Monthly Archives: January 2018

Alex de Rijke speaks to The Observer on the Future of Timber Architecture - 29-01-2018


dRMM is an early adopter of engineered timber, having built the first publicly funded CLT building in the UK, and the first all timber house in central London since the 1666 Great Fire.

Two of the dRMM’s Stirling Prize projects use cross-laminated timber (CLT); Trafalgar Place and Hastings Pier, and this year the practice begins construction on London’s tallest CLT building, a mixed-use development in East Ham named The Brickyard. The Observer’s architecture critic, Rowan Moore speaks to dRMM founding director Alex de Rijke about the future of timber architecture:

Although CLT gets the most attention, it is one of several products that go under the name of “engineered timber”, which have in common the use of new technology to make a natural material perform like an industrial one. One British early adopter, Alex de Rijke of dRMM architects, who won the 2017 Stirling prize with the company’s part-CLT rebuilding of Hastings Pier, called engineered timber the “new concrete”. He means that it’s a material where the surface you see is also the stuff that holds a building up, which is the stuff that keeps out the weather too. “There can be something very visceral about that,” De Rijke says. “We all like stone cathedrals for that reason.”

The environmental benefits aside, the practical arguments are still strong – both Waugh and De Rijke have hard-headed commercial clients who use engineered timber because its speed of construction saves them money. For all these compelling reasons, the world is expected to use a million cubic metres of CLT this year, compared with 2,000 cubic metres in 2003. Its existence is hardly news in the architectural world, but it is now at the point where it’s going mainstream.

De Rijke believes there’s a limit to how high a timber structure can sensibly go, and that there are other architectural problems to solve in building tall. And he thinks that, in all the preoccupation with the technical wonders of timber, it’s possible to lose sight of the fact that “it is a much better material to live with than any other”. It has, he says, “built-in texture, a sense of scale, grain, scent. It affects the air quality about it. You could shut your eyes and still notice the difference.”

Read the full article on The Observer website.

Early dRMM projects are on show at the exhibition Timber Rising: Vertical Visions for the Cities of Tomorrow at Roca London Gallery, London SW6, 9 Feb-19 May; admission free.

Photograph: dRMM’s 2009 proposal for a timber arena (unbuilt) for the London Olympics.


Sadie Morgan joins Deputy Mayors to discuss London’s future - 09-01-2018

dRMM founding director Sadie Morgan joins Deputy Mayors, Jules Pipe and James Murray, to discuss the future of London in the NLA’s annual Big Debate.

The Mayor’s new London Plan sets out the key policies to guide London’s spatial development for decades to come, addressing major challenges such as the provision of housing and sustainable transport for a growing city.

How should we shape the London of the future, creating a high-quality environment where people want to live?

How should we plan for major growth, accommodating an increasing population, delivering more and better-quality housing, enhancing green and public places, supporting businesses and providing efficient and sustainable transport to move around the capital, yet protecting London’s rich heritage and existing communities?

Sadie will join Jules Pipe, Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills and James Murray, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development as well as other GLA representatives, panels of built environment professionals and leading commentators to discuss what the new London Plan means for the future of London.

The Big Debate, 18.00 – 20.15
Monday 5 February 2018
Friends House, NW1 2BJ

For further information and tickets visit The Big Debate Eventbrite page.


BBC picks Hastings Pier Among Year’s Most Brilliant Architecture - 03-01-2018

‘This lithe and festive structure came truly alive in the popular imagination’, Hastings Pier is selected by the BBC as one of the best buildings of 2017.

The BBC’s Eight Best Buildings


Hastings Pier, East Sussex, UK by dRMM
This lithe and festive structure came truly alive in the popular imagination when it won the 2017 RIBA Stirling Prize, architecture’s equivalent of the Turner Prize. Alex de Rijke and Sadie Morgan’s firm, dRMM, worked not only as designers but also very much as part of the local initiative

Lego House, Billund, Denmark by BIG
Danish architect Bjarke Ingels’ firm BIG has made its name with bold, highly expressive buildings that, rarely less than controversial, make perfect sense in the context of a brightly coloured Lego visitor centre that can be clambered over and explored in artful, knowing and playful fashion.

Musée Yves Saint Laurent, Marrakech by Studio Ko
Its interlaced terracotta brick façade is designed to represent fabric, wool or tweed maybe, while the creamy smooth walls of the entrance lobby is silk-like. It is as if visitors are stepping into, or perhaps putting on, a bespoke building much, as they might an Yves Saint Laurent outfit.

Juergen Teller studio, London, UK by 6a architects
Set in an inner suburban London street, this subtle yet unpretentious studio for Juergen Teller, the German-born artist and photographer, shows how much can be achieved on awkward and narrow city plots. An unassuming grey concrete façade conceals a building formed of three individual blocks, raw textured concrete is offset by abundant daylight, plays of shadows and greenery.

Louvre Abu Dhabi, UEA by Jean Nouvel
Nouvel’s new Louvre takes the form of a stylised contemporary medina based on traditional Arab city centres, surrounded by walls and characterised by maze-like alleys. The museum’s 23 galleries are like individual city buildings shielded from the sun by the vast and intricate dome that appears to float above them.

Napoli-Afragola railway station, Naples, Italy by Zaha Hadid Architects
This striking new station, one of 13 for Italy’s expanding high-speed rail network, writhes up and over eight railway tracks, connecting once-divided outer suburbs of Naples. It is both a spectacular, snake-like bridge expressing the dynamism of Italy’s 300kph railways and their equally serpentine trains.

Tianjin Binhai Library, Tianjin, China by MVRDV
The façade of this eye-catching Chinese public library resembles a giant eye staring back at the beholder, and, of course, at the legions of tourists who will want to photograph this most photogenic building. The pupil of the eye is a circular auditorium poised at the centre of a swirling five-storey-high, eye-socket-like library hall.

Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg, Germany by Herzog & de Meuron
Hamburg’s long-awaited and hugely expensive Elbphilarmonie was, perhaps, the architectural highlight of 2017, certainly in terms of new civic buildings. It ticks so many boxes. Here is an operatic yet perfectly sane design bringing richly dynamic new life into an old urban dockland that had lost much of its purpose.

For the full article visit The BBC’s website.

Photo © Jim Stephenson


Charlton WorkStack creates light industrial space for compact sites - 02-01-2018


dRMM’s WorkStack is the first significant response to the growing need for high quality workspace on compact sites. By stacking the units, the footprint of the building is significantly reduced without loss of lettable area.

Through an iterative and collaborative design process with Greenwich Enterprise Board, we designed 14 workspaces that move beyond the sprawling ‘tin shed’ approach to industrial space.  This innovative solution allows light industrial employment spaces to be created on compact urban sites.


WorkStack is conceptualised in cross-laminated timber – dRMM’s favourite sustainable material which can be used as shear walls and slabs, and allows for fast construction. Its structural properties allow each unit to step out and cantilever. This creates a ‘corbelled’ effect to the west façade, providing shading and limiting solar gain within the lower units.

The resulting block form is sculptural; it enlivens Woolwich Road and creates a landmark for the borough. Charlton WorkStack is the first significant response to the growing need for high quality workspace on compact sites.

Read more about the project here.

Visualisation by Cityscape
Drawing by dRMM