Saturday, 19 September 2009


After the experience of hands-on construction in Mongolia, where the architecture school to which I contributed marginally has now been sold on in light of the economic situation there, I now find myself supervising a construction site in Germany, as part of a project within a project. The general construction and tiling contractors nominated by our Berlin-based contacts do not seem to have much experience dealing with the fine italian glass mosaics we are using. We want to produce two beautifully but simply detailed model bathrooms in connection with our project for about 80 Loft Apartments in Frankfurt's East Harbour. Although detailed 1:20 drawings were provided, the workers need to be guided through the placement of the tiles, especially the need to begin tiling strategically by aligning the sheet edges in the most conspicuous places, so that any adjustments can be made unnoticeably in less prominent areas. The oversight of entire elements of the building planned -such as a bath podium discussed early in the construction - suggests that drawings alone are not enough, and the exercise of pencilling everything to be constructed onto the walls and floors becomes both meaningful and necessary.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Along The Great Wall

In late May, I presented a paper on developing architecture teaching in Ulaanbaatar at a conference on Architecture and Identity in China and Mongolia. I reflected on the methods of participation used in the development work in peri-urban Ulaanbaatar - sharing and workshopping some of the outcomes from the blog with UK students. Sheffield PhD researcher Supreeya Wunpatcharapon helped to compile the responses from the 'Lines of Flight' seminar, and these were presented at the conference. A shorter report is in preparation for the proceedings publication.

The conference was an excellent opportunity to meet with Purev-Erdene Ershuu and Gonchigbat, visiting from the Mongolian University of Science and Technology (MUST) and to be introduced to OTSCHIR, the Mongolia-Austria society there. It was an opportunity to work with colleagues and develop inspiration for projects like a book about the Mongolian city.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Volunteer Sees Disunity Hampering Mongolia

Nickson Kakiri, my oft-mentioned VSO colleague and collaborator, who recently returned to Kenya, on the development work in Mongolia;

Volunteer Sees Disunity Hampering Mongolia's Disabled
William Kennedy, UB Post, Thursday, March 12, 2009.

Many obstacles stand between disabled people and a comfortable life in Mongolia, but one of the biggest may be a lack of cooperation between the various groups representing them. Recently, the aid organization Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) arranged a meeting of several Disabled Persons Organizations (DPOs) in Ulaanbaatar’s Puma Hotel, with the express purpose of promoting exchange and collaboration. It’s a necessary step for groups of marginalized people hoping to advance their causes, according to Nickson Kakiri, a VSO volunteer working with Mongolia’s Federation of the Deaf as a Mainstreaming Disability Adviser.

“Organizations or individuals, if they don’t speak as a group, they’re not strong, “he said. “If they don’t involve other groups, they’re not as trusted.”


Friday, 10 April 2009


In April I accompanied Connect Culture's Eleanor Lisney on an access audit at the local Womens Resource Centre. The hard-to-find sign and step threshold at the building entrance were the first barriers, but internally, the ground level offices and toilets were relatively easily accessible. Some adaptations to improve the clarity for visual impaired people and deaf people were suggested, with some ideas about protocols and reception for people with diverse disabilities.

The completed report is available by request.

Friday, 3 April 2009

the girl in the café (film review)

I was delighted when the touring copy of this DVD arrived in the mail from the previous reviewer in Leuven, Belgium. When I booked in several months ago to see this film, I was aware that it portrayed some kind of unlikely chance meeting between two odd characters, played by Bill Nighy and Kelly MacDonald. I thought of 'Lost in Translation'. But little did I know how apt it would be, at this time and this week to see this film, as it tackles the themes of the G8 summit and the Millenium Development Goals, no less. The G20 meeting has just ended in London, with discussion of the IMF, rather than of the MDGs. The latter goals were the first ever theme of this blog, and something in which I have become increasingly interested, as a means to measure the overwhelming need to reduce poverty.

Richard Curtis' script for The Girl in the Cafe somehow connects this unlikely pair characters as a filmic device, which attempts optimistically to reconcile ordinary people with the decisions of world leaders. The press have not been feeling any such connection in London this week.

The film's settings are impressive, from the banal London Caff and Italian restaurant, to then later portraying modern architecture and urbanism in Rejkjavik. The moody photography of the city of Rejkjavik in changing light over the few days of the summit is very memorable. The luxury hotel accommodation for the summit, combined with the general reticence and conservatism of the world leaders at the summit, make a tense backdrop for Kelly MacDonald's character, an interloper, as she plays precariously on politicians' consciences.

The enjoyable pace of the film, and the sound track music by Sigur Ros and others, complete a watchable film with a strong positive message .

