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Fans of the hit BBC series the Bodyguard will be engrossed by the continual twists and turns of its complex narrative.  Sergeant David Budd is embroiled in a gritty drama, details of which I will not divulge to protect those that are not up to date with its latest developments.  However, what can be safely highlighted is the appropriate use of the Whittingdon, also known as the Highgate New Estate, as his place of residence. 

Designed in the 1970’s by the Hungarian Peter Tabori, the now highly sought after housing estate is a typical example of brutalist architecture that is prominent amongst inner city residential buildings.  Although not to everyone’s tastes, Prince Charles being a notable critic, the overall popularity of these brutalist homes has steadily risen over the last few years.  This can be attributed to their spacious and light design as new build homes are becoming increasingly small. 

Brutalism is generally characterised by monolithic concrete constructions.  It was first developed by the French-Swiss architect Le Corbusier in the 1950’s, predicated on ideals of community, space and light.  His development of béton brut influenced UK architecture from the 60’s to the 80’s as an effective style to utilise in the production of replacement homes for those bombed in WWII across many major cities. 

These homes were predominantly designed as social housing for those in lower income groups.  But the knock on effect of this was the creation of crime hubs, with a large proportion linked to gang culture, as tensions developed within these densely populated spaces.  The use of concrete and the lack of investment led to poor conditions; a factor that is changing as original tenants are being replaced by more prosperous owners and the listing of certain estates.

Architecture applicants can consider the ways in which brutalism can be incorporated into contemporary design whilst those applying for Geography can research the impact of population density on crime levels and the health of local community.

Professor Ron Martin, from Cambridge’s Department of Geography is heading up the largest ever analysis of the post-industrial fortunes of the UK’s cities.

More than half the world’s population live in cities and the importance of them and how they thrive is paramount to future populations, economies and the livelihoods of those dwelling in them.

In the UK we see a huge discrepancy in the success of our cities, often seeing a north/south divide as the post-industrial decline in traditional manufacturing continues to have adverse effects. Indeed the fastest growing cities over the past three decades have been those in the south of the country, linked with a downturn in manufacturing in the north and an increase in service industries in the south. The fastest growing places tend to be those new, planned towns such as Milton Keynes – employment and wages there tending to be far higher than in places such as Stoke, a former thriving pottery town.

Applicants to Geography, Land Economy, Architecture and PPE may question how can we reinvent and revive UK cities and whether the government should be responsible for this. Can we even the economic map of Britain? Is awarding Hull ‘City of Culture 2017’ and signing off on the go ahead for a huge £110m arts hub, ‘The Factory’ in Manchester a step towards closing this gap? Or are these gestures simply symbolic?

As an extension, you may also think about how to make our cities greener, more environmentally friendly places to live and work.

Over the last 8 years, artists have been transforming the 17th century Palace of Versailles through various exhibitions and installations. This year, Danish-Icelandic Olafur Eliasson has, in the words of Catherine Pegrad, President of the Chateau des Versailles, ‘[made] the contours of the Sun-King’s palace dance’ through works that include a Hall of Mirrors, a veil of fog over the gardens, and 40 foot artificial waterfall behind the Fountain of Apollo.

Louis XIV was famous for his desire to create the impression that France was at the cutting edge of technology, and enforce the country’s political might through the lavishness of his palace. The engineers who built the original fountains also made France’s canons, creating a link between the palace and military power and prowess. Louis wrote a manual for the gardens, including instructions for the groundskeepers to turn particular fountains on at certain moments, to ensure that visitors were tricked into believing the waterworks were continuous. He used water particularly to give the appearance of lushness, alongside reminding ambassadors of the political power of France, which is why the waterfall is such a prominent feature in this latest exhibition.

Eliasson’s aim in building the waterfall is to ‘reinvigorate the engineering ingenuity of the past’; a grand water feature had been planned by Louis XIV’s architect, but never came to fruition. Similarly, with the other elements of the exhibition, the artist claims that he wanted his installations ‘to empower everyone…asks them to exercise their senses, to embrace the unexpected, to drift through the gardens and to feel the landscape take shape through their movement’.

Architecture and History of Art students should look further into the design of Versailles, both in the 17th century and through this exhibition. Engineering applicants should consider the changes in engineering technology that have allowed the artificial waterfall to be finally created, and investigate the engineering methods that would have been used during Louis XIV’s reign. History students should consider how art can allow us to reflect on historical periods and mind sets and in particular, how the staging of an exhibition in such a prominent and iconic building can change our perceptions of certain moments of history.

