The Jane, Antwerp


Project Info

Client: Sergio Herman

Interior design and restoration: Piet Boon

Lighting design: .PSLAB

Cost: Confidential

Area: 404 sq m

Opened: Spring 2014

Words by Veronica Simpson

When Michelin-starred chef Sergio Herman decided to shake off the shackles of his very formal fine-dining establishment (the three- Michelin starred Oud Sluis, with waiting lists of a year or more), he couldn't have got much more rock 'n' roll than stripping down an old military chapel, putting the chefs where the priests used to be, placing a glowing neon skull over their workspace and scrawling graphic cartoons over the windows where once there were wilting Madonnas and tortured saints.

Dutch designer Piet Boon first came across the disused military chapel that is now The Jane, and one of Antwerp's hottest dinner spots, six years ago at a pop-up art and food event.

The massive bespoke chandelier not only acts as a focal point but also breaks the huge void above the heads of diners.

Situated at the heart of what used to be a military hospital complex, and whose surrounding buildings have mostly been transformed for residential use, the chapel was leaky, semi-derelict but still rather magnificent.

So when Boon later heard his friends Herman and co-chef Nick Bril talking about doing something more exciting and irreverent, he suggested the chapel. 'Immediately we knew it was going to be great,' says Boon.

That was three years ago. First they had to secure permission to turn a former place of worship into a buzzing venue with state-of-theart restaurant facilities. And they had to work out how to resolve several major design issues. They knew they wanted an open kitchen at the rear, where the had been altar, but they also knew that to keep it open would mean that all the noise and banter and chaos of a kitchen would be massively amplified by the acoustics of the chapel. Boon's solution: to enclose the spacious kitchen in a well-ventilated metal box - roof and all - sealing the audience-facing side with glazing so that all the drama and theatre of the kitchen could be enjoyed without any noise overload. The many waiters buzzing in and out of the kitchen do so via silently sliding doors.

Then, and just as important, was deciding what to do with the spectacular chapel ceiling. 'The ceiling was in very bad condition,' says Boon. 'The roof was leaking everywhere; we had to repair the whole ceiling. At one point I was lying on the scaffolding (looking up) thinking: "It's so beautiful now it's only repaired, let's keep it like this." That was a bit scary for Sergio, when I said: "We're not going to repaint it. Just put some lacquer on it to protect and preserve it".'

The problem was how to provide enough light while keeping the ceiling clear, and how to prevent all that space overwhelming the diners. So Boon started talking with lighting specialist .PSLAB - a bespoke lighting consultancy that works with some of the biggest names in architecture, designing and manufacturing individual lights as well as whole schemes to order in its Beirut factory. Says Dimitri Saddi,.PSLAB director: 'That space is so beautiful you wouldn't want to cover the ceiling with lights. But the issue was how to create intimacy for the diners in such a huge volume while celebrating that huge ceiling.'

The massive bespoke chandelier not only acts as a focal point but also breaks the huge void above the heads of diners
The massive bespoke chandelier not only acts as a focal point but also breaks the huge void above the heads of diners

.PSLAB's solution - and just one part of its lighting scheme for The Jane - was a massive, 850K starburst chandelier measuring 12m x 9m, with more than 150 individual lights. It descends from the ceiling on one long, slender black metal pole, with multiple slimmer stems of varying lengths radiating out from its centre, tipped with glowing bulbs. The bulbs are low intensity and softly coloured to generate a good balance of warmth, ambient light and subtle dazzle. Once the design had been decided, it took two months of prototyping and tweaking for the final product to emerge - with a half section of the prototype tested on the outside.

PSLAB's offices in Beiruit, in order to adjust and refine the mechanism. It had to be easy to ship and install; in the end, it was put together over one weekend before The Jane opened. Says Saddi: 'The chandelier is a fully three-dimensional form so you feel there is this whole movement in space within the arched ceiling.'

Cartoon windows add a strong element of fun and colour. Says Boon: 'In the beginning we were not allowed to change the windows but they were in such bad condition they couldn't really be repaired.' After some conversations with some clearly sympathetic planning officers, Boon was allowed to commission Studio Job - Job Smeets and Nunke Tynagel - to create their own version of modern-day 'stained glass' storytelling.

