Michael Hopkins is one of the most renowned architects in Britain today.
His main contribution to the promotion of English architecture is perhaps most
visible in his ability to reproduce traditional forms using new building
techniques and traditional materials, without getting trapped in the postmodern
whose tensile structures appear in some of his new buildings, has won many
prizes, most prestigious of which are the Royal knighthood for his services to
British architecture and Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British
Architects. The medal was actually awarded to the architect couple, Michael and
Patty Hopkins, who jointly run their partnership.
completing the Glyndebourne Opera House in 1994, Hopkins was marked as the successor to Lord Stirling who had died two years earlier. Sir Michael is
valued, amongst other things, for his success in granting the New Modernism a
British touch. Yet, Hopkins has not yet been
recognized for reaching the career heights that the other Royal Knights
– Foster, Rogers and Stirling – may have
ventured to. This is perhaps because he has never built outside Britain –
a natural condition for reaching such status – or perhaps it is because
his works express a significant divergence between some dynamic and impressive
buildings and others of less discernable quality. This discrepancy is clearly
demonstrated in the New Parliamentary Building
erected above Westminster
underground station. The former is a massive impenetrable urban block, while
the underground station is dramatically dynamic, transmitting an authentic
career began in 1976 when they completed their own private home in Hampstead.
Three private homes can be identified as sources of inspiration: the Johnsons
Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut;
Mies van der Rohes Edith Farnsworth Home in Illinois; and the California Eames House. All are post-war steel structures that were
perceived in Britain
as the ultimate symbol of Modernist simplicity. The elegant Hopkins
House put the young couples architectural practice in the headlines, granting
them the status of respectable architects and leaders of the new high-tech age
gaining popularity in the UK
at that time.
buildings that followed had to justify expectations. The couple have succeeded
in maintaining their design standards while expanding their repertoire of
details and their range of colors.
completion of the Schlumberger
Center in 1992 was a
turning point in the offices high-tech journey. Hopkins entered the field of tensile membrane
structures pioneered by the German architect Frei
Otto. The fast-paced development together with the Arup
engineering company of this technology increased the advantages of its
implementation in public and industrial buildings.
Schlumberger Centers impressive form was a direct expression of Hopkins
social perceptions: separate functions, three structures each of different
sizes, appear in the facade as a unified unit flowing one into the other,
promoting interaction amongst the scientists, who are otherwise isolated in
their own laboratories. While the two lower wings function as research computer
rooms and offices, the upper structure of three tents houses the research
labs, the entrance lobby, restaurant and coffee corners. At night, the light
that penetrates the membranes gives the building the illusion of something out
of the imaginary world of science fiction.
Mound Stand at the Lords Cricket Ground in London
is a good example of Hopkins
innovativeness at the time (1987) and may be regarded as a turning point from
his high-tech jargon. Cricket is a long-standing tradition in Britain where
in many villages one can still see people clad in white, playing on the public
green, and drinking tea under a colorful marquee. Hopkins understood both the importance of
positioning such facilities and the nostalgia of club members towards them, and
he used these images in his proposal for the Lords refurbishment. The new
Mound Stand rests on top of the extended London
brick colonnade of the 19th century stand, preserving some of the original
seating. The three floors, membrane-like structures, are supported by pillars, an
element that from that point onwards became a regular part of the Hopkins-Arup lexicon of forms.
Glyndebourne Opera House, Sussex, marks the ripeness of the
partnerships new age. Hopkins
ability to relate the new to the old reaches new heights in this project. This
country lakeside house is a private business that has no artistic company of
its own. Yet the quality of a Glyndebourne show is equal to any of the worlds
leading opera houses. Every year a team of entertainers is chosen to direct and
perform throughout the summer season. According to tradition, the audience
appears in full evening dress, with their own picnic baskets and champagne, for
the huge dinner party that takes place during the intermission. In the finals
of the competition for the design of the new Opera House, Hopkins beat Stirlings office, who was considered the certain favorite
since his design fulfilled the expectations of all those in favor of preserving
the environment and the tradition.
Stirlings plan preserved the general appearance of
the historic farmhouses, Hopkins
did not try to repeat the style of the original country house. He demolished
the old barn and built a new structure instead. Using traditional materials
such as handmade red bricks that are similar to the originals in size, shape
and color, his oval structure is built onto the country house with its upper
floors hovering above. Hopkins maintained that the new building would have to
be big enough to house all the technical functions of a modern opera house and
as such he chose to signify its relative importance by its size, the elliptic
lead roof, and the tower that ends with exposed steel structures, offering a
gradual transition between the built mass and the sky above. Only a closer view
reveals the red bricks alongside the membrane structure that covers the
planning of the science building in the same private school, Sherborne, where Hopkins
studied in his youth in Dorset, began in 1995.
