The new London Design Museum and its hyperbolic paraboloid roof

The new Design Museum of London has opened its doors some weeks ago, and now it is located in Kensington High Street, west London.

The entire project, made by Rem Koolhass’ OMA and John Pawson for the interior, consists of new luxury residences and the improvement of an existing building, which is now the new museum.

This new museum, should give a completely new face to itself, and this is what someone would think seeing its opening film. But is it really so?

Site area

Basically, the museum is now located at the entrance of Holland Park, with the garden on one side, and the new apartments on the other. This site is easy to reach thanks to the nearby high street, and thanks to the metro station as well, which is at 5 minutes on foot. So, to reach the building you have to cross a part of Kensington high street, and the initial part of the park, where the main gate is located.

The surroundings

As is said before, the project consists also of three apartments blocks, which seems these works as a filter for the nearby high street. This generate a new “context” made up only for the museum, in fact, when we stay in front of the entrance, we do not realize what’s over the park or the residences.

Anyway, these blocks generate also a connection between themselves, the museum and the surrounding buildings, which are older as architectural style.


From outside, it appears as a simple parallelepiped, with brick basement and blue glass cladding, all covered with a concrete hyperbolic paraboloid roof. The bricks have colour and aspect of the typical English brick, dark and porous, and the cladding is composed of blue translucent glasses and metal structure.

We can see two concrete structure from outside which supports the huge roof, but these are only a part of this, because inside there are two more larger pillars.

Before we said that the design of interior has been made by John Pawson, in fact, it appears completely different from the outside.

At this link you can see Pawson talking about the project and his approach.


Inside prevails wood. When we pass through the entrance doors, we reach a big internal space with nothing between you and the great roof. It appears as a box, inside a box. In fact, nothing reaches the roof. All internal parts are detached in order to give the possibility to enjoy the hyperbolic paraboloid.

At the end, the project is composed of two rings and a mezzanine, plus two underground floor. these two rings give the possibility to have a “triple height” space at its centre, where a big stair — linked with the mezzanine — gives the possibility to use it as an open auditorium.

Anyway, all the building obviously hosts lots of functions, as an open designer maker studio, offices, an auditorium, archives, private rooms, a learning centre and two exhibition halls. Oh…also a restaurant, a bar, a lounge for members and a shop, as always. So, in the entire building, there are two spaces designate for exhibitions.

All the project is focused to the great roof. It gives a huge boost to this space Thanks to its shape, the perception of the space results very pleasant. It generates wonderful gradients on itself, with points of shadow and points with a great suffused light.


It is a museum, of course, but just a museum? Why can’t be something else, something for everyone? Unfortunately, no, it isn’t more than a museum. Probably because of its location, it can’t be reached anytime, using its external spaces as a meeting point. First of all, it hasn’t any real “external public space”, because of its “high-ranking” location probably — luxury apartments —. Furthermore, it is divided from the park and surroundings by gates. This is a pity, because it could be useful to have a space — useful for the park too — always open. Maybe for some open events as well.


The new Design Museum of London is a fantastic architecture, we can not say the otherwise.

The internal space is very pleasing, simple in its “complexity” — geometrical too —. And I think, externally it is iconic. I mean, it could be the new design “icon” of London. For me there are some lost spaces, but this is a personal opinion, and this not affect the project. And of course, I think it could be great an external public space, but it could also be a commit choice.


Gabriele Bortoluzzi – photos taken with Olympus ® OM-D Mark II, 14-42 M. Zuiko digital

The Botanical Garden of Barcelona and its climate

The Botanical Garden was born in the 1999, on a 14-hectare site, in order to cultivate a large collection of plants from lots countries that share the same climate as Barcelona. So, its main purpose is to study, preserve and disseminate plant biodiversity.

But before talking about this garden, it’s useful explain something about the Mediterranean climate.

Mediterranean climate

All the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea share a similar climate conditions. The Mediterranean climate is characterized by hot, dry summers and mild winters. Rains falls mostly in spring and autumn. But there are other regions in the world that also presents this same climate, like California, central Chile, the southernmost part of South Africa and southern/south-western Australia.

Furthermore, Mediterranean vegetation is considered to be one of the richest in species diversity. If you consider that only 1.7% of the Earth’s land surface enjoys this climate, it may sound strange that Mediterranean flora accounts for approximately 20% of known plants. This is possible thanks to its great climate balance.

How to get there

The Botanic Garden is a very pleasant place, but it isn’t so comfortable to reach (if we don’t have a car). It is situated in Montjuïc hill, in the southern part of Barcelona. We can easily get there by car thanks to its car park, or by bus, which stops in front of the Olympic Stadium. This mean that we have to walk only 5 minutes. Obviously, we could reach it by foot, as I did in 40 minutes more or less from Plaça Espanya (the nearest metro station).