They designed 500 unique panels, inspired by the chapel's history both old and modern: sunflowers, foam spatulas, devils, skulls, babies, Jesus on the cross, gas masks, birthday cakes, croissants, ice cream cones, beer bottles and penguins all find their way on to them. Softly backlit at night, they glow against the creamy white walls. By day, they are translucent, allowing daylight to flood through.

Original stain-glass windows were in too poor a condition to be repaired and have been replaced by a modern take on them
Original stain-glass windows were in too poor a condition to be repaired and have been replaced by a modern take on them

With such a dramatic centrepiece chandelier and so much life and colour added by the window art - not to forget the 1m wide neon skull commissioned from South African artist Kendell Geers that hangs above the kitchen space- Boon decided to keep colourings elsewhere a subtle minimum, adding texture and interest through materials. The elegant distressed grey of the ceiling expanse is thrown into relief by white walls, banisters and window alcoves, while pale fabric panels line the lower walls to offer a cosier, softer acoustic. Seating includes large, dark leather-upholstered banquettes, strewn with graphic print cushions - inspiring one reviewer to coin the term 'post-ecclesiastical chic' - as well as pale teal velvet chairs. There is a richly veined marble slab counter on the bar in the balcony, with stainless-steel base.

A whole palette of lighting elements, designed by .PSLAB are distributed across the space, including white, architectural cones that descend from the balcony and glow softly golden inside, reflecting warmly in quasi-domestic metal lamps placed between dining tables. More strategic lighting is hidden behind structural pillars. Everything is taken into consideration with a .PSLAB scheme, says Saddi, balancing the colours and intensity of ambient light with feature lights, natural daylight with artificial to create something that celebrates the atmosphere and qualities of the building rather than its fixtures, at all times of day. 'It's about seeing the effect rather than the light,' he says.

The food is a more playful, creative take on Herman's earlier Michelin-starred cuisine. And now The Jane has a three-month waiting list of its own (the main space seats 65 guests, with an upper room bar with its own kitchen that accommodates another 40).

Finally, to the name: why is it called The Jane? Apparently, they were going to call it La Chapelle, but, says Boon: 'Sergio calls it The Jane because, for us, Jane is a woman "that loves to eat, loves to travel, loves design and art. It's our woman".'

Main Suppliers

Graphic windows
Studio Job

Neon skull
Kendell Geers


FX Drawing Competition


Words by Emily Martin

Calling all artists, designers, architects and creative's - it's time to close the laptop and find those pen and pencils as FX is now accepting entries for its drawing competition, run in association with acoustics specialist Ecophon.

Whether you're a technical artist, urban sketcher or impressionistic painter, if it's freehand then submit it! The subject matter is up to you and add colour if you want. An exhibition of the entries and winners plus a networking party awaits, with a date for this to be announced soon.

Drawings can be of anything you want and all kinds of freehand drawings are welcome - everything and anything from two-three point perspective to fine art drawings for those of you sketching for the real love of it.

Send a scan of your drawing/s in the first instance to with DRAWING in the subject.


Talking Points


Words by Anna King

When Reed MIdeM announced a MIPIM UK at London's tired Olympia venue, there were audible undertones of 'what are they thinking? to be heard by some in the property sector. Understandably, given the stark contrast between a rainy autumnal London and a salubrious, spring-like Cannes.

However, it appears there may be room for both. The inaugural MIPIM UK event last year catered for the property sector in its broadest sense, attracting more than 4,000 delegates, 500 of which were investors, which made it the biggest-ever gathering for the British property sector.

Private-sector developers, investors and advisers were joined by representatives from 35 cities and local authorities, including Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and the Scottish Cities Alliance.

Over the three-day period MIPIM UK provided a platform for a UK-centric discussion that didn't get lost in the much bigger picture of global discussion. Housing issues and devolution, which are still so topical, were high on the agenda for discussion.

Mark Simpson, director of design at BDP, summed up his thoughts: 'BDP has attended every MIPIM in France since it started so it was good to be in at the start of this new initiative, which we feel sure will grow. It is a very different proposition from Cannes, very UK-focused with a lot of local authority attendees. We will be back or the next one!'

