living Architecture Takes Root in Oban

Think of Oban, the sleepy port town in the Scottish Western Highlands, and you'll probably call to mind McCaig's Tower, the folly overlooking the bay that was commissioned by its namesake in 1897 to keep the town's local stonemasons in work. Now, thanks to the feats of German architect Marcel Kalberer, head of the firm Sanfte Strukturen, the town can finally lay claim to two sculptures with real architectural clout.

Nestled in the gardens of the Dunollie Castle estate, the 22ft woven tower and dome are made entirely of live willow branches, sourced from Glasgow. The branches will continue to grow over the coming months, thereby altering the form of the natural structures. Kalberer refers to his designs as "living architecture" due to the botanical and ecological implications behind the architecture and the fact that all of his structures are brought to life by a community of volunteers. The tower, for example, took a week to build and will change gradually with the passing of the seasons. The theory behind the process is to show the value of socially-sustainable buildings and encourage human co-existence with the natural world.

Karlberer has designed a number of green cathedrals, towers and domes from willow branches including 'Auerworld Palace' in Germany which is the world's largest living structure of its kind. The as yet unnamed works on show in Oban are the first examples to be shown in Britain, built on the proceeds of a £5,900 grant from Creative Scotland. Visit them for free if you're making any visits over to the Western Isles, or for more information and further examples of Karlberer's work, read on at the link below:

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Gillespie, Kidd & Coia on Radio 4

There are six days to catch up on a Radio 4 programme exploring the church architecture of Isi Metzstein and Andrew MacMillan, the innovative partners for Glasgow firm Gillespie Kidd & Coia during the second part of the 20th century, and the pioneers of a contemporary form of European architecture.

In post-war Britain, the Catholic Church drew on the visionary talents of Metzstein and MacMillan as a means of constructing places of worship which would meet its ambitions to expand Catholicism in Scotland. While the religious renaissance may never have been fully realised, the creative partnership between Metzstein and MacMillan flourished, culminating in their masterpiece at St Peter's Seminary at Cardross. Once rising statuesque out of the landscape, the site now lies derelict, abandoned in 1980, just 14 years after completion, due to structural changes in the church. The site is still regarded as hallowed land by many architects and enthusiasts, and there is still belief that it will, eventually, be conserved as a ruin.

In this half-hour Radio 4 programme, Jonathan Glancey discusses Scotland's landscape and the country's religious element to discover more about the lives of two of Glasgow's most extraordinarily talented architects. Listen in at the link:

Monday, April 08, 2013

Flickr Photostream puts Scotland in the Frame

Modern and historical images from the archive collections at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) have been added to the Flickr photostream where some of the best archive images from their vast collection will continue to trickle through.

RCAHMS collects, records and interprets information on the architectural, industrial, archaeological and maritime heritage of Scotland. It holds an archive of over 18 million items including photographs and albums from the 1840s to the present day, original architects’ drawings, excavation plans, new survey drawings, engravings, sketches, books, manuscripts and maps, offering a unique insight into the special nature of Scotland's places. The archive contains images and information on over 300,000 archaeological and architectural sites across Scotland making it an invaluable resource for some of the best-known, man-made landmarks.

More images can be seen on the Commission's Facebook, Twitter and YouTube account.

Link to the Flickr photostream here and click on the 'detail' of each image for more context.

Friday, April 05, 2013

"Avian Architecture" - New Library Book

We've just spotted a rare breed of book to add to the architecture lending shelves. Peter Goodfellow's book Avian Architecture describes how birds design, engineer and build their nests, deconstructing every type of nest or avian structure by rendering it in the style of an architectural blueprint and annotating its construction processes and engineering techniques. Through a combination of simple text, illustration and photography, the book reveals the science of the humble nest over 35 case studies, profiling the skills of some key bird species.

We expect our printed copy will find a cosy place to nest in the architecture lending section at 720.108/GOO when it appears later this month.