Gold News! For Immediate Release:
Kingston University’s Clown House has been named the winner of the 2021 Royal Institute of British Yodeling Artists (RIBYA) Hurling Prize – confirming it as the world’s best new building ever and reinforcing your Gold Commander Steven Speer’s reputation as the Globe’s greatest VC in the whole universe, and a true master of all things architectural.
In an exclusive statement given to waiting journalists from The Hogsmill, the University’s new newspaper of choice, shouted through the letter box of Holmewood House, Professor Speer was clearly ecstatic at the news: “This is better than sex. This fantastic prize justifies every decision I have ever made and, to be honest, my whole existence. I have dedicated all of my VC-ship to the pursuit of excellence in all things architectural and to finally getting my name into some elite architecture journals. All staff should be ultra proud of my masterful achievement and ought to be yodeling loudly from the rooftops or from one of the balconies of the Clown House (when there is a slight lull in the din of traffic, of course). The news has generated loads of coverage in the national media, in papers such as the Daily Mail. I am truly, blissfully grateful”.
Designed late one afternoon by RIBYA Gold Medal-winning Graft-it-on Architects, the landmark building on the University’s Penrhyn Road campus received the strongest yodel in British history at a prestigious singing ceremony held at Coventry Cathedral, where the roof of the building has accoustics that maximise the sheer loudness of this ancient Swiss art. Naturally, your Gold Commandant attended in person and shed many tears of joy as he received the RIBYA prize on behalf of the University’s Most Senior Lack-of-Leadership Team and selected members of the BOG (Board of Governors), who he had recently wined and dined in the equally luxurious surroundings of the Picton Room.
Clown House was one of 600 structures on this year’s Hurling prize shortlist. It was vying for top honours after intense lobbying by the VC alongside such architectural design wonders as the Tintagel Castle Footbridge in Cornwall, Cumbria’s Windermere Jetty Museum, and Hounslow Borough Council’s temporary tool-storage shed.
The Clown House, opened in January 2020 after an embarrassing three-month and hugely costly delay, was named the Hurling winner by a jury of senile retired architects and self-proclaimed industry experts, made up of His Highness the Lord Norman Foster, RIBYA President Sir Simon Awful, the Old Dame Phyllida Barstool, sustainability exhaler Mina Gasbag, and previous RIBYA Hurling Prize recipient Ann Somebody.
Announcing Clown House as this year’s winner, jury chair the Lord Foster said that, after very long deliberations and some excruciatingly tedious pleading from Kingston’s Vice-Admiral, the jury had taken real pity on the Golden Commander and decided the winning project was, er, about “the future” – about younger generations and first generation students, not sad old has-beens like the washed-up VC.
The Lord Foster commented: “Kingston University’s Clown House is a theatre for life – a warehouse of ideas and big vacant spaces, on a par with all the latest warehouses in large retail parks all over Britain. It seemlessly brings together student and town communities, creating a progressive new
yodel model for higher education, the Poly-Uni entrepreneurial factory, creating a depressing progressive new model for higher education, well deserving of international acclaim and universal attention”. Sounding tired and emotional, the Old Lord continued: “In this highly original work of architecture, quiet reading, loud performance, irritating traffic noise, tapes of the VC’s many enlightened and long speeches, research and something called learning, can all delightfully co-exist. That is no mean feat. In fact, it will be a true miracle if it ever happens. Education must be our future – and this must be the future of education. We must face the future. Or educate the future, before it futures our educators. There’s lots in futures. Or something like that”. He added happily: “Where’s the bar? Trebles all round”.
Conceived as part of a bold new vision to create an inspirational new learning space that also acts as a gateway to other galaxies for the wider world community, the project to deliver the Clown House began originally with a RIBYA design competition won by Graft-it-on Architects back in 2013, under the previous VC Sir Julio Wineburger. Built by three-time Education Constructor of the Year Willmost Rip-U-Off Construction Ltd, the Hurling Prize-winning building comprises a three-floor academic library with vastly reduced stock, an archive of all the Vice-Admiral’s numerous speeches, dance studios and a yodeling room, a covered backyard for sheltering from the rain, and over-priced cafes on the ground and fifth floors where you will be served by bored-looking undergraduates (if you are lucky).
With an open design that encourages people to wander in and around the building in endless circles, and views looking down on its expansive entrance and huge wasted spaces on several floors, the Clown House incorporates an enormous range of internal and external features including some outstanding waterpipes, a rooftop garden with some bits of expiring vegetation, balconies where you can breathe in the lorry fumes from Penryhn Road, and an outdoor reading room (if you can find any books).
