COMPETITION FOR THE REDEVELOPMENT OF BRACKEN HOUSE, H.Q. OF THE FINANCIAL TIMES 1987.
The "Working Order" on Bracken House would not have been the largest in diameter that JOA had built. That record remains, to this day, with the Isle of Dogs Pumping Station at 3.2M (11'0") diameter. However, at 2.9M (10'0") diameter, the Bracken House columns were large enough to accommodate fire escape stairs and toilets. One must remember, when looking at such an apparently massive object, that the walls of the columns are only brick masonry. The building is held up by on concrete columns inside them that are only 30cm (1'0") wide. The interiors of these giant columns is a space 2.4M (8'6") in diameter) and 20M (65'0") high.
The Robot Order system comes half way between the big central service core of the 'Miesian' plan, and the distributed external cores employed by the typical HighTech plan, such as that for Lloyds of London. The Miesian plan destroys the central, 'social' space of a building. The High-Tech plan destroys its external elevations, rendering them mere totems of toilet cubicles and firestairs - both items of zero interest to anyone but space-plumbers. The Working order is the only way of arriving at an Architecture that also works as plumbing.
But it raises a peculiar question. Who wants Architecture, today, anyway? People have become very unambitous. Or is that they have been brainwashed by a 100 years of technical incompetence, illiteracy and lack of invention into believing that Architecture, the real big stuff, is today 'impossible'. Since when was anytthing 'impossible' - for human beings - for ever.
Roof gardens are essential for urbanity. JOA have built many of them, at some expense. But JOA have yet to find a Client who will put any plants into our big black concrete planter-capitals. Men seem to be afraid that plants will die. Actually plants are surprisingly tenacious of life, as any ruin will testify. They are the cheapest 'ornament' on the block. Perhaps it is just that plants are too beautiful. It continues to mystify us.
Innovations: The JOA Toolbox: "Automatic Architecture".