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London Gets Slim

Part 2 Project 2002
Hoa Tien
Marcin Kurdziel
London South Bank University | UK
Knightsbridge is for many a glamorous tourist attraction, and the commercial and residential area of choice for a wealthy upper class. Knightsbridge has become the physical image of a refined and sophisticated social system. On the other hand, from the architectural point of view, Knightsbridge lies at the threshold between Hyde Park and the city. It is where the mass of the city meets the flat plane of the park. The park is a constant presence with views and glimpses of it through or perhaps underneath the Bowater building, or between the walls of untypically small narrow streets leading straight to the park.

The site represents the interaction and threshold between city and landscape, masses and planes, static and dynamics, inorganic and alive. The city lives, but it seems almost static; the park, on the other hand, is organic and changes every season. This building has been developed to respond to these characteristics.

The programme is constituted by a laboratory and research building with a clinic for dietary consultancy which will support and reflect the demanding celebrity backdrop of Knightsbridge.

Other activities like shops and restaurants conclude the programme. A functional division into different building envelopes for each function allows better planning, and gives architectural identity to each activity.

The architectural threshold found on the site is resolved through masses and materiality. The north building looks heavy and massive: it is a physical boundary to the fast traffic passing Knightsbridge barracks. The middle building is a green house. It has a spine which links it to the laboratories. It starts to reveal some degree of transparency. The third building is light in form and is totally transparent. The last building is located at the edge of the site, on the south side, and presents a more formal and traditional design.

Hoa Tien
Marcin Kurdziel

Hoa has been a remarkable student, constantly redefining new standards for herself and others in her group. She has the ability to bring programmes into her work which are always responsive to their context, but have a strong connection to the social architecture she believes in. Her reaction to the Knightsbridge site, situated across the road from Spence's barracks, has been typically thoughtful. The strong diagonal element in the movement of the buildings' masses across the site was the result of clever circulation analysis in the area as a whole, and around and across the site itself. In defining this new route, the building unites the hiatus of the north side with the repose of the southern mews.

The building has satisfying massing and intelligent variation to its materiality from block to block, with a new civic square created behind Trevor Place which mediates between the Victorian and modern scales surrounding the site. Internally, the planning is very disciplined, but appreciates the social space that is vital along circulation routes. There are ample residual zones that work well for those who work there and those who hope to benefit from the nutritional research taking place within.

And although the architectural resolution is very thorough, there are unpredictable flourishes throughout the building. It is a very human architecture, which manages both to make an individual statement as well as allow those who use it to impose their own personalities onto it.

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