Bill Hughes, managing director of Legal & General Property, said: 'Far exceeding expectations on quantity and quality of attendance, the inaugural MIPIM UK was unequivocally a success story - providing lively debate on the key issues, such as housing and infrastructure, and the critical new trends in commercial real estate. In particular I was delighted to see a high level of engagement between the public and private sectors.'

Interestingly, 77 per cent of delegates had never attended MIPIM in Cannes, which almost confirms the requirement for such an event. Mark Day of Artelia UK, commented: 'The London MIPIM event was a positive step for Artelia in developing its credentials further in construction consultancy services within the built environment. The event produced positive enquires, increased sector profile and positive feedback and will almost certainly see Artelia exhibit again this year."

MIPIM UK will take place at Olympia, London 21-23 October.


Retail Design Expo


Words by Emily Martin

March will see an estimated 6,000 designers, architects, marketers, visual merchandisers, shop fitters and suppliers head to London's Olympia for a new show: Retail Design Expo.

Hailed by organisers as the 'essential event for all those responsible for retail design' the show is set to be a one-stop shop for anyone wishing to seek out new ideas, suppliers, or to rub shoulders with leading trendsetters in the field of retail design. The event is also conveniently co-located with Retail Business Technology Expo (RBTE), one of Europe's biggest and fastest growing retail technology solutions show, to ensure an info-packed two days for visitors.

As well as featuring market leading suppliers and thought leading speakers from around the world, the show also includes: Design Pavilion - for design consultancies and architects; Future Laboratories - revealing future trends; Student Awards; live demonstrations; and boundless networking and sales opportunities.

Here is just a snippet of what to expect.

Dalziel and Pow
Retail design consultancy Dalziel & Pow is set to showcase work from five continents, with a client list that includes John Lewis, Jigsaw, Argos, Primark and Debenhams. 'We are really looking forward to the Retail Design Expo,' says group creative director David Dalziel.

Dalziel and Pow

'It comes at a time when we are all reappraising the definition of retail design and its impact on the market.' At stand G33, adjacent to the Designer Pavilion area and close to the main seminar suite, the practice will be discussing trends and insights and bringing experience and knowledge to the event with its full studio team in attendance.

Global design consultancy Fitch, which has design studios around the world, is exhibiting to keep up to speed with a 'rapidly changing' UK retail sector.


The group has a client list that includes from crystal brand Swarovski to food giant Nestle, and has developed stores for American retailer Target and UK company Ann Summers, as well as showrooms for Indian motorcycle brand Bajaj. 'We're excited that Retail Design Expo is very much about the new and the future,' says Fitch EMEA creative director Alasdair Lennox. 'A new event can really set the tone at an exciting time.

It can set a new agenda because it is not tied to the past.' Fitch can be found at DES8.

Surface finishes specialist Armourcoat will be bringing new colours and finishes to Retail Design Expo, and plans to reach out to retailers, designers, architects and shop fitters when it unveils its latest product ranges (stand H50). Armourcoat lists international brands, including Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo and DKNY, among its long-standing clients. It says shows and events are a vital way to reach new customers. 'It's a tactile product and people have to experience how it feels,' says Armourcoat group marketing director Daniel Nevitt of the company's latest product, being launched at the event.

Italian lighting specialist iGuzzini is sponsoring the Invisible Light Lab, a special feature area at the event. The educational display will show retailers, brands and retail designers the latest techniques and technology for highlighting merchandise without drawing attention towards light fixtures or creating unwanted glare.


'It's a problem for a lot of shops: you have spotlights going everywhere and the first thing that hits people when they enter the retail environment is that they are inundated with glare,' says iGuzzini UK sales and marketing director Ian Stanton. iGuzzini's lighting experts will be at the Invisible Light Lab to provide details of the cost lighting systems. i

Wieland Electric
Connection expert Wieland Electric will be taking advantage of Retail Design Expo to demonstrate the benefits of its new Gesis MICRO connector system (stand E70) .

Wieland Electric

A system so small, the Gesis MICRO connector system only requires a small drilled hole for running wiring through and is easy to install with its 'plug-and- play' functionality. Wieland Electric says it's the ideal solution is for connecting discreet LED lighting in display cases or shelving where space is at a premium, so that nothing detracts from items on display.