Friday, 20 March 2009

Olympic Cauldron

The 'temporary' Olympics Stadium design for London 2012, is neither very cheap nor recyclable, according to critique. The Architects' Journal has highlighted the Stadium's spurious temporality, sustainability and flexibility.

At a recent Newham mentoring launch event, I saw a presentation of the stadium project by Jeremy Harmsworth from McAlpine construction, suggesting that a large proportion of seating could be removed after the event - but the elaborate roof would remain, and the toilet and waste systems seemed conventional. 'Building the Dream' this week on the BBC gave an account of the politically sensitive background to the project. Meanwhile in East London, at last week's activity with teenage construction diploma students, we prototyped a structure to carry the cauldron.

CABE Review Finch AJ
The Games

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Fleet footed

Inspired by walking and accessibility in the locale, and with a new interest in Living Streets and eco-hydrology, I was searching for information about the path of the River Fleet which runs somewhere beneath London next to my flat.

The excerpt from Homann's map of circa 1705 shows the Fleet running past where I sit, at that time in a field, and St Chad's Well must have been nearby, where now there is a café. Here, in 1772, a thousand people were reported to have 'drunk the waters' in a week.

I am planning a walk on 26 April, to remember Mary Wollstonecraft and to contemplate the underground Fleet (and personally perhaps even to remember the Derbal Yerrigan, the Danube, the Mur and the Tuul) in the wider context of River//Cities.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

connect culture Kings Cross

Eleanor Lisney of Connect Culture, Denise Stephens of Enabled by Design, and I met to review Eleanor's Beauchamp House independent apartment living project. We discussed adaptible live-work spaces, kitchens and thresholds, and more specifically, processes of developing a design brief and work contract, and working with building contractors, among other topics.

After meeting at the Travelodge, we visited my own first floor flat, and although we found it partly wheelchair accessible, the WC is not. Most of the Euston Road restaurants and cafés between Birkenhead and St Chad Streets, where we considered eating, were barred, with 150mm high steps at the entrances - the only exception was a kebab shop.

follow the apartment project here
more on accessibility on Tour Watch

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Rapid Urbanisation

After reading about work on urbanisation in the city of Lodz (Malgorzata Hanzl et al), I am encouraged to extend my researches on peri-urbanism in Ulaanbaatar. While Lodz, as part of Europe, appears likely to enjoy a higher level of investment than Ulaanbaatar, students there also have an understanding of European urban architectures and master-planning which might not be appropriate in rapidly urbanising Mongolia.

I spoke to Monika Dzięgielewska-Geitz in Lodz in February, and learned about her work with cultural creatives and the 'restoration economy'. Monika's recent work with eco-hydrology in urban regeneration inspired me to think of the River Fleet and its place in the River//Cities network, which connects with some of my current ideas for an ecological history walk in Kings Cross, and perhaps one day in Ulaanbaatar.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

connect culture

I travelled to Coventry to measure and assess a dwelling, with connect culture's Eleanor Lisney, so that we can consider its adaptation for independent living. We reviewed thresholds, such as to the balcony, the kitchen, living room and the ensuite bathroom to the main bedroom.

The ensuite would be opened up as a wet room. The kitchen and main living area seem to have good potential as ann entertaining area. One idea - to make the balcony more accessible - was to raise the floor level inside. We also looked at ready-made furniture options nearby, at the only city centre Ikea store I have seen.

Sunday, 1 February 2009


Having just returned from Euston railway station on a bicycle errand this morning, I was listening to BBC's Bicycle Diaries. Episode two is about livelihoods generated from bicycles in Kampala. One man was using bicycle parts to build wheelchairs, (like Amarbat) which the programme says, are in great demand there. (Negus 2004) Another man had a mobile telephone stall, another an icecream and groundnut business, each mounted on converted bicycles or tricycles.

It reminded me of our family's Christmas gift support to Re-cycle: Bicycle Aid, an organisation working with bicycle ambulances, -deliveries, -school runs and other grass-roots transport development through 'bicycle aid' in Africa. Other episodes of the BBC programme cover Parisian shared bicyles (1) and newspaper delivery cycles in Delhi (3), the latter reminded me of my past jobs. Another BBC programme covers the decline in work for London's cycle couriers.

bicycle-wheelchair tandem
folding wheel

Thursday, 22 January 2009

accessible living

With Gregory Cowan
Originally uploaded by ewheeling
I met in Kings Cross with Connect Culture access auditor Eleanor, whom I met through TourWatch, and we decided to collaborate on an independent living project, which will involve the conversion of an apartment in Coventry. I plan to see the site this week.