First transmitted in 1986, a look at how some young architects are reacting against modernist sterility with an exuberant return to traditional forms.
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PETER SHAFFER: This
is a programme
about murder. Architectural murder.
You are going to witness the severed limbs,
the pulped torso of a great city.
doubt to many of you, the word
"murder" will seem exaggerated.
You will say that what we call today development
is a necessary part
you really think this,
so much the worse for you.
And so much the worse for your children.
They ask for bread.
In this particular you give them not stone,
but dead concrete, a building like this.
with its load of untrying.
Ruining everything around it.
people who designed this
thing are, if you can believe it,
the heirs of Wren and Nash.
To me, they are criminals.
Worse are the people who commissioned it,
who approved, probably insisted upon, its mediocrity.
And worse still are the people who indifferently let it happen,
don't even really notice it.
is what your descendants
a featureless, life-despising mess
whose only message is that life is a prison.
do you know what the price is
you are paying for this sort of thing?
Buildings like these.
Spacious, humane, original, life-enhancing,
perfectly proportioned, elegant,
if we hurry, we can make
the whole of London
look like this by 1975.
Lovely Howland Street.
any right-ordered society,
the makers of this filthy complex would be hanged
for debauching public imagination.
deserve what we get.
about his hometown of London,
but what he wrote applies to many cities throughout the entire world.
modern houses and streets
do not belong to any particular town or country.
We all recognise them instantly.
We all have seen them, walked through them.
us even live or work in them.
lifeless environment of huge
objects bumper to bumper.
we in London, Berlin, Kuwait,
Paris or Singapore?
These imperious and mute buildings,
these endless rows of sameness
are, in fact,
of modern architecture
taken at random from each of these cities.
total waste of human
and material resources.
have modern cities
and buildings failed us?
We will blame, of course, the population explosion.
In the year 2000 eight out of ten people will live in towns.
are flying to the moon.
We are inventing computers.
But we seem to be incapable
of dealing with large numbers of people -
unable to feed and to house them.
is a growing need to use
the space allocated to us properly.
How will all these people live?
This will be the moral question of the next 20 years.
the beginning of this century,
most capitals in the Western world had an answer to urban growth.
Many European countries built garden cities and housing estates.
is Letchworth, designed
in 1903 by Unwin and Parker.
that puts man at the centre.
1927, Bruno Taut
built this estate in Berlin.
leading German architects
invented a new and humane housing concept for the working man.
the '20s, architects dreamt
and noble cities
for the future of mankind.
city never arrived.
Instead, Le Corbusier's dreams turned into nightmares.
almost at the end of the
century, most optimism has vanished.
And the century seems to be ending the way it began -
in a chaos of architecture and town planning.
of the modern movement
were the reaction against
19th-century cities smothered in ornament.
They were a battle cry for simplicity and functionalism.
tried to get rid
of all empty decoration -
A mostly private architecture
where architects and clients often shared tastes and values.
1923, this drawing appeared
in a German magazine.
It was the work of a young architect, Mies van der Rohe.
became the prototype of all office
buildings for the next 40 years.
as propagated by the high
priests of the modern movement,
Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Gropius and others,
was universally accepted, copied
until it was totally drained of its original vision.
architecture all over the world
had reached its worst phase in history.
The rigorous functionalism of the masters had been exhausted.
was declared dead.
people trace this back
to July 1972
when, in St Louis, Missouri,
a housing scheme built in the '50s was blown up
because vandalism had made it obsolete.
and incarcerated people.
I think our cities are getting uglier every single day.
I mean, the subways are getting more crowded,
the cars are getting more jammed,
the houses aren't being built,
so they're falling down.
And the cities, they are building skyscrapers
so you can't move around the streets.
So of course they're getting uglier.
Now, that is a terrible thing for an architect to say
because I'd like to rebuild those cities.
That would be our job, you see. That'd be fun.
But you'd have to tear down about two thirds of the cities.
destruction of our cities,
which...is unbelievably depressing.
I mean, I know cities like Glasgow and Liverpool, I grew up in them,
and they were magnificent
18th- and 19th-century cities,
which have been absolutely destroyed by post-war town planning,
The lethal combination is not so much the architect,
the lethal combination is the town planner
and the local council
and the idea of progress.
all councils, whether
they're on the right or left,
have had the notion that to make progress in the cities,
you have to take down and remake.