The Zumtobel and Thorn Lighting brands, both part of the Zumtobel Group for some years, have become more closely aligned recently. The company will be promoting both brands at Retail Design Expo, emphasising its expertise in lighting controls and retail maintenance, as well as its extensive range of lighting products.


'We are looking to establish a stronger position in the retail market, in both store new-builds and refurbishments,' says Zumtobel sales director for the end-user, Clive Jackson. 'We now want to be clearly visible as being very active in the retail sector.' Zumtobel and Thorn Lighting will be on stand J61.;


History is Now: 7 Artists Take on Britain – Review


Hayward Gallery,Southbank Centre, London
Until 26 April

Richard Wentworth in conversation with Shumi Bose

Blueprint: You have shown in the Hayward before. How do you like working here?

Richard Wentworth: Oh yes. I've worked here more times than I can remember. I think the space is really interesting. I watched it being built; I came to the first show. The funny thing is, of course, the whole point about history is the erasing of things. I can't remember what was here before, and today when I come here I think, 'Oh, they've changed that'. It's a place which is thoughtful -- you put your hand out and there is a handrail; it's very gracious.

The Hayward opened during the summer of 1968. What was it like at that time?

Oh, it was optimistic, it was brilliant -- we're here, it is now, this is great! And we hadn't been in the war, so we didn't notice that a building like this might have been in conversation with the Atlantic Wall. I mean, I'm not even sure I knew what the Atlantic Wall was at that time [the extensive system of coastal defences built by Nazi Germany along the west coast of Europe]. Tate Modern really just wrecked this -- not on purpose, but it was like Harvey Nicks arriving when this was a really nice corner store.

The Bristol Bloodhound bomber Photo: Linda Nylind
The Bristol Bloodhound bomber Photo: Linda Nylind

This is a sprawling show: were the artists choreographed, arranged in order of age or chronology?

Well, beginnings are important... But I'll take you through to my bit. There's Simon Fujiwara, very frontal collisions, this corporate, Ocado-aesthetic. I think there is something to do with consumption that it is going on, something to do with disengagement. Then we have the Wilson sisters, about 15 years older. Then Roger Hiorns is here... with the history of bodily fluids and CJD. I'm being a bit cheeky... but you're coming in through the cow's muzzle, being driven, mooing, down into the museum space.

Then there's a photography selection from Hannah Starkey, and these films from John Akomfrah. Everyone was given a patch, and no one really talked to each other, as far as I know. Tell me about the Bristol Bloodhound surface-to-air missile, which is mounted just outside the gallery window.

Richard Wentworth, installation view (detail) Photo: Linda Nylind
Richard Wentworth, installation view (detail) Photo: Linda Nylind

You can't see it, but there is a steering wheel on that, and a little button that says ignition. This is really an achievement to have here, from the Norfolk Air Defence Museum. It came out of a conversation where thought I wanted a V-2, designed by Werner von Braun. This is a serious weapon of death, but it's lost its meaning and we're sort of stroking it.

The erotic pull that it has. for men and for women, is quite extraordinary. It is interesting to have the Bristol Bloodhound in one of London's war bomb sites.

Well, that's where it all came from. A V-1 landed on the Southbank, only I got muddled and thought I wanted a V-2... and stitched into that is this Cold War Werner Von Braun story. The Americans got the personnel and the Russians got the data... I mean, that is GPS basically; all our telecommunication comes from there. It is a funny feeling to have it here, on this damaged piece of London, still pointing east.

There's a collection of objects in this specially constructed airlock, between the gallery and the missile. Is that all yours?

This room is all the Bloodhound and things to do with it. Well, they are my acquisitions; we happened to find things and then they fitted. That's no different to acquiring stuff throughout your life. I mean, there probably are people who plan all their acquisitions -- maybe that's very modern. But we acquire friendships, relationships, incidentals, accidentals, and that's what makes us who we are, of course.

Tell me about the immersive wall of photographs. Where are they from? What is interesting about this is that about seventy per cent is from the Archive of Modern Conflict, a very unusual archive of things from, I would say, spaces of friction. So really, some horrible stuff -- you can predict what stuff will end up in there from today's warfare, people being beheaded... But this is all archival stuff, pre-internet.

