Connector as Solution

National Railway Museum Central Hall (U.K.)


Winning entry by Feilden Fowles (image © Fielden Fowles)


If one were to search for a railway museum in the U.K., London would seem to be an obvious choice. But, as it happens, its location is in the northeastern city of York, far from the major cultural and economic centers of the country. But despite its distance from the major metropolitan areas to the south and west, York has managed to become the focal point of research into the history of rail in the U.K., supplemented by a major museum. Here we are not just talking about some posters, but sheds replete with a large collection of vintage trains.


Apart from what one would find inside the current museum buildings, there is not much of a public face greeting visitors when they look for an entrance. This will all change as a result of a design competition for a great (entrance) hall as a connector to the two major buildings housing the exhibits. As has been the case with most recent competitions for major projects, not only symbolism, but sustainability was also a set priority as part of the program. With this in mind, five firms were shortlisted from 75 applicants to compete for the design—three from the U.K. and two from abroad:


• 6a Architects, London
• Atelier d’Architecture Philippe Prost, Paris, France
• Carmody Groarke, London
• Feilden Fowles, London

• Heneghan Peng, Dublin, Ireland


Each of the teams were to receive an honorarium of £30,000 upon completion of their competition submission. Aside from the Professional Adviser, the jury consisted primarily of institutional stakeholders who were experts in their fields.


The competitors were asked to approach the design challenge with the following considerations in mind:

• Be of outstanding architectural quality—the centerpiece of the museum’s wider strategic investment, Vision 2025— and give the museum a revitalized physical presence worthy of a national cultural institution;
• Present a compelling and appealing new welcome and arrival space for the National Railway Museum to position the museum as the cultural anchor for the wider York Central regeneration project;
• Be the catalyst that connects, rationalizes and integrates the existing museum estate;
• Present a spectacular new exhibition gallery with the aim of increasing visitor numbers and encouraging return visits (note: exhibition design is not in scope);
• Embody a national museum aesthetic (rather than railway station architecture) using warm, natural materials to reference the existing site and historic buildings and showing a sense of scale that is appropriate to agreed development parameters;
• Serve the needs of existing and new communities – offer a safe space to gather, learn, play and relax; practically, integrate passer-by and local pedestrian access through the site during opening hours;
• Be ​‘open for all’ – exceeding expectations and minimum standards of access and inclusion;
• Demonstrate a holistic approach to sustainability, from design and construction through to operations and use, to reduce operating costs by improving the museum’s operational efficiency;
• Increase income generation and visitor dwell-time through improved retail, catering and event facilities;
• Take advantage of the opportunities presented by the surrounding York Central development.



Winning entry by Feilden Fowles (image © Fielden Fowles)



Winning entry by Feilden Fowles (image © Fielden Fowles)


In late March, the office of Malcolm Reading Consultants, the competition adviser, announced the winner of the competition—Feilden Fowles, with team members Max Fordham as Building Services Engineers and Price & Myers as Structural and Civil Engineers.

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Recent Archive Updates


Michael Sorkin (1948-2020)



Back in 2014 I discovered that Michael Sorkin had been a recent juror on the Surfer’s Paradise Precinct design competition panel in Australia. Having been familiar with Michael’s articles and other writings, I was hoping he would be available for an interview—the exuberant design by ARM Architecture that won certainly had pushed the envelope. Michael did agree to a phone interview, and it turned out to be unusual in one sense. Having done many interviews by phone, I sensed with Michael that he was almost in the same room with me. I didn’t have to see his facial expressions; he described the event with such clarity and insight and drew such a clear picture, that I almost felt as if I had experienced it vicariously. 


-G. Stanley Collyer, Editor


Michael Sorkin (comments)


The measure of Michael’s worth is being well expressed in the numerous messages and obits being shared by our community of friends, colleagues, and students. As colleagues at CCNY for the past 20+ years I can say his absence here will only be equaled, over time, by the legacy he leaves.

Thank you for adding to it.  -Lance


Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, DPACSA   
Architecture + Urban Design
President, Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization



Michael’s wit, penetrating insights, and brilliant writing have impacted generations—my students included. He shall be missed by the many who had the good fortune of knowing him.  –Roger


Roger Schluntz, FAIA
Professor and Dean Emeritus 
School of Architecture and Planning
University of New Mexico



Thank you for sharing this recording with us.

Listening to Michael’s voice was lovely today

And in such a visceral manner made him so present

This loss is painful

To the Architecture world

And to the world of loyal friendships

It is a very sad day.  -Karen


Karen Van Lengen, FAIA

Kenan Professor of Architecture

Dean (1999-2009)

University of Virginia



It is hard for me to imagine architectural discussion and even more, New York, without Michael.  He was a remarkable critic, so full of life and humor and passion for what he believed in. He was a relentless advocate for creativity, with a perpetually rebellious formal sense, and commitment to sustainability and equity.  One example, His bold take on zoning in Local Code was extraordinarily original. He tried to write a code that would create a city we actually want to live in, prescient in his ideas for coding performance. This extended to his students and collaborators, some of whom won Van Alen competitions and worked with me there for several years.  He inspired people to believe that architecture and urban design were meaningful after 9/11 in ways few imagined, and he believed in design studios as purposeful even in places of conflict. He couldn’t imagine being afraid of conflict, saw its creative side, and knew that sometimes you have to fight for what you believe in.  A loss  for all of us.  -Ray