CHURCH BELL RINGS
we look at what is
left of our old cities,
we must ask ourselves,
"Why are we not able to build as well as in the past?"
"Are we not richer, technically more accomplished than the
"who built Bath or Florence?"
political change and upheaval
and are still able to satisfy human needs.
course, technological inventions,
such as reinforced concrete,
steel frames, lifts and,
most of all, the growing need for shelter,
change the architectural landscape for ever.
have our great architects
lost the spirit
which fired their predecessors?
Their artistry gave their buildings not only an inventiveness of form,
but also a sense of proportion,
based on human scale.
think to some degree people have
always been disturbed by change
because that which they know is always comfortable.
But I think that perhaps the
which exist today...
er, in our cities are...
seem to be so unsympathetic to what remains,
both in terms of scale, colour, texture, materials.
And I don't think it's so much what they look like,
I think it's the scale, a relationship,
is being destroyed.
the late '60s appeared two
books by the American architect
Robert Venturi -
Complexity And Contradiction In Architecture
and Learning From Las Vegas.
Venturi became the guru of what is now known as the postmodern school.
He pleaded passionately for plurality and richness of meaning,
for ornament rather than purity.
He fought the ghetto of good taste
and urged architects to leave their priggishness behind
and to embrace
next 15 years saw
an intense sorting out of ideas.
A whole new generation of architects grew up
with radically different attitudes to those of their predecessors.
Architecture has again become a carrier of meanings
and symbols, responding to a deeply and commonly felt human desire.
of the most telling stories
of what has happened in architecture
is Charles Moore's Piazza d'Italia,
a square in the middle of New Orleans.
is one of the leading exponents
of the postmodern school.
square is meant to be
a meeting point
for the Italians living in the town.
This is fictional architecture, which shatters our aesthetic conception
of what a modern square should look like.
Around the map of Italy are echoes of the Trevi Fountain,
a shingle portal, some Greek
a hotchpotch of cultural references full of irony and nostalgia.
remnants of an expensive set
for a musical which has long ceased to run.
designed several travel offices.
They also tell a story.
trees, a pyramid,
broken Greek pillars,
an Indian chhatri talk about journeys.
The office has become a stage, evoking far-away places.
These buildings are meant to amuse or to shock you.
They're a conscious effort to create places with identity.
by Hollein and Moore,
also demonstrate the danger of too much irony.
They show how quickly such a road can lead to kitsch.
HUM OF TRAFFIC
best stores in America
also tell a story.
These are fantasy buildings, cleverly used to boost sales,
a punch in the eye, a tongue-in-cheek architecture, a desire to perplex,
like a surrealist joke.
1980, a much talked-about
exhibition of the Venice Biennale,
called The Presence Of The Past,
put up the slogan, "It is again possible to learn from tradition..."
showed 22 facades.
It was the first time that a large international group of architects
had collectively expressed their preference for ornament.
world of architecture seemed
to have turned upside down.
1983, Philip Johnson,
yesterday a stern defender of
Le Corbusier, Gropius, and Mies van der Rohe,
surprised everybody with the AT&T Building in New York.
had a granite facade
and a top which looked like a Chippendale tallboy.
to the glasshouse Johnson
built for himself 35 years ago,
it definitely looks old-fashioned.
who began his career as an ardent follower of Le Corbusier,
shocked and delighted architects and critics
when he presented his skyscraper to the city of Portland, Oregon -
a giant jukebox
in garish colours.
Japan, Arata Isozaki, one of
the country's leading architects,
designed a cultural centre in Tsukuba.
It is filled with historical references,
from Michelangelo to Claude-Nicolas Ledoux.
courtyard by the English
architect James Stirling,
a classical courtyard in stone and marble,
is the heart of his new museum in Stuttgart.
It is supposed to represent the German soul
its longing for Arcadia.
are apartment houses in Berlin
by the Austrian architect Hans Hollein
and Francy Valentiny from Luxembourg.
is building social houses in France resembling palaces and castles.
columns and porticos,
roofs and gables.
History is no longer a dirty word.
longing for a clearly
identifiable culture makes us
look at the past and take refuge in nostalgia.
