Marchitecture. Architectural things to do in London this March

I've written this for the London Architecture Diary.

If March has the same effect on you as it does me, you’ll be feeling like a forcibly de-hibernated Blue Peter tortoise. Plucked from a cosy, dark cardboard box and thrust into the glare of studio lights, you might need to refresh your memory of what the city around you looks like. Get your bearings at the new MiniLand London, opening at Legoland Windsor. It’s been updated and revised to feature modern stuff: mini-Lloyds, mini-City Hall, the mini-Gherkin, as well as mini-Docklands (what you might call Canary Dwarf). I’ve had an early preview: it was still looking pretty abstract - a concrete desert with Tower Bridge stretched across a geometric shaped canyon. The park re-opens on the 25th March. By then, 13 million Lego bricks will have been stuck together into a London shaped shape.

While you are there, you should yank yourself up the Space Tower – the view from the top affords a view which makes London itself look like a model: planes queued up into Heathrow, the Wembley arch, the City and Docklands beyond with Windsor Great Park providing a green vignette. All from a rickety rubber seat suspended from a rope with a smoke breathing Lego dinosaur below you.

If that has warped your sense of scale, then it’s really not going to help if you head to the Ideal Home Show at Earls Court (9th March to the 2nd April). It’s an inside out nightmare, an architectural Russian doll with a suburban cul de sac inside an art deco exhibition hall. The advertising alone is enough to turn your stomach, but just wait till you’ve spent 6 hours inhaling the fumes of contact adhesive warmed by the bodies of thousands of Daily Mail readers. Even a committed ironist like myself can’t feign enthusiasm for this tedious institution.

You’ll need something kind of hip, and bittersweet nostalgic to recover. So catch St Etiennes new movie ‘What Have You Done Today, Mervyn Day?’. (RIBA, Wednesday 29 March, 6.30pm). Apparently, it ‘continues the band’s deep-seated fascination with the city of London and its inhabitants’. The film is set in the vast mysterious pylon-covered wasteland of the Lower Lea Valley, on the eve of the Olympic redevelopment. You might wonder why it takes a pop group to take on contemporary urban research. But then you’ll remember that St Etienne were behind the one of the most eloquent, mysterious manifestos for modern London in the song ‘Girl VI” - You know the one that goes “Primrose Hill, Staten Island, Chalk Farm, Massif Central, Gospel Oak, Sao Paolo, Boston Manor, Costa Rica, Arnos Grove, San Clemente ….” It’s a lyric that makes you fantasise about breaking into MiniLand and reassembling the Lego models into un-geographic arrangements. Sacré-Cape Canaveral anyone? Eiffel Tower Bridge?

And if that kind of architectural surrealism is your kind of thing, then you’ll have to see FATs installation (15th March – 22nd April, also at RIBA). A modern reworking of Boulée’s ‘Cenotaphe a Newton’ for a not-quite-so-perfect universe. Where else would you get the chance to stand suspended inside a giant dark bubble?. I’d like to say that it will redefine contemporary architecture but, because I designed it, you’d be deafened by the sound of me parping loudly on my shiny new trumpet. Suffice to say that deranged neo-classical architecture and sci-fi inflatables have never got it on quite so steamily.

Posted by sam at February 27, 2006 4:19 PM

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