The best YouTube channels for architects to watch

My most recent blog discussed podcasts for people with an interest in architecture (Faris Mousa: The best podcasts for architects to listen to). Podcasts are popular with busy people as you can listen while undertaking your daily routines, from DIY to exercising to commuting.

Now I am turning my attention to YouTube channels, which coincidentally comes at a time when we are all being encouraged to ‘self-quarantine’ and stay at home. So here are some great content creators who can help you explore the world of architecture, whether or not you’re indoors by choice.

The B1M

A British-based channel which looks at the construction (and sometimes deconstruction) of buildings around the world, including Olympic stadiums, airports, skyscrapers and bridges. A new video, usually no more than 10 minutes in length, is published every Wednesday.

30X40 Design Workshop

This American channel explores the day-to-day work of architects and helps students understand what the role involves and keeps professionals informed of developments. It includes how-to guides, answers common questions and reviews popular tools and platforms.

Dezeen

Dezeen is the most frequently-updated channel on this list. It publishes a mixture of up-to-the-minute architecture-related news, interviews with prolific industry professionals (many award-winners among them) and also feature-length documentaries on important topics from sustainability to the demolition debate.

Architectural Digest

The popular magazine, known for showcasing the latest trends in architecture and design, has a channel which takes you inside some of the day’s hottest properties. It’s an opportunity to look inside a variety of very expensive and exclusive homes, many of them owned by celebrities.

How to Architect

A great educational tool created by a seasoned and award-winning architect who is keen to share his knowledge and experience with the next generation. The channel shares the same name as his popular book, and is designed to help people at the beginning of their careers. It includes some fascinating studies on buildings and how they have been designed to combat particular challenges.

The best podcasts for architects to listen to

In 2020, there’s a podcast for every occasion. They’re relatively inexpensive to make, and easy to access – you can listen on your way to work, at the gym, or while doing DIY or jobs around the house. That means there’s a show for every interest, and architects and people interested in architecture are well catered for. Here are some of the more popular shows freely available today.

The Architecture Happy Hour

Offered in bitesize chunks, Happy Hour won’t take up too much of your time but does give fun and informal insights into current architecture stories, ranging from career advice to buildings in the news (see Faris Mousa: The Notre Dame fire was a tragedy and a cause for optimism)

Buildings on Air

For something more in-depth, Buildings on Air offers lengthy shows in which the hosts and a varied cast of guests discuss a wide variety of architecture-related topics.

Failed Architecture

As the name suggests, this is one of the more informal architecture podcasts, but is very popular with its audience as it isn’t afraid to have frank discussions about architecture and its place in society, and even criticise bad architecture.

Scaffold

Scaffold is a fascinating podcast if you’re interested in learning more about the personalities that shape modern-day architecture and trends, with regular long-form interviews with people in the news.

About Buildings and Cities

This British-made podcast lives up to its name, but there’s much more besides. It’s a podcast about architecture, buildings and cities, from the distant past to the present day, but its hosts are fond of drifting off onto other topics that are just as informative and fun.

99% Invisible

One of the most popular podcasts of the moment, 99% Invisible takes a look behind-the-scenes of the way everyday things are designed and built. This fascinating insight has created a huge audience ranging from industry insiders to the layman and offers something of value to every listener.

What makes a great place to work?

In years past, businesses have used salaries and holiday allocation to attract workers, but in recent times the scope of what it means to be a great employer has grown. One of these trends has been using architecture and interior design to create a fun, productive and rewarding workplace. (Faris Mousa: Evolving Spaces)

Companies such as Google and Facebook have earned a reputation for breaking down barriers of what a workplace can be, and they attract some of the very best talent in their industries. But you don’t have to be a tech titan to create somewhere that your staff are happy to spend time and do their best work.

Here are some key elements that make up a great place to work. You’ll see you can adopt most or all of them within your own company.

1: Fun

Whenever a workplace makes headlines or becomes iconic, it’s the fun elements that people notice, such as multi-floor slides or arcade machines. The science behind this shows that employees who have the opportunity to have fun bond better with their colleagues and time away from their desks makes them more creative. If you can’t afford to turn your office into an amusement park, simple options such as a games console or board games make a good starting point.

