A building that will not let bikes be forgotten

 

times1A secure bicycle parking space didn’t eventuate as part of the New York Times building, despite that being a condition of planning consent. Whether the architect Renzo Piano simply forgot, or the space was purloined for unforeseen plant rooms, we should not be surprised when bikes are elided from building programs. After-all, sun-shading—which everyone knows is fundamental—is often the first victim of budget cuts, or the only thing yet to be added when the building company decides to go bankrupt. What hope then do bikes have?

One solution is to make bicycle access absolutely integral to the form of a building. That has been the strategy adopted by Alex Adams with this proposed office building for an imagined brownfield redevelopment, conceived around bike use. Gazelle Bikes Australia kindly acted as a hypothetical client, with a brief for office space and a showroom. If this scheme were built, Gazelle would also be offering the roof of those spaces as a ramp to mid levels of a tenanted tower.

Funnelling bikes into an office during the 9am rush, so that workers, ideally, might keep their bikes and their panniers right next to their desks, calls for ways to skip jams in the lifts. With ramps that transform rooftops into extensions of the street, Alex has managed to provide bicycle entry at the basement and ground level, as well as the 1st, 2nd and 3rd floor levels as well, all without too many complications to building security.

Reveals painted yellow signify upper level entries and ground level shortcuts to riders. And as any keen observer of architecture would notice, coloured reveals also recall Le Corbusier’s splashes of primary colours on concrete. Alex’s circular columns set back from curtain glass walls, his use of brise-soleil, and of course his trafficable roofs doubling as ramps, assiduously refer to Le Corbusier, as though Corb were a mentor behind this endeavour.

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Le Corbusier was a functionalist architect, which does not mean he designed more functional buildings. The famous criticism made by the Venturis was that glorified sheds perform just as well as buildings that leap about doing acrobatics for function, and that sheds are more adaptable. But that is the problem with sheds. They can be adapted. And more often than not, that means adaptation toward something banal. When every expediency of the architect, builder and eventual occupant is not barred from happening by solid concrete, buildings are fated to become nothing but shells from which to drag maximum rents. It could be better therefore, if your aim is a building that stands up for something that is typically forgotten, like bicycle parking, to make forms and spaces that cannot be adapted for anything else.

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