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Writing June 2019

Across the hill; Giants

The sound of the hard ball leaving the bat echoed along the front street.  Screams pulled the boy from tree to tree.  Above them chestnut leaves spread out filtering sunlight.  In the grove at the intersection of the back street and great hill gathered the children of summer.  They came from the nearby cottages to meet their cousins from town.  Under this canopy they held council on the world in between games of tag and hide and seek but none would venture towards the hill.  Until the sun left the sky they occupied the outside realm while adults held their council indoors.  Sometimes, to pass the time, they would throw sticks at young chestnuts, only to be disappointed, secretly wishing for autumn but loving the summer.  As the shadows grew long so did their stories.  With backs against the heavy trunks they wove a fabric to resist the creeping cold.  One story concerned a race of giants that lived across the hill.  John was nine when he first heard the story.  It was late and shadows had given way to thick shade and though the sky remained azure with orange clouds, the valley grew dark.   The laneway that led up the hill between a hedge and row of beech trees was darker still.  He stared at this emptiness as the story unfolded of how they had withdrawn to the nearby forest secreted away from others.  “Sometimes you can hear them play rounders”, the eldest boy explained, “ever see lightning, the crack is the ball flying from the bat and thunder, that’s the sound of the giants running the bases”.  When the call home came, John welcomed it.  Stars had begun to appear and as he sauntered home he heard the faint rumble of thunder.  Nervously he looked back into the darkness.  Sleep eventually enveloped him.  The following morning John took himself outside.  The air was sharp and the filled with fresh rain.  In the Chestnut grove he looked up through the thicket of branch and leaf to the sky.  Leaning on the trunk he watched the tree top twist in the wind.  As his arms stretched out and embraced the tree he felt the pull of the wind on its knotted bark.  A sudden crack turned his head towards the hill.  Across the back street, a small stream and through the gate to the lane he started.  As he climbed the beech row to his side opened out onto the plateau of the hill.  At the top he saw the valley fall beneath him the rivers and lakes joined together bathed in morning light.  He wondered if this is how giants saw the world.


Number of words = 444

© Jon Gregory 07 April 2012


Architecture May 2019

A Bridge to Remembering

“The bridge gathers to itself in its own way earth and sky, divinities and mortals.”

Martin Heidegger Building, Dwelling Thinking


Competition Entry Report for Commemorative Bridge at the Irish War Memorial Islandbridge, Dublin


Making a bridge provides the opportunity to gather the world, unifying the heaven and earth, the past and future.  It gathers up the earth, the banks and the river into a single thing.  In this location the bridge must prepare the visitor for the journey across the river to the memorial gardens.  This design brings together ideas about pilgrimage, memory and order.


According to (Camillo) Sitte, the urban space before the church should be narrow and long, an extension of the processional route.  Here to shelter and enfold the visitor the prepared space is surrounded by stone walls that carry the engraved words of the war poets; a testament to the loss of innocence.  Water flows along each side and echo off the curved entablature to further calm the pilgrim.

Sound & Poetry

The courtyard provides a tranquil and isolated space in the busy city for the visitor to slow down.  This transition is a necessary purification process that prepares the visitor for the journey to the memorial garden.  The screening walls are formed to deflect and contain the sound of flowing water.  The concrete elements can be precast allowing their placement with minimal disturbance on the existing ground.  Openings to the rear allow the sound of birds and the wind in the trees of the nature sanctuary to percolate into the space.

Anchoring & Threshold

The bridge element is anchored to each bank with an entrance portico, a threshold that signals the crossing.  These embankment elements resolve the unique topography on both sides of the river, allowing for full universal access.  A hydraulic lift and staircase are provided inside the buttress element.  This strategy provides for a flat arrival court at +5.0 M and a flat bridge deck at +7.1 M.  This approach allows for 2.1 M clearance beneath the arch over the river as well allowing the river path on the southern shore to be uninterrupted.  These weighty anchors provide the necessary restraint for the bridge (see structural description below).  The northern portico element is also marked by a bell tower.  It is proposed that a bronze bell be commissioned as the percentage art project.

The Divided Path

In the medieval world the visitors to the great cathedrals were directed (under the eyes of Christ) to enter by one door and once their pilgrimage was satisfied, exited by the other.  These double doors are divided by the pillar that supports a Vesica Piscis above.  The porticos provide a similar choice.  The vaulted gateways are illuminated from above.  The allusions to both the Medieval Cathedral and Lutyens’ war graves motifs are not accidental.  The vaulted gateways frame the space and provide a sense of scale while providing clues to distance.

