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Roger Hunt is an award winning writer and blogger specialising in sustainability, old houses, housebuilding and traditional and modern building materials. He is the co-author of Old House Handbook and the companion volume Old House Eco Handbook.

Richard Rogers Inside Out

Richard Rogers Inside Out

My last visit to the once revolutionary Pompidou Centre in Paris was a long time ago; other buildings associated with Richard Rogers have featured more recently in my life: Lloyds of London, Heathrow Terminal 5, the Millennium Dome, The Leadenhall Building or ‘Cheese Grater’ now rising above the City of London as its tallest building. These, and the many others that have spilled from the minds of Rogers and his collaborators, are now so much a part of our everyday consciousness that it’s easy to take them for granted. Visiting Richard Rogers RA: Inside Out, the Royal Academy’s retrospective, I’m reminded that we shouldn’t.

Famously, Richard Rogers is an architect who has little talent for drawing. Consequently, Inside Out isn’t the typical exhibition of an architect’s life. Yes, there are notebooks and many models but there is not the usual profusion of sketches. For me there are two key features that bring context, depth and understanding to the 80 years of the man’s life. The first is a dado level shelf that runs around the walls of the exhibitions rooms. On it are the objects that reveal that life and tell its story: letters, ephemera, photographs and even a set of colored pencils given to him as a 75th birthday gift by Norman Foster. The second are the words: in large type on the walls but also on small panels on and above the shelf – quotes and thoughts from a life that speak volumes.

Words don’t always appeal in exhibition spaces and tend to be skimmed. Here I found I was reading and jotting them down. Rogers believes passionately in the power of architecture to shape and change society and there is an underlying message of sustainability in the words and groupings chosen to tell the Inside Out story: ‘Do More with Less’, ‘Adaptability and Change’.

Within ‘The Power of the City’ grouping there is the call to build mixed-use communities on brownfield sites. We are told that London has 3600 hectares of brownfield land and that this is enough for 500,000 homes at medium density. “We need a strategy that creates vibrant mixed communities on these sites, with high design standards to create new types of homes, workplaces, civic buildings and public spaces.”

Rogers believes that a vibrant public realm is essential to support fair and just communities. “When buildings contribute to the public realm, they encourage people to meet and converse… They humanise the city,” he says.

Interestingly, even in the late seventies and early eighties, natural light and energy efficiency were on the agenda for the Lloyds building. Dimpled glass was developed that had a texture which reflected and refracted light; a pioneering triple-glazed wall construction allowed heat generated by solar gain in the outer cavity to be re-used for heating water or spaces.

As Rogers says: “Architecture is measured against the past, you build in the present and you try to imagine the future.”

Richard Rogers RA: Inside Out is at the Royal Academy’s Burlington Gardens building, London W1, until 13 October.

Image: Brightly coloured ducts have been installed outside the Royal Academy of Arts to mark the exhibition. Credit: Roger Hunt

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SPAB Working Party

For the last 25 years conservation experts and volunteer heritage enthusiasts have come together to join the annual Working Party run by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB). I went along to join them and created a video about the Working Party at Sullington Manor Farm near Storrington, West Sussex. They were working…

Listed building allure

Listed building allure

Every year, many of the estimated 450,000 listed buildings in the UK change hands on the property market. In England and Wales these properties are designated Grade I, Grade II* or Grade II having being deemed to be of historical, cultural or architectural interest. All buildings built before 1700

Environmental Pocketbook

Environmental Pocketbook

If you’re going to invest in just one book on sustainable, low carbon building I’d strongly suggest that you make it The Environmental Design Pocketbook. Now in its second edition, this useful volume by Sofie Pelsmakers should be essential reading for architects, designers, developers, planners, students, clients and anyone else involved in the construction and operation of buildings….

