Monday, 2 July 2012

The ugly face of modern architecture

'Le Corbusier' inspired tower block
So today I'm driving home with my mother and we're casually chatting whilst I'm looking out the window at the changing landscape. The car slows to a hault and we approach a set of traffic lights. My eyes are fixed on this one piece of architecture to my left, a school that has recently been knocked down and rebuilt, and before I know it we've both started a conversation about it - this happens often, it must be a family telepathy thing. The general stance of our conversation was discussing how insanely hideous this new school looks from the exterior. It's covered in large rectangular panelling coloured in varying shades of green ranging from a lemony green to bogey green. It's a dulux colour chart of disgustingness, if ever that word existed. 

After airing our disgust towards this piece of 'modern architecture' we soon compared it to other recent new builds, both not far in distance from that piece. We have a set of houses about 5 or so miles from our home which appear to have been slashed diagonally on the roofs, as well as fronting floor to ceiling windows. I'm not impartial to floor to ceiling windows in city apartments where there's views to be seen, but I can assure you there is little to be seen from this housing estate, not to mention I'm certain outsiders would rather not see so much of the inside when passing by the houses.

The genuine facade of the
school we passed.
Ever since I was a child I have had this unexplained interest in architecture, particularly that of churches, and I guess it's never really left me. I love old architecture because the buildings bear unique stories. In my university town of Canterbury, the Cathedral, as well as general architecture in the old town, is breathtakingly stunning. Even from the outside you can see the intricacies of detail in the architecure from the intial striking height of the building (which would have been difficult and, not to mention, unsafe to construct in 1070) to the detailed carvings which feature in the stonework.

To me, what sets apart modern architecture from that of ancient is the time frame it took to construct. Our current era is obsessed with time, or should I say the lack of it. Everything nowadays from modern technology to microwave meals is focused on speeding up the process of delivery. We're too impatient. And this very observation, in my opinion, can have damaging effects on anything from health to architecture. Yes, hands up I admit that I'm one of those microwave wary people - but is it really safe for potatoes to cook in ten minutes in a microwave when it would take an hour conventionally in the oven? Personally I'm not so convinced...

Back to the architecture though. So my line of thought is that our modern speed obsessed world has basically resulted in being able to build X number of buildings and houses in as little time as possible, with as little thought as possible. What has happened to the time when architects took pride in their plans and spent as much time as needed to build a truly stunning piece of timeless architecture? I'm just wondering what people in 100 years time will think of us, and my guess is that they will laugh at the array of colour chart and cement clad buildings that appear to be springing up at an alarming rate. 

I think the enchanting old architecture of cities such as London or Paris are a major factor in their draw to tourists because the ambience and look is aesthetically pleasing. You only have to look at The Houses of Parliament or the Arc de Triomphe to see the notion I'm discussing. Architecture should be timeless and beautiful, and I don't see that quality being reflected in some recent builds. I'm not averse to the future, I embrace it, but it's true to say that I'm concerned at what Britain could end up looking like in 50 years time.


  1. Too true... even in my short lifetime (20 years) so many buildings have been knocked down in London.

    What replaces them is endless boring steel and glass bland buildings.

    Sadly there is nothing to be done, and even daring to criticise modern architecture to an architect is almost heretical.

    Modern architecture is so soulless

    1. Amen!! I couldn't agree more. I love the city of London though, with all the great stone architecture. It's so grand and regal looking :)

  2. so do you suggest building new stone architecture to match that of what is existing? I think it has less to do with the time of these things, but more to do with the money.

    1. I'm not suggesting imitating original designs, I just think the desire and passion is a bit - I wouldn't say lost forever but - temporarily mislead. I hope it returns, for the sake of our future generations!