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ExCeL London
Phases 1 and 2

Official website: https://www.excel.london

Owner: Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company

Contractor: Sir Robert McAlpine

Architect: Moxley Architects





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Phase 3

Official website: https://visionforexcel.co.uk

Architect: Grimshaw

Event space: 24,000m²

 

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What a hotch potch. Can they not just start again?
Phase 1 was never that good with it's horrible cut off pyramid entrance.
 

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Bearing in mind Excel has been closed for events for nearly a year, and is unlikely to open any time soon, I'm surprised the owners want to spend money expanding it.

Maybe it's a tax dodge!
 

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Three phases which perfectly encompass the general decline of modern London architecture.
This is an exhibition centre by a runway... not all buildings need to be beautiful from the outside; the interior architecture of this building is whats important, and it looks like that’s well designed.
 

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not all buildings need to be beautiful from the outside
Quite an opinion.

The first phase with its hi-tech styling of structural expression and nautical 'ship deck' styling played with its dock side location in a contextual manner- very much an expression of its locale. The second phase has elements of 2010s; random brightly coloured cladding, the plastic-looking composite aluminium sheet exterior, some attempt to engage with the dockside but very much a 'shed-type architecture' of its time, lacking the lightness of touch and context of the first. The third, albeit a proposal currently, is a strange spin-off of NLV that looks to be the cliche of the 2020s, a mix of Neo-brutalism aesthetic mixed with brown 'brick' shades colour palette. Add in some random trees for the sustainable greenwash and it's a classic example of three decades of London architecture now just simply the same motifs copy and pasted across the architecture world no matter the location or context.
 

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Quite an opinion.

The first phase with its hi-tech styling of structural expression and nautical 'ship deck' styling played with its dock side location in a contextual manner- very much an expression of its locale. The second phase has elements of 2010s; random brightly coloured cladding, the plastic-looking composite aluminium sheet exterior, some attempt to engage with the dockside but very much a 'shed-type architecture' of its time, lacking the lightness of touch and context of the first. The third, albeit a proposal currently, is a strange spin-off of NLV that looks to be the cliche of the 2020s, a mix of Neo-brutalism aesthetic mixed with brown 'brick' shades colour palette. Add in some random trees for the sustainable greenwash and it's a classic example of three decades of London architecture now just simply the same motifs copy and pasted across the architecture world no matter the location or context.
So just ignore my point that the interior of exhibition centres is what matters architecturally.. I agree it would be great if all buildings could be as gorgeous as some of the old London buildings, but the functionality of modern architecture is much more important than how it looks. Even so, the exterior of phase 3 IMO is much better than the first two; the large open atrium floods the interior with light and provides a much more welcoming entrance than the cluttered pyramid entrance of phase 1.. and the balconies, whilst serving a functional purpose, also resemble the form of the fight deck of an aircraft carrier, invoking both the maritime and aviation heritage of the location.
 

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I get it, functionality is obviously paramount, and I'm sure there are individual design elements that work perfectly well on this phase. I'm just commenting on the overall look and feel of all three phases together and their place in the design heritage of the last thirty years. To me, seeing all three together, as a span of an architectural story, shows London's design confidence moving backwards.

Personally I think the flight deck and aircraft carrier resemblance is a stretch. If anything, the corner portion resembles the terraces of the National Theatre and IBM building of the South Bank, a perfectly adequate design link seeing as they too are built with a relationship to water. There is also a resemblance to St Magnus House on the City waterfront; an intriguing link, is that building now back in fashion seeing its form being copied in many proposals seeing the light of day in this decade? Maybe Mondial House was too soon for this world after all...

It may well be that circulation at the pyramid end is an issue; but it at least creates an actual iconic entrance form that guides the visitor from the dockside up the steps towards; the route from the DLR the most common is not the grand monumental entrance it should be, but logistics of place won out with that route. To me this end of the centre feels far more engaged with its public space and feels like the true 'proper' entrance to the whole set piece than Phase 2 ever did. I'm not convinced either, with its corrugated and flat glazed facade that reminds of an IKEA shed or out of town DIY superstore, that Phase 3 does either.
 

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I'm actually with Darjole for once. This phase, like a lot of big cultural and office developments these days seems to hark back to the stained and dull concrete failures of the 1960's.

Why architects and developers seem to have a fascination with the buildings of the South Bank is beyond me.

These exhibition centres are essentially big sheds and someone like Grimshaw that is used to designing these big spaces its pretty disappointing. They are even hiding the splash of colour that bookended the last phase by now making this internal.
 

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These sheds are all so totally unremarkable, rather like the 1970s disasters one sees on the South Bank culture Centre. But this area and the purpose of these structures hardly justifies great architecture. Hopefully Olympia's future will produce something that appears in renders as good and at least interestingly different.
 

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It reminds me of the hotch potch NEC in Birmingham. The whole ensemble of crappy sheds each one bearing no relation to each other is awful.
The importance of the outside of the building is important people have to look at these buildings it's not just about the inside.
 

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Its disappointing that this whole complex is just another economic shed building which looks suited to dockland warehouse type functions.

London has a wonderful heritage of 19thC large shed structures that compliment the city and are local landmarks. Some great large shed structures have also been built in the 20thC, though post war shed structures are not usually as magnificent as those of the 19thC, and lean towards being economic and utilitarian in design rather than being architectural statements.

Grimshaw is a great architectural firm and has designed some wonderful buildings in the past. However, this one seems to be more a "bread & butter" commission than a "grand design", perhaps due to the client.

Great shame. If the additions are approved and built (it is assumed the planners are OK with this and functional requirements are met), one hopes it will have a short life and be redeveloped for a better project in the future.
 

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Sorry for my english, i'm brazilian and i'm very interested in all about this city. Could you answer me if this exhibition center is one of biggest in Europe? And about this remodeling, do you think it will be in the same magnitude as other big centers all the world?
 
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