Fire in old buildings

Fire in old buildings

The devastating fire at the Grade I listed, 18th century National Trust mansion at Clandon Park, Surrey, once again highlights the need to do everything we can to protect old buildings. Whatever the size of the building, there are simple measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of fire, ensure early warning of a…

Adapting old buildings

Adapting old buildings

The need for fresh air and light in buildings is something I’m often talking and writing about because it’s central to creating a good home, but the theme is nothing new. I was reminded of this when I recently visited the King Edward VII Estate, near Midhurst, West Sussex. Here, the former sanatorium is being…

Building lime knowledge

Building lime knowledge

Lime, in the form of mortars, renders, plasters and paints, is a key component of old buildings and essential to their repair – or at least it should be. Today lime-based materials are also emerging into the mainstream and being used within low carbon construction systems, employed in everything from homes to superstores. All this…

Drain problems

Drain problems

A blocked drain is not a pleasant thing to wake up to. What’s worse is the realisation that it’s something that can generally be avoided by doing what I’m always talking about: maintenance. The drainage system is easily forgotten because much of it is hidden away underground but, as with any element of a building, it…

Building remembrance

Building remembrance

Visiting Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, the poppy installation at the Tower of London, reminded me that the built environment frequently plays an important part in both remembrance and memory. Each of the 888,246 ceramic poppies that flood the moat of the Tower depicts a death in the British forces in the First…

Materials testing

Materials testing

New techniques and materials aimed at producing low carbon solutions mean this is an exciting time to be involved with new build and retrofit. There are dangers though, in the rush to innovate there may be failures along the way so it’s vital that there’s scrupulously testing and monitoring at all stages. This is why…

Hidden London

Hidden London

Impending development often means there is a chance to step back in time because archaeological investigation may be undertaken as part of the work. This is especially true in London where layers of history have been laid down by successive generations as the city has evolved. Visiting Barratt London’s Landmark Place site close to the…

SPAB Working Party

For the last 25 years conservation experts and volunteer heritage enthusiasts have come together to join the annual Working Party run by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB). I went along to join them and created a video about the Working Party at Sullington Manor Farm near Storrington, West Sussex. They were working…

Listed building allure

Listed building allure

Every year, many of the estimated 450,000 listed buildings in the UK change hands on the property market. In England and Wales these properties are designated Grade I, Grade II* or Grade II having being deemed to be of historical, cultural or architectural interest. All buildings built before 1700 Tweet

Environmental Pocketbook

Environmental Pocketbook

If you’re going to invest in just one book on sustainable, low carbon building I’d strongly suggest that you make it The Environmental Design Pocketbook. Now in its second edition, this useful volume by Sofie Pelsmakers should be essential reading for architects, designers, developers, planners, students, clients and anyone else involved in the construction and operation of buildings….

Fire in old buildings

Fire in old buildings

The devastating fire at the Grade I listed, 18th century National Trust mansion at Clandon Park, Surrey, once again highlights the need to do everything we can to protect old buildings. Whatever the size of the building, there are simple measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of fire, ensure early warning of a…

Adapting old buildings

Adapting old buildings

The need for fresh air and light in buildings is something I’m often talking and writing about because it’s central to creating a good home, but the theme is nothing new. I was reminded of this when I recently visited the King Edward VII Estate, near Midhurst, West Sussex. Here, the former sanatorium is being…

Building lime knowledge

Building lime knowledge

Lime, in the form of mortars, renders, plasters and paints, is a key component of old buildings and essential to their repair – or at least it should be. Today lime-based materials are also emerging into the mainstream and being used within low carbon construction systems, employed in everything from homes to superstores. All this…

Drain problems

Drain problems

A blocked drain is not a pleasant thing to wake up to. What’s worse is the realisation that it’s something that can generally be avoided by doing what I’m always talking about: maintenance. The drainage system is easily forgotten because much of it is hidden away underground but, as with any element of a building, it…

Building remembrance

Building remembrance

Visiting Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, the poppy installation at the Tower of London, reminded me that the built environment frequently plays an important part in both remembrance and memory. Each of the 888,246 ceramic poppies that flood the moat of the Tower depicts a death in the British forces in the First…

Renovation tale – Part 1

Renovation tale – Part 1

This is the tale of my first major renovation project some years ago… On the table is the surveyor’s report; yellow Post-it notes stick from its pages in such profusion that they no longer have any relevance. Phrases like “needs attention”, “must be thoroughly overhauled” and “a fair amount of dampness” are highlighted by marker… Continue Reading