Simon Fujiwara’s curated installation Photo: Linda Nylind
Simon Fujiwara's curated installation Photo: Linda Nylind

To give you an example: I was given two sandwich bags full of photographs, all annotated with these dry quips. You gradually realise it's one person... probably a young boy and you realise he was in the Normandy landings... I'm hoping that people will behave in a similarly discriminating way. They'll see his note here, and somewhere else, and then start mapping in their own way.

Mixed up in here is some press stuff... and things like this -- my own iPhone photographs looking at something in the British Museum. Very ordinary. I notice the captions around the Henry Moore sculptures are in slightly odd places.

Getting people to look is really interesting. Yesterday, someone who is very bright was asking me why we wanted to put the caption around the corner. The answer was that I wanted people to have that very short moment of just looking first, just looking and having an experience before the label. Everyone has a smartphone; if people want the full data on something it can be found. I like things that you inhabit, rather than things that you carry out; that slow unfurling where you never quite get to know something... It has been difficult maintaining that attitude within an institution, but I like the journey, the process.

Can we relate this idea of journey making to history itself? Because history is not a succession of facts like points on a route, but a narrative construct.

The only thing that makes things 'fact'... is a product of other facts and fictions. And pretty quickly you're off into why decisions were made, how feelings are formed. This is why history should be such a gorgeous thing to teach. It's something to do with a 'point of view' - that great expression. You can't see things from someone else's point of view, and that has been a great pleasure, a great friction in working on this show. Was the task of the exhibition more to map your historic acquisitions, then, or is it more to map your point of view?

I think it was more that I was shown some collections and quite quickly went 'shopping'. That sets up conversations about what you want to see together, and then you start noticing that there are some quite powerful things being said. The two Paul Nash paintings are unbelievably good. This one of the Battle of Britain, which I wasn't in, but which I heard about... People would watch the theatre of it, just like people watched 9/11.

What was really important to me was a particular 1944 Ben Nicholson painting -- I think we may even say, June 1944, with an aerial view out of St Ives... there's this object that looks like a Conran mug: it's actually a Union flag. And suddenly you realise that, oh no, that's a flag on a boat, and you realise while he's painting that there are people drowning on the beach in Normandy.

So, let's talk about the beach for a moment; it seems to be a theme, if there can be one, in the pieces you have selected.

I don't really like the beach. I am happy to go for a walk, but I don't like sand in the bum! ... But then I suddenly realised what an activated space it is, because it's an edge.

So I've always thought these Robert Capa photographs were so extraordinary... somebody put the negatives in the drying cabinet and cranked up the heat. So there are these very painterly, sensual kind of photo-Goyas of jolly bad things -- mostly people drowning in their kit. It might look like it was hung very low, but we forget the person was lying in the surf shooting that photo.

Then with Richard Hamilton -- in one image, one is slightly tempted to guess that we're looking at blood in the water, but then you look at it closer and it's actually leisure, so you get this line being blurred between war and pleasure on the beach...


Blueprint 20/20: Grimshaw’s Eden Project



Grimshaw deputy chairman, Andrew Whalley, presented the project with all its trials and tribulations, before Blueprint editor, Johnny Tucker, conducted a panel discussion with Andrew Whalley, practice founder Nicholas Grimshaw and Eden Project founder Tim Smit. The lively evening ended with the news that further Eden Projects are being planned for China and Canada, and Grimshaw will be the architect involved again. Here we bring you some of the presentation and discussion from a memorable evening.

The evening was a sell out
The evening was a sell out

Andrew Whalley: The genesis of the project came out of the Lost Gardens of Heligan, not only are they beautiful gardens, but Tim Smit has a real fascination about learning how you can cultivate and grow all the needs and produce for a Victorian house from glasshouses and the surrounding land. The idea was to take that to a much bigger scale and somehow explore and describe man's relationship with the planet and plants. It was through the idea of creating very large enclosures, creating completely new life environments in Cornwall. When we were approached, we had just finished Waterloo terminal where the inspiration for us was the great Victorian railway sheds, and they in turn were influenced by work of Joseph Paxton.

