Monday, June 29, 2009
Baron Rogers: Let's not squabble about style (but New Urbanism is "tawdry pastiche").
AFTER THE PRESIDENT of the Royal Institute of British Architects promoted New Urbanism for England in 2004, Richard Rogers wrote to the Guardian,
Riba president George Ferguson is right to say we must put urban studies at the heart of the urban renaissance.... Since my Reith Lectures in 1995, I have maintained that the only sustainable urban form is the compact, multi-centred city, which mixes living, work and play, and benefits from well-connected, well-designed public spaces and buildings and environmental responsibility....
But these principles are not the sole preserve of "new urbanism". There is little new in this movement except for its blending of well-established urban design principles with a romantic neoclassical style that often tumbles into tawdry pastiche. This is no leap forward in the 21st century.
Instead of squabbling about style, [emphasis mine] we should focus on the need to restructure our professional education. Too many planners are still ignorant of how buildings and spaces interact in three dimensions, while many architects remain oblivious to communities, land values or land uses.
Architecture, landscape and planning should be studied together in a single undergraduate degree after which graduates would specialise. This approach works well in many other European countries and would create a holistic approach to the design of the urban environment and give us a common language.
Of course when he says there "is little new in this movement except for its blending of well-established urban design principles with a romantic neoclassical style that often tumbles into tawdry pastiche" he is squabbling about style.
In other words, cities may have any style they want, as long as it's modern, by which he means we may follow the precedents of 1920, if they express technology, but not the precedents of 1910, which express human values rather than technological ones. And somehow that will be a "leap forward into the 21st century."
On the other hand, show me a building by Rogers that is not a civic building that follows the "well-established" principles of urban design. I exclude the civic buildings, because they can be a object buildings that cry "look at me," like the popular Musée Beaubourg. But the Lloyd's tower, for example, should not. And Rogers's much-discussed Chelsea Barracks plan is a classic anti-urban Modernist scheme.
I'm sure that Rogers does know the difference between a good street and a bad one. He lives, after all, in a Georgian house on what I'm told is a beautiful street (which reminds me of this story about Rem Koolhaas*). But have any of his buildings made a street better?
SPIEGEL: Some people say that if architects had to live in their own buildings, cities would be more attractive today.
Koolhaas: Oh, come on now, that's really trivial.
SPIEGEL: Where do you live?
Koolhaas: That's unimportant. It's less a question of architecture than of finances.
SPIEGEL: You're avoiding the question. Where do you live?
Koolhaas: OK, I live in a Victorian apartment building in London.
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BARON ROGERS OF RIVERSIDE WAS OUTRAGED when Prince Charles wrote to a Qatari sheik about property he was developing in London, Rogers and his Starchitect friends took out a full-page ad in the London Times in which Rogers wrote, “If the prince wants to... [Read More]
Tracked on Mar 24, 2010 11:34:07 AM
Just like many American architecture firms have offices located not in banal high rises or suburban office "parks" (Gosh... I hate that term) but in interesting old warehouse or industrial districts!
Posted by: BrianM at Jun 29, 2009 7:51:11 PM
"Too many planners are still ignorant of how buildings and spaces interact in three dimensions, while many architects remain oblivious to communities, land values or land uses."
Hey, at least he knows the faults in his own work. The first step is admitting you have a problem, right?
Posted by: Hal O'Brien at Jul 6, 2009 2:28:05 AM