Doubt and Reassessment Architecture at the Crossroads


Doubt and Reassessment

First transmitted in 1986, a look at how some young architects are reacting against modernist sterility with an exuberant return to traditional forms.


Similar Content

Browse content similar to Doubt and Reassessment. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!

Transcript


LineFromTo

Archive

programmes chosen by experts.

0:00:040:00:06

For

this collection,

Janet Street-Porter has selected

0:00:060:00:09

programmes about post-war architecture.

0:00:090:00:12

More

programmes on this theme

0:00:120:00:14

and other BBC Four collections are available on BBC iPlayer.

0:00:140:00:17

PETER SHAFFER: This

is a programme

about murder. Architectural murder.

0:01:090:01:13

You are going to witness the severed limbs,

0:01:130:01:16

the pulped torso of a great city.

0:01:160:01:18

No

doubt to many of you, the word

"murder" will seem exaggerated.

0:01:180:01:22

You will say that what we call today development

0:01:220:01:24

is a necessary part

of change.

0:01:240:01:26

If

you really think this,

so much the worse for you.

0:01:260:01:29

And so much the worse for your children.

0:01:290:01:31

They ask for bread.

0:01:310:01:33

In this particular you give them not stone,

0:01:330:01:35

but dead concrete, a building like this.

0:01:350:01:38

Lifeless. Faceless.

0:01:380:01:40

Hopeless. Joyless.

0:01:400:01:42

Mean-spirited.

0:01:420:01:44

Damning

the sky

with its load of untrying.

0:01:440:01:47

Ruining everything around it.

0:01:470:01:49

The

people who designed this

thing are, if you can believe it,

0:01:510:01:54

the heirs of Wren and Nash.

0:01:540:01:56

To me, they are criminals.

0:01:560:01:57

Worse are the people who commissioned it,

0:01:570:02:00

who approved, probably insisted upon, its mediocrity.

0:02:000:02:04

And worse still are the people who indifferently let it happen,

0:02:040:02:06

who

don't even really notice it.

0:02:060:02:08

You.

0:02:080:02:09

Us.

0:02:090:02:10

This

is what your descendants

will know,

0:02:120:02:14

a featureless, life-despising mess

0:02:140:02:16

whose only message is that life is a prison.

0:02:160:02:19

And

do you know what the price is

0:02:190:02:20

you are paying for this sort of thing?

0:02:200:02:22

This.

Buildings like these.

0:02:220:02:25

Spacious, humane, original, life-enhancing,

0:02:250:02:28

perfectly proportioned, elegant,

0:02:280:02:31

uniquely-London buildings.

0:02:310:02:33

Perhaps

if we hurry, we can make

the whole of London

0:02:330:02:37

look like this by 1975.

0:02:370:02:39

Lovely Howland Street.

0:02:390:02:41

In

any right-ordered society,

0:02:420:02:44

the makers of this filthy complex would be hanged

0:02:440:02:47

for debauching public imagination.

0:02:470:02:49

We

deserve what we get.

0:02:500:02:52

NARRATOR: Peter

Shaffer spoke

about his hometown of London,

0:02:540:02:58

but what he wrote applies to many cities throughout the entire world.

0:02:580:03:01

These

modern houses and streets

0:03:110:03:13

do not belong to any particular town or country.

0:03:130:03:16

We all recognise them instantly.

0:03:160:03:18

We all have seen them, walked through them.

0:03:180:03:20

Many of

us even live or work in them.

0:03:200:03:23

A

lifeless environment of huge

objects bumper to bumper.

0:03:230:03:27

Are

we in London, Berlin, Kuwait,

Paris or Singapore?

0:03:310:03:34

These imperious and mute buildings,

0:03:360:03:39

these endless rows of sameness

0:03:390:03:41

are, in fact,

shining examples

of modern architecture

0:03:410:03:45

taken at random from each of these cities.

0:03:450:03:47

A

total waste of human

and material resources.