Material Character

The materials are driven by topography.  Concrete provide the material of abutment and bridge, brick the middle ground, while stone completes the entablature, extending to the structure of the bell tower.  Concrete provides defence against the vagaries of rising and falling water, marking the plimsoll line of the structure.  Brick provides tactile warmth.  The hard wearing surfaces are paved in stone, slabs over the courtyard and the bridge deck. Stone cobbles mark the crossing from one realm to another and completes the structures by capping the porticos and faces the courtyard walls.


The proposed bridge spans 45 metres from two concrete platforms.  To minimise the impact of the bridge on the environs the design carves out a narrow zone of impact.  The first stage is the sinking of piles and caps upon which the abutments will be constructed. The walls of the stair cores create a rigid box to connect the bridge.  The abutment foundation is anchored to the pile caps and in turn provides the landing point for the bridge’s arched soffit and flat parapet.


The bridge can be erected simultaneously from both embankments using cranes located on the abutment foundations.  These lift the bridge segments into place. The first three segments are connected by joining steel cable strands together and tensioning them. The last segments can be connected using post-tension strands on-site and then lifting in place, with the final “keystone” dropped into place locking the structure together.

The bridge design balances nearly all of the self-weight of the bridge.  The tendons are located near the bottom of the cross section at mid-span, near the top of the section where bridge meets abutment, and then somewhere near the centre of the cross section at the far end of abutment or end of bridge.  Post-tensioning the tendons will pre-compress the concrete in the region of the cross section where there is tension due to bending under applied load.  Additional pre-stressing to ensure compression throughout the depth of section in the unoccupied bridge is used so that tension stress is never greater than the pre-compression.  This provides good deflection performance and long term durability.  The bridge will be built using C50/60 concrete and 15mm 7-wire post-tension strands.  At the base of the bridge we need 10×22 strands on each side and at middle 8×22 strands in total.  Additional 2-wire crossing strands, perpendicular to the main strands, will be placed 1m c/c.

Environment – Construction

The construction of the bridge relies less on disturbing and more on placement.  Aside from the piles and caps there is little disturbance envisaged for any part of the construction.  No significant excavation is envisaged for any construction with new surfaces established above or at the existing grade levels.  The arrival court is formed using cut and fill to accommodate the new levels at or near the existing grade level of the roadway.  The southern portico is accessed by a simple path, land graded either side to minimise its physical impact.

Environment – Post Construction

The post construction environment is similar to that prior to the introduction of the bridge, the mature trees (with one or two exceptions) are maintained and a nature enclave is protected (encouraged even) to the eastern side of the arrival court.  The existing river line and footpath are maintained.   The extent of the impact remains a narrow strip with limited impact outside of this zone.   Access to the bridge is facilitated using stairs, ramps and elevators.  It can be isolated or secured by decorative gates if required.

Marking Time

Marked by the sound of a bell, the sound of water, the mark of words, the echoes of people and place, this project had the ambition to enfold space and time with sound, light and words to guide and effect a change in the visitor.


Credits copyright reserved by authors

Design & Concept NJBA A+U; Noel Brady

Design & Engineering Bakkala Consulting Engineers; Chris Bakala, Erik Altmäe

Cost Analysis KMCS; Nigel Spence, Anthony Devane

Art May 2019



Intersection A

Intersection is a series of studies investigating the nature of matter and space, in particular the intersection of these phenomenon beneath the surface of appearance.  These maquettes illustrates the initial studies that focus on direction and energy.


Intersection A – Detail

Intersection A suggests the continuity of energy through another material emerging along a different vector which suggests an alignment to the study of nuclear physics.


Intersection B

Intervention B however is balanced, precariously, between entering or leaving the mass (base) of the sculpture.


Intersection A – Detail

Though this work may suggest a position within the minimalist orthodoxy it evokes a narrative dimension regarding the nature of time and space.


