What Is ‘Architectural Identity’? Part IV

Stadium interior © minmud


Architecture has one main purpose and one only, to serve the needs of man. This could take on different forms, from the typical residential homes of individuals and families, office towers for businesses and corporations, shops for services and goods and so on. The point of architecture is to create inhabitable spaces for which can be occupied for whatever its main use is. How a building impacts an individual or a number of people depends on it as a whole, how does it work? How does it look? How long will it last? How does it improve my life? All these questions and more can greatly influence how a building is designed, constructed, funded, ultimately it can influence the very lifespan of a project, from concept design to completion. Looking towards the Tokyo Olympic 2020 stadium, how will it impact the general public? How will it affect the local residents, the city and the world in the long-run?

The stadium proposal seems adamant on making the building more flexible beyond the Olympic events, creating a venue that is more people-friendly and engaging, that can host various artistic and cultural events as well as benefiting the local district, the city and by extension, the country. With the built-in exhibition centre (a la Zaragoza Bridge Pavilion style), the stadium proposal tries to be more than just a sporting stadium, that it can adapt to the times and various possible functions. No doubt when the structure is completed that it will look stupendous and extravagant. Will it outshine the previous stadiums and ceremonies? Most definitely. With the whole Olympic festivities will bring to Japan a wealth of economic income and several hundreds of thousands tourists in.  The memorable event will give Japan the biggest global sporting competition stage (ignoring the FIFA World Cup), grabbing the world’s attention. The human factor when dealing with the Olympics is almost indescribable. Being there physically and taking part in the festivities and sporting events creates memorable moments in people, both local and visiting. Architecture, which has over the years been not just design, but also a form of communication and narrative in society, shaping our urban landscapes, defining our society in ways that are obvious and oblivious to us. Buildings have a way of becoming a small or big part of our lives, whether its somewhere we visited on holiday and remember fondly, a place where we first met our spouses, the first family home where all the kids grew up in, the same bar we go to every Friday night with our friends, whatever the situation, buildings tend to touch and influence us in the most peculiar ways sometimes.

Will Zaha Hadid’s proposal be a positive impact on the populace, not just during the Olympics but more importantly, afterwards? How will the legacy of the Games affect people 5, 10, 20 years after? We’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, examples of buildings that have that ‘human impact’ factor include: the wonderfully vivid and artsy Parc Guell, the botanic paradise that is known as the Gardens by the Bay, the highest of the high monolith Burj Khalifa, France’s most recognised structure, the Eiffel Tower and the beautiful existing structures found within the city of Petra, particularly the Al Khazneh.


Picture source: http://www.worldofdesigners.com
Picture source: http://www.worldofdesigners.com

Name: Parc Guell

Location: Barcelona, Spain

Architects: Antoni Gaudi

Date: 1900-14


Picture source: http://cdn.nanxiongnandi.com
Picture source: http://cdn.nanxiongnandi.com

Name: Gardens by the Bay

Location: Marina Bay, Singapore

Architects: Wilkinson Eyre Architects 

Date: 2012


Picture source: www.dubaidhow.com
Picture source: www.dubaidhow.com

Name: Burj Khalifa

Location: Dubai, UAE

Architects: Adrian Smith of SOM

Date: 2004-2010


Picture source: http://www.wallpaperswala.com
Picture source: http://www.wallpaperswala.com

Name: Eiffel Tower

Location: Paris, France

Architect/Engineers: Stephen Sauvestre/Gustav Eiffel, Maurice Koechlin and Émile Nouguier

Date: 2004-2010



Picture source: http://static.panoramio.com
Picture source: http://static.panoramio.com

