Monday, 12 September 2011

In 1935 an exhibition of working-class flats was organised by the Ministry of Health, to deal with the 'twin problems of overcrowding and slum clearance'. The slums were considered to be a national disgrace - up to six dwellings had to share a single WC and single cold water tap in the worst areas.
The exhibition included flats designed by Maxwell Fry, Sassoon House and Kensal House.

Sassoon House

Kensal House

Sir Hilton Young the Minister of Health described it thus,

"The difference between these well designed flats, with their beautiful courts, and the old blocks of tenements  formally erected is the difference between light and darkness, beauty and ugliness, intelligence and stupidity".
(Architects' Journal, Feb 7, Vol 81, 1935, p213)

Although Sir Hilton doesn't state this, he is in effect comparing Modernism to light, beauty and intelligence.
Modernism was in its infancy in the UK when this exhibition took place. It was seen as the radical solution to a whole host of societal ills.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Southampton and Regeneration Ugliness

Another article complaining about modern architecture and cities being ugly including the 1990s New Labour regeneration. The article includes a bit on Southampton too - all a bit tenuous and predictable.....

Monday, 1 August 2011

United Reformed Church, Over, Winsford - Pevsner

You have to admire the Buildings of England series - by Nikolaus Pevsner. Their detailed descriptions and usefulness whilst traveling is without question - even if Pevsner's pedantry and irritating tone grates after a while.
Despite Pevsner's penchant for dates coupled with clear descriptions of the buildings included, we sometimes get a glimpse of something more interesting and personal that reveals taste and prejudice.
Pevsner described the Congregational Church Church (now United Reformed) in Over, Winsford as "Very ugly and not, it seems, in a deliberately challenging way" (p389, Cheshire, 1971)
I would like to see a building that is ugly in a deliberately challenging way.
The church's architect is John Douglas - a much under-rated designer who was prolific throughout Cheshire.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Is Modern Architecture Ugly?

A debate was triggered on the following site following the question, Is modern architecture ugly?
Yet again, modernism is rejected and Victorian is celebrated. The blog also considers whether architecture schools are more concerned with 'creating' geniuses rather than competent architects.

This is an interesting argument. The 'radical', 'wacky' and outlandish is often preferred in architecture schools over the 'everyday', sensitive proposal. If schools of architecture 'produced' more 'competent' architects would there be less ugly architecture?

Friday, 7 January 2011

The spread of ugliness in the Home Counties, 1928

A report in 'The Builder'  vol. 134,  April 13, 1928, p608:
"There is hardly a town or village, at any rate in the Home Counties, that is not disfigured and artistically injured by the erection of common place, vulgar buildings which jar with their neighbours and offend the eye. The hideous petrol filling stations and pumps which are strewn indiscriminately all over the country have become a by-word of reproach....."

Prince Charles also picked up the petrol station as eyesore theme some 71 years later in his book, "a vision of britain".