The construction site near St Austell, Cornwall
The construction site near St Austell, Cornwall

Nicholas Grimshaw: From an architect's point of view, this was a life-changing project for our office; so many things were never the same. We'd done some quite big projects before, but this gripped us in a way, I suppose, like some vast film. It was the way it swept everyone along -- we were perhaps only 10 per cent of the picture -- it was quite extraordinary; the economics of it, the politics of it, the whole effect on the region, you just felt everybody down there was involved in it.

The ETFE biomes are nestled in a disused china clay pit
The ETFE biomes are nestled in a disused china clay pit

AW: Collectively, as a design team, all of us really bought into it, despite several set-backs. I think as we all went down on that beautiful train journey, we all fell in love with Cornwall and could see there was something magical. Particularly, I think it was the discovery of that site. All of us claim to have been the first person to discover the site and look down; you almost expected dinosaurs to be roaming around in the bottom. It really had to be part of the architecture. Tim's one of the few people who has looked at a derelict site that people are trying to get rid of and said, 'I have to have that site -- I'll pay you anything for it'!

Grimshaw was influenced by the great tradition of Victorian glasshouses
Grimshaw was influenced by the great tradition of Victorian glasshouses

Tim Smit: Imagine if you will, a situation where some jerk from the sticks comes up to the big smoke, talks to these people who are big, big, big and says guys we've got no money, we've just got this dream, because one of things that is really wrong with this country is that dreaming has become the territory of those who do not know how to dream, the big pension funds, the hedge funds, the crap artists, and I mean this seriously, because in this country we do not have a state way of funding the feasibility of projects.

The south-facing site informed the architecture
The south-facing site informed the architecture

The Eden Project couldn't have been done without the guys in this room spending at least £۵m of their own collective labour to prove that it was possible. It was a huge act of faith, and for us it was terrific.

The enclosures seperately emulate tropical and mediterranean environments
The enclosures seperately emulate tropical and mediterranean environments

AW: The biggest part of Eden was to be the humid tropics, the Amazon rainforest, where of course we have the most diverse part of the planet, but to do that we needed to create something really large-scale, a completely immersive experience where you wouldn't be aware you were in a glasshouse or in an enclosure; we wanted it to feel like you were in the Amazon.

It was one of the first times Grimshaw used three-dimensional CAD software
It was one of the first times Grimshaw used three-dimensional CAD software

I'm a great science-fiction fan and in the Seventies there was a great cult film called Silent Running: it's the story of planet Earth being made barren, and all of its plants and different environments are protected and sent to space in these large geodesic biomes. Also, as a student in Glasgow, I was very impressed with the small glasshouse, Kibble Palace. It always amazed me how it stood up because it's literally just a shell of glass and wrought iron. What it proved is that you can do very lightweight, delicate structures, inspired by nature.

The biomes intersect like a series of soap Bubbles
The biomes intersect like a series of soap Bubbles

So we thought, how can we do things more efficiently, and we redefined it -- rather than this undulating shape, we started exploring this idea of interlocking spheres. We've also always been very inspired by the Institute of Lightweight Structures in Stuttgart and they'd done a lot of experimentation using soap bubbles. If you put soap bubbles in a dish, they find the optimum shape and form, so that really became the reimagining and rethinking through: trying to create a much more efficient, optimised structure.

A lot of work, and budget, went into anchoring the pit
A lot of work, and budget, went into anchoring the pit

TS: One of the problems we have is that we live in a world of big things, but with no substance -- they're hollow -- it's something that spiritually erodes us. The people here understood if we were trying to build a bloody theme park, it would have been a lot easier to do. What we were trying to do was create something that had the language of the popular, of entertainment culture, because we knew that the over-serious wasn't drawing people in. It was a really fine balancing act.

Another unexpected influence came from Seventies cult film Silent Running, where Earth’s plants are sent to space in geodesic biomes
Another unexpected influence came from Seventies cult film Silent Running, where Earth's plants are sent to space in geodesic biomes

AW: We really had the same team as we had worked on Waterloo with, Tony Hunt's team [Anthony Hunt Associates] on structures, Davis Langdon on costs and Arup joined us on the environmental design side. With Tony's team we looked at the whole geodesic structure and started off with a single, poured structure and then brought in MERO the German manufacturer and honed the structure until we got it down to basically what's called a hex-tri-hex, that's two layers of structure. We actually halved the weight of the roof structure; it was great news for us because it meant it was a much more efficient solution.