© N Brady 2016 & 2019

Writing February 2018

Night Trains

Night fell with the rainstorm that carried across the city. On a hill to the North, Franz Vekaris stared from the second floor window of his flat. The night air filled with the sound of rain and heaviness, a sickly warmth that deadened his spirit. The rain fell vertically, forming perfect geometry in imperfect puddles. Outside, the street reflect the warming glow of the sodium vapour lamps. The recently storm wounded tree lay dormant beneath him. A crooked tear peeled away at the pavement, where the roots lay bare. This aging anchor had stubbornly resisted the gales but caused gas to rupture forth from beneath.
Night workmen had worked deep into the twilight to make the conduits safe. Franz had watched them, toiling in the dark with portable lamps, that aided their careful investigations. The tree could not escape their accusatory enquiry. Once revealed the tree could neither deny its guilt nor had a voice with which to defend itself. Naked, more vunerable now in its maturity than it had ever been in its youth. It could only remain to take whatever punishment that would be meeted out.
Franz empathized, with the tree. The truth, once exposed, would attract public vultures to preen their feathers while casting acid remarks. Justice would be sought, even at the expense of truth. How wretched the tree must feel, he thought to himself. The root that caused the trouble had become its jailer.

What had it done but challenge the wind, exert its presence, to tell of its existence, its majesty, its survival. How could one punish that nature which is life. Franz remembered a time when he refused to punish a dog that had bit his hand. He recognised that it was in the dog’s nature to bite. Nature in all its forms and existences must be acknowledged and accommodated. When the gas company installed the main it had not respected the nature of the tree. Now the workmen had not considered the nature of the tree.
The night had grown quiet and interfered little with his thoughts. They flowed with the water along the street. They scattered before him as he tried to haul them back into some order. The rain tumbled in synchronous symmetry with the rumble of the night trains as the noise echoed in the streets. Blue-white flashes illuminated the low cloud behind the tall chestnuts. The electrical discharges from the railing cuttings cast their shadows into elongated threads over bridge and plaster facades. He had long lived with the sound of night trains. They never seemed too far away. A low guttural rumble echoed all along the empty subterranean corridors finding its way ceaselessly into hollow hearts.
Franz looked again to the gaping wound in the footpath. Like a decaying tooth, it had been left to be ravished further by weather and traffic. As he closed his eyes, he remembered the furious activity which unfolded earlier.

Arriving home from work he had noticed the faint odour of gas, elusively flickering on the wind. The elm which stood for over a century outside of his doorway buckled under the strain of the wind. Caution pushed him to park his car further down the hill. The scent, he noticed was strongest near the tree. Once inside he had telephoned the gas company. How clear the events were inside his head and how much part of the trial he had become. Later still, he had watched the men disembark from the company van to begin their survey. With strange meters and devices they stood, talked, walked up and down, stood and talked about things other than gas. Franz had tried in vain to distinguish the words from the rumble of night trains which had begun their vigil early. Giving up he had returned to the chair in his room where he watched television on mute. It had remained like that for a long time; the televison, the workmen, the trains, all conspiring to form a blanket of static more unintelligible than before. It droned inside his head, stirring lost passages into life.
Tonight was different. The conspiracy began as usual but had retired early. On his single bed, behind him, lay Carmen. He looked back at her prostrate body, half hidden by the heavy covers. He was jealous of her child like fortification secure in a world of dreams while all around him the darkness circled, tearing at the edges of his world.

She had arrived late and skipping dinner they went to bed quietly, their lovemaking softly bringing sleep. For Franz it had been a short respite. Awake now for over an hour he sat watching the rain. Under the blankets a curtain covered and protected them from thoughts distracting and foreign. Out here in the room there was no such protection where his thoughts brought him closer to the outer world. Gathering his things he dressed himself in the small kitchen located off the single room.
The street air cleansed the bedroom warmth from his face. Cool and refreshed he raised his head to the rain. The rain’s salt mixed with the salt of his dried perspiration. Thoughts of the sea flooded his head as he tasted the wetness. As he passed by the stricken tree he reached out to touch it in sympathy. Pulling his sleeve back his watch caught the light from the street lamp; 2.20. He moved uphill away from the tree, away from the flat, away from Carmen.
He liked this time of night when the streets were his alone. Feeling his heart take the strain of the hill he felt alive. His pulse sent shivers through his soul. The sound of night trains rumbled in his ears. The rain began to ease in front of the increasing wind. Echoes of the sea were carried with the sound of crashing waves in the tree tops. Steam issued forth from a gulley in the road, from a subterranean world of rumbling. Pictures of caverns beneath the hill filled his head.

