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The London  Aquatics Centre designed by Zaha Hadid for the 2012 Olympics.

An amazing modern building having a beauty that a king of the ocean inspires - the whale.

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The Shard designed by Renzo Piano 

The building's design was conceived in 2000 and it was completed in 2012.

It is said to have been inspired by old views of London in which the many spires of the buildings stood out. 

What is brilliant about this building is that, despite it being 72 storeys and the UK's tallest building, it does not seem aggressively dominating because it tapers.

It makes the two rectangular buildings that are visible either side, look pedestrian and uninspiring 

One has to wonder why more tall buildings have not done the same. 

NMB bank HQ building, Amsterdam by Ton Alberts & Max van Hurt.

This office building represented the up to date thinking about 'green' buildings in 1980. It can be rightfully called a seminal building.  

The client did not want what was considered normal at the time - glazed buildings - but something more town friendly and people friendly both inside and out. The inside encouraged interaction by having a 'street' and common areas at mezzanine level.

A building that might have been a rectangular block, with open plan floors, was split up into 10 towers. The purpose of the distinctive form of the towers' sloping walls was to deflect the sound of traffic noise. They also serve to give the building enormous character and recognisability with continuity of traditional construction.

The interior has planting and water features to provide a clean and peaceful environment as well as planted roof terraces of marble and stone left over from the interior.

The building is approx 50,000 sq m and was for about 2,500 staff. Support functions and parking are underneath. 

The building was far more energy efficient than other contemporary office buildings. It was designed to work without air conditioning. At the top of each tower are solar panels and heat recovery systems.  In fact just about every energy efficiency of the time was used - 500 lux daylighting, heavyweight construction, reducing over heating, insulation between the concrete frame and external brick walls, sun spaces, heat recovery from internal areas, low temperature water heating and also warm air circulation, heat pump etc . 

Former John Lewis department store, Bristol

Originally this 1920s Portland  stone department store in Bristol was not a John Lewis store but a Lewis Ltd one. It was taken over by John Lewis 1981 but is now no longer a John Lewis store. 

Many of the John Lewis stores have a curved element in them. Whether this is a deliberate design hallmark, I don't know but I like the way this end of the building elegantly and sympathetically deals with the end of the triangular site

It compares with some modern buildings on triangular sites which use an aggressive pointed end.

Two buildings in Alijo, Portugal

The hospital building (left image) is 'traditional' looking with an appearance of civic dignity. The building is broken down into  different elements which makes for visual interest.

The municipal theatre across the road (right image) is definitely  modern but has dignity and continues the tradition of using stone to give the town continuity. It has some elements of visual interest. 

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Extension to an older building, London

This is a modern extension to circa 1900 building which fits well by respecting the existing buildings levels and matching the bricks but has modern elements that are not out of place.   

The extension is not trying too hard by adding a  glassy, flashy building, and is an example of simple respectful design that will not 'date'. 

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The towers provide great visual interest as well as satisfied the Victorian desire to hark back to the Gothic/Romanesque style. But the towers and turrets are functional because they contain shafts to allow the air to flow through and up the building so ventilating it by stack effect. The system did not work well though because the calculations for natural ventilation were not well developed. 

The Natural History Museum by Alfred Waterhouse.

Designed between 1860 - 70 and completed in 1880, before the advent of electricity, the building had to be ventilated naturally, like the Houses of Parliament.

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The eternal walls have terracotta air bricks with illustrating natural history to allow air in. Grilles in the ceiling and in the walls allow heated air in winter and ambient outside air in summer to flow up through the building and exit via the towers and turrets. 

The Vidago spa hotel, Portugal

Built in 1910 and designed by architect José Ferreira da Costa, the Vidago Palace hotel is a magnificent hotel built in the belle époque when decorative opulence in the tradition of C18th Baroque was appreciated. It was built for guests coming to the mineral springs at Vidago in northern Portugal. 

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Besides having the 'traditional' window wall ratio which is to balance the needs of daylight, sunlight and heat loss. The dining room has high level clerestory windows that provide this grand room with excellent daylighting.  

Roman temple and aqueduct, Nimes 

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Roman temple in Nimes built over 2000 years ago in about 2 AD. 

Although much restored, the original design and workmanship is so very fine. 

These two structures display tremendous feats of brilliant planning, design, engineering and of beautiful workmanship.

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The 2000 year old Pont du Gard is thought to have been built between 20BC and 60AD years and at 49m is the highest Roman aqueduct. It was built without mortar or concrete using close fitting stones and has withstood floods that have wrecked bridges built very much later.

The aqueduct itself is 274m long and carries water from springs along a distance of 31miles to serve Nimes. The average gradient over the whole route is an incredible 1 in 3000.  

Newgrange - neolithic engineering of a solar monument older than Stonehenge

Newgrange is in the Boyne Valley in Ireland. Built in the Neolithic (Stone Age) period, Newgrange is a passage tomb that is 5,200 years old, dating from in 3,500 BC. It is therefore more than 1,000 years older than Stonehenge and 500 years older than the Pyramids.

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Newgrange is 85m in diameter with a height of 13m. It has a low wall of massive decorated (by carvings) stones surmounted by a turf roof.

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Close to the entrance the wall is much higher and has white stones on top of the great boulders to provide an elevation of amazing grandeur and significance. 