This movement in architecture, away from austerity,
goes hand-in-hand with what is happening in the other arts.
have realised that
serves too narrow a range of human emotions
and artists have turned to a more representational form
to which one can respond more directly.
is creating a situation
where we're going from
a rather rigorous form of architecture
to a more relaxed, romantic, if you like,
at times decorative, at times pastiche.
I don't approve of some of these, I approve of some. And that's...
That is creating this period of crisis.
I think that it's a very exciting period
because in a sense the excitement of being a part of a period of crisis
is that you can start to re-examine things which probably...
which were very difficult to examine under the very much more stricter
moral codes that
during those first 75 years.
You couldn't oppose the modern movement before.
It was really like a sort of religion.
Now we suddenly see that you can take it in many different directions.
less of a...dogma now.
There are many, many directions that people can go.
And architects do take advantage of it, particularly young architects.
They take advantage of
and they begin to have...
..an opportunity to express themselves.
I think there has been a change
and it's here to stay.
There's been a tremendous change,
but I think it's far less a trumped-up change of geniuses
than the normal evolution of the arts.
think that modernism had reached
a point where it had really
stretched and forced every principle that it ascribed to
and there had to be a way out, a
of today's architecture is
The multitude of emerging styles... CLATTERING
..have brought about an often tiresome controversy.
new generation of architects
is aggressively verbal,
staking a claim for architecture rather than producing it.
International conferences offer ample opportunity...
ARGUING ..for in-fights and labelling.
Blinded by prejudices about each other,
architects are often not aware
that the general public cares little about philosophy.
people like is not necessarily
what the profession likes.
the last few years,
we've realised that a total change
and reorientation in architecture and town planning is needed
if we want to save our environment from total destruction.
positive thinking is taking place.
Architects are beginning to be less preoccupied with individual buildings
and are now concerned with the spaces around them.
evidence is visible everywhere.
The changes are not yet on a large scale
but people are relearning
to accept basic human need for better housing
and better environment.
mix of styles has created
more humane buildings.
Low-rises are replacing high-rises.
Ornament and colour are returning to our facades.
The use of
brick instead of concrete
has produced a warmer architecture.
pitched roof symbolises
a kind of homely protectiveness.
Everywhere, variety instead of monotony.
Warmth instead of coldness.
London, opposite a council tower
block from the 1960s,
four town houses by Jeremy Dixon
were also commissioned by the local council.
a hybrid architecture.
He draws on the elements of the nearby 19th-century villas.
houses provide all the things
people have been fighting for,
a respect for the surroundings and a feeling of domestic protection,
in short, a total change in
attitude and concern.
the measure of man.
We have only asked for the measure of the machine.
We have functionalised the human being.
Then suddenly we find out
that for instance,
ornament, which was discarded completely,
is something which we need for our soul, for man's soul,
that a facade, a decorated facade,
may be something like the face of a man -
facade means "faccia", means "face".
a building also has a face,
has a personality, is an individual.
And it shouldn't be as abstract as, let's say, a container.
we started to find out more
about the relationship of, let's say,
a decorated facade and man.
is not surprising that
the demand for better alternatives
and a richer language has been coming from the young.
Many of them have known success
at an age their predecessors only dreamt of.
These buildings on Miami Bay are by the young architectural group,
approach to building
and their desire to create a more liveable environment
exemplifies the many changes
which run through the architectural world at large.
brash and unorthodox designs
have been a talking point in the architectural profession.
the last few years,
the young husband and wife team,
Bernado Fort-Brescia and Laurinda Spear,
have gathered commissions with breathtaking speed.
most famous building
so far is called Atlantis.
It has quickly established itself as one of the new landmarks in Miami.
With an almost childlike joy, various elements of the building
are punched out as in a jigsaw puzzle and appear in other places.
from the hole in the middle
reappears on the ground as a squash court.
in shiny black glass is broken up
by yellow balconies and a jutting-out spiral staircase.
red triangle disguises
the cooling tower.
This is fun architecture -
sophisticated and ironical.
cut-out square is a reference
to one of Le Corbusier's ideas
that everybody should have their own garden, however high in the air.
A heart-shaped pool is
a pun, and
a commentary on a certain lifestyle.
to the present-day demand
for more fictional architecture,
for facades which communicate a story.
This is part of their tremendous popular appeal.
the majority of the buildings that are put up are just buildings.