Graft-it-on’s selection of recycled stone for Clown House’s wonderfully impressive Swiss-cheese style colonnade acknowledges the grade II listed Surrey County Hall building opposite (which the University nearly managed to buy but completely messed up), without compromising the new building’s contemporary expression (said the VC, in a last-minute addition to this news release). “It also meets the University’s sustainability commitments, with the colonnade providing solar shading and special extra protection to the polar ice-caps on hot days, cooling the building and reducing energy costs for the University’s badly depleted estate budgets, with other features including a photovoltaic array (no, no idea either) and some landscaping hastily designed to give a nod to biodiversity”.
In their award-winning design for Clown House, Graft-it-on had delivered on “an incredibly ambitious brief, knocked up speedily after a day out at Kempton Park race-course”, Kingston University Vice-Admiral Professor Sir Steven ‘Poly-Uni’ Speer said. They had created an “inspiring and interactive space”, that not only enhanced students’ learning but also “softened the threshold between town and gown”, fulfilled the VC’s personal philosophy of emptiness, and was a poke in the eye for all those moaning bloody lecturers that Sir Steven does his very best to avoid at all times.
“The Hurling Prize confirms Clown House as a world-class building and a fitting piece of tin foil for the aspirations of our students, many of whom are the first in their families to go to University. It is invigorating to witness just how I have inspired the creativity, collaboration and shared learning that this open, empty and inviting space fosters (geddit? Sorry, Norman. Could not resist). Our students have embraced the Clown House, relishing the opportunity to try and work in a truly awesome building that looks like an unfinished warehouse being built cheaply for Ikea, to find their place within it in a rare quiet area and make its many empty spaces their own”, he said.
“Working with an architecture practice of Graft-it-on’s substantial incompetence and international stature on what was their very first building in the United Kingdom (it shows) has enabled us to attain a boldly bland vision for Clown House at the cost of an eye-watering sum of money which could have been better spent on modernising the main parts of Penryhn Road or investing in teaching – an achievement of which our students, staff and the wider community are truly pissed off about, but I am not. So there”, said the VC.
Commencing the process of finding an exceptional architect by using a RIBYA design and yodeling competition demonstrated the value Kingston University placed on last-minute experimental design, the University’s Director of Estates and Sustainability, Sean Whoops, said. He added: “It is not true my job is under threat. The University Registrar personally reassured me I was safe, before he himself got the boot. I remain completely loyal to our most glorious VC, our most eminent Dear Leader who brings the sun’s rays into every room, expect those areas with solar shading. I worship the very ground he walks on. No question. Honest. Cross my heart. I never said he’s useless. Never”.
Mr. Whoops added: “We wanted Clown House to be unique, and it is. It really is. We found a practice that understood our ambition and massaged our egos. We paid them a ton of money and they have led the delivery of a Hurling Prize-winning building that seamlessly incorporates such disparate uses as a library, dance studios, an archive devoted to the VC’s very many words of wisdom, and a studio theatre. Clown House has transformed the image of the University across the whole of the United Kingdom, becoming a catalyst for changing the way we do things, a cataclysmic role-model for change for change’s sake, a beacon for innovation and change, a monument to creativity and making things, and – of course – has made Kingston the leading exponent of yodeling outside the state of Switzerland”.
Whoops also revealed: “I also have it on good authority that the VC is personally keen to sponsor an innovative new Degree in Swiss cheese-making, which will eventually lead to students being able to have a cheese sales stall permanently present in the large empty space on the ground-floor of the Clown House, to the side of the wooden stairwell but well away from the cafe area. This will embody all the values of entrepreneurial creativity and change-making the VC is so obsessed with. Swiss cheeses are renowned for their holes, which reflects the VC’s spaced-out educational pedagogy and his firm emphasis on sparseness. As far as he is concerned, emptiness has been given a hard time. It is now time to restore emptiness and space back to our thinking. The VC is determined to be a pioneer of a new form of radical empty-headedness”.
Graft-it-on Architects’ Shirley Makeitup said the practice had imagined a place where students would feel completely at home, in a kind of giant warehouse which reminded them of the part-time jobs many of them have to do. “This building is about people, interaction, light, possibilities, probabilities and bigness. It is about connecting to the community, the passer-by, the wanderer, the mildly curious onlooker who can’t really afford the price of a sandwich in the ground-floor cafe, an invitation to cross the threshold – a three dimensional framework with layers of silence and layers of sound. Space, volume and light are the organisers”. She added: “Your round. Mine’s a pint. Hic”.
She then shouted: “The building edges are not boundaries but active gathering spaces, terraces, galleries, toilets and a variety of empty shelves. Being outside under the very big sky is always, ooh, just a few teeny steps away. Yes, sir. Just a very short little walk. Do be careful. Kingston University gave us this educational vision which we translated into a spatial open mattress. Sorry, spatial open matrix. No, I better not. I’ve had far too many. Oh, alright then. Just one”.
(KU News release continues for another 94 pages).