Classic Columns: 40 Years of Writing on Architecture Robert Adam (Cumulus, £38.50)
Does history matter in new architecture? What is the role of tradition in the modern world? These questions and many others are explored in this new anthology of writings by Robert Adam (b.1948). selected and edited by Clive Aslet, the essays are introduced with a foreword by the philosopher sir Roger scruton.
Classical architecture, in sir Roger’s words, is ‘a network of evolved solutions, which has adapted to the changing interests and occupations of people while respecting their unchanging need for a shared settlement’. This is at the centre of Mr Adam’s story.
As he’s not only an architect and the founder of the UK’S largest traditional architecture practice, but also an urbanist, master planner and teacher, this book covers many topics. From the continuing relevance of the Classical tradition as a living language and the case for Classical composition using proportion, symmetry, axial planning and hierarchy, he moves to subjects such as the energy performance of glass wall structures compared to that of dense wall structures and the impact of globalisation. In a 1985 essay The Radiance of the Past (the title borrowed from Petrarch), Mr Adam explores the idea that Western architecture has a history of almost constant revivalism.
His homage to the Classically inspired ‘skyscrapers’ of 1920s America is especially interesting in the light of the increasingly grim cacophony of London’s offerings today. A linking theme is the importance of traditional architecture—and not just historic—to the fostering of good community and identity in towns and cities. This is especially relevant in the modern city, where, Mr Adam argues, the quality of life is marred by ‘insecurity and isolation… [and] beauty and community are in retreat’.
There are theoretical essays and shorter quick-fire opinion pieces, material here for any intelligent reader interested in architecture. The range of writings is impressive, especially when you recall that Mr Adam has always been a busy architectural professional, practising what he preaches in built form. His tone is a mixture of the professor and the journalist and his argument robust, but the language always eminently clear. Jeremy Musson
A capriccio composed of designs and fragments of designs by ADAM Architecture