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he old saying goes that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and this is certainly true for magazines, which probably contain a much wider range of subjects than you might gather from their cover. The state of our current public debate reveals the dangers of simply looking at the surface for meaning, and not digging deeper behind what the headlines are shouting. In a world where the empty vessels are currently making more sound than ever, the quieter, more considered voices may not get the airtime they deserve.


However in this supplement we celebrate the facades and the frontages, and the techniques which designers can use to create deft illusions of solidity or softness which help a project work in its setting. An example is the stunning but subtle new Maggie’s Centre for the oldest hospital in the UK, Barts in the City of London. Steven Holl Architects created a “vessel within a vessel within a vessel” whose opaque glass facade provides an innate sense of protection to cancer patients, while providing a gentle contrast with its historic surroundings.

On the other hand, the project to provide several storeys of residential accommodation on top of a music college in densely-packed Southwark, south London takes a bolder approach to creating a statement. It also uses the facade to make a clear contrast between the two contrasting use classes provided in this unusual scheme – with the college particularly innovative having musical notation picked out in white brick relief.

Architects across the world spend a huge amount of effort making the exteriors of their buildings reach beyond the rudimentary needs of protecting them from the elements, to provide a distinctive presence which communicates their role to users, but also the wider context. Harnessing the potential of materials to assist in this is one thing, but providing an aesthetic balance that links old and new (for example Kengo Kuma’s stunning Dundee V&A) is where the design of envelopes can really provide lasting value.

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While the exterior may never be able to deliver the relative level of effectiveness to a client that say the interior of Fosters’ famously modest-looking Bloomberg in London can, the exterior is what the building gives to the wider world. Judging buildings by their covers may be as unwise as judging books, or people, but they give a very good insight into the level of care and craft which they have been created. Bearing this in mind, it makes it even more critical that a focus on the outside is not undermined by compromises within.

Enjoy the supplement!

James Parker Editor


02.19 adf

ON THE COVER... Steven Holl Architects’ latest addition to the Maggie’s Cancer Centres portfolio enhances the UK’s oldest hospital with its translucent facade.

For the full report on this project, go to page 20 © Iwan Baan



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