0:03:490:03:53

What happened?

0:03:530:03:55

Why

have modern cities

and buildings failed us?

0:03:590:04:01

We will blame, of course, the population explosion.

0:04:030:04:05

In the year 2000 eight out of ten people will live in towns.

0:04:070:04:11

We

are flying to the moon.

We are inventing computers.

0:04:130:04:16

But we seem to be incapable

0:04:160:04:18

of dealing with large numbers of people -

0:04:180:04:21

unable to feed and to house them.

0:04:210:04:23

There

is a growing need to use

the space allocated to us properly.

0:04:280:04:32

Humanely.

0:04:320:04:34

How will all these people live?

0:04:340:04:37

This will be the moral question of the next 20 years.

0:04:370:04:41

BABY CRIES

0:04:410:04:43

At

the beginning of this century,

0:04:460:04:48

most capitals in the Western world had an answer to urban growth.

0:04:480:04:51

Many European countries built garden cities and housing estates.

0:04:510:04:56

This

is Letchworth, designed

in 1903 by Unwin and Parker.

0:04:560:05:00

This

is architecture

that puts man at the centre.

0:05:020:05:05

In

1927, Bruno Taut

built this estate in Berlin.

0:05:110:05:14

Many

leading German architects

0:05:190:05:21

invented a new and humane housing concept for the working man.

0:05:210:05:25

In

the '20s, architects dreamt

of shining

and noble cities

0:05:280:05:32

for the future of mankind.

0:05:320:05:35

The

city never arrived.

0:05:350:05:37

Instead, Le Corbusier's dreams turned into nightmares.

0:05:370:05:41

Over-sanitised, over-planned.

0:05:410:05:43

Now,

almost at the end of the

century, most optimism has vanished.

0:05:450:05:49

And the century seems to be ending the way it began -

0:05:490:05:53

in a chaos of architecture and town planning.

0:05:530:05:55

Buildings

of the modern movement

were the reaction against

0:06:010:06:04

19th-century cities smothered in ornament.

0:06:040:06:07

They were a battle cry for simplicity and functionalism.

0:06:070:06:11

Architects

tried to get rid

of all empty decoration -

0:06:110:06:14

purity

replaced playfulness.

0:06:140:06:16

A mostly private architecture

0:06:160:06:18

where architects and clients often shared tastes and values.

0:06:180:06:22

In

1923, this drawing appeared

in a German magazine.

0:06:250:06:29

It was the work of a young architect, Mies van der Rohe.

0:06:290:06:32

It

became the prototype of all office

buildings for the next 40 years.

0:06:320:06:37

The

architectural formula,

0:06:400:06:42

as propagated by the high

priests of the modern movement,

0:06:420:06:45

Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Gropius and others,

0:06:450:06:48

was universally accepted, copied

0:06:480:06:50

and

finally debased

by architects

0:06:500:06:53

until it was totally drained of its original vision.

0:06:530:06:55

By

the 1960s,

architecture all over the world

0:06:570:07:00

had reached its worst phase in history.

0:07:000:07:03

The rigorous functionalism of the masters had been exhausted.

0:07:030:07:07

BABY

CRIES

0:07:070:07:09

The

modern movement

was declared dead.

0:07:130:07:16

EXPLOSION

0:07:160:07:18

Many

people trace this back

to July 1972

0:07:240:07:27

when, in St Louis, Missouri,

0:07:270:07:29

a housing scheme built in the '50s was blown up

0:07:290:07:32

because vandalism had made it obsolete.

0:07:320:07:35

Architecture

had diminished

and incarcerated people.

0:07:360:07:40

I think our cities are getting uglier every single day.

0:08:000:08:03

I mean, the subways are getting more crowded,

0:08:030:08:05

the cars are getting more jammed,

0:08:050:08:07

the houses aren't being built,

so they're falling down.

0:08:070:08:10

And the cities, they are building skyscrapers

0:08:100:08:12

so you can't move around the streets.

