Archives for posts with tag: Architecture

I wrote an essay on Caruso St John’s New Art Gallery, Walsall for ICA (Issues in Contemporary Architecture), exploring the idea of Intentions vs Realities: whether the built form can ever live up to what is written about it. It took a while and was excessively researched, and if I don’t post it on here it’ll be 5000 words written for one man to read, which makes me slightly sad… So have a look, I promise it’s at least a bit interesting (and there are plenty of pictures).

Link to essay: As Written?

Loos asserts that, with regards to cladding, no material should appropriate the forms of another:  ‘Art has nothing to do with forgery, with falsehood.’  Even if you (as I) do not believe in a ‘divine soul’, the following passage rings true.

‘But no, you are wrong, all you imitation-and-substitute architects. The soul is too high, too sublime to be taken in by your devices and petty ploys. True, you have our bodies in your power. They have only five senses to rely on to distinguish genuine from false. And where human senses fail, this is where your domain begins. Paint your best inlays, high up on the ceiling and our poor eyes will accept them for what they appear to be. But the divine soul does not believe your fraud. Even in the best of your ‘looks-just-like-any-inlay’ stencils all it will feel is paint.’

(Also, this has to be one of my favourite architectural insults:

‘Come along, come along, all you champions of imitation, you creators of stencilled inlays, house-ugliful windows and paper-mâché tankards, a new field awaits your talents in Vienna, the ground has been freshly manured.’)

Trieste is…

Fur rippling in the wind,

Across hunched shoulders.

Hundreds of zebra-crossings

(Some with lights, some without,

All equally ignored.)

Hills and steps,

Straight but not.

As if I’ve been spun in a circle and put down randomly,

All memorable spaces shuffled then scattered.



I wrote the above in Trieste, on a miserable, confusing day, and I have typed it here to make a point: perceptions of, and reactions to, cities are wholly subjective- different for each person, and affected by many tiny variables. Architecture is the same.

For this reason I see spaces as narratives, with characters and human detail. Buildings are stages for ever-changing events- as back-drops they can be simple and adaptable, with the ability to create or change to any desired atmosphere. As a reaction to a chain of events, a design can form, grow, split, merge, disintegrate: never static, as life plays out in and around it. Buildings become part of our stories, maybe the focus but more often on the peripheries, as reference points and anchors.

Do we react to buildings or do they react to us?

Maybe both; like tangible echoes, reactions to every tiny thing bounce back and forth from one to the other, eroding and shaping and changing.

What if a place is made through the act of ‘informal invasion’, where the users are temporary, and the use constantly changing? If, as Pallasmaa asserts, ‘architectural space is lived space rather than physical space’, what is the architecture of this ever-evolving space? Maybe it is defined by inhabitation- the simplest way of claiming a space as your own, and of adapting it to suit your needs.

So this place is a true narrative, without any clear beginning, middle or end, documenting life and all its players as scars and tattoos.

When is any building ‘finished’? The design stops, yes, but nothing else does.

There is a subtle difference between appreciating something that is ‘everyday’ and appreciating something because it is so. The former is genuine- coincidental, instantaneous, uncensored. The latter, however, is self-conscious, often ironic or an assertion of ‘individuality’: an apparently different way of being different.

This ‘anti-taste’ can stem from a kind of inverted snobbery and a wish to be seen as removed from the modern and impersonal, in the same way that artistic types shun high-street stores in favour of charity shops and vintage markets (ironically, these stores then sell cheap faux-vintage fashion to the masses).

And there’s the rub: the line here is sketchy and shaky, so how do you distinguish between what is genuine personal taste and what is a carefully crafted style?

I write this sitting in my brown vintage jumper, feeling hypocritically indie, only almost certain that this is me; as soon as something becomes a fashion, it loses integrity, its sincerity gone.