24 December 2010

Christmas Wish List

Dear Father Christmas...

The Bullitt Race by Larry v Harry

Please, please please bring me one of these awesome little beauties. I've been good, mostly, and I reckon I really deserve this. I'll make sure there is a stocking big enough and I'll leave plenty of mince pies, sherry and a carrot or two for Rudolph. If I had one of these, I could even give you a hand next year - it's a win-win situation.

Thank you,

Toby, age 39.

21 December 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from a suitably festive Cardiff, decked out in a fresh dump of powder...

6 December 2010

Safe Cycling Online and a Brilliant Idea from the LoFidelity Bicycle Club

As a newcomer to the world of cycling on the internet, it is pretty challenging to feel confident what with all the heavy traffic and occassional jugganaut chundering past you close-by. There are lots of difficult new skills to learn - are you a segregationist or a integrationist? Are you a lycra-fiend or simply in a suit? Folding or fixie? There is difficult terminology to negotiate such as "ASL" or "modal share". Basically, as a novice, it is so easy to come a cropper and get seriously hurt. Don't even go near the dabate about helmets or not...

Luckily, it looks like CyclingJim at the Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club has had a brainwave and is going to set up an Cycling Embassy for the UK, based on a similar organisation in Denmark, of course. All the fears of new internet cyclers will dissipate as clarity and confidence spreads. Even more importantly, actual real-life cycling is going to benefit when the goals of the early mission statement start to become reality. At Estudio27, we are very excited about the possibilities of this idea and hope to help as best we can. CyclingJim even namechecks architects in his mission statement, so respect and support to him whatever. Let's see what the future holds.

30 November 2010

Planning Can be Thrilling

ldp english banner

Cardiff Council is revisiting the Local Development Plan (LDP) that sets out the "vision" for the future of Cardiff. It also sets out what new development is planned and where it will happen. As the reference document for all planning applications for the next five years at least, it is an important document.

There is an online questionnaire, and it would be great if the citizen cyclists of Cardiff could make their views clear so a message is sent about the importance of cycling infrastructure. Responses required by the 10th December.


 Cardiff Council have developed a vision for Cardiff that states:

"By 2020... Cardiff will be a world class European capital city with an exceptional quality of life and at the heart of a thriving city region".

Got our work cut out then, considering Cardiff is ranked about 200th in terms of European cities. Perhaps an wholehearted embracing of properly considered cycling infrastructure, plus a genuine city-wide bike hire scheme would do the trick?

10 November 2010

High Visibility, Low Self Esteem

The hi-viz tabard of dreams

I am torn by a dilemma. I fancy myself as an urban cyclist - I diligently read Copenhagen Cycle Chic, I want Mikael to photograph me and wax lyrical about how cool I look cycling to work in the gentle morning light. I want to ride gloriously unencumbered by health and safety preoccupations, helmets or hi-viz tabard.

But, I also want to arrive at work safe and sound.

Although my ride is embarrassingly short, it does include one of the major entry roads into Cardiff, and there is no cycle infrastructure to speak of. There are, however, several lanes of cars, plenty of buses and a worryingly large number of big lorries. So now winter is upon us and dark nights and foggy mornings are the norm, I wear my hi-viz tabard. I hate it, I despise it, but I feel safer with it on. I know that by wearing it, I am associating myself with the respected trades people, delivery people, officials and stewards that are genuinely empowered by the tabard. I know that by wearing it, I am perpetuating the view of cycling as a dangerous minority activity only suitable for those with the correct equipment and ill-fitting tabard. I know that by wearing it, I am further putting off the day when seeing masses of elegant men and women cycling to work in Cardiff in their business attire would be normal rather than just a pipe dream.

But, I also want to arrive home safe and sound.

Better to believe then that the tabard represents my own hideously fluorescent attempt at a personal cycling infrastructure. I rely on the power of the tabard to keep traffic at bay and create a little bubble of Copenhagenesque cycling experience around me. How much simpler if the cycling infrastructure was there for me to use instead, and the tabard could revert to its true calling, clinging to the back of white-van man.

2 November 2010

IT Chair

the IT Chair in (static) action
Always fancied one of these (the seat attachment to the bike - got the little boy and the bike already), but it is impossible to find one for sale anywhere on earth. I even stopped off at the main stockist in Barcelona when we were on holiday there in the summer, but they were out too. Apparently they are hand made by a Spanish company but the supply seems to be very erratic. They occasionally but rarely appear on eBay, but prices are high. There was also a version made by the renowned Brompton modifier and frame welder Steve Parry. I managed to get hold of him and sadly have to report that he has apparently stopped his great work on accessorising and altering bikes it seems due to the pressure of an impending lawsuit from someone who claims to have been injured using one his bespoke products. So the dream of taking my little boy to nursery on the Brompton remains just that for now.