0:08:120:08:14

So of course they're getting uglier.

0:08:140:08:16

Now, that is a terrible thing for an architect to say

0:08:160:08:18

because I'd like to rebuild those cities.

0:08:180:08:21

That would be our job, you see. That'd be fun.

0:08:210:08:24

But you'd have to tear down about two thirds of the cities.

0:08:240:08:27

The

destruction of our cities,

which...is unbelievably depressing.

0:08:270:08:32

I mean, I know cities like Glasgow and Liverpool, I grew up in them,

0:08:320:08:36

and they were magnificent

19th-century...

0:08:360:08:39

18th- and 19th-century cities,

0:08:390:08:41

which have been absolutely destroyed by post-war town planning,

0:08:410:08:46

post-war decisions.

0:08:460:08:49

The lethal combination is not so much the architect,

0:08:490:08:53

the lethal combination is the town planner

0:08:530:08:57

and the local council

0:08:570:08:59

and the idea of progress.

0:08:590:09:01

And

all councils, whether

they're on the right or left,

0:09:010:09:05

have had the notion that to make progress in the cities,

0:09:050:09:09

you have to take down and remake.

0:09:090:09:12

CHURCH BELL RINGS

0:09:120:09:15

When

we look at what is

left of our old cities,

0:09:150:09:18

we must ask ourselves,

0:09:180:09:19

"Why are we not able to build as well as in the past?"

0:09:190:09:22

"Are we not richer, technically more accomplished than the

people

0:09:230:09:27

"who built Bath or Florence?"

0:09:270:09:28

These

cities survived

political change and upheaval

0:09:300:09:33

and are still able to satisfy human needs.

0:09:330:09:36

Of

course, technological inventions,

such as reinforced concrete,

0:09:400:09:43

steel frames, lifts and,

0:09:430:09:45

most of all, the growing need for shelter,

0:09:450:09:48

change the architectural landscape for ever.

0:09:480:09:50

But

have our great architects

lost the spirit

0:10:000:10:02

which fired their predecessors?

0:10:020:10:04

Their artistry gave their buildings not only an inventiveness of form,

0:10:060:10:10

but also a sense of proportion,

based on human scale.

0:10:100:10:15

I

think to some degree people have

always been disturbed by change

0:10:200:10:24

because that which they know is always comfortable.

0:10:240:10:26

But I think that perhaps the

changes

which exist today...

0:10:260:10:30

er, in our cities are...

0:10:300:10:33

seem to be so unsympathetic to what remains,

0:10:330:10:38

both in terms of scale, colour, texture, materials.

0:10:380:10:43

And I don't think it's so much what they look like,

0:10:430:10:45

I think it's the scale, a relationship,

0:10:450:10:48

which

is being destroyed.

0:10:480:10:51

In

the late '60s appeared two

books by the American architect

0:10:540:10:58

Robert Venturi -

0:10:580:10:59

Complexity And Contradiction In Architecture

0:10:590:11:02

and Learning From Las Vegas.

0:11:020:11:05

Venturi became the guru of what is now known as the postmodern school.

0:11:050:11:09

He pleaded passionately for plurality and richness of meaning,

0:11:100:11:14

for ornament rather than purity.

0:11:140:11:16

He fought the ghetto of good taste

0:11:160:11:18

and urged architects to leave their priggishness behind

0:11:180:11:22

and to embrace

pop culture.

0:11:220:11:24

The

next 15 years saw

an intense sorting out of ideas.

0:11:290:11:32

A whole new generation of architects grew up

0:11:340:11:37

with radically different attitudes to those of their predecessors.

0:11:370:11:40

Architecture has again become a carrier of meanings

0:11:420:11:45

and symbols, responding to a deeply and commonly felt human desire.

0:11:450:11:49

One

of the most telling stories

of what has happened in architecture

0:12:000:12:04

is Charles Moore's Piazza d'Italia,

0:12:040:12:06

a square in the middle of New Orleans.

