Future design

This is a photo of Tye Gardens, Stourbridge, 1973:


It’s an American eye on it to be sure and yet he makes some good points.

For me, there are two ways to approach such architecture – it’s a cheap and nasty way to get a roof over the heads and provide a garage for people who might not otherwise have been able to afford it.

But it’s also dire. Like Milton Keynes. Yet stark need not be boring and soul-destroying.  The Eiffel Tower, the Brunel bridge – it can be a powerful reminder of past times of the age of innovation.

But what innovation is there in this row of houses?  More importantly, what does it do to the spirit of the people living in ’em? Terry Gilliam touched on it in Brazil and Terry Jones sang – as much imagination as a caravan park. Douglas Adams mentioned the non-expression – as pretty as an airport.

There’s no sense of civic hope anywhere.  Then someone said oh yes, that’s right, it’s all so uniform, let’s bring imagination into it:

the gherkin

Is this beautiful, does it harmonize with the old London?  Even the low level buildings surrounding it are halfway reasonable by comparison.  And what the hell is this:

Cutty Sark

The Cutty Sark herself was magnificent, a triumph of design from a golden age, she had majesty:

Cutty_Sark_(ship,_1869) small

And yet here she sits on a garish mangle of plastic gold struts, like permanent scaffolding on the Pompadou centre, a reminder of the descent to schlock of Modern Man.  Robert Hughes spoke of the shock of the new but at least the dada had some inventiveness to it.

Streamline moderne had the promise of an exciting future but far from presenting the jarring and ill-fitting, it attempted to streamline the move into the slipstream of the future:


Deft little changes and tweaks in what is otherwise a stark building, a bit of counterpoint, a few angles, two or three trees.  And then this:


And that pic is in full colour, so it should be enticing. Why so ugly?  Why no desire for, no reaching for nobility and vision, in harmony with nature?  That scene in that photo could be in Anytown, UK – Hull, Manchester, Birmingham.

Contrast with this:


That’s Britain too.  So why is that possible and yet it was impossible to put any charm into the other monstrosities and dire blandness in the pics further up?  Why must Peterborough look like it does?  Stevenage?  Bradford?

Why is Middlesbrough what Bosch might have seen as a fitting subject for a painting?  Who are the men [and women] who did this to Britain?  What was wrong with their minds that they could not see beauty and harmony, when there is so much of it from yesteryear about to get ideas from?

And lastly, why, when civic designers are tasked with mapping the town of the future, do they come up with Milton Keynes?  Why must future design be stark, soulless, uninspiring, like styrene burger cartons in the street along with crisp wrappers and cans?  Why can’t the designs of the future include something like this:


Provided they’re not all identical in that street.

4 comments for “Future design

  1. June 10, 2015 at 8:52 am

    For yet another trip into the nightmare-like dreamland of planning committees, take a visit to Ingleby Barwick, just off the A174 on Teesside. The huge estate started off well, with broad gardens and well-designed homes, but the later surge in building, with identical houses crammed together with barely two feet between them, along with virtually no garden at all; points towards the slums of the future; and it was all done on our watch!

  2. Andy
    June 10, 2015 at 9:13 am

    Have to disagree with you about the Cutty Sark, I have been cycling past it most days before & after the changes and think it looks rather good. Coming along the Thames path it seems to riding on wave. Better than dead in a concrete dry-dock.

  3. wiggia
    June 10, 2015 at 9:24 am

    The top photo reminds me of Jaques Tati and his take on the same theme in Mon Oncle……….


  4. Ed P
    June 11, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    The final picture is a horrid pastiche of styles – it would not look out of place in Charles’ Poundofshitbury (or whatever it’s called).

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