Arriving at the summit Franz looked down at the city writhe among the shadows. At times animalistic and at others mechanistic, the city appeared to growl and change gears simultaneously. While the animal moved with long laborious effort at the edge of existence, the machine ground on, endlessly. Around him gentile facades of brick walls and even paned windows hid a masss of anonymity. Below him, he searched out his flat, in one such a house, amongst the masses of roofs and chimneys. He thought of Carmen. He was disappointed that he depended on her for encouragement. Franz continued on, with the rumble of night trains for company. No further thoughts disturbed him and time soon came to return as dawn approached and Carmen would soon awake. The cleansing was welcome but only slight.
The tree remained steadfast in its resistance, alone. Inside the faint hints of a red sunrise stretched ancient fingers across the covers to where Carmen slept. The light formed tiny impulses beneath her naked skin gently stimulating her to awaken. Franz sat in the chair watching her arrival from the dream state. The first image of her day would be Franz looking down at her. Carmen stretched out her hand to feel the dampness of the coat sleeve.
– “You were out.”
– “Just a walk, couldn’t sleep.”
– “You never sleep these days.”

– “They will probably cut the tree down.”
Carmen thought about the tree before nodding acknowledgement.
– “Come to bed.”
Franz obeyed her gentle order, undressing and letting the clothes directly fall at his feet, joining her as he slipped beneath the warm sheets. She breathed the freshness of morning from his neck and hair as she nuzzled into the nape of the neck, surrendering her warmth to comfort him. Franz was once again enveloped in her security.
– “Let’s go from this place.,” Franz said softly into her ear.
– “Where would we go?”
– “Somewhere quiet.”
– “Why?”
– “Because I hurt you being like this.”
– “It won’t be any different,” Carmen asked, opening her eyes.
– “Probably not.”
– “Why move, I’m here, what proof do you need?”
– “There will be no let up, no respite, no rest.”
– “I know.”
With that they closed their eyes in order to sleep. Sleep came to Franz a little easier than usual. She remained awake. Franz did not move, breathing slightly an inch away from her breast. She continued to stroke and caress his back allowing his head to fall onto her breast. She stared at the ceiling grow light as the sun rose higher in the sky. As it progressed her mind grew empty. She had no real answers for her own questions let alone those Franz would ask. Where could they go?
Franz awoke as the rainclouds had returned to the sky above their sanctuary. They found themselves in each other’s arms. When the raindrops hit the window panes he turned to see. Beside him Carmen lay quiet and he kissed her on the forehead, his fingers tracing loops on her arm.
– “Better get up, I suppose.”
– “Mmmmm,” Carmen mumbled.
– “Tired?”
– “No, no it’s just, it’s. Well, it’s Saturday.”
Franz knew and would have been willing to let the day dwindle into the nothingness of evening but he felt restless. He sensed that it was a restlessness born out of innocence but would bring guilty results. Leaving their bed they dressed silently. Instead of breakfast they decided on an early lunch. The rain spat at them from the clouds inconsistently as they pulled their raincoats tight. Armoured against the whole of the world they stepped out from the porch. There were no workmen because of the rain and the wound had been temporarily mended. Taking the bus into the city centre they browsed bookshops before taking lunch in a small cafe, away from the milling crowds of shoppers. Their togetherness was an oasis and their mood improved as the time passed. They remained in the city as little as possible but stayed for a film walking along the embankment before heading home.

As they turned the corner of their street they found themselves in the midst of boughs and branches shorn from the old elm. Franz halted dead in his stride. All joy evaporated on seeing the large pieces of canopy strewn around the roots. Carmen gently led Franz inside.
As they lay in bed Carmen noticed a tear on his cheek. She let sleep overcome her tiredness but for Franz it was not so easy. The night trains began their vigil, their rumbles cleaving a path through his brain. The sound of the machine crudely masked those of the earth as it swung its continuous arc through space. The silent night remained an elusive place. As he yearned for a silence he feared did not exist, Franz lay awake. Carmen’s breathing belonged to the silence. The great elm in the wind belonged to the silence. The conspiracy did not. The night trains did not; their poignant echoing call bouncing along the empty yards and gullies, voices moving slowly through the still air. There would to be no answer to their call.
Franz lay awake for hours before leaving Carmen again. The night became clearer as the wind rose to greet him. The wind invigorated him, lifting his step. Seeking again the highest place, his favourite place on the hill he saw the city reveal itself again. Lying below, vulnerable he felt an ache for those that lay within as he had for the tree.