The US Bank Tower in Los Angeles has opened up an unexpected tourist attraction – a multi-storey glass slide.

The city’s tallest tower, at 72-storeys, will be open to the public to allow them to slide from the 70th to the 69th floor, protected by a glass wall and floor, for the price of US$8 (£5.73). Those brave enough to go on the slide will land on a new observation deck, providing views of the city below.

Economics and Engineering students will be interested to know that this attraction is part of a $50 million makeover of the building’s infrastructure, to split its purposes as a bank and tourist attraction, supported by the addition of a rooftop bar.

Architecture students should consider the purpose of slides throughout history – and why the existence of slides or tunnels are at once both amusements and useful tools, or even as art in the case of the Carsten Höller exhibition.

A Canadian company has obtained a patent for a 12.4 mile-high “space elevator” that could revolutionise space travel and tourism as we know it.

Engineering students will be interested to note that the free-standing tower would essentially be inflated and supported by a series of gas-pressurized cells.  This differs from previous incarnations of the idea which relied on buttress designs or support cables.  Material Science applicants should consider why this new free standing design is seen as more practical and effective than the former support design and Architecture candidates might want to discuss the challenges of building such an innovative structure.

The elevator aims to allow passengers to reach the top of the tower in about 60 minutes. Passengers could then board a space plane that could reach lower orbit without the need for costly a rocket launch which can traditionally cost upwards of $250m per launch.  Economics aspirants will be interested in the cost/benefit model for the project with the tower due to cost $5billion to build and set to reduce conventional space travel by up to 30%.

Law and Politics students ought to consider the legal and political implications of increased exploratory and commercial space travel while Geography hopefuls will be fascinated to see whether this mode of transport will spur on a new era of interplanetary migration

Men may not really be from Mars, but why do they seem to feel the heat so much more than women? A study by two dutch scientists this week analysed why men feel the need to turn the air con down, while women are often battling to get the heating back on.

In general they found that women were comfortable at around 2.5 degrees warmer than men, BBC journalist Chris Stokel-Walker investigated further. It appears that men tend to have a higher resting metabolic rates than women, which means the energy used keeps them slightly warmer.

Biology applicants may wish to explore what drives this rate and understand the differences between ‘brown fats’ and ‘white fats’. Whilst Human Sciences or Medicine applicants could look at how this difference in genders could affect treatments or indeed ways of coping with different heats and even Architecture applicants could begin to think about how they could design a building or space that could accommodate all the different temperatures that office workers may require in order to be most productive.

It can be noted, however, that both the study and the investigations of Warwick University found that this is not universally true of the genders, and the resting metabolic rates of adults can vary well outside of just ‘men’ and ‘women’. HSPS applicants may wish to think about how we categorise men and women with habits or stereotypes in the 21st century. 

The house where F Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby has gone on sale.

The seven-bedroom house in Long Island is the setting for much of the novel where he and his wife lived for two years in the 1920s. The focus of the novel is Jay Gatsby, owner of a lavish Long Island home in the 1920s Jazz Age based upon Fitzgerald’s own home and facets of his personality. Historians and Architecture applicants should investigate the cultural legacy surrounding famous buildings, particularly Hotel Chelsea which has a similarly lavish and literary history.

The Great Gatsby’s title was something which Fitzgerald himself was unsure of, up until its publication. The title that was last documented by Fitzgerald was Under the Red, White, and Blue, and English applicants should investigate how Americana and modernism tie together in literature and art, particular during the Jazz Age when counterculture rebellion became mainstream.

Fine Art and History of Art applicants should particularly take note of how The Great Gatsby’s Jazz Age setting was influenced by Art Deco culture. Students applying for these subjects should think about how Art Deco was a label retroactively applied to this period in the 1920s and 1930s, and question how art historians quantify periods and transitions in art.

An unexploded bomb, originating from the Nazi blitz over London during the Second World War, was discovered by builders in Bermondsey yesterday.

The bomb was discovered by workers laying the foundations for a new building in The Grange, Bermondsey on the morning of Monday 23rd March, and is reported to weigh 1,000lbs and be 5ft in length. As soon as the bomb was discovered, the Metropolitan Police’s bomb squad put in place a 400 metre exclusion zone around the sigh, bringing numerous road closures. Two schools had to closed early and hundreds of people were evacuated from apartment blocks.

