September 01, 2006

Worst, less bad, best - building forms

A short walk in the City can be instructive. These buildings are relatively close to each other (indeed the two modern ones are side-to-side).

First the WORST. It faces a busy road, admittedly, but its other sides (not visible in photo) are just as unfriendly. I could not find an entrance other than that weird, hyper-hostile, brutalist rough-concrete spiral-from-hell at lower left. At least here in London this sort of stuff was partly built on bombsites, rather than by tearing down nice old buildings. Still, an awful eyesore.

The following building is LESS BAD.

Just off photo (left) there is a clear, pedestrian-friendly entrance with a nice sidewalk. The color of the building is not fully appreciable from my picture but it is a very warm tawny stone, set off by lightly tinted greenish windows. I think the building lacks long-term visual interest and relief of mass trhough peripemtrla transparency (glass walls) has environmental and practical shortcomings. Nonetheless, it is a huge improvement on the atrocity above. Only thing is, imagine a street all of buildings like this. A bit dull.

The last, BEST building – Yes, in architecture I am an unreconstructed reactionary. Why? It works. This building has plenty of windows, gorgeous relief of mass and visual interest at ground level, and nice proportions despite being rather large. I’m not crazy about the pedestrianization of most roads but this is in an area where 99% of people go to work by public transport (the City) and the buildings are served by alleys. There is nothing I don’t like about this building.

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