Inside the song of life rose up, a grinding melody and deeply resonate mood. Stretching out his limbs he felt the muscles tense, stretching further as if to encapsulate everything and yet nothing.
Across the city, lights appeared in the western sky. Arcing over the city they headed higher towards the hill. Taking delight in this event he watched as a new set joined the others in tight formation. He lay back on the damp grass, eyes heaven bound, watching the aircraft take a position among the stars for a short time. As they neared, one after the other their alignment formed a liaison with the moon. In unison these arrogant sons of technology joined hands with an ancient soul. The night trains dwindled into the distance smothered by the sound of the wind as it coursed its way through the trees around the hill. The wake noise of jet engines overlapped with the wind as it grew ever stronger, ever more alive. Franz closed his eyes and listened. He heard the earth murmur. He heard it breathe. He rode its back into the night-side. He felt the emptiness of space rush past him. He felt his singularity. He touched the horizon. He glimpsed tomorrow. He saw the future as he saw the past. The boundary between had dissolved. He felt no longer the earth as ground but cloud, carrying him onward. Weight and gravity left him. He slept.

As Franz woke he saw the day’s new light touch the highest floors. Leaving the hill he recognised a new silence that had revealed itself at the threshold. He knew this would always be with him. Joining Carmen his heart was coloured with a new sense of understanding.
Later as Sunday opened into their flat she awoke to a smile.
– “You were out again last night.”
– “Yes.”
– “What sort of day is it.”
– “Quiet.”
– “It is Sunday after all.”
Franz smiled and kissed Carmen’s forehead and her eyes. The night trains would no longer conspire or haunt him. He had found what evaded him, within himself, within Carmen. Nature would find a way.

2,293 words
© 1987 Jon Gregory

Architecture July 2018

Dolphin’s Barn Urban Space


NJBA A+U plan of intervention 

On the cusp of the new millennium NJBA A+U were part of a new urban space initiative championed by Jim Barrett City Architect at Dublin City Council.  Several under-utilised and under-valued spaces across the city were identified as part of the strategy.  Taking advice, suggestions and direction from the city architects and transport departments the task was to find a suitable model for urban renewal.  Concerns regarding the use of these spaces were paramount.

NJBA A+U Model Study 

Where social activities were positive they should be enhanced and where those activities were anti-social, proposals had to alleviate or deter.  Supporting mechanisms such as active public frontage and housing were important components of any solution.  In addition, where suitable, existing traffic use, including parking, could be maintained if it supported activity.


NJBA A+U – Section through main junction

In this proposal, shared spaces were a key strategy to ensure valuable public activity, especially in font of the church.  Commercial uses along the edge of the spaces are re-enlivened with robust hard landscaped space augmented with trees and public lighting.  Where viable, residential uses above shops support passive surveillance.  A new mixed use building on the edge of the main public space provides financial subvention for the public realm works.


NJBA A+U – Main space in front of church with mixed use supporting building

The existing condition also suffers from access problems.  The crossing is difficult due to its unique geometry, topographical variation and traffic levels.  Safety was a priority from a traffic management perspective.  This scheme proposed both shared spaces for the low density areas alongside public functions in front of the shops and the church. For the main crossings more direct connections were proposed and the usual pedestrian barriers removed to facilitate easier movement of pedestrians.  This would necessitate a pedestrian prioritised lighting sequence.


NJBA A+U – Study of new urban space and supporting mixed use building

Regretfully this scheme was not progressed.  It remains only in sketch form a potential solution.

Architecture April 2017

Tread Softly

Wolfe Tone Park is situated in the middle of Dublin on the grounds of the Church of St. Mary’s alongside the old Jervis Street Hospital.  Though many pass by and over the space between the de-consecrated Church and an old industrial building few think about what lies beneath.    The abstracted diagonal paving with its sparse planting and scattered remnants of headstones was once and remains a graveyard.

NJBA A+U –  Wolfe Tone Square

An international design competition was held in 1998 to reconfigure the enclosed park of stone walls, iron railings, paths and grassed over graves.  Even then the original headstones had been aligned along the boundaries facing into the space inside.  The original stone walls and railings identified the sacred boundary and provided minimal environmental protection from the wind and traffic noise.

