Monday, August 31, 2009
”Anecdotal information from follow-up research to that study indicated that the best-performing buildings had limited window areas and tended to be smaller.“
Some Buildings Not Living Up to Green Label
By Mireya Navarro
New York Times, August 30, 2009
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Leave off the C for "Crazy"
Friday, August 28, 2009
As The World Turns (or should it be Coronation Street?)
THE STARCHITECTS' SOAP OPERA continues, starring a multi-national cast of Modernist ideologues who think traditional architecture and urbanism shouldn't be allowed. Daniel Moylan, a good friend of Baron Rogers, is the deputy council leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and he spoke out against the addition to Kensington Palace of a loggia designed by British Classicist John Simpson, with the of the Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment. The councilman, nominated by Rogers for an honorary membership in the Royal Institute of British Architects, called the loggia "twee" and said the design should be rejected.
"Last night’s surprise rejection, by Kensington Council, of Prince Charles’s favoured design for the east entrance of Kensington Palace, may be seen as pay back time from Lord Rogers," according to the Londoner's Diary in the Evening Standard.
The anti-monarchical Republic group that is trying to force a review of "Prince Charles' architecture charity [at] the Charity Commission, following a series of revelations about its role in planning disputes" involving Rogers and other Starchitects also got involved in this important garden loggia issue.
In related news, a headline in the London Times reports that Prince of Wales turns to Joe Public, the architect - The prince wants to curb ‘starchitects’ with laws giving ordinary people the right to help shape projects:
The Prince of Wales has called for more democratic planning laws to allow the public to shape the design of new building developments.
His advocacy of “people’s planning” has already been adopted by the Scottish government after a meeting between the prince and Alex Salmond, the first minister. Now his advisers want the same approach to be formally recognised across the rest of the UK.
Charles believes that residents — instead of architects and planners — should have the biggest say in the development of new communities.
The Prince’s Foundation, Charles’s architectural charity, has already sought greater public input for a string of new developments across Britain.
More from Prince of Wales turns to Joe Public, the architect
The prince wants to curb ‘starchitects’ with laws giving ordinary people the right to help shape projects
Chris Gourlay, The Sunday Times
August 23, 2009
Described as “enquiry by design” (EBD), the approach allows residents to contribute directly to the masterplan of a new development. They would decide what features to include, such as parks, and even determine the style of architecture to be used for homes.
Architects and planners would be obliged to take account of these demands when refining designs. At the moment, the public is only consulted after plans have been drawn up.
“People feel very disenfranchised by the planning system,” said Hank Dittmar, chief executive of the Prince’s Foundation. “There’s been this notion that planning and architecture belongs to experts. If you’re not an expert, your view doesn’t count. We want to change that.“Our method allows local residents to actually design the masterplan of new communities with the help of professionals. Architects then produce the detailed designs.”
Dittmar, who is regarded as Charles’s principal architectural adviser, said the approach “contrasts dramatically with the ‘starchitect’/Lord Rogers way of doing things ... They are terrified of EBD because it hands power to the people.”
Although it sounds like a recipe for chaos, Dittmar, who has advised former president Bill Clinton on sustainable development, pointed to several successful schemes overseen by the Prince’s Foundation.
A project to redevelop the town centre in Walthamstow, east London, began with a four-day workshop in 2007 involving residents and local businesses. The group thrashed out proposals for new buildings and public spaces which formed the basis of three different masterplans that were later put out to wider consultation.
A similar design process was used to create Sherford, a new town in Devon.
Charles has consistently pushed the merits of EBD to ministers and planning officials. In a lecture to the Royal Institute of British Architects earlier this year, he criticised the traditional “top-down” approach to planning and called for “communities [to] have a role to play”.
In Scotland, his foundation is designing six developments — at Cumnock, Ellon, Ballater, Cove, Banchory and Nairn. Last year the prince discussed rolling out EBD across the country with Salmond and Jim Mackinnon, Scotland’s chief planner, during a conference in Edinburgh jointly organised by the foundation and the Scottish government.