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Close to Newgrange are other burial mounds at Knowth and Dowth. The illuminated passage in the photo is Knowth.

It is surprising that these extraordinary feats of construction all those years ago is so much less well known than Stonehenge. 

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The rectangular hole over the Newgrange entrance is a 'light box' that is aligned so that at the winter solstice sunlight flows along a passage to illuminate the chamber in the middle of the mound. 

Chagford. Usually made of stone, the fan vaulting in St. Michael's church, Chagford is beautifully crafted carved wood.

A cob wall which has improved durability by have a slate hat and brick shoes. 

The jettied upper storey adds visual interest as well as sheltering the windows below, as does the overhanging roof for upper floor.  

An old cottage made more interesting with bands of different wall material. 

Nigeria. The mud wall of this traditional building in Nigeria has visual interest from recessed banding and the roof overhang stops erosion.  

Exeter. A amazing carved door of a house belonging to Exeter Cathedral in the cathedral close. Made of Devon oak the door is thought to date from late Elizabethan times and may have been in the mind of the author when she wrote Harry Potter. 

Kew. A modern attempt to add craftsmanship. This extension in Kew has scallop shaped lead 'slates' and a glass crown, commissioned from glass artist Sally Fawkes, that lets light filter down into the space below. 

Chipping Camden. Work shop of gold and silversmiths virtually unchanged since 1902 when architect, C R Ashbee brought craftsmen from London to Chipping Camden for a better life. George Hart set up the workshop and his family still work it.

Ipswich. Another extraordinary doorway in a stone shell-like wall under the grand steps leading up the the entrance in the Customs House, Ipswich quay. Although very baroque it was built in 1845 and designed by local architect John Medland Clark. 

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Margate. One photo showing the strong embellished character of the Victorian seaside style. The other showing the plain modern style of the Turner gallery responding to the budget and the need not to have windows (there are some with a good sea view on the rear elevation.

Waterloo station.  The station has had a glamorous modern building by Grimshaw, but, unlike Kings Cross or St Pancras, the original station has not been greatly changed except for the insertion of a gallery which has some shops and gives access to Waterloo East station. 

Whilst the insertion of this gallery overlooking the concourse might have at first seems to be an intrusion on the original station facade, it is not only looking like a natural evolution as buildings do over time, but is very useful. 

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Post boxes. The evolution of post office design from Victoria to Elizabeth II.  I cannot warm to the more recent designs which have lost their 'hats'. One purpose of theses is to stop water trickling into the box through the posting slot. The double box on the right has 'hoods' to stop this happening but I do prefer a well rounded design. There is no right angle in nature. 

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Telephone boxes. The older design of the telephone box was cast iron and durable. It has smaller panes of glass which are not all likely to be broken at one time. that are less expensive than the vandalised modern one, and if it were vandalised might not need all of the glass panels replacing. 

The modern design references back to the original cast iron one with its size and domed roof, but is not nearly so sturdy as the vandalised example on the right shows. 

Gate lock. This simple cast iron mechanism operates a gate at Chiswick House. 

Heating. A rather wonderful shape for this cast iron Victorian radiator at Hereford Cathedral. 

Ideal window. A textbook Victorian school window that has simple controls to control ventilation from various heights without draughts. Brilliant for Covid times.

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Benin bronze casting. A cast bronze boat has the Obi of Benin and servants being taken into captivity by British soldiers in 1897 after the 'sack' of Benin City and theft of many bronzes now in museums.  The detail is remarkable craftsman ship. But I did not loot it - I paid for this bronze !

The end of the line. A redundant, probably from early 1900s,  locomotive left to rust on an abandoned railway line at Tua in N. Portugal. A reflection on how technology and economies change.

The end of the road. Different technology but same end. A redundant car abandoned at a sheep farm in the Australian outback. 

The restoration of the line.  A signal box at the volunteer  restored station and line that was sacrificed by the Beeching axe.  The box is total unpretentious and unadorned button in its clear simplicity and utility it is a 'little gem'.

Beginning of a line. New technology and solutions - a more modern railway. Elevated light rail proposed for around the M25 to connect up all the existing heavy railways to each other and to London's airports.  

Bubble car. A post war Messerschmidt 'car' which might seem eminently suitable as a method of local transport or commuting in these days of sustainable transport. In the Moretonhampstead Motor Museum, Devon.

Workhorse. This Honda 90, seen in the Mortonhampstead Motor Museum, was a real workhorse for low cost travel in the 1970s (mine took me to Prague and back), as was the Honda 50. It could also be regarded as 'sustainable' transport due to its durability and good mpg. 

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An age of softer shaped car bodies. Before and after the war were many cars with body shapes of considerable elegance like the iconic Jaguar and this MG Magnette in the Moretonhampstead Motor Museum, Devon.

Future classic? My car  gets appreciative comments and waves in the street.But it is not ULEZ compliant without paying £12.50 a day, so is now seldom used.

Motorised bicycle - moped. A simple way of getting about seen in Spain. It  was never much in fashion in the UK but designs of similar size and style have now been reinvented as a battery powered bicycles in response to environmental concerns.

Contact:   Michael Buckley      tel:  +44 (0)7838 155739       eml: