London Design Festival is without doubt a daunting feature in the calendar. Why? Because there is SO much to do and see and it encompasses a whole myriad of events and venues. When I speak to people about what they’ve been up to during the festival an overlooked aspect seems to be the “talks”. There are literally talks happening all over town, amazing opportunities to see and hear leading designers, architects and thought leaders express their views. I had the great pleasure on Wednesday evening to attend the third in a series of five INTERNI Design Aperitivo talks.
Alison Brooks with Gilda Bojardi and Michelangelo Giombini of INTERNI
Created by the renowned Italian design magazine INTERNI, Salone del Mobile.Milano, the leading Italian furniture trade fair and the Italian Trade Agency, the talks were headlined as British Architects meet Italian Design. In fact each of the talks is being held in a London outpost of an Italian design company and Wednesday’s event took place in the relaxing surrounding of the Natuzzi showroom on Tottenham Court Road. The guest speaker was none other than Alison Brooks from Alison Brooks Architects. Her talk on ‘Crafting Experience: A New Collegiate Architecture’ was a case study review of her practices Exeter College Cohen Quad in Oxford.
Alison Brooks gives her presentationIn summary, Alison walked us through the raison d’etre for the project and explained not only the twists, turns and hoops that working on a complex project with a heritage that extends beyond the 700 year-old institution that is Exeter College. The project has already taken four years to reach its current under construction stage with an estimated 96,000 man-hours including 18 public consultations and 28 planning reviews.
The project will create Exeter Colleges Third Quadrangle in the heart of Oxford with the S-shaped formation at the Quad’s social heart, the very idea that won Alison Brooks Architects the competition in 2011. The Quad is a complete integration of intellectual life and cultural life of higher education in Oxford and the design allows the form of the building to open onto two courtyards at various levels in keeping with the vernacular of Oxford colleges. Creating a sense of journey, experiencing light and the city-scape and in essence creating a landscape within the building itself with its multiple layers and movement.
The all-embracing curved roof gives the Quad a profile visible on Oxfords skyline. Quads, dreaming spires and collegiate living was how Alison described it. “Enabling people to immerse themselves in an environment and in an idea.”
I was joyful at the thought process that had given way to a very limited palette of materials in the building – just four; Stone, Concrete, Brass and Cherry Wood. The aging of materials such as the metal roof tiles, having been of critical importance to Alison and the Clients. “I believe architecture is both an urban project; its’ architecture, its’ built form and it’s also product design and completely about experience. “
After the talk the gathered crowd were able to take advantage of the wonderful seating collection from Natuzzi and enjoy the aperitivo.
Pasquale Natuzzi Jr. and Alison Brooks
Other speakers in the London series have included David Chipperfield of David Chipperfield Architects, Anthony Hudson of Hudson Architects, Lyndon Neri of Neri & Hu, and Clark Pickett of NBBJ. Find out more here.
Event Photography © Ashley Bingham
Architecture images © Alison Brooks Architects