Raymond Gastil, AICP, Director

Remaking Cities Institute

Carnegie Mellon University 

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania



We were shocked to hear about losing such a clear, constant voice of conscience when Michael Sorkin left us. We can speak more about his legacy to our architectural world, students and faculties at universities and our urban community, all searching for definition, solutions and humanity. Let’s speak soon after this crisis subsides or passes and hope we do not lose another friend.  -Ted


Theodore Liebman, FAIA

Principal, Perkins Eastman 

New York, NY


Among my many fond memories of Michael—his warmth, his genuine personal kindness, his openness, his energetic and exquisite prose—are two specific ideas for urban development he proposed for New York. He was a wonderful, accepting, encouraging friend to many of us when we were completely unknown. And he really was a passionate original thinker. Many years ago, soon after I moved to New York in 1991, Michael suggested ferries from the Brooklyn Heights waterfront to Manhattan. This was before the park there now was conceived and long before ferries started ferrying. He also had another idea. This one, sadly, has not come to pass. Maybe we can see that it is implemented at least in a few parts of Manhattan. Michael suggested that the residents of every block be allowed to vote on whether to allow parking of private cars on city streets. Since even in some less dense areas with row houses, a majority of residents don’t own cars, the vote would free our streets from these vehicles, opening a few spaces for deliveries and other necessities that benefit more than the very few people who use each car. In most of Manhattan and substantial areas of other boroughs, where people live in tall apartment buildings and very few own cars, the voters would ban private cars easily. Michael’s ideas about planning always had the human touch that was so much a part of his extraordinary personality. I can imagine very few people I will ever miss more. -Jayne

Jayne Merkel
Architectural Historian and Writer
New York, NY



Thank you so much for sharing! He will be surely missed.  -Michel

Michel Mounayar, R.A.
Professor of Architecture
Ball State University
Muncie, Indiana


For Surfer’s Paradise Precinct Competition and Sorkin Interview:


Prince Charles in the White House?

Expressway toll booth of the future ©Paul Spreiregen
(Explanation of lane designations below*)


Recent news about a new U.S. government policy concerning the design of public buildings under President Trump bears a striking resemblance to the controversy surrounding that very issue in the U.K. in the second half of the 20thcentury. It was then that Prince Charles appeared on the scene to challenge the use of modern design in architecture. Prince Charles’ career as architecture critic on the public stage began in 1984 with his criticism of Mies van der Rohe’s design for a new tower on Mansion House Square in London. Unfortunately for Britain’s architects, the voice of the crown carries some weight in British society, and the Mies tower was scrapped, replaced by a post-modern structure by James Stirling—which the Prince also did not like. According to the Prince, those modernist buildings resembled “Frankenstein monsters.” According to U.K.-based architects who had to deal with Charles’ pushback on modern design during that period, he was the “worst thing that happened to architecture here.”


Since then, Prince Charles’ influence in blocking the evolution of modern design in the U.K. has diminished considerably with the ascendance of modern architecture as a common staple—led by architects such as Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, Amanda Levete, Zaha Hadid, John McAslan, Nicholas Grimshaw, Thomas Heatherwick, and others. Although not taken seriously by his European neighbors on the continent, Prince Charles’ ideas did find fertile ground in the U.S.—both in municipalities and even in academia, where classical architecture became a staple at such programs as Notre Dame and, to a lesser extent, Yale. At the latter, I learned from a former student there that Prince Charles even surfaced on a list of “architects” one could choose from as a topic in one seminar.


Instead of peer review, federal architecture under the auspices of the General Services Administration (GSA) now will apparently be at the mercy of a “beautification” panel, which will see to it that modern architecture recedes into the background, if at all. U.S. architects may see themselves placed in the uncomfortable position German, Italian and Russian architects experienced under their totalitarian regimes in the 1930s. By embracing the primacy of classical architecture as a blueprint for public buildings, the Trump regime certainly has helped the National Civic Art Society reach its ultimate goal, at least at the federal level—requiring American architects to turn to the replication of 17thand 18thcentury-style buildings as the preferred design model. Assuming that happens, Prince Charles would be a welcome visitor in the White House.


Addressing this issue, Paul Spreiregen FAIA, architect and professional adviser for the Vietnam Memorial competition states:

“Architectural history is not a copybook. Rather It is a textbook, to be read with a deep understanding of the many principles upon which architecture comes into being. The history of architecture is not served by aping it but by building on it, addressing the programmatic needs of each new building in its own time and place, its neighbored respected, thereby reflecting and honoring the culture it serves. 
To use the “styles” of the past as a cloak for the new is a lie, a subterfuge for respectability and supposed prestige. That is the work of authoritarian governments. Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini were its more recent and notorious promoters. They produced not architecture but laughable if not tragic cartoons of architecture.

All the great works of architecture of the past were, in their own times and places, masterpieces of ancient principles seen anew. That practice has been the glory of the best of American architecture.”**

*Letters to the Editor, The Washington Post, 17 February 2020


*Lane designations

I – Express lane for National Civic Art Society members and family
II – One-horse Roman War chariots (a non carbon emitting benefit)
III – Two-horse Roman war chariots (other emissions of a non carbon nature to be monitored)
IV – Fiats
V – Ferraris
VI – Alpha Romeos
VII-IX – Other automobiles of the great unwashed
VVV…. etc (in colonnade)
Vestal virgins (scantily clad in aisles I-VI) poised in colonnade who wave red or green flags to signal receipt of toll fee
R It – Italian fast food restaurant. (order by mobile phone)
R Gr – Greek fast food restaurant.