The rest of the article can be found at timesonline.co.uk.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Starchitects Imitate Art (nihilistic)
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Starchitects II: The Wrath of Rogers?
UPDATE ON THE ARCHITECTS' SLIMING OF PRINCE CHARLES: Here's a link to a prime-time news report from the main Italian television station, RAI. If you don't speak Italian, watching the video might make you think the story is a positive one, but actually it repeats all the grumbling from the Poundbury story (and even repeats the Repubblica headline about "i suoi amici architetti"). Poundbury looks quite attractive in the report, I think, but the reporter calls it a "nightmare."
The RAI story and the Repubblica story came out on the same day, along with a story in the French paper of record, Le Monde. It said Jean Nouvel's new glass shopping mall next to St. Paul's is in perfect harmony with Sir Christopher's Wren Classical cathedral. In Superman's Bizarro world, perhaps, but French architects have long liked comic-book Futurism.
The Battle of the Styles continues – because of the architects. They only allow Modernism, which is why Modernism has caused so much damage to European cities. If they thought of the city first, instead of always emphasizing their personal styles and experimentation, they would make better buildings and better cities.
THERE SEEMS TO BE an Anglo-Italian witch hunt going on in the English and Italian press, aimed at Prince Charles. It apparently started when the Anglo-Italian architect Richard Rogers lost a large commission in London and accused Prince Charles of causing the loss (actually, Rogers paid little or no attention to the official planning brief that set the guidelines for what could be built on site, and that seems to be the real reason why he lost the job).
Since then stories have been written that would not be allowed to run as news stories in most American papers. The paper they're in, The Guardian, calls them news stories, but they read like ideologically-driven polemics against Charles and for Starchitects — so transparently polemical and personal that they come across as sophomoric attempts to masquerade as news stories.
The most sophomoric of the stories is about Poundbury, Charles's model new town in Dorset, which has had high ratings from the British public and been a major influence on British new town policy. Reading the complaints of Poundbury residents in the story reminded me of the experience of visiting houses designed by famous architects: invariably you find inhabitants of the house moaning about minor things that have little to do with the quality of the building. "Can you believe a famous architect would put a light switch in a place like that?" was the first, last and most important complaint I heard from the unhappy second owner of a house I once visited that was designed by Richard Meier. Yet in the Poundbury article a few disgruntled quotes are allowed to stand for the idea that the public doesn't like the development. (For an example, look here.*)
And let's not forget what country we're talking about. On the whole, the complaints could be part of a screenplay for Carry On, We're British. Only at the end of the article does Booth mention that 86% of the Brits who have moved to Poundbury are glad they did.
As for the Italians, on the same day La Repubblica published an unflattering summary of the attacks in the Guardian, an Italian tv crew was in Poundbury filming an unflattering story. It reminds me of the New Age saying that there's no such thing as a coincidence.
The Republican paper says that "solely on the basis of personal taste" ("sulla sola base del personale gusto estetico") Charles wants to influence decisions in which he should not be involved. Citing another Guardian story, they say that Charles threatened to resign as President of the National Trust if the Trust did not alter the plans for their new headquarters to "respond to his aesthetics" ("risposto ai suoi canoni estetici"). What actually happened that Charles commented on the energy use of the building and said he might resign if it were not made more sustainable.
This is typical of the attacks on Charles by the English architecture critics (which is what the Guardian reporter used to be): they simultaneously focus on style and try to make the argument about Charles rather than urbanism or architecture, dismissing him as an old fogey who hates Modernism. When Charles criticizes a building, the critic for the The Times, Hugh Pearman, frequently mentions the R-rated jokes Charles told his lover Camilla, caught on tape in 1993 by someone recording other people's cell calls.
When Charles complained about the architecture designs for Chelsea Barracks and One New Change, he was arguing for good urbanism, not for a different style. Richard Rogers and the British architecture critics confuse that with architectural style, because they live in a world in which the Starchitect's personal architecture style trumps the simple rules of urban design and contextualism.