NJBA A+U – Monument to Wolfe Tone

The solutions that found favour with the jury converted the bounded space to an unbounded non space, leaking to the street and the surrounding spaces.  Originally the intention was to bring St. Mary’s into the composition but that remains isolated.

Critically however the issue of the dead remained silent in many of the submissions as the graveyard is purported to hold cholera victims with many laid close to the surface.  Instead of revealing the interred it was considered more sensible to leave them where thy lay and move the remaining stones to the shaded end of the new space, leaving some to be presented along the western flank to wear away underfoot.

Our approach to the Wolfe Tone Square Competition was diametrically opposed to the washing away of this memory.   Instead we sought to honour the dead, and the living.  With the additional request to honour Wolfe Tone we split the honorific aspects of our interpreted programme in two contrasting courts connected with spaces for the living visitor.

NJBA A+U – Memorial to the interred

The overall plan for the Square would also recognise the significant environmental problems that currently exist.  The prevailing winds from the South West and West transverse the nearby buildings before hitting the Jervis Street hospital Building and directed downwards make for an uncomfortable location at best.  Our proposal sought to enhance the previous barrier’s tendency to shelter the space by including a system of screening with Birch Trees in raised platforms to break up the laminar flow of the moving air as well as a mask to the traffic noise on either street.  Coupled with an integrated seating and water system the visitor would be enclosed ion a place of calm reflection necessary in today’s world.  The square would also be capable of being closed at certain times to ensure that the place was preserved as a place of respect rather than a place of entertainment, a temptation that is all too often taken up in urban design schemes.

NJBA A+U – Wolfe Tone Square

As the council authorities seek to address the limitations of the current arrangement there is a plan to convert it back to some sort of grassed surface.  As people, re-inhabit the space, as they sit on the grass, as they lounge on those rare days of summer and lie back on the grass they will not know of those that lie barely a few feet away beneath the ground.

Tread softly.


Architecture November 2016

Air Rights Development

Air Rights 1.0 – York Street

NJBA A+U has been carrying out research into Air Rights projects in Dublin to leverage the potential of under utilised sites in and about the city centre.  Air Rights I for York Street in 2007 was selected for exhibition as part of the AAI’s (Architecture Association of Ireland) 2008 annual awards.   At York Street the proposal examined the under utilised space over the public realm, a street.

NJBA A+U York St Air Rights I

NJBA A+U York St Air Rights I

By exploiting the geometry of the space it showed how the city can be meaningfully stitched back together to create necessary ad desirable urban accommodation.   Addressing the twin concerns of much needed urban housing and by reducing the carbon footprint of the city Air Rights I offers a view towards what is possible.

NJBA A+U York St Air Rights I

NJBA A+U York St Air Rights I


Air Rights 2.0 – Baggot Street (Silver Sliver)

While Air Rights I addressed the nature of the public realm, Air Rights II examined the possible intensification of the private realm.

NJBA A+U Baggot Street

NJBA A+U Baggot Street

Silver Sliver is a proposal for a tiny site between two office developments exploiting the under utiilised space left over.   This particular site consisted of an existing single storey concrete framed retail unit with a roof car park overhead.   The site is under utilised apart from the car park with two blind gables looking down on the space in between.  This sliver site can be easily adopted for use as a residential use.

A lack of housing in the city and low density development means that citizens are forced outward to suburbs and dormitory towns, fuelling increase in CO2 emissions and long commutes.  Crippled by inaction and an excess of vacant land and empty buildings there appears to be resistance to exploring other solutions.

NJBA A+U Silver Sliver Baggot Street

NJBA A+U Silver Sliver Baggot Street

A light timber framed CLT system of standardised panels with CLT floors is an ideal material and technology for occupying this space.  By using the flat deck of the concrete roof (suitably reinforced) will allow a bolt on timber solution.  Rising on the back of the concrete structure the new stacked system of full height CLT panels allows the creation of what Corbusier called “Vertical Sites”.  On these “sites” it is possible to provide for a pair of twin 2 bed apartment units.

Rising above the street line a stepped plan and section shows how narrow sites can be occupied with minimal loss of light and air.  With weights of at least ½ that of a comparable concrete superstructure the new design rises effortlessly above the squat 1 storey retail unit.  The Retail unit is to be converted to a foyer for the new facilities providing a café and other communal services.  Above this level is a social “garden” space for use by the residents.  At the roof level of the new structure two additional social spaces are provided for the residents.


