Friday, 6 November 2009

Architects Awarding Other Architects

One of the shortlisted below... Yes its that time of the year again, like Christmas you can't escape....The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland has shortlisted 11 buildings for its eighth annual contest.
We don't have time on this busy Friday here in the republic to write anymore, but instead think this sums up what we we think and could not put it better ourselves..

Ego of an architect
By Chris Schuler source here

Poor old Norman Foster. As my colleague Adrian Hamilton reports, the great architect has to go to China to find people who appreciate his genius and won't tie him up with tiresome planning regulations.

For another example of the bone-headed hubris of the celebrity architect, look no further than Richard Rogers’ website, and its description of his Coin Street scheme. Back in the early Eighties, Rogers proposed to demolish most of the buildings on London’s South Bank between Waterloo and Blackfriars bridges, and replace them with a 20-storey office block and a chain of shopping malls.

The scheme was successfully resisted by local residents backed by the then leader of the GLC, Ken Livingstone (before his conversion, as London Mayor, to the cult of the skyscraper). Had Rogers’ plan gone ahead, the Oxo Tower and Gabriel’s Wharf would have disappeared, and there can be little doubt that similar development would have taken place east of Blackfriars Bridge, with the result that we would have no Tate Modern and no Shakespeare’s Globe. One of the most charming and best-loved corners of central London, which attracts millions of visitors a year, would be a glass and steel wasteland. But Rogers still doesn’t get it. His website laments the failure of “one of the great unbuilt schemes of modern London”. No doubt a bit of Chinese-style planning would have seen off those Nimbys in short order.

The trouble with modernist architecture is that it one of the failed utopias of 19th-century central European intellectualism - just like communism, in fact. Walter Gropius, trapped in a collapsed building during the First World War, associated the decorative exuberance of 19th-century architecture with the hypocrisy and decadence that gave rise to the war. In its place, he would establish a new purity in which ornament was banished in favour of the lofty interplay volume and form. This utopia might never have got of the ground had Gropius’s protégé Mies van der Rohe not fled to the USA to establish what became known as the International School, happily meeting the developers’ need for maximum floor space at minimum cost, and their clients’ desire to flaunt their corporate machismo with massive steel and glass erections.
Like all utopian projects, modernist architecture is fundamentally authoritarian, informed by top-down planning, an excessive love of order and an almost pathological hatred for the higgledy-piggledy, organic growth that characterises all well-loved cityscapes.

In the 1920s, le Corbusier planned to demolish the entire Marais district of Paris; after gravitating to the extreme right during the 1930s, he worked for Petain’s Vichy regime. What it refuses to acknowledge is that most people find blank surfaces alienating. Put them in a minimalist masterpiece by Erno Goldfinger, and they’ll head straight down to B&Q for a fanlight door and some fake leaded windows. The architects bewail popular taste, just as communists attributed their failure to capture the hearts and minds of the workers to “false consciousness”. That is why modernism has left a legacy of failed housing projects and urban blight