Name: Al Khazneh

Location: Petra, Jordan

Architects: N/A

Date: 2012




What Is ‘Architectural Identity’? Part III

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Stadium, Zaha Hadid © ZHA

Generally speaking, architecture has been around for thousands & thousands of years, ranging from Neolithic to Egyptian, Greek and Roman. It has developed and expanded from numerous cultures, traditions, styles, human impact, periodic times, religion and natural phenomena.  Architecture is naturally one of the oldest crafts of the ‘design’ industry and has continued to be one of the greatest human contributions to society. Architecture is more than just a building, whether it is a private house, an office block or a shopping centre. The craft has the opportunity to become something that impacts people, to create such an impact on society that it becomes a iconic structure, rich with history that redefines the narrative and shape of the urban landscape, becoming a significant, memorable part of people’s lives and remaining timeless throughout the ages. That is part of the power of architecture, so with that in mind, looking back at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Stadium proposal, we can try to understand what Zaha Hadid is trying to achieve through her design.


With it’s overarching curves and contextual dominance, the structure location is said to be in the Jingu area, one of “Tokyo Vision 2020″‘ sport designated areas. The area is nearby Yoyogi Park, located in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, the capital city of Japan. Yoyogi Park is close to Harajuku Station, and other landmarks in the area include the Meiji Jingu Shrine and the Yoyogi National Gymnasium. The park is noted also for its cherry blossom trees, alongside it’s featured sport courts, bike pathways, bike rentals & picnic areas. The park is also a popular venue for Japanese rock music concerts. The site is also historic for being the location of Japan’s first successful aircraft took flight in 1910, later becoming an army parade vicinity. Projected to be completed by 2019, the stadium will host the opening and closing ceremonies as well as sporting events, including athletics, rugby & soccer.  The owners, Japan Sport Council, have plans for the stadium to host the Rugby World Cup in 2019. The Olympic Stadium, as well as most of the other Olympic venues are all located within the ‘Heritage Zone’ & “Tokyo Bay Zone”, each zone approximately 8000m in diameter (https://tokyo2020.jp/en/plan/venue/).


Map of Olympic Zone ©tokyo2020.jp
Map of Olympic Zone ©tokyo2020.jp


In the on-going debate of whether the stadium is ‘worth its weight’ (long-term) in size and cost, many believe it will set a new precedent in reshaping the urban context of the site’s location, bringing social, sporting and economical benefits as well as becoming a lasting legacy for Japan. Without trying to sound to cynical, the general purpose of an Olympic Bid is ‘lasting legacy’ and that’s what becomes the main focus of everything from national support, to funding, to venues. A quote from Tadao Ando (Chairman of the competition panel) states: “The entry’s dynamic and futuristic design embodies the messages Japan would like to convey to the rest of the world. I believe this stadium will become a shrine for world sport for the next 100 years”. Others disagree, such as Fumihiko Maki who mentions: “The problems I see with the planned stadium all relate to the issue of scale”, whilst claiming the design itself it’s at fault but needs to be reduced in size and become more sustainable. There are those who are in favour of the proposal stating that scaling it back in size would cause more problems then necessary: “”The articulation, how [the design] manifests itself, really needs to come from a single vision, otherwise there won’t be authorship, there won’t be an authentic voice behind it…you get that in all good buildings, all good pieces of design”.

Contextual landscape © Tokyo Olympic bid
Contextual landscape © Tokyo Olympic bid


Due to the public outcry of the Japanese public as well as many in the architectural business, the Japan Sport Council have stated that they would scale down the proposed floor plan by one-quarter, according to IBTimes. Reducing the floor area will cut costs down to 180 billion yen, whilst keeping with majority of the design scheme and height estimations, even though many are saying that the reduced cost is still higher then originally pledged during the initial stages. But whether this structure will become a positive influence on the contextual layout and the social impact of the district (and city), only time will tell. There are many buildings that have impacted their respective locations and citizens, but how many buildings have last for hundreds of years that are still with us today? Examples of some buildings that have historical and cultural impact includes the dramatic Sydney Opera House, the prominent Empire State Building, the majestic Taj Mahal, the elegant Louvre and the galactic Cathedral of Brasilia. 