27 October 2010

Radio 4 - Spring Forwards, Fall Back

Episode image for Spring Forwards, Fall Backwards
On October 31st we'll all dutifully turn our clocks back by one hour, plunging our evenings into premature darkness. There's mounting evidence that this annual ritual has a real environmental cost. in this BBC Radio 4 Costing the Earth programme, Alice Roberts takes a look at the arguments from the Greenwich Meridian to Cornwall and the Western Isles to find out who could benefit and who might suffer from a change in the way we set our clocks.

Listen to iPlayer for the whole programme.

New Instructions

We are now moving forward with the next phase of Chapel Cottage, and hope to be submitting a Building Regulations application soon. This is exciting news for us, but more importantly will be another key milestone for the client in their quest to move to a more rural location for a better quality of life and to be closer to family.

21 October 2010

Turn the Clocks Back

It is the dreaded time of year when the clocks go back, and darkness decends again. Is that feeling of waking up in the dark and coming home in the dark an essential part of winter, and the changing of the seasons? Or are the clocks changing just a depressing quirk of timekeeping that we are doomed to follow? I don't think so, which is why I have joined the 10:10 Lighter Later campaign to try and change this. They have lobbied for change and have got an Early Day Motion and a debate scheduled for the 3rd December. They are encouraging you to write to your MP to get them to support Lighter Later - they want a three-year trial in which the clocks in Great Britain shift forward by one hour throughout the year – to GMT+1 in winter and GMT+2 in summer. This model is also known as Single Double Summer Time (SDST).

There are lots of questions answered on their website, and some research showing that there is a carbon saving benefit too. Winners all round.

Why not do your bit.

19 October 2010

Cyclists v Red Lights - Problem Solved

At last- the solution to the most blogged and commented issue in cycling - running red lights. This guy Martin Cassini has come up with the answer and it is genius. Just get rid of the traffic lights. That's it - as simple as it sounds. His theory is that without traffic lights to tell us what to do, we humans have an uncanny ability to just get on with it - assess the situation, the movements and the priorities and it all just works. In the same way that we know we have to let everyone out of the lift before we get in, we know who has right of way, who arrived first and who should progress next at the junction. We can all remember the time there was that power failure and the traffic lights at that particularly bad junction failed at rush hour, but somehow the traffic wasn't that bad after all, and maybe it all moved just a bit more smoothly...This idea just takes that a step forward and formalises the "Filter In Turn" theory that we seem to have hardwired into our brains already.

Check out these two videos that explain it all far more eloquently...

15 October 2010

Website Update!

We have made some excellent and fabulously interesting amendments to our website, including pages about research we are carrying out in Barcelona.

Go to Estudio27.co.uk for more infomation.

11 October 2010

More From the Coal Face

Front Gable with steel and framing complete
Another update from site at Cyncoed Road. Kevin the builder has made excellent progress recently and the roof is almost fully complete - only some minor repairs and finishing work to do. The verges and window framing are in and resolve the problem of the poorly aligned steelwork very nicely. The expressed steelwork on the main gable elevation looks good, but we should have allowed it to stand proud of the blockwork so the render finished flush. This would have given a crisper result. However, the shaped and chamfered edge that Kevin has done works nicely with the more textured render visible on the original house.

10 October 2010

Urban Design for Students without a Design Background


Marga recently attended the iBEE Conference in Sheffield, and presented an interactive workshop about how to teach urban design to students without a design background.

These methods may also have wider applicability, especially with community engagement. Toby will be studying this in more detail later in the month, when he attends a course run by Community Planning (http://www.communityplanning.net/)  in London: Course Details

 Marga's paper can be viewed by following this link: iBEE Conference Workshop.

7 October 2010

Reflections on Speed and Compactness in The Era of Online Shopping

I Shop Therefore I Am by Barbara Kruger

We have uploaded the presentation that Marga gave to a conference in Barcelona last summer summarising her work with Dr Cristina Suau on shopping in the internet age and its impact on the built environment. The conference was the Arquitectonics International Review; Mind ,Land & Society 2009.

6 October 2010

WISE Building Review, Centre for Alternative Technology



We made our vertical ascent to the CAT site via the trusty water powered cable car. What an arrival experience - gently rising up through the trees from the valley below, with the views gradually opening up to reveal the mountains of Snowdonia beyond.

We were lucky enough to be with Cindy Harris of DCfW who acted as our guide, and who also designed and indeed built many of the buildings on the CAT site. A highlight was the "new" shop building, where the rammed earth walls are particularly beautiful artifacts, albeit with a practical purpose (they provide thermal mass within the highly insulated timber frame structure).

After a lovely lunch in the canteen space of the new WISE building, we were treated to a guided tour by Pat Borer, one of the architects of the new building.

It is a fantastic place, with innovation and clear dedication in the detailing, but also evident care and consideration in the handling of the massing, materials and quality of light.

The circular lecture theatre is a monumental space, suitably defined by a huge circular rammed earth structure. The mechanical devices such as the full-height sliding curved wooden screen (that slides away to reveal a stunning view) and the rotating black-out for the oculus (see video below) are playful elements that contrast nicely with the more formal architectural devices.