NJBA A+U Silver Sliver

NJBA A+U Silver Sliver


The new structure provides for 25 generous 2-bedroom apartments with natural cross ventilation and an open deck access to the central lift and stair core, for necessary fire protection.  The external skin is to be unfinished aluminium panel rain screen over insulation becoming a beacon in the environment for a new vertical city.  The tall roof elements that cover the social spaces are also ideal for using PV panels to generate some of the energy necessary for the building’s operation.

The system of construction using large numbers of repetitive elements allows for an economical solution and a rapid build.

Air Rights 3.0 

NJBA A+U’s research continues with Air Rights 3.0 which will begin identifying additional sites for examination.


Details of contributors….

For details of NJBA A+U’s range of design and research interests see; http://www.12publishers.com/NJBA.htm

Parenthesis Research Limited’s; https://www.facebook.com/ParenthesisDesignResearch/

Music October 2016

Oblique Projection: A new Logo and a new outlook; towards the future.

After a less than satisfactory experience with the original logotype that introduced Oblique Projection a new logo was commissioned from Synthetic Reality (designers).


The original logotype linked the name with the concept did not seem to have that iconic character that could be distinguished from the background noise.  When the “Cycles” (OPus 2.0) album ( https://obliqueprojection.bandcamp.com/)was released earlier this year the logotype was suspended.

Cycles by Oblique Projection

Cycles by Oblique Projection


The designers believed that reducing the band name to an acronym logo would make it easier to identify and explain a little more about the band and its music.  Other bands are almost better known by their acronyms OMD, PIL, ELO, etc.  Oblique Projection reduces to OP which can be seen in the catalog numbers for each album (MEC OPus 1.0, Cycles OPus 2.0), also a play on the word opus.  “OP” could be seen as short for Optic related topics.



So “the eyes have it”.  Synthetic Reality launched the new Oblique Projection logo on OP’s facebook page, ( https://www.facebook.com/ObliqueProjection/) with a roll out on other social and web sites in the coming weeks.  The eye logo unites the OP acronym to the idea of image and representation, a new view of the world and the music.

op_tshirt_cycles  op_tshirt_citylights

As part of the roll out is an investigation into merchandise and apparel (T-shirts) which were test launched on the Facebook page above; Cycles T-Shirt & City Lights T-Shirt. Black and White versions are also shown on their facebook page.


For a sample of Oblique Projection‘s output, check out their soundcloud page,including a new tester track “There”:


Music April 2016

CYCLES – OPus 2.0

Cycles by Oblique Projection

Cycles by Oblique Projection

Cycles has been released on Bandcamp (see https://obliqueprojection.bandcamp.com/)

Over 2 years of working on and off this album of loosely associated pieces. Originally intended to be titled Moods, Cycles seemed to be a better explanation of the pieces.

The album starts with City Lights, which had a digital release in 2014.


The remainder of the album picks up on memories, ideas and thoughts of experience. City Lights can be streamed on most major digital platforms and it is listed on soundcloud (see https://soundcloud.com/12publishers/city-lights-by-oblique).

This is the second album in a live experiment of music development, to see where it leads, to capture interests and ideas I have had for years but there never seemed to be time. Time, I have found, however is elastic. So pressing the button to finalise the last piece Next Now was a release from worrying if anyone would find this remotely interesting.

The question I had set myself was if Architecture could be considered “frozen music”, could music be considered dynamic Architecture. The works I had intended have been transformed by the work itself, getting in the way of an idea, manipulating it into something else. On MEC (our first album) the piece Cloudsea was closest to the objective but Chase was more dynamic, the former inspired by a work of architecture while the later was mapped to a piece of cinema (BULLIT).

For those who have got this far in the blog the remaining may be only of academic interest but it might go someway to explain the inspirations behind the work rather than explain the work itself.

City Lights 5:39

Inspired by the lights in particular around Christmas in the City

Lost in the Rain 3:28

Atmospheric piece drawing on Film Noir cinema

Monday Morning 4:24

This started as Newsday, an introduction to broadcast news

November Walk 3:00

Another atmospheric piece inspired by a walk on a bright, cold and clear day in a wood

Paris to Lyon 2:58

Inspired by a remembered train journey on the TGV from Paris south.

Storm Clouds over Mestre 4:00

Inspired by an electrical storm over Venice

A video was set against a outdoor aerial dance performance (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGZxEHPPUmI)

Experiential 3 5:20

This has a tortuous birth, starting as Moonrave, but morphed into several versions before being stripped down to this.