Picture source: seesydneypass.iventurecard.com
Picture source: seesydneypass.iventurecard.com

Name: Sydney Opera House

Location: Sydney, Australia

Architect: Jørn Oberg Utzon

Date: 1959-73


Picture source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/
Picture source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/

Name: Empire State Building

Location: New York City, USA

Architects: Shreve, Lamb and Harmon

Date: 1929-31


Picture source: http://upload.wikimedia.org
Picture source: http://upload.wikimedia.org

Name: Taj Mahal

Location: Agra, India

Architect: Ustad Ahmad Lahauri

Date: 1632–53


Picture source: http://wallpaperstock.net
Picture source: http://wallpaperstock.net

Name: The Louvre

Location: Paris, France

Architect: I.M. Pei (Pyramid)

Date: 12th Century (Palace) 1989 (Pyramid)


Picture source: architecture.about.com
Picture source: architecture.about.com

Name: Cathedral of Brasilia

Location: Brasilia, Brazil

Architect: Oscar Niemeyer

Date: 1958-70

Self-Build Mortgages

A self-build project can help many of us turn our dream homes into reality. Despite the poor economy, the UK has seen a soar in self-build developments over the past year, with thousands of us creating a property that’s specified to our needs and requirements.  The procedure can be overwhelming and daunting to those who decide to take this on, with the stress of finding a plot to hiring the right professionals. Nevertheless the outcomes can be extremely rewarding and with the variety of self-build mortgages available; financing can be one less worry on your mind.

Building societies in Leicestershire offer a range of mortgages for self-builders. The new mortgage offered by “Hinckley & Rugby Building Society”, requires drawings to be supervised by a registered RIBA qualified Architect. The drawings are submitted with the mortgage application, building specifications and other necessary planning and building approvals, ensuring that the plans and regulations are to a professional standard. But land must have already been purchased before applying for this mortgage. Whereas “The Loughborough Building Society”, offer a mortgage available to a larger audience. This includes applicants who wish to;

+ Buy land and build a new property

+ Raise capital and build on land they already own

+ Convert an existing structure into a home

+ Purchase an existing property, demolish and rebuild

The biggest differentiation between a self-build mortgage and a regular residential mortgage is that funds are given to you during different stages of the build, instead of just one large lump sum, ensuring that money is spent as planned. Advantages also include, the self build mortgage the saving on stamp duty.

To ensure you self-build project goes as intended, it is advisable to hire trusted and experienced professionals. A range of professionals will be required for the job, such as builders, contractors, structural engineers and last but not least, an Architect.

So what exactly can you expect from an Architect? Creative flair, comprehensive knowledge and specialist guidance are just a few examples of the great qualities that an Architect can hold. These attributes can prove to be vital to any self-build project and with the help of the right professional; a build can often hold more style and elegance than one designed without an Architect.

There is often a misconception that Architects are only involved in the design process. But as well as giving you advise on how to use space efficiently and the different types of materials and fittings available, they can also provide you with invaluable assistance when planning and building are concerned. These areas are known to be stressful and daunting, but can be diminished with the support of an Architect. Some projects may even be managed by the Architects themselves, insuring that your self-build project is built on time and to budget.

For more information and advice on self-builds visit:





If you’re looking for an architect, call us for a free consultation on 0116 2510606

What Is ‘Architectural Identity’? Part II

Interior render of 2020 Olympic Stadium ©ZHA

Many believe and follow the infamous quote by architect Louis Sullivan; “Form follows function”. He spoke on how a building looked should be secondary to how a building worked. Architectural function can bring another dimension to the building’s overall identity, sometimes even being the primary source of the building’s identity. If we look back at Zaha Hadid’s 2020 Olympic stadium in Tokyo, what are the functional benefits of the structure that makes it so costly? (The original cost proposal at the Tokyo 2020 bid was an estimate of 130 billion yen/£824m according to the In The Games website).

