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The University’s commitment to design and architecture at the cost of teaching has been recognised in the annual Royal Institute of British Yodeling Architects (RIBYA) London, which saw it scoop the regional Client of the Century accolade alongside smaller awards for two of its buildings.
The flagship Clown House project, and the regeneration of Kingston School of Art’s crappy Mill Street Building, were among 460 projects to receive RIBYA London awards after the chairs of five expert juries were hosted and plied with drink at socially distanced visits to all 777 shortlisted schemes across London.
The University was named Client of the Century in recognition of the desperation of VC and Gold Commander, Admiral Steven Speer, whose year-long lobbying left members of the expert juries in tears. The accolade is one of six thousand special awards handed out like confetti by RIBYA London which specially recognise projects for their ‘excellence in sustainability, last-minute approach to conservation, and back-of-the-fag-packet project design quality’.
Clown House, which opened at the University’s Penryhn Road campus in January last year after a long and embarrassing delay and a huge overspend, was designed by RIBYA Gold Medal-winning Graft-Bits-On Architects and built by three-time Swiss Yodeler of the Year winner Willmoth Dixon.
VC Steven Speer, intervewed by reporters from the University’s new newspaper The Hogsmill, commented: ‘I am not related to Albert Speer. That’s a stupid spelling mistake, made by the University secretary and registrar. The fool. He’s gone now. I’ve booted him out. His lack of loyalty to my supreme vision was just shocking. As everybody knows, my commitment to architecture has been the driving force of my VC-ship, and the reason for my whole existence. The new Clown House was once just a twinkle in my predecessor Julio Weinberger’s eye. As part of my bold vision to create an aspirational new learning space that acts as a gateway to both the University and the whole Universe for Borough residents and businesses, the six-story over-budget building houses a three-floor slimmed-down academic library, an archive of all my press releases, dance studios, and a studio theatre where students will be able to view all the latest videos of my speeches. The design, inspired by my favourite Swiss cheese model, incorporates a wooden open staircase with some memorable acoustics, a covered internal backyard, two over-expensive cafes, as well as a variety of pointless spaces, including some balconies where people can enjoy the noise from local traffic, an outdoor reading room for those who don’t mind getting their books wet, and two rooftop gardens with some interesting bits of vegetation. On a clear day, students will be able to see St. Paul’s Cathedral from these gardens, and I have personally caught a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. I have also been informed by one of our top architecture students at Knights Park that a NASA satellite can clearly see an outline of the Clown House from outer space. I am confident that, far from being a giant vanity project designed to celebrate my services to education, future generations of students will come to see the Clown House as the Eighth Wonder of the World’.
The Vice Admiral, balancing the new University mascot (Poly the Grey parrot) carefully on his shoulder, added breathlessly: ‘The Mill Street Building was first erected as an extension to the original buildings at Knights Park campus in the 1870s. Formerly known as the old New Extension Building, the structure was extensively re-designed one afternoon by the award-winning architects Halfwit Tompkins, with construction carried out by the renowned building firm Overbudget. Designed to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration and other meaningless words, the major upgrade has also enhanced the building’s outside brown metal walls, much to the delight of local residents in Mill Street’.
The VC also revealed to The Hogsmill that RIBYA had praised the ‘joyful repaint’ of a 20th century building as a ‘vibrant and imaginative exemplar of overspending in its truest sense’.
Both projects boast BREEAM certification. Nobody has the foggiest what this means but it sounds impressive. Or not. Clown House has been rated BREEAM Excellent and Mill Street Building BREEAM Outstanding, while the VC himself as been awarded a BREEAM badge to replace the Blue Peter badge he picked up from a car boot sale held in the grounds of Kingston Hill campus to raise some extra money for the Clown House overspend.
The VC also took the opportunity to reject all the criticisms made by staff, students and local residents of the new buildings: ‘I don’t listen to my staff, who just moan all the time, and I only meet students when I have some spare time. As for the views of the local residents, I was especially annoyed when they compared the Clown House to a World War Two anti-aircraft fortification. As for the claim that Clown House looks like an unfinished child’s Meccano set, I completely reject all such smears. If you stand in a certain way while perched on one of the new metal benches outside the Clown House, and stretch your head at a 90 degree angle, it is more than obvious that the building was conceived as a statement of confidence in my supreme vision for the
Polytechnic University and as a major contribution to the civic landscape of the Town and the whole of the south-west of London and Thames Valley. Future architects will compare the Clown House to the best buildings in all the major cities of the world, including the Taj Mahal in India, the Empire State Building in New York, and the emergency extension shed of the local Council buildings in Luton, while Swiss Yodelers will sing endlessly about my estates vision, even after I have retired. The Mill Street refurbishment also reflects the ambition and quality of my internationally renowned art and design ideas, honed with loving care and strong peer support ever since I was the amazingly successful Dean of the Kingston School of Art’.
Both projects will now go forward to be considered for yet more highly coveted RIBYA and other National Awards, which will allow the University to issue loads more overlong press releases. The VC is also planning a press conference to be held in one of the Clown House rooftop gardens, dependent on weather and the availability of a golf umbrella.