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Monday, November 17, 2003
Tom Coates takes the architect of Portsmouth's infamous Tricorn Centre to task for perceived arrogance. I missed the program in question (not having BBC3), in which David Adjaye extolled the virtues of this vast concrete structure. While the Tricorn is now a grotty mess, it is, in my opinion, a great piece of architecture; sculptural and tough but also interesting, eclectic, even, in the way in which various elements - the towers, car parks, undercrofts - are put together.

The Tricorn is also one of the best examples of the architectural megastructure (in Britain at least), a concept that was unfashionable practically as soon as it was mooted. The idea was that cities would be formed from clusters of hyper-dense, super-large structures, functioning as centres for the population to live, work and play (see previously mentioned projects such as Cumbernauld New Town and St. Peter's Seminary, both in Scotland). In practice, it was the spaces in between the scant few megastructures that were built that diluted the concept; too large to accommodate themselves into the existing fabric of city living, yet not distinct enough to act as attractors.

Also, I think the perceived architectural arrogance on display here can largely be attributing to defensiveness; these buildings were developed at the tail-end of a period of optimism and utopianism, and many of the architects involved feel betrayed by the whims of fashion, which left their masterworks labelled ugly, brutal and inhuman. There's a whole generation of late modernists wandering around, bewildered and confused, uncomprehending at the way in which the values they felt their work embodied - public spiritedness, civic mindedness, social inclusivity - have been interpreted as being precisely the opposite. Of course, that's because in many cases their work did encourage conditions that were diametrically opposed to the original intentions - social housing that encouraged anti-social behaviour being the most commonly cited example.

Staying with architecture, an interview with Rem Koolhaas, via NSOP:

There's a fundamental difference between a building which is free, for which you don't have to pay, and one for which sooner or later you have to pay. It goes from very simple things -- a building which is free is usually empty, and you can enjoy space in it. It doesn't want anything from you. Buildings in the private sector, simply because they have to earn their keep, make claims on your attention. Where once architecture could be an emblem of serenity, it has now become an instrument of business. I call this new condition "junkspace."

Ironically, the junked spaces of late modernism are all now empty and forlorn, perhaps precisely because they bloomed at a time when enjoyment of space was passing out of fashion, usurped by involving, consuming environments. Compare the Tricorn with Bluewater, for example, or the Mall of America; any shopping centre designer will tell you that there is no place for quiet contemplation or appreciation of abstract form in the modern mall, an 'instrument of business'.

The Great London Industrial Archaeology Society, which has an excellent database / found photos at Time Tales. Related: Decasia: The State of Decay / the four colour theorem at the Map Room / ibiblio is North Carolina’s amazing free digital resource. A few elements, selected at random: sheet music, Taiwanese music, a bunch of huge NASA movies, none of which we’ve had the patience to download and even the odd quirk.

The work of Mark Ryden, including Blood, ‘Miniature Paintings of Sorrow & Fear’ / Belle de Jour is the diary of a call girl, noted on various sites recently (such as Haddock). Compulsive reading - I suspect partly because it's set in London, partly because it's rather racy, while remaining bittersweet, poignant and very well observed. It's also (vaguely) reminiscent of Michael Faber's Victorian epic The Crimson Petal and White, with its central protagonist, Sugar, initially mired in the murky (and impeccably researched) world of nineteenth century prostitution. The first part of the book is serialised in the Guardian (in the manner of a Victorian novel).

Welcome back, consumptive / a movie poster gallery, via The Daily Jive / babies as brands / 106 cures for the hiccups / Amodal Suspension: translating text messages into light.