Discussing how a building functions depends on what the main purpose of the building is, whether it is purely for functional use, such as a warehouse, a balance between function and appearance, such as an homeowner’s house, or even to emphasise more on how a building looks, such as the Lloyd’s Building in London, which shows how the building looks from the inside-out. The general function purpose of a building is to create inhabitable spaces for people to occupy, which can range from work & commercial to leisure and personal use. How a building is constructed, kept running, how the spaces integrate, how long the building lasts for, all fall under the ‘function’ category. Other issues such as materiality, methods of heating and cooling, energy costs, load bearing and weather durability are also considered when trying to identify how a building works.

The issue of sustainability is a major factor in how buildings function today, as it can help improve the overall lifespan of the structure, as well as reducing energy costs, improve spatiality comfort, and can even change how a building would look. If we were to take a closer look into the 2020 stadium’s functions, how does Zaha Hadid’s proposal generally work, how it responds to the changing environmental climate and how will the building be profitable and socially responsible?

Even though we may not have detailed information on the building just yet, we know the stadium will hold up to 80, 000 people, as well as being adaptable for various sports, from Athletics, to Football, to Rugby. The stadium’s primary function is to host sporting events & ceremonies, but there will also be exhibition spaces (located within the covered bridge perimeter, think of the Bridge Pavilion for the Zaragoza Expo 2008) for visitors to see. As of now we don’t know how it will contribute to the environment positively or how the building will continue to be thoroughly used or adapt into a reusable function after the 2020 Olympics. Although it must be noted that the original stadium bid proposal was to renovate the current National Stadium but now it will be torn down to make way for the new stadium.

Info-graph of 2012 London Olympic Stadium © London 2012 Games

If we look at previous Olympic stadiums such as the Beijing National Stadium (Herzog & de Mueron, 2003-08) they are still being currently used for major championships such as the Supercoppa Italiana & the 2015 World Championships in Athletics. It has hosted concerts and has proposed plans to include retail and entertainment facilities. It still remains an arguably popular tourist attraction, despite reports of its decline and lack of significant sporting events. The Olympic Stadium of Athens (renovated by Santiago Calatrava, 2002-04) is suggested to be part of the whole Olympics 2004 argument in regards to the source of Greece’s economic decline, with the costs of the Olympics bringing about the nation’s initial plunge into financial crisis. (With a public debt rounding up to €168 billion back in 2004 according to Business Week). The Olympic Stadium in London (Populous, 2007-2011) attempted to create a structure that was good value for money in the long run and was adaptable to possible aftermath use. For example, it used a quarter less steel than what was used for the 2008 Beijing Stadium, surplus & recycled materials and removable components and seating (making it de-constructible for a smaller venue) were a few factors that led claim that the structure is environmentally friendly and not too costly. Again there are arguments that the building isn’t as sustainable or adaptable as originally claimed, but at least the stadium’s attempt to become more environmentally and economically aware are apparent.

We will have to wait and see in a few years to see how Hadid’s 2020 stadium will perform. In the meantime, here are some good examples of how function can become a building’s primary source of identity or how it impacts its appearance: The previously mentioned Lloyd’s Building with its metallic, modern-industrialised presence, it’s French counterpart, the Centre Georges Pompidou, with its colour-coordinated functioning structural components, 30 St Mary Axe’s oddly symmetrical elegance, the infamous Villa Savoye and the environmentally engaging CH2 building in Australia.


Picture source: http://fc08.deviantart.net/fs70/i/2010/186/6/5/Lloyd__s_Building__London_by_DeviantBoz.jpg

Name: Lloyd’s Building

Location: London, England

Architect: Richard Rogers

Date: 1978-86


Picture source: http://audinette.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/centre-georges-pompidou-2.jpg
Picture source: http://audinette.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/centre-georges-pompidou-2.jpg

Name: Centre Georges Pompidou

Location: Paris, France

Architects: Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers & Gianfranco Franchini

Date: 1971-77


Picture Source: http://www.nosabesnada.com/uploads/2013/05/30SMA-3.jpg
Picture Source: http://www.nosabesnada.com/uploads/2013/05/30SMA-3.jpg

Name: 30 St Mary Axe

Location: London, England

Architects: Norman Foster

Date: 2001-04


Picture source: http://archikey.com/picture/read/553/Villa-Savoye.jpg
Picture source: http://archikey.com