2: Nature

The more access to greenery people have, the happier they generally are. (Faris Mousa: The best things in life are free) If you’re fortunate enough to own a complex in its own grounds, you can take advantage by installing a garden, planting trees, and creating cosy areas with benches and outdoor furniture. If not, you can still liven up your interior with office plants which will improve the atmosphere and reduce stress.

3: Lighting

Fluorescent lighting has been an office staple for decades but as technology has advanced its proven to be resource heavy and not all too attractive. Smarter lighting can be more visually appealing, reduce headaches and eyestrain, and lower carbon footprint and energy bills. You can also make the most of your building’s windows to harness natural light, which is the best source of all.

4: Food

Kitchens are increasingly popular in the modern workplace. Not just a kettle and a microwave, but somewhere that food can be properly prepared, and consumed in a social setting. This encourages your employees to take sustenance, healthy options and break times seriously. You can even go one step further by providing fruit, snacks and drinks for free.

Manchester’s most famous architecture

I love traveling to other countries and enjoying the architecture which is borne out of other cultures. (See Faris Mousa: More amazing architecture in Rome)

However, I also love my home city of Manchester and I am fortunate that it is filled with its own fantastic buildings which have emerged over the last 1,000 years. Travel is great, but as this great city proves, you don’t always have to go very far to find something new or inspiring.

Here are four of Manchester’s most famous buildings.

Manchester Cathedral

This origins of this cathedral can be traced back to the Saxons, but the building that stands today was constructed over the last few hundred years. Not only is it a beautiful site with much intricate detail, it’s also symbol of Manchester’s resilience: throughout its history it has survived attacks,bombings and plenty more, but it’s still standing strong.

Town Hall

Completed in 1877, Manchester’s town hall is a fantastic example of neogothic work. The clock tower hosts an impressive 23 bells, the largest of which is 8 tonnes and required great engineering minds to hoist into place. The town hall stands grand and proud in the city’s centre, providing a familiar backdrop for many iconic Manchester events, such as the world famous Christmas markets.

Victoria Baths

Manchester’s water palace is in the middle of a restoration project with no known end date. It hasn’t been used for its original purpose in more than 20 years, but the fact that millions has been spent working on the building, and that today it host events ranging from nightclubs to cinema screenings proves how well loved it is by the local population. The multicoloured brickwork facade, stained glass windows and tiled interior are breathtaking and I hope full restoration is completed before too long.

Urbis

The Urbis was built at the turn of the millennium and was one of the showcase pieces of architecture that proved the city was bouncing back from the 1996 bombing. It features a fully glass facade, which gives stunning views of the city for visitors, and a unique sloping design. It forms part of a large communal area which is popular with city residents, and to top it all, the building has hosted the National Football Museum since 2012.

An Architect Reflects on the Past Year

As another year – another decade – draws to a close, it’s interesting to ponder the exciting and unknown future which awaits us. But to best understand our role in the world, I think it’s important to reflect on our journey so far.

As architects, I believe we have a lot to be proud of. Some say modern politics is leaving us more divided than ever, but as an industry we have united to support some truly important causes.

The winner of 2019’s RIBA Stirling Prize, awarded to the top architecture project of the year, was won by a council run housing estate in Norwich. It’s unusual for such a ‘modest’ project to win the headline prize, but this one really resonated. It won because it was designed to foster community and to help its residents live greener lives.

In fact, this was a wider theme for RIBA this year: the organisation launched campaigns to both counter climate change, and to promote renovation over demolish/rebuild.

The world is a beautiful place and good architecture adds to it, but bad architecture can take away. And it’s great to see that RIBA is ensuring that we all do our collective best to build responsibly, leaving a healthy world for future generations.

Of course, there is still a long way to go. This is also true of Britain’s homelessness problem, which has grown every year this decade. (Faris Mousa: Homelessness is a growing problem and it’s our responsibility to help) Our most vulnerable people need our help, and it was great to see my hometown of Manchester making noise earlier this year when Andy Burnham announced new measures to help the homeless – and hopefully this inspires other towns and cities to do the same.

Unfortunately, Manchester missed its targets, but I do appreciate that they’re trying. It just goes to show how big the problem is, and how difficult it is to reverse the trend. In the meantime, please do consider donating to charities such as Crisis or Manchester’s own Mustard Tree who are doing what they can to help provide a roof and a warm meal for those in need this Christmas.

