Each year, the PennDesign students are treated to a walking tour of London led by a wonderful man named Benny O Looney, architect and historian extraordinaire. This has become a sort of tradition for us, and last year’s group blogged about it here.
Benny possesses an almost encyclopedic knowledge of London’s urban and architectural history, which he recapped for us through a series of sidewalk sketches…
…explorations of Renaissance and Victorian delights…
…to the hey day of the British High Tech movement…
…and right up to modern day projects that are currently being built.
In contrast to most American cities, which were by and large planned, London’s combination of winding roads and urban squares and circuses is a result of connecting the patchwork of existing villages and high streets. This was apparent in both the layout of the streets and the juxtaposition of multiple architectural styles from different eras running right up against each other.
The other key takeaway was that London policy makers are deathly afraid of fire, a direct result of a sort of lingering planning-PTSD due the the Great Fire in the mid 19th century. Building regulations regarding use of wood, access ways, and fire code have great affected London’s development in almost paranoid fashion.
It was a lot of walking and we were exhausted by the end, but we couldn’t have imagined a more thorough introduction to London’s layered history and development. All in all, it was a fantastic tour and a great way to get to know our new home. Thanks, Benny!
Stacy contemplates the entire London skyline. All of it.
As far as facilities are concerned, the AA is about as far from Meyerson Hall as possible. The AA is housed in a series of Georgian homes in Bedford Square, which is located right in central London.
Photo courtesy of Stacy K.
Within those houses, classrooms, lecture halls, studio spaces, fabrication and computer labs, a bar, a restaurant, a library, and a book shop are all crammed into about seven row homes. It’s a fascinating collection of spaces, and we’ve all been exploring (and getting lost) in the various nooks and crannies of the place.
All of this has been made easier, believe it or not, by a newly opened third floor corridor that connects all of the buildings together. Apparently walls have been knocked down and spaces restructured in order to improve access between the different houses, and some areas have had to endure some quirky reconfigurations:
Our first week of classes have started! Stay tuned for more updates about our first assignments.
Another year, another set of Londoners! Welcome to another year of PennDesign’s semester abroad at the Architectural Association. Thanks to last year’s group for keeping us posted on the goings-on here in England. I (Will W.) will be taking over and keeping this blog updated with our adventures and student work here in London.
This year, there are nine of us who have made the trip across the pond. Proper introductions will come later, but for now, we’ve all arrived and are getting settled.
First meal together. From left: Will B., Steven, Will W., Anna, Stacy, Michael, and Arman. Absent: Alex and Jia, but they arrived safely soon afterwards.
Our first day of classes at the AA will be tomorrow. Stay tuned and follow this blog to keep up with our shenanigans!