Pass the (s)ketchup

It’s a few years since I last visited the Interbuild exhibition. So long, in fact, that the last time I went the atmosphere was sufficiently un-PC to allow for a collection of under dressed women to be seen demonstrating the baths and jacuzzis. No such luck this year.

The actual work related content was pretty disappointing too. None of the big manufacturers had a presence and there didn’t seem to be any eye-catching innovation. I suspect that, for many, the internet has changed the need to rely on exhibitions to deliver information. A lot of products also fell foul of the critical appraisal skills that comes with being a parent (a skill that I had yet to acquire on my previous visits). Plenty of potential death traps and cleaning nightmares; such as the radiator with perfect size holes for inserting a banana. Irrelevant design problem? Ask a two year old.

There was, however, some interesting IT solutions that we left feeling enthusiastic about. The most impressive of which was Sketchup, a 3D modelling application that tries to strip out all the complexities normally found in CAD packages and perform in a more intuitive fashion. Push bits, pull bits, punch holes, extrude a roof, cast a shadow and cut a section. Very tactile and immediate, it looks perfect for carving out initial concepts. It’s only Achilles heel is that you can’t export designs in orthographic. Which means drawing your design from scratch when you move into the production stage.

Before leaving, we paid a visit to the RIBA stand, hoping that we might get cheered up by the Will Alsop designed pavillion. Whilst it’s dangerous to critique something for which you don’t know the brief, it’s fair to say that we were distinctly underwhelmed. Essentially an exercise in surface decoration, the uncomfortably proportioned box tried to create a glamorous enclave amidst a world of dowdy building products. Judging by the number of darkly dressed architects at the bar (we they always wear black) this seemed to fool at least a few people. On reflection, it may have been the mirrored floor that was the cause of the odd proportion – everything doubled, leaving you in the centre of the vertical space, instead of at ground level where you expected to be. The wall of the bar was a beautiful, polished red but your view of it was always disturbed by the black and white zig-zag patterns on the wall. Refusing to leave your peripheral vision and daring you to look straight at them. I suspect that both the brief and the budget were all but non-existant.

Al, who’s been sufficiently upset by Alsop’s work in the past to write an inspired letter to the AJ, found it particularly difficult to keep his cool. Let’s hope this doesn’t cause too much tension when Alsop comes to Oxford Brookes Uni to critique his final post-graduate project next year.

Perhaps it was the lingering memory of bananas in radiators that had put us in such uncharitable spirits.

Some much, much better news is that I see from this morning’s press that MVRDV are the next practice to design a pavillion for Hyde Park. I can’t wait. Their work is both beautiful and rigorous – I’m a big fan. I also owe them for paving the way for my Pigs in Space project, which I worked on as an investigation of the ideas put forward in their Pig City.

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