0:12:060:12:09

Moore

is one of the leading exponents

of the postmodern school.

0:12:110:12:14

The

square is meant to be

a meeting point

0:12:160:12:19

for the Italians living in the town.

0:12:190:12:20

This is fictional architecture, which shatters our aesthetic conception

0:12:230:12:27

of what a modern square should look like.

0:12:270:12:30

Around the map of Italy are echoes of the Trevi Fountain,

0:12:300:12:33

a shingle portal, some Greek

columns -

0:12:330:12:36

a hotchpotch of cultural references full of irony and nostalgia.

0:12:360:12:40

The

remnants of an expensive set

0:12:470:12:49

for a musical which has long ceased to run.

0:12:490:12:52

Hans

Hollein,

Vienna's postmodernist,

0:12:540:12:57

designed several travel offices.

0:12:570:12:59

They also tell a story.

0:12:590:13:01

Palm

trees, a pyramid,

broken Greek pillars,

0:13:030:13:07

an Indian chhatri talk about journeys.

0:13:070:13:10

The office has become a stage, evoking far-away places.

0:13:100:13:14

These buildings are meant to amuse or to shock you.

0:13:160:13:19

They're a conscious effort to create places with identity.

0:13:190:13:22

But

both examples,

by Hollein and Moore,

0:13:220:13:25

also demonstrate the danger of too much irony.

0:13:250:13:28

They show how quickly such a road can lead to kitsch.

0:13:280:13:31

HUM OF TRAFFIC

0:13:330:13:35

BIRDSONG

0:13:380:13:39

The

best stores in America

also tell a story.

0:13:450:13:48

These are fantasy buildings, cleverly used to boost sales,

0:13:480:13:52

a punch in the eye, a tongue-in-cheek architecture, a desire to perplex,

0:13:520:13:56

like a surrealist joke.

0:13:560:13:58

In

1980, a much talked-about

exhibition of the Venice Biennale,

0:14:170:14:21

called The Presence Of The Past,

0:14:210:14:23

put up the slogan, "It is again possible to learn from tradition..."

0:14:230:14:28

It

showed 22 facades.

0:14:300:14:32

It was the first time that a large international group of architects

0:14:320:14:35

had collectively expressed their preference for ornament.

0:14:350:14:38

The

world of architecture seemed

to have turned upside down.

0:14:500:14:53

In

1983, Philip Johnson,

yesterday a stern defender of

0:14:560:14:59

Le Corbusier, Gropius, and Mies van der Rohe,

0:14:590:15:02

surprised everybody with the AT&T Building in New York.

0:15:020:15:05

It

had a granite facade

0:15:080:15:09

and a top which looked like a Chippendale tallboy.

0:15:090:15:12

Compared

to the glasshouse Johnson

built for himself 35 years ago,

0:15:150:15:19

it definitely looks old-fashioned.

0:15:190:15:21

Another

American architect,

Michael Graves,

0:15:250:15:28

who began his career as an ardent follower of Le Corbusier,

0:15:280:15:31

shocked and delighted architects and critics

0:15:310:15:33

when he presented his skyscraper to the city of Portland, Oregon -

0:15:330:15:37

a giant jukebox

in garish colours.

0:15:370:15:40

In

Japan, Arata Isozaki, one of

the country's leading architects,

0:15:430:15:47

designed a cultural centre in Tsukuba.

0:15:470:15:50

It is filled with historical references,

0:15:500:15:52

from Michelangelo to Claude-Nicolas Ledoux.

0:15:520:15:54

This

courtyard by the English

architect James Stirling,

0:15:570:16:00

a classical courtyard in stone and marble,

0:16:000:16:02

is the heart of his new museum in Stuttgart.

0:16:020:16:05

It is supposed to represent the German soul

0:16:050:16:08

with

its longing for Arcadia.

0:16:080:16:10

These

are apartment houses in Berlin

0:16:120:16:14

by the Austrian architect Hans Hollein

0:16:150:16:17

and Francy Valentiny from Luxembourg.

