Designing for the visually impaired

Design Studio Architects have recently selected ‘Vista’ as its charity of the year, and thus our most recent blog has been inspired by this.

Currently almost two million UK residents live with sight loss, equating to approximately 1 in 30 people. Disturbingly these figures are set to rise, for example by 2020 the number will rise to 2,250,000 and by 2050 records will double to 4 million. The underlying causes being, an ageing population and an increasing number of obesity and diabetes diagnoses. Despite these high statistics there is little evidence of architectural firms or individuals in the UK specializing in designing for the visually impaired. As a firm we feel it imperative that architects start to focus on these issues, and have thus started evaluating cost effective solutions to meet these growing needs.

If you imagine being blind, perhaps you imagine total darkness. But for a large majority of people this is not always the case, instead they see varying shades of light and shadowing. Chris Downey, an architect who lost his sight aged 45, considers light a “poetic part of architecture that brings space to life”. Already Downey and a small minority of American architects have started to create large healthcare, transportation and residential schemes focused equivocally on benefiting blind people. Now we need to consider how to make this possible within the UK.

TESTFIGURE 1: Conceptual image of light bright life to a space 

A logical layout is one of the most important aspects of designing a building suited to the needs of visually impaired people, many of whom use their memory to navigate around a building. By keeping the design logical and simple independent navigation can be made significantly easier.  An example of this would be locating toilets near a dining area or main reception area. Additionally it is important for spaces to incorporate as few obstructions as possible but to also ‘break up’ large areas seen as intimidating to people who struggle to see ‘landmarks’ within a space. To solve this difficulty we could make spaces seem more manageable by using partitioning and furniture to establish clear pathways and rectangular areas. Creating tactile pathways can also help people maintain direction, for example, a ‘red carpet’ or ‘yellow brick road’ leading directly to the reception desk is an enormous aid to visually impaired people.


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Figure 2: ‘yellow brick road’ leading to the building’s functions

Lighting is an equally important aspect of designing buildings for people with sight difficulties as they require on average three times the amount of light required by the sighted population.Therefore it is considered beneficial to have brighter lighting at building entrances to enable eye adjustment from the bright outdoors to the artificial indoor lighting. Additionally the quality of lighting is of equal importance to the quantity. It is imperative that general room lighting is evenly distributed, and glare free with all fittings covered by diffusers.  Similarly natural daylight should be diffused so it doesn’t cause direct or indirect glare. Ways in which we could do this include utilizing external awnings, vertical blinds, and window tinting.Alternatively to aid visually impaired people,emphasis on the room’s function, or destination with supplementary lighting such as spot lighting could be utilized. However it must also be remembered that placing light fittings at or below eye level would present a direct glare inhibiting vision.

The use of contrast is also considered important when designing for visually impaired people. Luminance contrast is preferred to colour contrast as it offers light/dark variances that are picked up more easily by people with low vision. In effect this aids people to locate important aspects of a building such as doorways, signs, handrails and most importantly hazards such as edges of steps. Subsequently contrasting textures can also be helpful, with tactile ground surface indicators commonly seen on
the edges of railway platforms.Furthermore when choosing materials for flooring a slip resistant matt is a preferred choice compared to highly reflective surfaces or ‘busy’ colourful floor patterns which disorient people with low vision.

It has been suggested the internal acoustics of a building should be considered when designing for visually impaired people. When negotiating a building, people with low vision gain important information from the environmental sounds around them. For example they are able to orientate themselves by using the sound of their cane as it makes contact with surfaces. Intrusive levels of background noise however can make interaction with others and orientation more difficult. Buildings with sound-reflective surfaces may require sound dampeners like carpets, curtains, and ceiling tiles to reduce noise levels. Care must be taken however, not to completely ‘deaden’ the sound within a building with the over-use of sound dampeners. Therefore buildings should contain a balance between sound-reflecting and sound-absorbing surfaces.

