Materials Moulded by the Environment, a talk by the architect of the new Viewpoint learning facility for Camley Street Natural Park drew quite a crowd at the V&A yesterday. Viewpoint is a small man-made islet on Regent’s Canal forming part of a natural habitat in the heart of King’s Cross, a borderline between the built and unbuilt. The islet is a retreat and viewing platform that was commissioned for the London Wildlife Trust. The architects, AOR, are emerging young designers from Finland and they intended the design and materials of Viewpoint to be rooted to its location, exploring the relationship between man-made and natural. AOR were joined in the discussion by Helena Sandman, another architect whose focus and inspiration for design is drawn from the local context. Her practice’s work for NGO projects in a number of developing countries is also firmly rooted in the materials and traditional building techniques of the local environment. This recognition and response to the climatic, social and cultural context gives the buildings a physical and emotional durability. The design is drawn from its context, rather than alien “air-conditioned, glass boxes” (sic).