0:16:170:16:19

The Spaniard,

Ricardo Bofill,

0:16:220:16:24

is building social houses in France resembling palaces and castles.

0:16:240:16:29

Everywhere

columns and porticos,

roofs and gables.

0:16:310:16:35

History is no longer a dirty word.

0:16:370:16:39

Our

longing for a clearly

identifiable culture makes us

0:16:430:16:46

look at the past and take refuge in nostalgia.

0:16:460:16:49

This movement in architecture, away from austerity,

0:16:520:16:54

goes hand-in-hand with what is happening in the other arts.

0:16:540:16:58

People

have realised that

abstract language

0:17:030:17:05

serves too narrow a range of human emotions

0:17:050:17:08

and artists have turned to a more representational form

0:17:080:17:11

to which one can respond more directly.

0:17:110:17:13

This

is creating a situation

where we're going from

0:17:170:17:20

a rather rigorous form of architecture

0:17:200:17:23

to a more relaxed, romantic, if you like,

0:17:230:17:26

at times decorative, at times pastiche.

0:17:260:17:29

I don't approve of some of these, I approve of some. And that's...

0:17:290:17:32

That is creating this period of crisis.

0:17:320:17:35

I think that it's a very exciting period

0:17:350:17:38

because in a sense the excitement of being a part of a period of crisis

0:17:380:17:41

is that you can start to re-examine things which probably...

0:17:410:17:44

which were very difficult to examine under the very much more stricter

0:17:450:17:49

moral codes that

we had

during those first 75 years.

0:17:490:17:52

You couldn't oppose the modern movement before.

0:17:520:17:53

It was really like a sort of religion.

0:17:540:17:55

Now we suddenly see that you can take it in many different directions.

0:17:550:17:57

It's

less of a...dogma now.

0:17:570:18:02

There are many, many directions that people can go.

0:18:020:18:05

And architects do take advantage of it, particularly young architects.

0:18:050:18:08

They take advantage of

that freedom

and they begin to have...

0:18:080:18:12

..an opportunity to express themselves.

0:18:140:18:17

Yes,

I think there has been a change

and it's here to stay.

0:18:170:18:21

There's been a tremendous change,

0:18:210:18:23

but I think it's far less a trumped-up change of geniuses

0:18:230:18:26

than the normal evolution of the arts.

0:18:260:18:29

I

think that modernism had reached

a point where it had really

0:18:290:18:33

stretched and forced every principle that it ascribed to

0:18:330:18:38

and there had to be a way out, a

natural evolution.

0:18:380:18:43

Much

of today's architecture is

polemical.

0:18:450:18:47

BIRD CAWS

0:18:470:18:49

The multitude of emerging styles... CLATTERING

0:18:490:18:51

..have brought about an often tiresome controversy.

0:18:510:18:54

The

new generation of architects

is aggressively verbal,

0:18:560:19:00

staking a claim for architecture rather than producing it.

0:19:000:19:03

RUMBLING

0:19:030:19:04

International conferences offer ample opportunity...

0:19:040:19:07

ARGUING ..for in-fights and labelling.

0:19:070:19:10

Blinded by prejudices about each other,

0:19:100:19:12

architects are often not aware

0:19:120:19:14

that the general public cares little about philosophy.

0:19:140:19:18

What

people like is not necessarily

what the profession likes.

0:19:180:19:21

During

the last few years,

we've realised that a total change

0:19:260:19:29

and reorientation in architecture and town planning is needed

0:19:290:19:33

if we want to save our environment from total destruction.

0:19:330:19:36

Everywhere,

a new,

positive thinking is taking place.

0:19:380:19:42

Architects are beginning to be less preoccupied with individual buildings

0:19:420:19:45

and are now concerned with the spaces around them.

0:19:450:19:48

The

evidence is visible everywhere.