Design Studio Architects intend to spend the next 12 months gaining more knowledge of all the key issues that visually impaired people deal with on a daily basis. We aim and look forward to working alongside Vista in improving people’s lives through cost effective solutions incorporated in our design process.

Gift Ideas for Architects

Whether you can’t wait for Christmas or you’re a modern day Ebeneezer Scrooge, the time of year has arrived for you to dedicate much of your time – and more often than not, hard earned cash – on deciphering Christmas lists and buying presents for the closest people in your life. In the unfortunate circumstance that one of these people happens to be an architect (or architectural student for that matter!) you know how much of a nightmare this process can be!

Architects are seen as elusive, mysterious people; up all hours, talking in technical jargon and with an –bordering on obsessive- eye for detail and quality, which makes buying presents for these characters even harder to buy for. Below, the staff here at Design Studio Architects have put together a list of some of the most interesting and inventive gifts to make Santa that little bit less stressed this Christmas:


  1. Wacom Inkling

wacom inkling – £94.22


The Wacom Inkling is an amazing little device that you can clip onto a notebook to capture your notes or drawings. This gadget comes with a ballpoint pen (although a very fancy one) that incorperates a digital transmitter which interacts with the base receiver  on the paper to record all of your penstrokes. These penstrokes are then converted into a digital linework that can be edited in most editing suites.

  1. Portabee GO

Portabee GO – $595


Introducing the new Portabee digital printer!

This 3d printer comes in a small form with an outer of milled aluminium. The most amazing part about this little machine is that it’s completely portable, self – containing and self – levelling! To use, you simply remove it from its cover, twist the arm into position, hand tighten it into place and let it work out the horizontal for itself! No more altering the bed angle and awkward changing and tightening of multiple parts. Its limits are your own creativity!

  1. Leap Motion

leap motion€89.99


Ever wanted to feel like tony stark? Be able to pick up digital objects in the virtual world with your own physical hands? Or do you just fancy playing virtual tetris?

Leap motion has entered V2; with better programming and more fluid application, the Leap Motion tracks your hand and converts the movement of external objects into digital movement on your computer, this can be used for flying around in google maps or real work implications like handling 3d objects in Autodesk programmes such as Maya.

  1. Magicplan App

magic plan 1magic plan 2

Android & Apple Appstore – free!


Magicplan is developing quickly and the idea behind it is a sound one. By standing in the centre of a room and taking photos of the corners and door openings your phone can draw a rough plan of a room in a few minutes. Combined with a laser measurer you can produce incredibly accurate plans in exceptionally quick times.


  1. 5.       Ostrichpillow

ostrich pillow  £65


You know the scenario: Huge project, no time. The makers of the Ostrichpillow have decided to make your nights in the studio somewhat more comfortable. At the point at which you need to –metaphorically- stick your head in the ground and wish the world away, this gift will be a godsend. With openings for your head and hands, the pillow gives you a place to catch up with some sleep when you don’t have a bed around.

  1. XS – Big ideas, Small Buildings

XS  £15 The world needs to read more books. This book is one of a series by Phyllis Richardson and Lucas Dietrich on – you guessed it – small buildings. This books explains the theories and concepts behind some these beautifully designed spaces from Thomas Heatherwicks sitooterie to a cantilevered pod in the Alps.


  1. Black Turtle Neck

black turtleneck  – £14


The black turtleneck is synonymous with the designer. No one knows why. Rem Koolhaas wore a black turtle neck, Steve Jobs wore a Black turtleneck. I want a black turtleneck. To complete the look grab yourself some circular or keyhole glasses and you’re in business.


  1. 5x5x5 rubics cube

rubiks 5x5  – £19.99×5

So you think you’re good at solving puzzles? Maybe you’re a Rubik’s cube king? You should try the 5x5x5 Rubik’s cube for that extra mental test.  Like the original, only harder.