Their point of view comes through loud and clear in the Italian newspaper. "The real aversion to architects such as Jean Nouvel and Richard Rogers is not based on their quality," La Repubblica says. "These are prestigious names, winners of awards such as the Royal Gold Medal and the Pritzker, the architectural equivalent of the Nobel Prize." But Charles thinks "in terms of architectural styles and does not accept interventions that break with tradition."
The Guardian stories it quotes are yellow journalism. They use innuendo to mount personal attacks against Charles to sugggest to the reader that the situation is far worse than it is. Most of the Poundbury story gives the impression that the majority of residents must be unhappy with the new town, when almost 9 out of 10 are happy they moved there. The National Trust story reports that the Trust "was warned that the Prince of Wales might withdraw his patronage of the organisation unless designs for its new headquarters were altered to suit his architectural taste," when as we have seen the truth is that he was arguing for a more sustainable design.
The headline of the article Prince Charles's architecture foundation could face investigation (Booth's eighth story about Charles in less than two weeks), would like to give the impression that the process has gone farther than a complaint about Charles from an anti-royal group called Republic, but in fact the last line of the story reports "A Charity Commission spokeswoman said the complaint was being scrutinised by its officers before a decision was made on whether to investigate."
Two stories about how Charles "tried to stop a modern 'masterpiece'" gloss over the fact that his letter was ignored and that the building is almost completed (and that few people even knew about the four year old letter until the Guardian dug it up). More seriously, although the story quoted a developer of the project saying that Charles "now has a similar status as a consultee as statutory bodies including English Heritage, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE)," the developer has since said, "I categorically do not believe that the Prince has a similar status as EH and CABE, who are the government's official advisers and must be consulted as part of the planning process."
Of course no one knows if Richard Rogers is behind this, but there are a few things we do know. The Guardian is the Labour party paper, and Rogers is the most powerful architect in the party, a Labour life peer who holds an official architectural consultant position. He is Anglo-Italian, and he has a long history of opposing Charles. He has spoken out in the papers ("I don't think he is evil per se, he is just misled.") and at the Royal Institute of British Architects, and organized a full page ad in which Starchitects support his work at Chelsea Barracks.
On June 16, Booth reported in the Guardian, "Rogers has decided to fight back against the prince's influence, and today demands a public inquiry into the constitutional validity of Charles's interventions on this project, in architecture more widely, as well as in his other areas of interest including medicine, farming and the environment." In the same piece, which read like a PR release, Mrs. Rogers was reported as saying, ""The prince's actions are akin to calling up a publisher and saying I want all books to have happy endings or saying to the Guardian, I don't like colour photography, let's go back to sepia."
If you believe in the egocentric model of Starchitecture and think that the only acceptable expression of architecture is an anti-traditional one, that might sound reasonable. But few people other than architects and architectural critics share those ideas. Polls show that a strong majority of Londoners don't want the development pictured below built on a prominent and important site in Chelsea. It ignored the guidelines of the planning brief, and was opposed by local residents for all the reasons given at ChelseaBarracksActionGroup.org. When it was defeated, the Deputy Mayor of London said,
What a relief! An act of large-scale vandalism has been averted. London should be grateful to the Qataris for their wisdom in turning away from yet another glass and steel disaster. It is my fervent hope that the developers will now work on a proposal that enhances and embraces Chelsea and the Royal Hospital.
This decision should mark a turning point in development in the capital. No more concrete, no more glass and steel. Brick and stone and slate must be the way forward, so that in 100 years time Londoners will still recognise their own city.
It is perfectly possible for modern architecture to embrace ancient materials and proportions without being pastiche. We hope that the developers will find a new architect who has the skills to produce something truly beautiful that will form part of London's third world heritage site in years to come.
Naughty Prince Charles Causing Trouble For Starchitects Again (actually not)
Something Rotten in the State of Architectural Criticism - Alas Poor Prince!
