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weblog archives
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Thursday, September 02, 2004
The Rendering and the Reality at Design Observer. Michael Bierut ponders on the role of computer-generated rendering in architecture. 'Architects have a real challenge. They have to make people believe in and accept, and support, and pay for a reality that lies far in the future.'

Bierut goes on to comment that 'In my experience, architects themselves often prefer much more esoteric means of presentation -- sketches, diagrams, collages -- to the literalness and hyperbole of flashy "realistic" renderings. It's clients who prefer the surefire drama of the latter -- especially when the work has to be put before the mass public, who are thought to have little tolerance for ambiguity.'

(Another comment from the discussion that got me thinking: '[Commercial radio stations] play their songs just a bit faster to squeeze a few more in an hour... the end result is, in addition to more ads, a more hyper sound.' Is this true?]

More architecture thoughts leading on from this. The great British public talks about the country's most hated buildings, in the wake of RIBA president George Ferguson's call for a new listing category - Grade X - for the nation's most prominent eyesores. Supposedly hated buildings cited on the forum include: the Lloyd's Building, 30 St Mary Axe (the 'Gherkin'), the Scottish Parliament Building, the National Theatre (history, and more on Denys Lasdun),Centre Point, the GLA building, Birmingham Selfridges, the Hayward Gallery, the Shell Centre, the Brunswick Centre, Gateshead Car Park and Poundbury, not to mention the town centres of, variously, Milton Keynes, Reading, Slough, Coventry and Basildon.

What is ugly? Why do some people find a building hideous and oppressive, while others think the same structure is wonderful? This is the great divide at the heart of not just the architectural conservation movement, but with all other aspects of architectural culture.

The old school modernist (as was) would say that education is the key, and that people can be 'educated' to like things they might not otherwise appreciate - once they have a better understanding perhaps of the social, theoretical and technical ambitions behind a project they will suddenly appreciate it more. This is typical modernist determinism, old school socialist-style 'we know what's best for you'.

This isn't a terribly fashionable approach, but like all things unfashionable, it contains a grain of truth. My own appreciation of modern architecture was changed immeasurably by a teacher who was passionate about contemporary design and took the trouble - in the face of apathetic and unappreciative pupils - to show image after image of the great works of twentieth century architecture, explaining each, setting it in context and showing why it was so important and why, in his opinion, it was attractive.

Ultimately, to assume that each individual human being perceives 'beauty' in exactly the same way is clearly wrong, and the same must be true of ugliness. Art, music, literature, all have works or movements that are perceived as 'difficult', yet are simultaneously described as sublime. Are we reaching a cultural impasse? I've learnt to not be upset, for example, when someone says that they find the National Theatre utterly repellent, when I think it's one of the most beautiful buildings in London. But how can such conflicting views co-exits? Surely the building can't embody great beauty and unspeakable ugliness at the same time?

*


Other things. Viceland's do's and don'ts of photography is predictably caustic. A don't: Vacation Photography 'Of all the sterling silver that is dug up in the world by underpaid, zombified miners, the largest percentage goes to making film (true). So, even though the swimming pool at the Chateau Shamrock was in the shape of a shamrock, no one needs to see the whole roll of film you went through on it. You just wasted what some poor Mexican lost three fingers digging up.'

Modern or Vintage? Dansk Mobel Kunst doesn't seem to know. Neither, apparently, do we / biscuits by designers, a project at the University of Bolzano/Bozen (via Re:design news). The historical toys document is fun as well (.pdf) / Shrinking Cities, studies of urban decay, running contrary to the idea of the city as a rampant organism, running out of control. Instead, you get huge tracts of desolation.

Lovely / Utopian Surgery, 'Early arguments against anaesthesia in surgery, dentistry and childbirth.' Shudder / everybody needs a little extra oomph / portable Commodore 64 / Microsoft's diplomatic faux pas / Projekt30, an online gallery.

Banner Report / Julia Set, a weblog / cardboard play houses by capelabranca / Photo mags, via danklife / Freddie Mercury cross-stitch / the Interface Hall of Shame, via Near near future.