Name: Villa Savoye

Location: Poissy, France

Architects: Le Corbusier

Date: 1928-31 (Renovated 1963, 1985-1997)




Name: Council House 2 (CH2)

Location: Melbourne, Australia

Architects/Designers: City of Melbourne in association with Mick Pearce with DesignInc

Date: 2004-06


What Is ‘Architectural Identity’? Part I

2020 Olympic Stadium final proposal by Zaha Hadid © ZHA


Architecture has always been about form as well as function. When most people think of architecture it is the way it takes form that comes to mind first. Those that leave a lasting impression are usually crazy bold, sustainably creative or culturally engaging. The latest unveiling of the proposed Summer Olympics 2020 stadia is a good example of such an arguably flamboyantly daring design. But despite its proposal scheme and possible advantages, many people, both within the general public and the architectural industry, find the building quite abruptly ‘misplaced’. Some believe that the design doesn’t co-exist well with the existing city landscape, like it belongs in an alternate universe or just seems to be too grandeur and flashy. The Independent reports that the building is already being scaled down because the scale & the cost is too expensive,  the cost originating at 300 billion yen (£1.9bn).  Perhaps the design is somewhat ‘too much’, in the respect that some believe it’s trying too hard to be something spectacular, something timeless, something iconic. Which brings up the question, is architecture facing an identity crisis? Well that’s too broad of a question so let’s narrow it down a little first, how do you define architectural identity?

Identity is based on how someone or something communicates, how it ‘speaks’.  There are a few main categories of which architectural identity could be classed under; aesthetics, function, historical & urban context, human impact and representation.

Today’s post will briefly look at aesthetics, namely how a building looks can instantly grab a passing citizen’s attention. Whether the building looks garish or sophisticated, provocative or wacky, how it looks is what makes the first impression. There are so many types of architectural styles and tastes today that have evolved from millennia before. How a building looks doesn’t matter to some people, but it is an equally relevant as how a building works. Looks are important (arguably) after all right? But taste and styles are subjective, and like Hadid’s proposal, is a good example. With its large sweeping curves and its intergalactic presence and its frozen fluidity, you’ll either love it or hate it.

How a building looks visually is one of the primary forms of communication, so naturally how a building may look, and how it is perceived, will determined how it is represented. Like how we may dress in the latest fashion trends or buy the latest model car, architecture is also driven by visual perception. Some may say that it’s trivial; some will argue it’s paramount. Frankly, it can go either way, but how a building may look is what catches a lot of people’s attention in the first place. It’s about perceived perception. Architecture is a design-based craft after all. Looks can be just as important as a building’s personality and performance.

Other varied examples include the theatrical abstract; titanium clad Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, the sleek, sophisticated minimalism of the Barcelona Pavilion, the organic-like form of L’Hemisfèric and the intelligent, imprinted facade of the Brandenburg Technical University library.


Picture source: http://blog.illumind.com

Name: Guggenheim Museum Bilbao,

Location: Bilbao, Spain

Architect: Frank Gehry

Date: 1977


Picture source: http://upload.wikimedia.org

Name: Barcelona Pavilion

Location: Barcelona, Spain

Architect: Mies van der Rohe,

Date: Originally built in 1929, rebuilt 1986


Picture source: http://upload.wikimedia.org

Name: L’Hemisfèric

Location: Valencia, Spain

Architect: Santiago Calatrava

Date: 1996-1998


Picture source: http://roman-roehrig.de/images/174.jpg

Name: Brandenburg Technical University Library

Location: Cottbus, Germany

Architects: Herzog & de Meuron

Date: 2005



The next follow-up post to this “architectural identity” series will be focusing on function;

Synopsis: Many believe and follow the infamous quote by architect Louis Sullivan; “Form follows function”. He spoke on how a building looks should be secondary to how a building worked. Architectural function can bring another dimension to the building’s overall identity, sometimes even being the primary source of the building’s identity.