Architecture that defies the glass box

by SUZANNE MIAO on Apr 17, 2012 in Architecture
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Amid the 21st century’s obsession with shiny skyscrapers and floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall windows, Ken Shuttleworth stands apart with his firm’s rallying cry, ‘Death to the glass box!’

Two of the hardest things to reconcile about modern architecture are these: that architects, in general, like to think they are unique but then churn out depressingly identical-looking skyscrapers of metal and glass, and then to accept the claims that (thanks largely to modern technology and production techniques) all glass is ‘green’.

At Make — founded in 2004 by Ken Shuttleworth, with a studio established in Beijing in 2008 — the determination from the start was to achieve design excellence, innovation and environmental responsibility. The latter has manifested itself in the shying away from the now clichéd approach to designing buildings with the aforementioned floor-to-ceiling windows or glass curtain walls. “We call it the ‘Death to the glass box’ campaign,” Shuttleworth says. “There’s been lots of opposition from other architects.”

The team from Make walks the walk with confidence. At the 10 Weymouth Street project in London, for example, a relatively undistinguished 1960s block was transformed via a distinctive refurbishment scheme. The existing building presented two very different aspects to the surrounding area, with a formal facade on one side, and a far more eclectic and utilitarian elevation facing the rear.

In response, a brass-clad elevation was created at the rear of the building. Each apartment features a projecting balcony with a perforated brass screen which mirrors the mews facade pattern. Most intriguingly of all, windows are modest, even minimal, yet inside, there is still ample natural light — and control over internal temperatures is that much easier. “With glazing, you are never going to get to the point of the same insulation value as proper insulation panels,” Shuttleworth says. “But of course, you have to be able to enjoy the building — no one wants to live in a cave — and there has to be balance between daylight in and views out.”

Read the full story, ‘Make or Break’, in the May 2012 issue of Perspective magazine! 


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