One Problem With Richard Rogers's Architecture Is That It Isn't Really "New"
Lord Rogers, Bully Boy
Then there's the gravel, a big bugbear. The Duchy was keen for gravel to be used for footpaths. It looks great but does not stay in place, and ends up being trodden into homes. And last winter it turned out to be impossible to clear the snow without clearing a lot of the gravel away with it.
Teresa Chapman was working hard to heave her pushchair carrying two-year-old Lily May through the gravel. "It's hard and wearing flip-flops is not a good idea in it – very painful," she says.
Kellie Shapley says in her back yard, the gravel is used by cats as a toilet. "It's a bit smelly out there."
If the Guardian is interested in post-occupancy user surveys, it should consider making one for Richard Rogers's Lloyd's Tower. A notoriously difficult place to work, the tower required expensive repairs not long after it was built, as did Rogers's similar Pompidou Center. In both cases, putting a lot of the mechanical and structural elements of the building out in the weather caused major problems.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Selling Budweiser to the Brits
This beautiful ad, lovingly filmed in Chicago, was made by a London ad agency for British customers (now that America's "King of Beers" belongs to the Belgian conglomerate InBev). It's worth watching in HQ.
Naughty Prince Charles Causing Trouble For Starchitects Again (actually not)
If Prince Charles didn't exist, Starchitects and ideological architecture critics would have to invent him: focusing on him moves discussion away from the quality and character of Starchitects' designs and brings in all the complex and deep-seated British conflicts about class issues. The issue at St. Paul's, despite what Booth would like us to believe, is not the monarchy but the quality of London and the setting for the cathedral. The complaints about Charles are a smokescreen, to keep us from seeing what a bad building this is, and how much it diminishes the city -- which, of course, is exactly what Charles was saying
The "style" issue is also phony, although Starchitects and their ideologue supporters like Booth (apparently) do see the world that way. For them, there is Modernism and there is everything else, denigrated as pastiche and "historical styles" (the horror!). But the good news is that we're now in the 21st century, and we no longer have to put up with this tyranny of the 20th century. We realize that making places is more important than saying everyone should build in glass and steel (which is unsustainable, by the way).
Booth tells us that Bad Prince Charlie tried to stop a "modern 'masterpiece.'" But why is it a modern masterpiece? Because "gleaming walls of glass ... lurch at fashionably acute angles" (i.e., style)? Or because it's designed by a French Starchitect? British architecture critics obviously don't believe in the Divine Right of Kings, but they fight for the Divine Right of Starchitects to do whatever they want, regardless of how that might harm the city.
St. Paul's Cathedral is one of Britain's national treasures. Booth implies that a shopping mall and office park with fashionably acute angles is equally important. But as Frank Gehry recently said in an interesting session at the Aspen Ideas Festival (video available online), in the making of good cities and public spaces "planning becomes more important" and non-iconic buildings should "become more background." He was talking about situations like this one, in which the buildings shaping the space around St. Paul's should defer their own expression to supporting the focus on the cathedral, making it like a jewel in an important setting. Or as Charles put it, what was needed was something that would allow "St Paul's to shine brightly". A glass building with fashionably acute angles does not do that. Like most Starchitects, Nouvel thinks the attention should go to his building, no matter what the situation.
I've looked at photos of the ridiculously named shopping mall (if they called it 1 New Chance we wouldn't ask "One New Chance for what?"), which the Guardian does not show us. It's a dreadful building on its own terms, full of the architectural cliches of the year. A timeless building that more modestly shaped the street and square in front of it, as tens of thousands of good London buildings do, would be far better in this situation.
PS: The Guardian calls Brooks a news reporter, although his article is clearly a polemical piece for Modernism and against Prince Charles. At least he doesn't bring up the Camillagate tapes every time Charles says something against Starchitects, as Rupert Murdoch and Hugh Pearman do at The Times.
Here's another Guardian polemic that attempts to make the issue about Charles rather than the architecture and urbanism, with some interesting comments. Ironically, in a section called "Comment Is Free," the head of the New London Architecture Centre says Charles should stop commenting. Note that this tempest in a teapot is all about a building that went ahead despite Charles's comments, and that few realized at the time that Charles had said anything.