And they're not designed except as shelter.
There is no particular
or there's no attempt at communicating any new idea.
There's generally no concept in them.
And hopefully this...
The tide is turning.
wouldn't want every building
to be so interesting
that you would be just be completely bowled over
every time you walked outside.
So it's kind of nice to have a grey background
and every now and then
an interesting building.
NARRATOR: Arquitectonica's success is fairly recent.
first clients were, in fact,
Laurinda Spear's parents.
Fresh from university, they built a house for them
at the edge of Miami Bay.
The back pays homage to the modern movement.
it gives one the feeling
of being on a ship at high sea.
front is painted
in different shades of pink,
a cheerful irreverent touch that must make the modernists
turn in their graves, despite the references to
and the use of translucent glass blocks,
one of their favourite materials.
the Florida climate,
outside and inside form one unit.
The pool is integrated with the building
right outside the living room.
pink wall is in fact
the reverse of the facade.
It protects the pool from inquisitive neighbours.
LAURINDA SPEAR: I think generally Americans haven't until recently
looked at architecture as art.
They've looked at it from a functional point of view
in a different way,
in a different category than art.
But we are among other architects, I suppose,
who are starting to be more artistic
and to look at our buildings as sculptures
or as a form of painting or art or something else.
Our buildings try to bring about a certain romance
and a certain fantasy about architecture
that sometimes painters have seen,
and our work often attempts to introduce
a certain element of surrealism
and poetry into modern architecture.
Palace in Miami
was Arquitectonica's first try
at a skyscraper.
icy, glass tower is pierced by
stepped building in glass and stucco made to look like brick,
which protrudes at the other side - another surrealist joke.
most of Arquitectonica's
one gets the impression that the architecture
has gone a bit out of control.
This is exactly what is intended - a visual anarchy,
elements of art, fairground
and pop culture,
anything to make the building stand out,
to prevent it from becoming boring.
As one critic has pointed out,
they look as if they were built by Alice in Wonderland
after she studied at the Bauhaus.
Babylon is a ziggurat-shaped
luxury apartment house.
30 years ago, most houses in the neighbourhood
looked like the villa next door.
Then came a flood of anonymous apartment blocks
with no feeling for scale and place.
Arquitectonica has put up a building which does not dwarf its neighbour.
The colour of the old roof is echoed in the facade.
The Babylon seemed to be
only a short-lived dream.
With soaring land prices,
greedy developers threatened to tear it down
even before it has been occupied,
to replace it, probably, with a cost-effective horror.
has become big business.
The pride in being big, which fills the heads of most businessmen,
has also infected architects.
Some of them employ several hundred people.
LAURINDA SPEAR: We
don't aspire to be
a huge SOM-type of operation.
Really we want to maintain a size
that we personally can design all the projects
and not have to farm out the design to someone else.
And to this date all the designs are originated by the partners.
And that doesn't happen in some of those very large firms.
There are teams that are assigned to various projects
and they have committees that review.
And...the decision-making becomes so corporate in its organisation,
and instead of...
And incidentally very little emotion is
left to the decision-making.
And there are aspects of architecture that are very rational,
but there are aspects that are very intuitive and...
And somehow there has to be that... other element in the decision-making.
And we feel that if we maintain control of the design decisions
we won't lose
that important part.
will they be able to
resist the pressure of big business?
Already they are building apartments in New York,
a shopping centre in Houston, an amusement park in Nigeria,
a museum in Philadelphia and a bank in Peru.
They are moving into a different league.
60-storey Helmsley Center in
Miami, housing offices and a hotel,
the triple-arched 45-storey Horizon Hill project in Texas -
new daring designs
are pushing our imaginations
further into fantasy.
miles away, another
young group of architects
are breaking away from the modernist movement
and are attracting much attention.
The Miyashiro primary school
Tokyo was designed by Team Zoo.
buildings are evidence
that Japan is also
by the concerns of postmodern architecture.
Their approach is a radical departure
from the barren and stark buildings
designed by other Japanese architects.
is making a direct link to
traditional Japanese architecture,
reinterpreting it in a modern way.
Zoo offers a complex of small
buildings, easy to understand,
easy to use.