The Garden

Finally, we arrived. We enter through a big Corten door, finding an open but covered space, with the ticket office (yes, you must pay the entrance) a small auditorium and bathrooms. The first impression is to enter in a huge forest, with only a concrete path, but fortunately it’s only the entrance part.


The Garden is divided by areas. This means that you can’t find an Australian plant in the same place of a Spanish one. Probably because of the treatment of terrains.


After some minutes, we can find the first of a series of squares. These squares offer different seats and a drinking fountain. In the upper part, one of these is composed as an amphitheatre, with wooden benches at different height. Unfortunately, for its dimension and composition, it can’t be used for lots purposes.



The view

The view from the Botanic Garden is awesome. Thanks to its elevation, the Garden offers different pleasing viewpoints, where we can admire wonderful frames of Barcelona. Actually, the view is of the west part of Barcelona and Hospitalet neighbourhood. In any case, we can admire the Santiago Calatrava’s Olympic torch from here.



All paths are made of rough concrete and retaining walls of Corten steel. Sometimes it is possible to find some wood, as in furniture and some handrails. In the upper part of the garden, there are some gravel paths, which are very enjoyable.

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How people use this space

Unfortunately, it can’t be defined as public park or a public garden. I say this because of its location. I see it more like an “Open Flora Museum”. Obviously, this is just my opinion. I’m not sure if citizens must pay to enter, but if they have to, probably for this reason as well.


Anyhow, this garden was born with a different purpose. As the garden brochure say: “The main goal of the garden is to study, preserve and disseminate plant biodiversity”

Final impressions

I can say that I really love this garden. During summer I would be happy to spend some days on it. I think it is very well composed, and the materials chosen gives a very good impression and are also well integrated. Maybe it isn’t the most comfortable garden because of its location, but in any case it is very pleasant.

It is more than a scientific garden, but it isn’t more than that. I mean that it can’t be used for parties or great events. It could be dangerous for the flora.


Unfortunately, the bees’ hotel was closed when I was there.


Gabriele Bortoluzzi – photos taken with iPhone SE ®

Escola Municipal de Música Can Fargues

The restoration of Can Fargues music school was made by BAMMP Arquitectes in 2014 and currently, it is a primary school of music.img_1051

Can Fargues is situated in Horta neighbourhood, in north-west of Barcelona.

The main building goes back to the 13th century, and all the restoration turn around the central tower of it.


To reach the entrance, we are forced to pass through a small courtyard, where we can find a stair composed of a typical Catalan vault. From here, it is possible to see the old tower as well.



In the past, this building was used to produce wine, and this is why this lot consist also of a garden. Furthermore, we can find storage rooms inside, where wine was stored but currently with no function.



All floors are connected with a new internal stair, which is not sustained by the tower’s wall. In fact, it is possible to see space between the handrail and the wall itself.


The school is composed of entrance, some small common areas, classrooms, two big terraces and the patio as well. In addition, there is an Auditorium on the ground floor, completely soundproof.


It is extremely interesting to notice how inside the Auditorium, the acoustics change from a “sector” to another, helped also by dimensions and the vaults in it.


In general, Can Fargues is not very bright, but probably because BAMMP studio wanted to be respectful to the ancient structure. Materials and tenuous colours have been chosen very well for this restoration, in order to accentuate textures and volumes.

In conclusion, I think this intervention has been made in the better way.


Gabriele Bortoluzzi – photos taken with iPhone SE ®

The Julia Tower for aged people

The Julia Tower, designed by Pau Vidal, Sergi Pons and Ricard Galiana, is located in Poble Nou neighbourhood, in the north of Barcelona.


The Tower was built in the 2011 and it was designed specifically as social housing for aged people. It appears as a white striped monolith, partially covered with a grid. Bearing structure is entirely made of rough concrete, hidden by corrugated iron plates.


In the ground floor, which is partially covered with a coloured wallpaper, are situated the keeper room, facility rooms and also an Atelier with a small patio where residents can stay and have fun together. This room can be used as a theatre, handmade workshop and game room.


This residential tower is composed of seventeen floors, divided in three sector (from ground to the top: yellow, light green and green). In each sector we find a specific double-height room, which host a different social function (like a small gym, a reading room). These rooms are recognisable because of their coloured decorative wallpaper (with the same colour of its sector).



Finally, the upper floor is entirely open, and it serves as a “solarium” and terrace. The panorama is excellent and it can be appreciated also from the external stairs (often used as terraces as well), in particular where the grid is not present.



In general, I think the Julia Tower is very well composed. The view and external stairs used as common terraces improve residents’ social life. Furthermore, materials chosen are pleasant, although these gives an idea of cheap materials.

Gabriele Bortoluzzi – photos taken with iPhone SE ®