Chris Wilkinson is one of the most artistic representatives of contemporary British architecture. It was he who succeeded in turning the dry rhetoric of modernism into a figurative and humane language. The Wilkinson-based architectural workshop is the only company to be awarded the Searling Award twice for the best building of the year. But the highest appreciation of its architecture is that every Wilkinson project is turning into a cultural growth point and a center of social attraction.
The works of Wilkinson complete the exposition of the London Victoria and Albert Museum, dedicated to the history of architecture. For Britain, this is the highest degree of recognition, so it is not surprising that architects regularly invite to rafts where royals are present. Nevertheless, Chris, in the opinion of his Russian counterparts, looks like a St Petersburg citizen, he does not like excessive attention and hustle and bustle. Perhaps, it was these character properties that helped the architect to penetrate the spirit of St. Petersburg when working on the project for the reconstruction of Apraksin yard.
Wilkinson takes on objects frighteningly complicated from an engineering point of view and perfectly solves similar tasks. The freshest example is the towers in Guangzhou - architectural structures that occupy the fourth place in the world in height. Actually, he designed only one skyscraper, but the customers impressed by the project built two instead of one building. In a delicate situation, Chris reacted with humor: "The Chinese saved: they paid for one tower, and built two".
In the late 70's, Wilkinson worked for several years at Norman Foster's Architectural Office, while small (30 employees), but very creative. Chris Wilkinson Architects, a personal architectural bureau, was created by Chris in 1983, and as a result of collaboration with Jim Air, he later turned into an actively developing company, Wilkinson Eyre Architects. Chris and his London team of architects are equally diligent and inspiring to develop projects of a very different scale. These are gigantic entertainment complexes and residential blocks, transport facilities and landscapes, small university buildings and pavilions.
"Liverpool is the capital city of European culture" - under this slogan in 2008, a host of high-profile cultural events will have to take place at the home of The Beatles. The Wilkinson Eyre Architectural Bureau has won an international competition for designing a complex of buildings that will host celebrations: an arena of 10,000 seats, a conference hall, an impressive exhibition complex, a large city square, parking lots and residential buildings. Very close to the complex being built are already established historical ensembles (for example, the World Heritage Site), which should not be overshadowed, but emphasized. The geometric shapes of the buildings were designed in such a way as to build a new coastline of the Mersey River.
The building of the Earth Sciences Department in Oxford reflects the idea of interaction in our city of the World and the Planet, an urbanistic sterile environment and natural natural. The most striking architectural solution to this problem was embodied by Wilkinson in the so-called The Narrative Wall, a textured surface built on a combination of different materials.
For the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew Gardens Wilkinson was invited not only to develop a new master plan of the historic park, but also to create a new architectural object. The Alpine House (Alpine House) is designed to provide special energy-saving conditions for the world-famous collection of alpine plants. Wilkinson's project perfectly expresses the vital engineering moments in an architectural language: two arched vaults create a natural exhaust of warm air from the building, the fan-shaped shading helps create the necessary microclimate.
Sometimes it is very important to carefully preserve the individual spirit and history of the place, which must be radically rebuilt. The project Explore @ Bristol (2000), timed to celebrate the new millennium, transformed the old railway depot built in 1906 into a modern multifunctional space for exhibitions. The new lining of buildings is made transparent and, forming an arcade, leaves the old layout visible.
The world of Wilkinson's bridges is the whole theme for writing a futuristic tale. A bridge connecting two banks of the river, two buildings or two floors, the architect has his own character, and at the same time does not "break out" from the surrounding context. Thus, the Gateshead Bridge in Newcastle (Great Britain), consisting of two air arcs, is a completely unique engineering structure. The symmetrical construction is similar in structure to the human eye, where one of the arches rises and falls, letting passing ships pass. The graphic silhouette of this bridge was minted on a coin in 1 pound of 2007 release, - the only work of the now living architect, which appeared on the UK currency.
In a completely different format, there will still be a bridge for the National Building Museum in the US called Tensegrity Bridge. In the "antique" interior of the museum, two galleries will be linked by a crystal-clear construction of glass tubes. And The Bridge of Aspiration, which connects the buildings of the Royal Ballet School and the Royal Opera House, with its dynamics seems to repeat the movement of the ballerina. The bridge, opened in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II in March 2003, has been awarded numerous awards since then.
Already having experience working with a botanical garden in England, Wilkinson boldly undertakes a similar project on the other side of the world. The general plan of landscaped gardens near the Gulf of Singapore is not exotic in Europe. Wilkinson Eyre together with landscape architects from Grant Associates will develop part of the garden area - Marina South-Park with a group of greenhouses. The greenhouses, which overlook the Marina Canal and the city center, include the so-called grove of "super trees": living trees enclosed in glass volumes are a metaphor for the mutual protection of man and nature.
However, Chris Wilkinson never locked in on practical, and, especially, administrative work. He speaks with conceptual lectures around the world, talking about his vision of the role of architecture and its purpose. His architectural bureau issues books. One of the last - the monograph Exploring Boundaries. No wonder the specialist was awarded the Order of the British Empire of the 4th degree on the basis of the millennium "for merits in the field of architecture", and in 2006 he was awarded the status of an academician of the Royal Academy of Arts. This event, the architectural bureau of Wilkinson Eyre Architects, was marked by the exhibition Making buildings, where the example of three projects shows the transition from the design concept to its embodiment in the material.
The author of the article is Alina Grinchel