This is a total departure from the obsession of housing everyone
under one roof.
play world of children
and forms a dialogue with the school world.
networks of squares
and streets, as in a city,
avoid endless dark corridors,
so synonymous with a repressive institution.
school, which was inexpensive
is both intimate and exciting.
of outstanding success
of a very different kind is Helmut Jahn.
He is the president of one of the big Chicago firms,
He has already over 30 large buildings to his credit.
17 huge projects are under construction,
a subway system,
and skyscrapers in South Africa, New York and Houston.
With almost as many awards to his name,
his success is indeed staggering.
A native of Germany,
he has moved into the forefront of world architecture.
is in love with the skyscrapers
of the Art Deco
and Beaux Arts period,
like the Wrigley, built in 1921...
..or the Tribune Tower,
the winner of the skyscraper competition of the same year.
he's trying to incorporate
some of the formal inventiveness and symbolism of the old skyscrapers,
combining them with modern materials and techniques.
of his latest buildings
is on Chicago's South Wacker Drive.
using different coloured glass,
he discovers more and more decorative possibilities.
and a definite top
are all a reaction to the straight museum glass box.
HELMUT JAHN: The last ten years
brought one of the most interesting
periods in architecture since the '20s.
Essentially, there has been a rethinking of the principles
which were established during the modern movement in
And I think it's also particular and peculiar
that this rethinking started to a large degree in this country.
very much tried to recreate
in those buildings
that element of excitement and surprise
and a people-pleasing aspect,
which the buildings of the '20s and '30s had
and which modern architecture never quite achieved.
There is an underlying interest
certain interests in technology
with, you know, aspects of popular culture.
And that is actually somewhat a positive view of
and its influence on life and society and our work.
It is somewhat an optimistic attitude
which is so fast-fading in
where there is an almost pessimistic outlook about the future
and what technology can give us.
I think buildings are the few
things which I think can uplift us
and can give us those elements
because they actually do affect
people quite a bit
because people spend more time in an office building
than they spend in their home.
NARRATOR: Jahn's influence on the face of Chicago
has been as radical as that of Louis Sullivan, Frank
and Mies van der Rohe.
the State Of Illinois Center,
Jahn is experimenting with more humane office spaces.
He has chosen an asymmetrical shape which seems at first
to be rather awkward.
This is an official building, but by breaking up the surfaces,
avoids a too obvious
big glass knuckles,
crowned by a sliced-off roof.
This is a bold and radical departure
from the familiar business tower with its congested office spaces.
floors of offices are dispersed
around a vast central atrium.
The huge open space is designed for pleasure
with all the paraphernalia of theatre -
By scooping out the entire centre
and stretching a glass skin over a hi-tech frame,
Jahn diminishes the feeling of oppressiveness
which so often marks large office buildings.
is a conscious effort to break
with the stereotype skyscraper
and to create a new kind of typology for office building.
It fits well into the postmodern concept.
With all the interest in form,
expression, the conception,
the actual aspects about architecture,
I would say that at least
what we can
say for us as architects today,
we have not lost that interest
in all the technical and functional know-how
of the modern movement.
we expand and continue
and refine those principles,
but we have also found a certain dissatisfaction
about what modern architecture has done
ourselves and to our city.
In the process of looking for solutions to that,
we look to the past and we look to the future.
As such, we are postmodernists.
Helmut Jahn's buildings
are glossy, bordering on the chic.
critics have accused him
of just doing some slick packaging.
those who find his buildings
too rich in details, too flash,
he replies, "We don't construct decorations,
"we decorate constructions."
is no doubt that his work
is technically tremendously skilful and daring.
Whatever one may think of their aesthetics,
his buildings are a new form of urban excitement.
course, it would be
to say that we are suddenly at the threshold of a new architecture.
concerted effort is still missing.
Values are gradually shifting,
but there is still a lot of overlapping -
a coexistence of the old with the new, the good with the bad.
will take a closer
at some of the architectural schemes that are ringing the changes,
allowing hope in an often
First transmitted in 1986, Andrew Sachs narrates the first of ten programmes on contemporary architecture. Against a background of disenchantment with modern architecture throughout the world, and the belief that modern cities are a failure, the series starts by outlining the changes that are now taking place, and examining what has brought them about.
The distinctive work of three young architectural groups are examined: Team Zoo from Tokyo, Arquitectonica from Miami and Helmut Jahn from Chicago.