The biomes are made of a hex-tri-hex – two layers of structure
The biomes are made of a hex-tri-hex - two layers of structure

We then embarked on the construction work of the project. At the time, McAlpine looked at the amount of work they had to do in a short space of time, and said, 'men have been digging this hole for a hundred years and you're giving us six months to try and put it back together again'?

Parts arrive numbered on site
Parts arrive numbered on site

We did also choose the wettest winter in, I think, twenty years -- so we had a few challenges. The site we had pulled out for the first build, the visitors' centre, gave way and disappeared one evening. We found that we had to spend more and more money stabilising what we thought was a granite pit, but which wasn't. It was a very soft pit and a lot of work disappeared into anchoring it.

The panels vary in size up to 11m across
The panels vary in size up to 11m across

What we ended up with was probably one of the world's largest Meccano sets ever created. All these crates arrived, all beautifully labelled, with all the connectors in it, all the pipework, all the nuts, bolts etc and then we had the fun of actually assembling it. Of course, the question is -- how do you build a geodesic structure? -- because they're very stiff once they're built, but they're very difficult to support until they're in place. After looking at a number of options, it was felt the only real way of doing it was to build a very large birdcage scaffold; this was our first entry into the Guinness Book of World Records. As soon as the structure was up, we took the scaffold out and anything else was done with abseilers.

The biomes were built using a very large birdcage scaffold
The biomes were built using a very large birdcage scaffold

The number one goal was to get the maximum amount of light on the floor for the plants to grow, so really we were searching for something that could do that, but also we had this great history of creating these enormous enclosures and we had the reality, as you always do, with the budget. We had to come up with a bit of ingenuity to think about how we could create these big enclosures for much less than traditional glass and steel. It allowed us to really push boundaries and create something that was new.

Nearly half a million people paid £5 each to view the building site
Nearly half a million people paid £۵ each to view the building site

Then, an entrepreneurial stroke of genius -- this is the only time I've known members of the public to be charged £۵ a head to come and look at a building site! Nearly half a million people came to watch the construction; that was great, some money straight in the bank before we opened, but more importantly it created a lot of interest in the project.

The project took two and a half years to construct and opened on 17 March 2001
The project took two and a half years to construct and opened on 17 March 2001

Everyone who came along, I think, felt almost part of the creation of the project. It also brought a lot of publicity in the newspapers, so already it was drumming up interest.

We opened against a rather dire situation which was the outbreak of foot and mouth, and we were surprised at the sheer number of people who came to see the project.

The humid environment of the Tropical Biome
The humid environment of the Tropical Biome

The police became concerned about the numbers coming and blocking the roads, so asked people to delay their visit to another time. If you ever want to boost your numbers, ask the police to tell you not to come to something, as that just drove the numbers up further!

NG: The main thing was it was a key source of industry and employment, and a source of life really for Cornwall. They have a very short holiday season, just a couple of months, and what this gave them was something like a vast industry in the middle of Cornwall, which employed people: cafes, restaurants, taxis, hotels, the train service -- everything was sort of powered by this thing.

ETFE is lightweight and allowed the maximum amount of light to reach the plants
ETFE is lightweight and allowed the maximum amount of light to reach the plants

TS: Although it's very easy to make me the hero, I'm not. I actually brought people together and made them believe in the thing, but that whole bunch of people took an enormous professional risk. This wasn't half an hour here, half an hour there -- this was weeks and weeks of time they could have charged other people for. They all believed in the dream. I believed in the project from day one -- I knew we were going to build it. It was going to happen, because no one was going to stand in our way.

We're using the same team for an Eden Project in China. It's going to be the first environmental centre of its kind to be completely powered, we hope, by water, in the city of Tsingtao, which is the former German colony in China. The site is poisonous -- we only want to work on poisonous sites! This was a mixture of salt mining and prawn fishing, so it's got a lot of salt and a lot of nitrate. We don't want to build the old Eden Project, we want to build a new one, so it's like a sister around the world.

The CORE information centre opened in September 2005
The CORE information centre opened in September 2005

NG: The Eden Project in Cornwall can definitely be seen as a building of its time, and I think when we build the one in China it will be completely different.