  1. Steep  – TBA

steep coffemug


This handy little mug is as beautiful in aesthetics as its purpose: to keep your hot drink of choice warm. An all ceramic mug with a hand dipped glaze, the Steep won’t make your tea taste strange like other metallic flasks. And with a screw on top, even when you get called out on a survey, you can take your drink in a container as classy as unique as you feel.

  1. Senz Smart Umbrella

senz umbrella – £24.95


Whether you’re out on a survey or just walking to work; when it starts raining the worst thing that can happen is the wind picking up and breaking your barrier to the elements. The slick Senz umbrella is windproof up to 70mph, will never go in-side out and with strengthened, silver ABS and Evafoam grip, the handle will be as sturdy and the canopy.

Joe Jeacock,

On behalf of Design Studio Architects.

Contact telephone number:

0116 2510 606

The Impact Of 3D Printing On The Architectural Industry (Part II)

What Impact Could 3D Printing Have On The Architect?

The job of Architect has remained a popular, albeit underpaid profession over the years whilst skilled tradesmen such as carpenters and stonemasons have dwindled in numbers. A study of over 300,000 small businesses by Simply Business indicate that, the number of joiners has dropped by around 17 percent in the last three years and “Numerous other trades such as builders, carpenters and painter/decorators, have also seen their numbers decrease”, (Simply Business, 2013).

This depreciation is largely due to the increased speed and mass scale at which items, such as furniture, can be produced using automated machinery. Large companies, such as Ikea are able to afford large scale manufacturing equipment allowing them to mass produce flat pack furniture which is easy to assemble and a fraction of the cost of what a carpenter might charge for his work.

Architect, NeriOxman argues that 3D printing could give power back to the trades people providing them with the ability to compete with the mass production capabilities of large companies, “craft meets the machine in rapid fabrication…we can generate craft with the help of technology”(Oxman, 2013).

As noble as Oxman’s views are if we consider her argument in relation to the development of 3D printing within architecture, rather than, ‘generating craft with … technology’, she is actually striving for a technological takeover which could see the destruction of architectural ‘craft’.

Unfortunately, rather than giving any form of craft back to the architect, there is a risk that automation may cause the job of the architect to go much the same way of the carpenter. When machines like Bertram’s are common place within the architectural industry, they will be able to mass produce buildings in much the same way Ikea mass produces furniture.

There is already a demand for cheap efficient housing. If construction firms like Mansell bought enough of Sebastian Bertram’s Contour Crafter’s (CC), and started their own housing construction companies, this could put the role of the architect under threat. In theory, a company could hire its own small team of architects or designers who could then produce 3D models of housing designs which could be sent to the companies CC machines for printing on site. Taking advantage of the massively reduced labour costs and rapid fabrication attributed to the use of Contour Crafters, companies could drive the price of houses down so low that an architect could simply not afford to compete. This is the antithesis of what Oxman was trying to argue in the first place.

Despite its many limitations, the rapid nature of this new construction process does create numerous opportunities for architects, especially in attempting to solve the global problem of a lack of social housing. It has already been identified that CC’s like Bertram’s can mass produce housing very quickly, and due to the lack of labour involved, at a cost which is affordable to be used as social housing.

Being able to produce structural, efficient houses in days rather than months or years would hugely benefit those without homes. This could be as simple as helping the social housing problem faced by those in the UK or it could be the answer to more complex issues such as, providing quick accommodation to victims of natural disasters.

Throughout history, every manufacturing industry to date has seen automated machinery revolutionise their trade. Now, thanks to pioneers like Sebastian Bertram, it’s the architectural industries turn to face the revolution.

The Impact Of 3D Printing On The Architectural Industry (Part I)

Introduction To 3D Printing Within The Industry.

Since the industrial revolution the world’s industry has been racing toward a future of complete automation from the creation of the conveyor belt system through to the introduction of robotics into vehicle manufacture.


With automated machinery dominating almost every modern manufacturing process, pioneers in automated design have spent the last 3 decades developing and refining the “3D Printer”, a device which would allow any object to be printed from whatever material is inputted in the machine.


