Monday, September 24, 2012

Two for the road

Two articles - one a review - by architectural journalist Rowan Moore on topics of significance to this blog and I hope other readers.

First, Moore's review of a book of essays by Jonathan Meades, the cultural commentator and 'contrarian'. Meades has made several fascinating documentaries for B.B.C. television, mostly recently a series on France (Jonathan Meades on France). Meades carries on where others leave off when it comes to pulling off wings from cherished contemporary or near contemporary ideas about culture and society; it is helpful in this regard that he has a mastery of the one liner, the metaphor and the quip direct that few do possess.

I pick out from Moore's review the following to give a flavour of the whole:

Architecture, the most public of endeavours, is practised by people who inhabit a smugly hermetic milieu which is cultish. If this sounds far-fetched just consider the way initiates of this cult describe outsiders as the lay public, lay writers and so on: it's the language of the priesthood. Architecture talks about architecture as though it is disconnected from all other endeavours, an autonomous discipline which is an end in itself. Now, it would be acceptable to discuss opera or sawmill technology or athletics or the refinement of lard in such a way. They can be justifiably isolated, for they don't impinge on anyone outside, say, the lard community – the notoriously factional lard community. To isolate architecture is blindness, and an abjuration of responsibility.

"Notoriously factional lard community" is pure Meades.

Better yet: –

It doesn't matter what idiom is essayed, it is the business of attempting to create places that defeats architects. Architects cannot devise analogues for what has developed over centuries, for generation upon generation of amendments. They cannot understand the appeal of untidiness and randomness, and even if they could they wouldn't know how to replicate it.

That is post Nairn.

The second piece is Moore's views on art and regeneration ("housing market renewal" – a term that stinks of the focus group) published in the London Observer (23 September 2012) focused on Liverpool, a city that has been kicked about for all sorts of reasons, none of them good or even true. Yet, these observations apply equally to Newcastle and a dozen other cities and towns across the country.

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