All the best for the New Year,
Faris Mousa.

Elements of a Great Modern Home

A new housing development which won the RIBA Stirling Prize for 2019 has been making headlines not only in industry magazines and websites but in mainstream news.

The Goldsmith Street housing estate in Norwich was a popular nomination and most experts predicted well in advance that it would be a clear winner.

I have written in the past about what makes a great family home (Faris Mousa: The Most Important Piece of Furniture in Any Home) so let’s look at what makes this an award winning development

Energy efficiency

Climate change is something which is affecting us all, and for which we all have a responsibility to address. Modern day architects must not only employ sustainable working practices, but also create buildings which are themselves energy efficient.

Goldsmith Street was built to Passivhaus environmental standards, which is considered the ultimate goal. This covered even the tiniest of details, from the angle of the roof designed so that it didn’t cast shade on a neighbour, to external letterboxes which won’t create draughts through the front door. Not only is this great for the planet, but it will save residents an estimated 70 on their energy bills.

Social harmony

The development contains 105 homes, and they have been laid out in a way that encourages social interaction. Isolation can lead to poor mental and physical health, but in this neighbourhood it’s easy for residents to get to know their neighbours. Plenty of green space and childrens’ play areas have been located away from roads, too, which means they’re safe from traffic.

Innovation

There will be many social housing projects built this year and next year, across a great number of councils, by a variety of architects. And the easy choice is to build something exactly like everything else that has gone before. But Norwich’s council members had the bravery and ambition to try something new, and Mikhail Riches Architects and Cathy Hawley had the ability and expertise to create something completely truly original. So by breaking from the norm, the two have created something which benefits the residents, shines a positive light on Norwich, and hopefully will inspire others to be a little bolder.

More amazing architecture in Rome

In a recent blog (Faris Mousa: The Pantheon still amazes nearly 2,000 years on) I said that the Pantheon was such an incredible feat of architecture that I wanted to write about it all by itself. I think it’s worthy of its own post, but that’s not to say it’s the only spectacle worth seeing in Rome. There are many more great buildings, both old and new, and here are a few more that I recommend for any traveller or fan of architecture.

Teatro Marcello
This theatre was completed in 11BC and is still revered by architecture enthusiasts more than 2,000 years later. Its arches, columns and tunnels were revolutionary at the time, and its ability to comfortably hold an audience of 20,000 was a great showcase of Roman ingenuity. In fact, it was the inspiration for the much better know Colosseum, built around 70 years later.

St Peter’s Basilica
Rome is home to a great many religiously significant buildings, including an estimated 900 churches. The Vatican’s basilica is the most widely recognised, and it’s easy to see why. It took more than 100 years to build and was completed in 1626. Its design is the work of a string of world renowned architects, including Michelangelo who helped design the iconic dome, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, a sculpture who is responsible for much of its decoration.

The Supreme Court
One of the most important buildings in the country, where the ultimate rule of law is decided, it is also fittingly one of the most imposing and eye catching. The architecture is inspired by late Renaissance and Baroque styles and is so opulent (and took so long to build) that many locals still question how it was funded. But to the casual tourist, it’s an incredible sight.

The National Museum of the 21st Century Arts
Rome is recognised for its historic architecture but has continued to innovate and modernise. One of the best examples from modern times is Zaha Hadid’s MAXXI museum. Its sharp angles and bold curves, which provide a backdrop for the many contemporary exhibits and events which take place there, stand in stark and exciting contrast to the surrounding ancient buildings.

There is plenty more to Rome than fantastic architecture – we haven’t even touched upon the magnificent food, culture or sport – and these four buildings (and the Pantheon, of course) are just a few of the many examples of iconic buildings. But hopefully this will give you enough of a taste to go and explore this beautiful city for yourself.

Key Manchester building is to undergo major revamp

A building in the centre of Manchester is to be extended by two stories as part of a £6m project.

Bluefig Investments has secured planning permission to redevelop and expand 55 Mosley Street in Manchester city centre.

The plans will see two floors added to the landmark office building meaning that it will provide 13,000 sq ft of Grade A office accommodation as well as a comprehensive refurbishment of the existing interior.