The Amazing Rotating Oculus from Toby Adam on Vimeo.

The building makes constant references to external space, be it the entrance square, the central courtyard, the rear walkway hard up against the quarry edge or the roof-top garden. Each has a distinct character and sense of place. For me, the central courtyard with the water gently dripping from the rainwater spouts into the ponds below was the favourite, evoking a strong sense of the former quarry that has been transformed over nearly 40 years since CAT was formed.

Among the simple pleasures such as the restrained palette of materials and attention to detail , it is the straightforward care and commitment of the architects that shines through. Especially when you get an insight into the terrible contractual issues that dogged the construction phases - not, it must be added, due to any fault or misjudgement of the procurement process on the client side.

This is an exemplar building for CAT, but also for us all. It carries its sustainable credentials lightly, without preaching or any didactic messages obscuring the obvious good design.

WISE Building - Photo Set Available

WISE Building Lower Courtyard
 I have finished uploading my photos of the WISE building visit recently, more detailed review to follow.


4 October 2010

Progess at Cyncoed Road

All rooflight cut-outs are now complete
Another quick visit to site to check on progress. The builder has really made good progress now that the weather has been a bit more stable (golf weekend excepted) and the roof carcass is now finished. All the rooflight cut-outs have been formed, and you can start to get a good idea of the space. The light will hopefully be nice, but it is difficult to imagine with all the dark surfaces and no reflectivity - you never know until the paint is on!

CAT Cable Car

CAT Cable Car from Toby Adam on Vimeo.

Just a quick video of the journey down from the mountain to the car park at CAT, on the water powered cable car. We'll add more photos and a detailed review of the WISE building soon.

30 September 2010

And so it Begins...

Photo by KyleF @ flickr.com

This is a story I spotted in the Metro paper the other day, which I note is the backwash from comments made by the charity Brake, who appear to do very sensible work trying to reduce the number of road crashes. The story also appears in other newspapers and on the BBC. I wonder if this is the opening salvo of a more concerted campaign?

It will be interesting to see how the mainstream press frame the cycle helmet debate. From what I can see, not all news outlets have set the two (some sites refer to six) reported serious accidents in the context of 750,000 bike journeys so far on the scheme. It would also be interesting to see that statistic compared with the norm for car journeys, or the number of fatal car accidents in London since the bike hire scheme began.

Let's hope the policy makers are reminded of the sensible thoughts from elsewhere (such as http://www.copenhagenize.com/) on this subject, particularly if they want the cycle scheme to suceed. I've just returned from Barcelona, totally stunned at the impact that their successful scheme has had on the city and desperately hoping that this good news somehow finds its way here.

24 September 2010

C.A.T.Visit - First Impressions

Just returned from a day-trip to the Centre for Alternative Technology near Machynlleth, organised by the Design Commission for Wales.

It was my first visit to this amazing place, located in an old slate quarry halfway up a mountain in mid Wales. It is a stunning setting for a place that is a torchbearer for sustainable design in the UK. The new WISE building by Pat Borer and David Lea takes a quantum leap forward for CAT in terms of the scale and ambition of building on the site.

More posts to follow with some thoughts, images and video of this fantastic building.

21 September 2010

Raving at BD - Again...

External Elevation
Internal view of Atrium
Images copyright Morley Von Sternberg

Got very heated reading the review of the new Ravensbourne College by Foreign Office Architects in BD yesterday. The review came across as fawning and uncritical in the extreme, with little comment on the quality of the interior spaces other than the atrium - what about where people actually have to work? The interior spaces seem gloomy and unfinished or even cheap (described as "rough and ready" in the review - a polite alternative). This seems to me to be iconic architecture at its worst, with an educational establishment paying a not inconsiderable sum for a building that will now define their institution, and a design that seems to be based solely on an architects whim to investigate tiling tesselation. Shame really, some of their previous schermes, like the La Rioja Technology Transfer Center in Spain, seem much more interesting.

16 September 2010

Progress at Cyncoed Road

Roof lights with timber framing forming light funnels

Gable frame silhoutted against sky

Progress on site - we visited this afternoon. The better weather is allowing more rapid progress and the shape of the space can be seen now. The effect of the rooflights will be very nice and the new large opening into the garden creates a connection with the outdoor space that was previously lacking.

Chapel Cottage Gets Approved

aerial view of proposed extension

We are delighted to report that our scheme for an extension to Chapel Cottage was granted consent by the planners before we left on holiday for Barcelona. Tiz and Rich, our fantastically supportive clients, were understandably delighted - a brilliant result following a nerve-wracking day waiting for the Committee decision. We are due to begin work on the next phase of design development shortly.

First Time Blogger

We have decided to dip our toe in the great ocean of blogs, to see how the temperature is. So far, the water seems nice but we'll try not to get out of our depth too quickly. Once we have figured out the technicalities, we hope to be able to update with project news and images of work in progress.