The Pilkington Laboratories house the chemistry, physics, and electronic
laboratories, and are adjacent to a street of cottages typically built in the
local stone, with sloped roofs coated with slate or straw. The cottages
facades border the street, which is characteristic of many historical villages.
Despite the detailed stonework and the relative simplicity of the laboratories
interiors, the building is quite elementary, and does not blend in with the
rest. The original building materials were indeed preserved, but the rhythm of
the landscape is broken by the new train-like structure. Even the stone-framed
windows fail to synchronize with the small-scale mediaeval cottages.
the old Edinburgh brewery went broke, the 19th
century building was donated to the City of Edinburgh under the condition that the
structure would be developed for the benefit of the public. The three-story
building of the William Younger Center, Dynamic Earth (1999) is situated at the
edge of Holyrood Park, along the beautiful cliffs,
where the Father of Modern Geology and Plutonist,
James Hutton (18th century) developed his theory of uniformitarianism.
The geology of its location inspired the idea to develop a center where
visitors could better understand the processes that have shaped the earth
through interactive and virtual technologies. In the old brewery building,
Hopkins assigned the multi-media screening rooms to an immense entrance
pavilion formed by a tensile membrane on the roof. A large, new amphitheater
was built at the front of the building; its margins provide the space for
staircases and lifts to the rooftop exhibition area. An open amphitheater is
used for outdoor performances during the annual Edinburgh Festival. Although
interesting in shape, the roof increases the sense of disharmony between the
three different components of the center.
London Underground Bill for the New Jubilee Line Extension to the eastern parts
of London included the renovation of the existing Westminster Underground
Station and the New Parliamentary Building located at the World Heritage site
across from Londons famous Big Ben. Completed in year 2000, the seven-story
Portcullis House provides over 200 offices and meeting places for Members of
Parliament and a central library. The location of the building on an historical
site above the tube railway, presented numerous engineering obstacles. As a
result, the plan of the building is based on a relatively simple rectangular
courtyard. The wings are constructed of two rows of offices with hallway spaces
in between. The roof of the central courtyard is a flat delicate dome, made of
wood and steel beams, coated in glass sheets. The inner scaffolding, which
faces the courtyard, rests on a system of flat generous, archways, framed by
six massive columns supporting the arches, reaching down deep into the tube
station below ground.
the buildings exterior resembles the adjoining 19th century building on the
left hand side by English architect Norman Shaw, the design of the
façade is more an adoption of the imagery of the building on its right.
Reflecting the key trend today towards energy efficiency, many of the
structural elements of the building were used to increase energy efficiency,
and the ventilation system is highly visible. Cool air is blown over the
concrete slabs and natural light penetrates the glass panels in the workrooms.
Technologically, the building is quite impressive, yet Hopkins isolating
program leaves the general public outside.
to the alienating building above, the new underground station is a free and
confident space. The approach is so different it is hard to believe the same
architect and engineering teams built them simultaneously. The existing train
lines at the upper levels cross the site diagonally, whilst the Jubilee lines
beneath are stacked vertically as they pass the station box. The resulting
tension between the two movement grids grants the station the dynamics needed
to reflect its function. A deep pier accommodates the underground interchange
in mind Londons most modern tube station, the question is: "Do Hopkins
works really enrich the New Contemporary Modernism, and can one view his works
as a new’ architecture?" In his piece "Tradition and the Individual
Talent", T.S. Eliot presents a model for defining a real work of art: All
existing monuments form an "ideal order" that is modified every time
a new work of art is introduced. If we were to apply Eliots definition to
architecture, such a work would be a building that may cause a change in its
surrounding and thus create a new ideal order. In this way the dynamics
between the old and the new is in constant change. A good building in these
terms is one that will modify the ideal order, without actually destroying it.
And as for Hopkins work, in contrast to the Glyndebourne Opera House, the New
Parliamentary Building neither causes such a positive change nor does it
disrupt the surrounding order.
near historical monuments has always been a complex challenge. There is always
the danger of disturbing the historical setting. Hopkins in recent years offers
a new synthesis of stylistic flexibility. He is still faithful to the doctrines
of Modernist Functionalism but his tendency to build in the new high-tech style
has lessened in favor of his use of natural building materials and traditional
forms, with fine craftsmanship, handiwork and exact finishes. In such a way,
Sir Michael Hopkins expresses the importance of continuity in a world where
every thing changes and nothing stays the same.