Bluefig Investments acquired the building in December 2017 and employed architectural practice, Hawkins\Brown to design the new scheme.

The contract for the construction of the extension and refurbishment is about to go out to tender.

Faris Mousa, managing director of Bluefig Investments, said: “This strategically located prime office building not only benefits from the extensive investment that has been ploughed in to St Peter’s Square over the last few years but as it is situated close to one of the key gateway entrances to the city and with the new tram stop on its doorstep, it seems obvious that this building is overdue a revamp.

“The Manchester office market remains one of the most stable and buoyant sectors in the country and whilst many developers are continuing to hedge their bets on speculative developments pre Brexit, I am confident that 55 Mosley Street will appeal to a number of occupiers currently looking for exceptional new office space in the city.

“We have a fantastic team supporting this project and are excited to be delivering a very special scheme that embraces the future ways in which we operate by creating an inspiring and productive working environment.”

Tom Dobson of Hawkins\Brown adds: “The redevelopment of 55 Mosley Street has presented an exciting opportunity to regenerate a prominent city centre building to provide new contemporary workspace.

“Working in close collaboration with the client and consultant team, we established a clear narrative and vision for the project that was crucial in developing the design.

“The distinction between the original fabric and new interventions has been designed to create a clear legibility and definition that celebrates a new period in the building’s history and encourage tenants to adopt new ways of working, whilst recognising its former use as an industrial warehouse.”

The reconfiguration of the internal spaces has included the integration of a new entrance and reception area to engage and activate the building at street level.

The Pantheon still amazes nearly 2,000 years on

Exploring the cities of Europe, you will find endless varieties of amazing architecture, from humble homes to unrivalled shows of extravagance.

On any trip abroad, I will usually discover a selection that I really admire, and I have begun writing about my favourite locations in this blog (Faris Mousa: Valencia San Sebastian )

My most recent adventure was a few days spent with my family in Rome, enjoying a city deeply rich in culture and history. And while there is much about the Italian capital to love and report back about, I think the Pantheon deserves a blog all of its own.
It’s not easy standing head and shoulders above all else in a city which was once the centre of the known world and still houses some of the most culturally significant locations of modern times, such as the Vatican.

But I have never before seen such a stunning example of human ambition, ingenuity and achievement.

Around the outside stand 24 columns, which weigh 80 tonnes each and had to be transported all the way from Egypt using a clever underwater system.

The enormous, 142 ft roof was constructed without any visible support or reinforcements. A 25 ft aperture at the top provided the building’s only light source, which would no doubt have been an even more incredible sight when all of its original treasures will still on display.

The Roman empire may not have lasted, but many of its ideas and innovations did.
Not only did they invent concrete, which remains one of the most versatile and durable construction materials, but the Pantheon’s dome is still the largest cast-concrete construction in the world.

Evidence, maybe, that nobody has done it better in the nearly 2,000 years since the Pantheon’s construction.

Homelessness is a growing problem and it’s our responsibility to help

The UK has a growing homeless problem and it’s a tragedy. It has been suggested that empty buildings and shops could be converted into homes for those who need them, and I think we need to start right away.

Working in property for almost a decade I’ve seen so often what an important role buildings play in everybody’s lives: whether it’s a secure home, a productive workplace or a football stadium, swimming pool or museum that helps us enjoy our time and bond with others.

Without a home to call their own, it’s far too difficult for an individual to succeed in any other aspect of their life. A home enables you to put down roots. It also helps you to become part of a local community – another crucial part of everyday life. A secure home is the first step to greater things.

I don’t understand how this country can have a growing number of people without a place to call home, at the same time as a growing number of empty properties. We should be opening our doors to people who need our help.

And it’s not just a problem for property owners to solve. I think we could all do more to help those in need.

Mental illness is one of the leading causes of both drug abuse and homelessness, and this has culminated in suicide becoming the leading cause of death among middle-aged men. 

There is not enough support and compassion for those who need it most. Not enough second chances available for those who desperately want one.

We need to start turning these empty and unused buildings into something which will benefit our society as a whole. And we all need to spend a little longer helping those around us.

Take a moment to think about the people in your own life. Could you make a life-changing difference with a simple gesture of kindness to somebody who is struggling?

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