News / November 2014
Tuesday 25 November 2014
Blade Runner: Fantasy or future reality?

A decaying city pelted with acid rain and teeming with isolated, lonely people - that was the future Los Angeles imagined in the 1982 film Blade Runner.

It made a big impression on a young English architecture student called Julian Gitsham. Watching it again more than 30 years later before an address to the British Film Institute, Julian, now a HASSELL Principal, saw it as a warning to architects, urban planners and political leaders the world over.

“It packed a powerful message when it was first released and it is just as potent now,” he says. “I didn’t realise at the time just what a brilliant vision it was of lost public spaces, of decaying cities, of empty buildings and abandoned spaces.

“It was a potent warning of the disaster that we risk heading towards as populations increase and our urban environments become more and more dense.”

Julian was a keynote speaker at Building Brave New Worlds: The Architectural Visions of Sci-Fi Cinema, a study day at the British Film Institute (BFI) in London. It was a day that marked a season of films and television programs called Sci Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder. The season runs from October to December 2014

Julian describes Blade Runner as a pivotal film in its portrayal of a failed society and doomed urban environment - the film that people recall when talking about cinematic exploration of dystopia. However, he admits to responding very differently back in 1982.

“I remember seeing this for the first time in the Penultimate Picture Palace in Oxford at the midnight showing and being blown away by its beauty. I found the high rise cityscape magical, the movement  from sky to ground seamless, the quality of the detail in practically every frame of the film, the crafting of crashing through endless plate glass windows and the constant bombardment of colliding images of people, streets, transport, buildings and, of course, the Vangelis soundtrack! I absolutely loved it.”

Directed by Ridley Scott, the film stars Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard as a “Blade Runner” – someone called in to hunt down and kill escaped groups of genetically engineered “replicants”, designed for dangerous or menial work in “off-world” colonies. Millions of humans are leaving to live in the colonies to escape the decaying world that is Planet Earth.

Revisiting the film in preparation for his BFI presentation, Julian asked himself how the film’s vision fit with the reality of contemporary environments. As Architect’s Journal reported, he sees analogies between the depiction of vertical living in Blade Runner with the potential problems of today’s trend for building towers in major cities.

“In one scene, Deckard drives through town via a tunnel, goes into a basement car park, takes the lift and goes into his apartment, all without talking to a single person,” he says.

“When you build tall, you can become incredibly isolated. The film also shows Deckard entering whole streetscapes that the general public can’t access. We are designing better now, but there was a period of time when we were building gated communities, where you just close your doors and talk to nobody, and that makes cities fail.

“Perhaps we should require all young designers to watch Blade Runner as part of their professional education. Blade Runner is the work of a powerful imagination. We need the same imagination today to ensure we design cities that people want to live in, rather than escape from.”

Tuesday 18 November 2014
Landscape architecture boost for HASSELL Singapore studio

Richard Jones has delivered standout  landscape architecture projects in South East Asia, the Middle East, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Now he joins HASSELL as a Senior Associate and is based in our Singapore studio.

Richard’s recent experience with Singapore-based landscape architecture practice ICN Design International saw him leading projects for hospitality, residential and aviation clients in Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar and the Middle East with partners ranging from Zaha Hadid to Foster + Partners, Aedas and more.

The breadth of his international experience will contribute to the expansion of the HASSELL hospitality and residential design offers.

“The background and core values of HASSELL align very much with my own approach to design,” said Richard.

“I have no doubt that the increasing complexity and need for sustainability in projects today means the multi-disciplinary approach of HASSELL is the future for landscape architecture in South East Asia and beyond.

“It’s very exciting to be joining a visionary firm like HASSELL and being part of their development during an exciting period of growth.” he said.

Richard’s large scale and complex residential projects include The Interlace with OMA, D’Leedon with Zaha Hadid for Capitaland, the Singapore Flyer and South Beach with Foster + Partners and Aedas. His aviation experience includes Changi Airport Terminal 4 in Singapore.

He has also delivered landscape master plans and constructed landscapes for hospitality clients, including the Ho Tram hotel and casino in Vietnam, the Desaru Resort in southern Malaysia and the Yangon Railway Building in Myanmar.

HASSELL Principal Brenden Kelly said he was looking forward to Richard leading the landscape architecture team from the Singapore studio.

“The projects that Richard has worked on in Singapore and beyond demonstrate a high level of design ambition and richness, and we’re excited to incorporate his experience into our work at HASSELL,” said Brenden.

Richard Jones officially joined HASSELL on Monday 29 September 2014. Email

Richard Jones, Landscape Architect
Thursday 6 November 2014
Live learning building wins National Architecture Awards

The Advanced Engineering Building (AEB) at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, has been awarded the Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Architecture at the 2014 Australian National Architecture Awards.

The AEB also took out the Emil Sodersten Award for Interior Architecture and an Award for Sustainable Architecture.

Officially opened in September 2014, the AEB is a green living and learning building with real time monitoring of its structural and climatic performance, making it a subject for study in its own right.

It is the result of a design collaboration between two practices - Richard Kirk Architect and HASSELL. The design team was led by Richard Kirk, who founded the firm named after him, and HASSELL Principal Mark Loughnan.

The AEB is a technologically sophisticated and environmentally sustainable building with flexible teaching and learning spaces.  The study of engineering is very much a hands-on experience, so the designers created an environment that supports this physical approach. The AEB breaks down boundaries between teaching, learning and research by co-locating teaching and research spaces across engineering and materials science disciplines, and bringing lectures into laboratories.

“We wanted to give students the most practical and realistic education we could offer, and knew that started with their learning environment,” said David St John, recently retired Professor of Materials Processing and Manufacturing at University of Queensland.

The project brief sought to establish a new benchmark in sustainability. Design and form follow core sustainability principles with the aim of minimising the building’s impact on the environment. AEB responds to the unique sub-tropical Queensland climate by incorporating passive sustainability principles in order to reduce its energy consumption, largely through simple systems such as solar shading, natural cross-ventilation via the atrium using operable louvres, ceiling fans and controlled daylighting.  

The Australian Institute of Architects’ National Architecture Awards were announced at the Darwin Convention Centre on Thursday 6 November.  

Advanced Engineering Building at University of Queensland
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