Build­ing sub­stance as well as style

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

Bub­bling away be­neath the surface of all de­bates on con­tem­po­rary ar­chi­tec­ture are ques­tions about style: what it means and whether it mat­ters. To many peo­ple, ar­chi­tec­ture and style are, ef­fec­tively, in­sep­a­ra­ble.

There are, for ex­am­ple, ad­vo­cates of Clas­si­cism, who as­sert that its forms and pro­por­tions are the nec­es­sary ba­sis for all good de­sign. Oth­ers, no less ob­sti­nately, as­sert that the Con­tem­po­rary—how­ever you choose to de­fine it—is the only id­iom ap­pro­pri­ate for the mod­ern ar­chi­tect.

in re­ac­tion, oth­ers still have at­tempted to re­ject any stylis­tic al­le­giance; to them, style is, at best, a mere ques­tion of fin­ish and, at worst, a dis­trac­tion from more im­por­tant ques­tions about what makes good ar­chi­tec­ture.

What­ever your per­spec­tive, style is im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore. This is partly true be­cause, in one sense, it’s im­pos­si­ble to es­cape: to state the ob­vi­ous, con­tem­po­rary ar­chi­tec­ture—for all its va­ri­ety—is also a prod­uct of its time. Con­se­quently, the in­formed eyes of the fu­ture will eas­ily be able to iden­tify and char­ac­terise it. in this re­gard, some themes and qual­i­ties of the ar­chi­tec­ture in the past decade read­ily sug­gest them­selves.

There is, for ex­am­ple, a de­light in nat­u­ral, weath­ered fin­ishes as well as a de­sire to ex­press in ar­chi­tec­ture the dis­tinc­tive char­ac­ter of a build­ing’s set­ting. This can be done by the use of lo­cal ma­te­ri­als or by im­i­tat­ing the de­tail­ing of nearby his­toric build­ings. in both cases—re­spec­tively by dint of crafts­man­ship or de­sign—these build­ings, there­fore, con­sciously draw on tra­di­tion.

How­ever, style re­mains hugely im­por­tant in a more con­ven­tional sense, too, and public dis­cus­sion about ar­chi­tec­ture is still usu­ally framed with ref­er­ence to it. When de­scrib­ing build­ings, for ex­am­ple, peo­ple quickly end up in­vok­ing such fa­mil­iar la­bels such as Arts-and-crafts, Post­mod­ern or Pal­la­dian, both as a means of con­tex­tu­al­is­ing de­signs and ex­plain­ing aes­thetic choices, so how you de­fine these terms mat­ters.

Just how many styles of this kind are rep­re­sented as liv­ing tra­di­tions in 21stcen­tury bri­tish ar­chi­tec­ture is proven by the di­ver­sity of the new coun­try houses pre­sented in this is­sue (page 66). in­deed, re­mark­ably, per­haps the only fa­mil­iar style not rep­re­sented here is the gothic.

Coun­try Life could take sides and pro­mote one style in pref­er­ence to oth­ers. in re­al­ity, how­ever, we are de­lighted to see so many very dif­fer­ent ap­proaches to 21stcen­tury coun­try houses de­vel­oped with such strik­ing suc­cess. if only more con­tem­po­rary of­fice ar­chi­tec­ture and mass house-build­ing projects re­flected such va­ri­ety and in­ven­tion.

‘To many, ar­chi­tec­ture and style are, ef­fec­tively, in­sep­a­ra­ble

Pine­hurst II, Pine­hurst Road, Farn­bor­ough Busi­ness Park, Farn­bor­ough, Hamp­shire GU14 7BF Tele­phone 01252 555072 www.coun­trylife.co.uk

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