One particular compliment I would like to pay to Tim is the quiet way he gets across statistics. I think one of the biggest problems with the modern world is that nobody believes anything anybody says. With Eden particularly, Tim set up very quietly to tell the story. He didn't want to shout at people, but just quietly said, 'If all the plants in the world disappear, we'll be dead in a few years.'

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Rohan Silva on office spaces in London

A spectre is haunting the city -- the spectre of technology. Developed economies around the world are being reshaped by the information revolution, but the lack of innovation in the property industry means our cities and buildings simply aren't evolving to keep pace.

The internet has dramatically slashed the cost of starting a company, helping the number of small businesses in the UK to explode from 700,000 just a few decades ago to 5.2 million today. What's more, in the Information Age, clustering and physical proximity are more important for innovation than ever, while the innovation cycle is so fast that large corporations are being disrupted by startups at lightning speed.

Despite these seminal changes, the property industry has barely changed at all in the past 20 years. In the main, developers are still churning out inflexible buildings for monolithic large companies on rigid, long leases, with tenants working in isolation from one another, and next to no emphasis on the cultural life that helps spark serendipitous collisions and innovation.

This isn't just an academic problem -- it means life is harder than it should be for millions of creative entrepreneurs and small businesses, with huge negative consequences for job creation and economic growth. It doesn't have to be this way. I believe that it is possible to re-imagine the built environment so that it better reflects the way that companies work today. Here's how my company Second Home is going about it.

First, through radical design. In early 2014, we appointed the Madrid-based practice, SelgasCano, to create a building in east London where creative companies can have their own private, soundproofed studios, within an overall environment that is beautifully transparent and communal. We have 30 private studios in total, enabling teams of between four and 25 people to work around the clock, cheek by jowl with startups operating from the communal space in the centre of the building. Companies occupy our studios on three-month, rolling memberships, and can add or subtract staff on a weekly basis, ensuring that they can respond in real-time to the ever-changing innovation cycle.

Second, we're curating a community. We understand that good things happen when different types of industry and people collide, which is why we carefully picked companies for Second Home that we felt could have a synergistic relationship with one another. (We turned down more than 60 businesses that we didn't think were quite right.) The result? Our studios were 100 per cent full on day one of opening, occupied by a tight-knit and diverse community: global businesses such as SurveyMonkey, Foursquare and TaskRabbit, alongside homegrown innovators such as Cushman & Wakefield's new property-tech incubator and Santander's £۱۰۰m FinTech fund.

Third, we're supporting wellbeing and creativity. SelgasCano drew on evolutionary psychology to design an environment that mimics the seasonality and fractal complexity of the natural world: there are more than 1,000 plants and trees in our building, every chair and desk lamp is different (all mid-century and Bauhaus originals), and there are almost no straight lines anywhere. In addition, we host a regular programme of cultural events to bring people together, including lectures, film screenings and live gigs, which all take place in our stunning auditorium.

In the words of the Harvard economist Ed Glaeser: 'Cities are our greatest invention' -- they are crucibles of creativity where we come together to achieve new things. It's time to reinvent our urban spaces, and help a new generation of entrepreneurs to flourish in our cities. This is our generation's struggle. I've no doubt we'll rise to the challenge.


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The ceaseless march of progress may have brought smartphones and flat-screen TVs into our lives, but what’s happened to all those technological objects and interiors innovations from the past? Let’s celebrate some of these retro goodies, from the electric blanket to the happy-tappy typewriter. I...


simbol collection by cristian mohaded for voila pays homage to argentina

using traditional catamarca simbol-knitting techniques and mohaded's designs the 'simbol' collection was realized

The post simbol collection by cristian mohaded for voila pays homage to argentina appeared first on designboom | architecture & design magazine.


Dezeen Jobs: latest jobs update

Dezeen Jobs: latest jobs update

See the latest from our recruitment site Dezeen Jobs, including positions with Archi-Union ArchitectsOppenheim Architecture + Design and Mikhail Riches, whose renovated nineteenth-century house in London is pictured. This is also the last chance to apply for roles with Storefront for Art & Architecture, BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and more... (more…)


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Architect Mahmood Fallahian

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