Next Now 2:18

This is the most stripped down piece, largely a bass and drum track to finalise the album, clearing the ground for the next work.

So where to next?

Cycles was meant to be the third outing for the Oblique Projection vehicle. Gardens of Kyoto has been in preparation for years now and is probably half complete, 5 of the planned 10 tracks are complete to a point that represents coherency and completeness. As for time, it may stretch out or be pulled back, I cannot say for certain when, but eventually it will appear.

For the moment, Cycles will follow the Bandcamp presence with a digital release in about 4 weeks on all major platforms. A physical limited edition CD version may be released later in the year, depending on demand.

To frame a busy, urban and often chaotic life Cycles might provide the soundtrack to your life.


Architecture September 2015

World War 1 Memorial Washington DC


“Try Again, Fail Again, Fail better.” Samuel Beckett


This was the submission narrative submitted along with the competition entry.

The scheme strips back Pershing Park to the bone, a clearing among the trees.  The berms and undergrowth are cut back to provide maximum visibility and access from all sides.  At the centre is a new fractured “ground” consisting of granite blocks with tomb like proportions at different elevations.  On this “ground” are 12 marble statues of infantry marching towards the “front” where tall oxidised steel sculpted “trees” represent the loss of nature and destruction.  At the end of this vista is the old “court” which is to be re-purposed as a reconciliations space.


And when peace comes to Flanders,

Because it comes too late,

He’ll still lie the, and listen

To the Otterburn in spate –

Wilfred Gibson – Otterburn


General Pershing’s statue has been relocated opposite its current position to face the “front” alongside his flanking men.  While Pershing’s statue is 2 x life size the soldiers are 1.5 x life size.  Completing the composition is the chronology of the war in bronze.  Opposite the timeline is a series of illuminated beacons that display the poetry of the WWI – a reminder of the realities of war.  The space around the new fractured “ground” is to be made level and accessible to all.  It is expected that seating would be provided at the periphery looking inward to the statues.  Lighting is to be provided in the beacons, along the edges and in the joints between the granite of the new “ground” platform, in the vertical markers of the timeline and around the court and the Pershing statue

Dark clouds are smouldering into red

      While down the craters morning burns.

The dying soldier shifts his head

      To watch the glory that returns;

He lifts his fingers toward the skies

      Where holy brightness breaks in flame;

Radiance reflected in his eyes,

      And on his lips a whispered name.

Siegfried Sassoon – How to Die


The main design consisted of

  1. Poetic Beacons – Poetry of the First World War
  2. The fractured ground – a staggered plate of granite to represent both the destruction of the ground, the mechanisation of war (tomb like proportions)
  3. The Marble Statues of the Soldiers at the front (the sleepwalkers)
  4. The “trees” – oxidised steel poles that represent the destruction of nature, echoing iconic images from the Somme and Ypres.
  5. General Pershing’s statue relocated to face the “front” towards the East separated from his men (flanking) in attack towards the end (the old court)
  6. The chronology of major events of the war cast in bronze with vertical markers
  7. The Court of resolution- armistice, the old memorial refurbished and re-purposed


Who died on the wires, and hung there, one of two –

Who for his hours of life had chattered through

Infinite lovely chatter of Bucks accent,

Yet face unbroken wires; stepped over, and went,

A noble fool, faithful to his stripes – and ended.

Ivor Gurney – The Silent One


Having read the brief in some detail and thinking on the epoch changing nature of the war the design was a sparse and poetic reflection on mechanisation, death, pain and memory.  A sparse entry by the standards of the others it was invisible among the bombastic statements of many and it had no gimmicks.  It provided space for reflection and brought to the fore the war poetry that has not been a major feature of other memorials.

What in our lives is burnt

In the fire of this?

The heart’s dear granary?

How much we shall miss?


Three lives hath one life –

Iron, honey, gold.

The gold, the honey gone –

Left is the hard and cold.


Iron are the loves

Molten right through our youth.

A burnt space through ripe fields,

A fair mouth’s broken tooth.

Isaac Rosenberg – August 1914


The opportunity to engage in open competition is of benefit to the work in the practice.  The realisation that it will not progress further is of course a disappointment.  Reflecting on this failure I am strengthened by Beckett’s mantra; “try again, fail again, fail better”.

njb  – NJBA A+U