Traffics was severely affected for much of the morning both north and south of the Thames following the closure of Tower Bridge. There were reports of queues for buses stretching several miles. Applicants for History and for Human, Social, and Political Sciences might wish to consider that, 70 years after the event, the Second World War is still affecting our lives today. In what other ways is the British experience in towns and cities still shaped by the Blitz?

Bermondsey was one of Central London’s worst affected areas during the Blitz. At least 709 civilians are known to have been killed in the Nazi bombing campaign. The area is thought to have been targeted on account of its heavy industry and the close proximity of the London docks. Economics applicants might be interested in the economic consequences if there are more unexploded bombs discovered beneath the streets of London. How would such discoveries affect house prices and insurance premiums?

Applicants for Archaeology and Anthropology and for Architecture want to pick up on the archaeological importance of discovering such an artefact. What is the best way to locate any other dormant munitions underground? 

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One of the most recognizable landmarks in the world, France’s Eiffel Tower, has recently embraced renewable energy with the installation of two vertical axis wind turbines.

The installation comes as part of the Eiffel Tower’s high profile renovation project, and the turbines are expected to produce 10,000 kWh of electricity annually, which is equivalent to the power used by the tower’s commercial areas on its first floor.

Urban Green Energy, who fitted the turbines, noted that the site for the turbines, 400-feet above the ground, had been chosen strategically to maximize energy production and allow the turbines to take advantage of steady winds. Engineering students can explore the mechanics of vertical axis wind turbines, which are designed to operate in urban areas where winds are less predictable.

The company also claim that the turbines are virtually silent, and have been painted to match the rest of the tower. Students of Architecture and Fine Art should consider the importance of aesthetics when installing such equipment into iconic landmarks.

 The chief executive of UGE, Nick Blitterswyk said that he saw the installation as making way for a ‘sustainable future’HSPS and Human Sciences should consider the responsibility that tourist attractions such as the tower have to promote environmentally friendly projects such as recycling and renewable energy.

Earth Sciences and Geography students can look more into wind power as a source of energy, and the positives and negatives of its use across the world

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A section of the Parthenon marbles has been taken to Russia to be out on display in St Petersburg. The statue, which depicts the Greek river-god Ilissos, will be shown in the city’s world famous Hermitage museum which houses over 3 million global treasures and is the 15th most visited at museum in the world. The section will be displayed in similar conditions to its current home in the UK, the British Museum in London.

This is the first time that the marbles have been loaned by the British museum to any other institution since Lord Elgin brought them, under dubiously-sanctioned circumstances (he was famously called a ‘vandal’ by Lord Byron for his actions), from the Greek Acropolis. Although the British government purchased the marbles officially in 1816 for £35,000 and exonerated Elgin, the loan is likely to add further fuel to the long-standing debate about the ‘rightful’ ownership of some of Greece’s most beautiful and valuable treasures.

The principal argument for the marbles to be kept in the UK is that they can be better preserved by the British museum than elsewhere. The marbles are currently housed in the Duveen Gallery, a purpose-built room that spans a large section of its London address. The marbles sustained several incidents of damage before Eglin obtained them, mostly during military action during the Greek War of Independent from the Ottoman Empire. The exposure of the marbles to the elements, during their 2000 years on the Acropolis and acts of vandalism from visitors, remain the chief source of their tarnishing. Thus, the Duveen Gallery has been argued as the best place to prevent further damage.

The argument for the marbles to be returned to Greece centres around the legality of Elgin’s exoneration and his right to remove the marbles in the first place. There has also been heated discussion of their treatment whilst in British hands. The act of transporting the marbles themselves caused considerable damage, both from the separation process from the main structure and during transit. One shipload sank during the voyage and, though salvaged, these marbles were submerged for almost two years.  Once in 19th century London, both the air pollution and the cleaning methods used by previous museum staff left the works irrevocably damaged, chafing away the surface detail by up to 2.5mm. British archaeologists have claimed that, although ‘mistakes were made’ in initial preservation and cleaning in Britain before the 1930s, these harmful methods are still employed by Greek conservationists and place doubt on their ability to continue preserving the fragile artifacts effectively, if they were to be returned.

Earlier this year, UNESCO agreed to mediate the debate between the two countries. Celebrated public figures from controversial archaeologist Dorothy King to Human Rights lawyer Amal Clooney have added their voices and expertise to the discussion. The outcome of the Parthenon marbles debate will have implications for many other artifacts currently displayed in institutions outside of their country of origin.

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