Building an uglier city
“WHY you hate contemporary architecture” read the headline of an article that resonated with me so piercingly I had to share it with “Boomers”.
It was sent to me by a friend, who works as a garden designer. She wrote: “As I drive through the construction site for awful architecture that Adelaide has become, I ask why? Why do we routinely and unquestioningly choose shockingly ugly buildings over beautiful and uplifting ones? Why do we spurn and degrade our architectural history, culture and traditions? Why do we choose to live in grey boxes?”
I don’t think we do. This ugliness is foisted on us, and as a community we’re too timid and brainwashed to protest. Did you see the images of new buildings planned for Adelaide ( The Advertiser, August 30)? They were all brutally vile, especially the one destined for 243 Waymouth St. Is this monstrosity some kind of joke? Are architects trying to see how far they can push us before we rebel, or are they confident that we are so cowed by their usual jargon that we’ve lost the will to resist?
In the article I mentioned (by Brianna Rennix and Nathan J. Robinson) they cite the usual ways in which we’re browbeaten.
We have “misguided misconceptions about architectural principles” or we “Don’t appreciate that these constructions are great feats of engineering”. Intimidated? Be brave. In some places citizens are rebelling. The outcry of Parisians against the looming black glass box that was the “Tour Montparnasse” forced the city to enact an ordinance forbidding further developments of that scale. Win for the people. Bostonians protested vigorously against the new Boston City Hall, calling for it to be demolished as it was being built, but they’re now stuck with it.
Look at Poundbury in Dorset, planned and laid out along traditional, low rise architectural principles stipulated by Prince Charles.
It features a “village” type layout with shops and businesses within walking distance of homes, and winding, pedestrian friendly streets. There are no large shopping malls, and some of the enterprises that flourish are quite “alternative”, including one which supplies herbal and natural remedies for people and animals that Charles has an interest in.
He caused a stir by letting some of the meadows at Highgrove revert to wildflowers and “weeds,” aka natural vegetation.
Poundbury has been criticised by architects as “fake, heartless and grimly cute”. They would say that, but following the acknowledged failure of cramming public housing tenants into high rise blocks, it’s time to think again.
The late genius Douglas Adams said some modern buildings attain a degree of ugliness that can only be the result of special effort. There’s certainly a lot of special effort happening in Adelaide now!