Archive for February, 2011

New Small Cullen

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Taking the time to write something considered and share it online is not easy, so getting reminded why it’s worth it is always welcome.  I’ve certainly appreciated all the supportive comments about my first submission to the housing blog over at and much more importantly I’ve learnt lots in return from people sending links and sharing knowledge. The real star of that show though is undoubtedly the delightful book by FRS Yorke and Penelope Whiting: The New Small House.


The added bonus being this suitably charming cover by none other than Gordon Cullen. As a student of the mid-nineties, surrounded at the time by all the linguistic gymnastics of post structuralist decision dodging, I’ve noticed that with age my later interests appear to be an act of rebellion and I’m becoming an arch-empiricist.  Yesterday I was into linguistics, but today I’m not Saussure.

This is a fact well recorded in years gone by with entries and even the occasional sketch on Cullen that ranged from simple explorations of sections of Townscape through to more unusual assessments involving a skunk called Pepe Le Pew.

I was unimaginably flattered then to recently receive an e-mail from a reader who likened my own sketches to the work of Cullen and even more excited to discover an opportunity to share some more of his work.

Gorden Cullen sketch

Here’s Eric Osbourne describing the history of the sketch he’s been the proud owner of for years:

I have been trying to remember the firm I shared 16 Carlisle Street, London W1 with from about 1968 to 1970, I think they were called Phillip Chandos, because they were drinking in the Chandos Pub opposite the Nurse Cavell Statue, St. Martins’ Lane when the company was conceived – drinking was important to the company ethos! They use to write, design, edit and sub-contract printing for books and leaflets on various aspects of construction and architecture. The Lead Association springs to mind. Gordon Cullen was in and out all the time and very good friends of the main man (a tall guy with a long horizontal moustache and always sporting a bow tie), who had his office on the first floor. All their names are gone now but I remember Gordon would arrive at 11.00/11.30, the office manager would go down and we would hear peals of laughter. At opening time they would either go to the ‘Bath House’ pub on the corner for a ‘quick one’ which lasted until 3.00 or the Braganza, Soho Square in which case you did not see the three of them again that day. After they moved, I do remember going to their new offices in Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden for a very quick drink, with accumulated post and the drawing which I had found amongst the serious piles of rubbish they had left behind. I was told I could keep it and I have treasured it every since – it’s the nearest thing I have to a William Blake/Picasso/Durer – a true masterpiece.

I don’t know whether it was commissioned for anything else or used in any publications so perhaps this is its first outing beyond Eric’s home. Thanks for taking to the time to share it with us Eric. I dream, literally, of being able to muster such line quality so effortlessly.

blogging and web rev B

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

A couple of announcements:


My hope of getting back in the blogging saddle has resulted in agreeing to try the occasional entry for and their new housing blog. I’ve kicked off by relying on some fairly classic texts for comfort and expanded on what began as a twitter message musing on the value of sculleries. You can see the results here:

I’ve no doubt the breadth of the topic will give opportunity in the future to wander into both theory and practice and I look forward to trying to weave both together. I’ll also hopefully be using it to subtly introduce other links to online content that you might not find in other mainstream media. You’ll note for example that I’ve snuck some links in to the first entry to the fantastic

This is of course partly because of my involvement with…


Thanks to Sir Clive Sinclair, his rubber-keyed Spectrum 48k and several copies of Computer + Video Games magazine I am what the technology industry likes to call an ‘early adopter’. During the last 6 or 7 years I’ve been trying to take the geek enthusiasm (ranging from furtive activities such as mucking about late at night with the beginnings of this blog or organising flash mob assaults on Oxfam shops) into my office during the day and use it to change the Way We Work. It’s proved valuable in many ways; from public facing projects that have benefitted from the openness and agility of communicating on the web and in three dimensions, to experience with behind the scenes project management tools that we can include as part of our normal service through to just the simple ability to be able to run an office without being beholden to an IT Department or causing unnecessary overheads.

What’s perhaps been most surprising about these past few years is how long I kept feeling like an early adopter. We’re a conservative bunch in the construction sector it would seem and encounters with fellow geeks were few and far between. This is particularly odd given how obsessed us architects tend to be about concepts of technique or process, making us prime targets for the Getting Things Done philosophy found in many of the online tools available. Our interest in craft and production combined with, say, a predilection for pretentious graphic design and a pedantically chosen font would also suggest we’d be suckers for offshoots in this digital territory like, let’s say, Moo business cards. Yet for years I could cause an embarrassing amount of fuss at a meeting by pulling one out of my pocket and explaining that it was the simple connection of an image sharing site, short run, print-on-demand services and web 2.0 user generated content principles. Admittedly, we’ve adopted blogging and twitter with gusto in the last 4 or 5 years but then we always did like to Go On A Bit (see aforementioned BD blog entry) and frankly, there’s more possible with Web 2.0 Revision B than that.

This is changing however and meanwhile, like a scene from an episode of Heroes, others like me have been gathering to share the powers invested in them by their binary mutated DNA sequence, forming crack squads of digital communication experts ready to infiltrate the-

OK, enough with the uncharacteristic and fairly unattractive hyperbole. I’m allowing myself such melodrama because it’s with no small amount of pride that I highlight tomorrow night’s event at the Building Centre in London.

After several years of be2camp events around the country, the network’s founders will be announcing the results of the nominations and voting at Those listed, along with many of the folks who came along to support at past be2camp sessions will have given their time and knowledge free at events like the ones I’ve been involved in organising in Birmingham for the last two years. Whilst the meetings and unconferences may not have reached a mainstream audience in the construction sector yet, we know that much has been learnt, shared and developed by all of us who’ve been able to take part.

So, it’ll be a worthwhile celebration. Please do register on the site and come along and join us during the afternoon. Alternatively, just keep your eye on twitter for the most important category of all: Nearest Public House.