Until recently, the construction industry has been dominated by tooling machines that drill or cut away material to create standardised elements such as PVC windows and doors. This is a subtractive process rather like a sculptor might carve a statue out a solid piece of marble. Building construction should be a more human process of building up blocks to create a space designed by an architect. Whilst using standardised elements may have sped up the construction industry, it has limited architect’s scope for design, creating catalogues of elements which are easier and cheaper to choose from than to design bespoke.

3D printing is a form of ‘additive manufacturing’, adding materials together in a layer system, which differs greatly from traditional ‘subtractive’ manufacturing techniques allowing architects to be far more creative in their design whilst still achieving the same cheap build cost, and even quicker construction time than if they had used standardised materials.

How Could 3D Printers Be Used Within Architecture?

In the future, 3D printing technologies could allow architects to “bypass time consuming pre-production stages by fabricating physical models from the data within a ‘solid-model’ CAD file” (Callicott, 2001). Rather than spending hours reproducing models of building designs, 3D printers would allow quick fabrication of scaled down models, precise to the specification of the technical drawings. Having been translated from architectural drawings, the level of detail within the physical models would make it far easier for the architects to identify what worked within the building’s design and what did not. Furthermore, since a 3D printed model would be a purely scaled down fabrication of 3D CAD drawings the same drawings could potentially be printed at 1:1 scale to construct an entire building.


The ability to print buildings at 1:1 may sound fraught with difficulties but German designer, Sebastian Bertram, believes he has managed to design a 3D printer, combined with robotics, which has the ability to print buildings out of concrete. “The robot “prints” contours of a building shell layer by layer using fast-drying concrete. Within just a couple of weeks, an entire estate could be produced” (Turner, 2012). Bertram’s machines have been dubbed ‘contour crafters’ as they ‘print contours’ of buildings as opposed to layers of objects. The project itself is named “One house a day” (Dehue, 2012), The diagram below displays stills taken from a video created by Mr Bertram outlining the way his Contour Crafters will eventually work.


What Is ‘Architectural Identity’? Part V

New National Stadium © ZHA

 Finally we’ve come to the last part of the “What is ‘Architectural Identity?'” series. Having already looked at: aesthetics, function, historic/urban context and human impact, we look towards the last sub-topic on the subject, representation. Now this sub-topic is probably the most debatable category out of the previous categories we’ve touched on. Reason behind this? Opinions. Everyone has one. Sometimes people will agree on one thing whilst others will disagree completely or to a certain extent. Architecture isn’t immune to such subjective opinions, whether it is praise or criticism. A large part of architecture is not just to create inhabitable space in where we may co-exist with each other and our surroundings, not just how the building looks or works, but also what the building is suppose to ’embody’. This is where various factors come in to play, from architectural style to construction, contextual and social impact.  How a building is portrayed in its essence is the best way to describe how it is represented. If we look back one more time to Zaha Hadid’s design for the Tokyo Olympic Stadium for the 2020 Olympics.

What is the stadium itself suppose to represent? What did Zaha Hadid and her architectural studio have in mind when designing the stadium? According to Dezeen, she states “The stadium will become an integral part of Tokyo’s urban fabric, directly engaging with the surrounding cityscape to connect and carve the elegant forms of the design…our three decades of research into Japanese architecture and urbanism is evident in our winning design and we greatly look forward to building the new National Stadium”. Project director of the proposal, Jim Heverin mentions the concept of the stadium: “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. I don’t think [the design] is something that you can decide by committee….what we see in Japan is both innovation and craftsmanship, both together is what people have always liked about Japan.” he told Kyodo News (via  

