Megalomaniac building is going out of style. The best new design reshapes the past to fit the presentby Jonathan Rée / September 19, 2012 / Leave a comment
Published in October 2012 issue of Prospect Magazine
Alejandro Aravena’s “half houses” in Iquique, Chile
Fit: An Architect’s Manifesto
by Robert Geddes (Princeton, £13.95)
The Meaning of Home
by Edwin Heathcote (Frances Lincoln, £12.99)
Why We Build
by Rowan Moore (Picador, £20)
New Arcadians: Emerging UK Architects
by Lucy Bullivant (Merrell, £29.95)
When I was young I dreamed of becoming an architect. At home, I was thrilled to discover that the enchanted places that shaped my life—bedroom, bathroom, living room, kitchen, attic—were no more than spaces enclosed by bricks and mortar, lath and plaster, joists and beams. I spent happy days taking up floor boards, pulling away skirtings, and climbing out onto the roof to find out how it all worked. Driving round in the back of the family car, I gave an anguished running commentary on the artistic sins of suburban London—picture windows, multicoloured paintwork, or tangles of cables and pipes—and I shouted with delight at the occasional glimpse of something elegant, disciplined and austere. I had a vocation for architecture because I wanted to rule the world.
As time went by I acquired a few books to fill out my fantasies: Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, Maxwell Fry. On the whole the prose did not interest me, and when I re-read it now, I can see why. Nice typography, and a few slogans that would lodge in my brain (“Form follows function,” “God is in the details,” “Ornament is crime”)—but a shame about the cod philosophy, the dogmatism, and the inability to sustain an argument. The real story was told by the photos: a few to document the cluttered gloom of 19th-century interiors, and dozens to demonstrate the clarity and distinctness of steel boats and bridges, or sunlit modern buildings of concrete and glass, not to mention those cool portraits of the architects themselves, facing down the camera through heavy-duty glasses.