Here’s the coup
It’s all about building blocks really – isn’t it. You build something like a w/c outhouse or a a shed and it’s architecture – no? Well I think architecture is more subjective and describes a lot more than the process of construction.
When a shelter is needed then a roof to protect from rain and walls to keep out the wind and cold are sufficient. The next consideration is whether the construction is temporary or is required to remain in use for the foreseeable future. This determines the materials and the construction method.
Vanity and proudness may employ the decorative arts if the w/c being built has to look superior to the neighbour’s facilities but when construction is on the scale of the building of cities then the prime consideration is not to outdo your neighbouring cities but to leave a legacy that states, “look what we did in our time.”
When we look at ancient Greek, Egyptian or Roman architecture we see structures built to a scale that is meant to impress and awe. These buildings were adorned to show the importance that they held to the peoples of that age. The grander and more elaborate won the day.
Today there is no call to design an impressive high-vaulted Town Hall because we know how to construct the widest spans such as in airport designs, and the highest buildings such that we call them ‘sky scrapers.’
The cityscape of our time is about which city can build the tallest and cram the most into the smallest footprint.
Sometimes it is a shame to see buildings rising above the architectural achievements of the past simply for the commercial aspect of making a profit from renting that floor space. And sometimes it is reassuring to give a treasured building a listed status and protect it from contemporary development.
Whatever your view about architecture, there is a lot to consider and discuss, that is the point about architecture. It’s like art, you cannot define it with a sentence, it is a wider debate than that.
Overall though, it is part of the human evolution story of technological progress. Looking at the way people constructed their buildings tells so much about that people. How they lived, what spaces they required to govern and enjoy their lives.
People 300 years in the future could look back at us and get a pretty good idea of who we were. Yes it’s flawed to look at one aspect, rather like the record of unearthed ancient Neanderthal bones doesn’t give us a full picture, because bones can reveal limited information like the diet and diseases.
Architecture reveals the level of technology, the tastes and fads of that time, the thinking and common aims of a people, their understanding of how to live with nature. Many of our contemporary designs are a wonder and complement nature in ingenious ways, technology has allowed a freedom to express our life at this time effortlessly through our architecture.
Today we are experiencing the Art Nouveau/Art Deco renaissance of the 21st Century. Art Deco’s main influence was to facilitate freedom of design and likewise today, the architectural movement is very much about the freedom to design simple and elegant, fucntional yet contemporary, stylish and yet integrated perfectly with the surroundings.
London Met – Post Graduate Building – 2002
The Graduate Centre is a building erected by the London Metropolitan University in Holloway Road, in the London Borough of Islington. The London Met and the University of London share a common home in Holloway Road and there has been a lot of architectural development in the area.
This metallic structure was designed by the world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind and includes a Theatre, community area for students to gather and the home of London Met’s faculty of art, architecture and design.
The design was recently granted status as one of the top-ten most spectacular university buildings in the world.
When I first saw the new building unveiled for the first time, after construction was over, I thought it looked too futuristic, very strange indeed, almost overkill that someone had designed this carbuncle in the landscape.
True Holloway Road is nothing to write home about, it hasn’t been for many decades, but this building was ill conceived and ill juxtaposed with the existing style. Juxtaposition is usually done with the intention of highlighting something specific particularly when the contrasting elements are so far apart.
In this example, what I regard as the biggest eye-sore in Holloway Road, others regard as one of the best buildings of all time – I remain mystified and at the same time mortified by it’s presence.