London Festival of Architecture: 30 days putting architecture on the agenda

As the London Festival of Architecture (LFA 2014) draws to a close, we celebrate its success and look ahead to 2015, which will build on the incredible momentum of this year.

Over 200 events across London were enjoyed by thousands of Londoners and visitors alike, in a city-wide celebration of architectural practice, discussion and debate. Through the central theme of CAPITAL, LFA 2014 explored London’s dynamism and architectural and design drivers, with a broad examination of its role and the ways in which its cultural, human, economic, natural, social and digital capital shape London’s architecture and public spaces.

Centrally curated by The Architecture Foundation, British Council, New London Architecture, and RIBA London, under Chair Patricia Brown, and with the generous support of the Mayor of London and Berkeley Group, the festival enjoyed unprecedented popularity, with headline events covering a broad variety of topics.

Headline debates tackled issues critical to the future evolution of the city, such as London’s vertical development, the housing crisis and the capital’s high streets – notably the practical steps that needed to be taken to reinvigorate and boost growth. These expert-guided tours, organised by the Greater London Authority, took place across eight of the capital’s town centres and high streets.

Other highlights included Will Self’s talk ‘On Architecture’, and Thomas Heatherwick and Dan Pearson’s discussion on the Garden Bridge with Joanna Lumley.

The International Architecture Showcase, run by the British Council, returned with a residency programme that brought architects from around the world together to explore new ideas for Poplar. The residency culminated in an all-day ‘carnival’ at the Balfron Tower, which featured presentations, tours in and around the tower, film screenings, exhibitions and a series of public workshops. Other international exhibitions included Contemporary Danish Architecture: Now and Then at the Danish Embassy, and Young Swiss Public Architecture at the Cass.

Temporary pavilions included the Serpentine Gallery Summer Pavilion by Smiljan Radic, the Museum of London’s House of Muses by Gruppe, Architectural Association’s Rainforest pavilion by GUN Architects, and Dream Pavilion, winner of ArchTriumph, by IPT Architects.

Exhibitions included NLA’s seminal London is Growing Up! charting the development of tall towers in London, RIBA’s Places & Spaces: Urban Realm and Development on the Crossrail Route, Museum of London Docklands’ Bridge, which looked at how bridge shape our Capital, and Fit London, by NLA and the Building Centre, promoting design solutions to public health challenges.

A host of architectural evenings and special tours took place on foot, by bus and by boat, including special access to London’s tallest towers and to the subterranean world of the underground system. Family events included the first Lego battle between Stirling-Prize winners Zaha Hadid Architects, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, Stanton Williams and Witherford Watson Mann at the Royal Academy.

LFA is also the time for practices across London to open their doors to the public, through the RIBA London’s Open Studios; and it is the time to discover the next generation of architectural talent as all the major London architecture schools present their student shows.

The key role that architecture plays in urban, cultural and social development, and its recognition as an instrumental force at national and international level, is at the core of the annual festival.

Looking forward to 2015, the London Festival of Architecture is delighted to pick up the challenge set out in The Farrell Review to develop a high-level international conference and exhibition. This will embrace the Review’s call for a more international approach to promoting excellence in British architecture and the built environment, and to recognise its global impact on the national economy. Still at concept stage, the conference will bring together international architects, engineers, designers and city-makers to discuss and respond to global issues and opportunities.

Patricia Brown, Chair of London Festival of Architecture, said:

‘This year’s success has shown the appetite to use the festival as a plaftorm to engage with some difficult issues for London’s future, as well as take a playful and oblique look at our magnificent city. At a time when the world is looking for innovative thinking to solve problems in the urban realm, London has a key role to play as an international centre of architectural practice and creativity. The festival is committed to highlighting this role and ensuring that architecture is firmly placed on at the forefront of the agenda’.