Stadium in the existing context © ZHA

Walkthrough video of the stadium proposal on Youtube


Whilst talking to Kyodo News, Heverin continues: “We’ve tried to continue the park through the Stadium as a walk….at the moment you can’t walk across the site but this walkway and the concourse will allow you to walk through the site and run through the Stadium and this way it will become, hopefully, part of the park.” He goes on to say: “The most important thing is how it feels for the people…that it’s not some object that just dominates in the background. I think if we succeed in the fact that its open and it has this continuity, then I really think that this will be seen as a vibrant addition to the area. You have a real potential for all of this to act as a more active sports hub area.” With that in mind, you can begin to see that the big hope for this structure is that it not only becomes a hotspot attraction, not only to become a premier sporting hub, not to only harmoniously co-exist with the existing landscape but to become a long-standing, iconic legacy, something the people of Japan will be proud to call their own, now and years from now.  The inter-galactic structure does boast the personality of the nation, Japan’s unabashed craziness, their pioneering goals in innovative technologies and discoveries, creating a sense of presence and impact, in the daily lives of the public, as well as creating a popular tourist destination for the city. The issue of people is a big thing in Japan, with their satisfactory to decent standards of quality living, their large aging populace, with the varied mix of families and single individuals, the need to create a place that is made accessible and usable for everyone is critical. It’s important that this structure will not only be just the embodiment of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, even though the Olympic brand must be represented in the highest regard. It will need to be the perfect embodiment of the host country and its citizens. When Tokyo takes to the world stage, the whole world will be watching. Representation is key.

Some examples varied architectural representations include: the timeless Greek Parthenon, the historical enriched Hagia Sophia, the ‘poster-boy’ of American architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright’s greatest work: Fallingwater, the architectural brand infusion of Burberry (Chicago) and the soon to be finished the One World Trade Centre (Freedom Tower) at Ground Zero.



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Name: The Parthenon

Location:  Athens, Greece

Architects/Designers: Ictinus, Callicrates/Phidias

Date:  447 BC-438 BC


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Name: Hagia Sophia

Location:  Istanbul, Turkey

Architects: N/A

Date:  532 – 537


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Name: Fallingwater

Location:  Pennsylvania, USA

Architects: Frank Lloyd Wright

Date:  1936-39


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Name: Burberry Chicago

Location:  Chicago, USA

Architects: Burberry & Callison

Date:  2011-12


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Name: One World Trade Centre

Location:  New York City, USA

Architects: Daniel Libeskind, David Childs

Date:  2006-14


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.


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Name: Parc Guell

Location: Barcelona, Spain

Architects: Antoni Gaudi

Date: 1900-14


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Name: Gardens by the Bay

Location: Marina Bay, Singapore

Architects: Wilkinson Eyre Architects 

Date: 2012


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Name: Burj Khalifa

Location: Dubai, UAE

Architects: Adrian Smith of SOM

Date: 2004-2010


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Name: Eiffel Tower

Location: Paris, France

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

Date: 2004-2010



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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 (


Map of Olympic Zone ©
Map of Olympic Zone ©


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. 

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Name: Sydney Opera House

Location: Sydney, Australia

Architect: Jørn Oberg Utzon

Date: 1959-73


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Name: Empire State Building

Location: New York City, USA

Architects: Shreve, Lamb and Harmon

Date: 1929-31


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Name: Taj Mahal

Location: Agra, India

Architect: Ustad Ahmad Lahauri

Date: 1632–53


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Name: The Louvre

Location: Paris, France

Architect: I.M. Pei (Pyramid)

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


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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.


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Name: Lloyd’s Building

Location: London, England

Architect: Richard Rogers

Date: 1978-86


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Name: Centre Georges Pompidou

Location: Paris, France

Architects: Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers & Gianfranco Franchini

Date: 1971-77


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Name: 30 St Mary Axe

Location: London, England

Architects: Norman Foster

Date: 2001-04


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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.


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Name: Guggenheim Museum Bilbao,

Location: Bilbao, Spain

Architect: Frank Gehry

Date: 1977


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Name: Barcelona Pavilion

Location: Barcelona, Spain

Architect: Mies van der Rohe,

Date: Originally built in 1929, rebuilt 1986


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Name: L’Hemisfèric

Location: Valencia, Spain

Architect: Santiago Calatrava

Date: 1996-1998


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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.