0:19:480:19:51

CHILDREN PLAY

0:19:510:19:53

The changes are not yet on a large scale

0:19:530:19:55

but people are relearning

0:19:550:19:57

to accept basic human need for better housing

and better environment.

0:19:570:20:01

The

mix of styles has created

more humane buildings.

0:20:030:20:06

Low-rises are replacing high-rises.

0:20:060:20:08

Ornament and colour are returning to our facades.

0:20:100:20:13

The use of

brick instead of concrete

has produced a warmer architecture.

0:20:140:20:19

A

pitched roof symbolises

a kind of homely protectiveness.

0:20:190:20:23

Everywhere, variety instead of monotony.

0:20:240:20:27

Warmth instead of coldness.

0:20:290:20:31

In

London, opposite a council tower

block from the 1960s,

0:20:510:20:55

four town houses by Jeremy Dixon

0:20:550:20:57

were also commissioned by the local council.

0:20:570:20:59

Dixon

has created

a hybrid architecture.

0:21:020:21:04

He draws on the elements of the nearby 19th-century villas.

0:21:050:21:09

The

houses provide all the things

people have been fighting for,

0:21:120:21:16

a respect for the surroundings and a feeling of domestic protection,

0:21:160:21:20

in short, a total change in

scale,

attitude and concern.

0:21:200:21:25

MAN: We

have forgotten

the measure of man.

0:21:280:21:31

We have only asked for the measure of the machine.

0:21:310:21:34

We have functionalised the human being.

0:21:340:21:36

Then suddenly we find out

that for instance,

0:21:360:21:40

ornament, which was discarded completely,

0:21:400:21:44

is something which we need for our soul, for man's soul,

0:21:450:21:49

that a facade, a decorated facade,

0:21:490:21:52

may be something like the face of a man -

0:21:520:21:56

facade means "faccia", means "face".

0:21:560:21:59

And

a building also has a face,

has a personality, is an individual.

0:21:590:22:04

And it shouldn't be as abstract as, let's say, a container.

0:22:040:22:09

So,

we started to find out more

about the relationship of, let's say,

0:22:090:22:16

a decorated facade and man.

0:22:160:22:18

NARRATOR: It

is not surprising that

the demand for better alternatives

0:22:240:22:28

and a richer language has been coming from the young.

0:22:280:22:31

Many of them have known success

0:22:310:22:33

at an age their predecessors only dreamt of.

0:22:330:22:36

These buildings on Miami Bay are by the young architectural group,

0:22:360:22:40

Arquitectonica.

0:22:400:22:42

Their

approach to building

0:22:470:22:49

and their desire to create a more liveable environment

0:22:490:22:51

exemplifies the many changes

0:22:510:22:53

which run through the architectural world at large.

0:22:530:22:56

Their

brash and unorthodox designs

0:22:580:23:00

have been a talking point in the architectural profession.

0:23:000:23:03

During

the last few years,

the young husband and wife team,

0:23:100:23:13

Bernado Fort-Brescia and Laurinda Spear,

0:23:130:23:16

have gathered commissions with breathtaking speed.

0:23:160:23:19

Their

most famous building

so far is called Atlantis.

0:23:230:23:27

It has quickly established itself as one of the new landmarks in Miami.

0:23:270:23:31

With an almost childlike joy, various elements of the building

0:23:310:23:35

are punched out as in a jigsaw puzzle and appear in other places.

0:23:350:23:39

The

missing piece

from the hole in the middle

0:23:400:23:42

reappears on the ground as a squash court.

0:23:420:23:45

The

front facade

in shiny black glass is broken up

0:23:530:23:57

by yellow balconies and a jutting-out spiral staircase.

0:23:570:24:00

A

red triangle disguises

the cooling tower.

0:24:040:24:07

This is fun architecture -

0:24:070:24:09

sophisticated and ironical.

0:24:090:24:11

The

cut-out square is a reference

to one of Le Corbusier's ideas

0:24:180:24:22

that everybody should have their own garden, however high in the air.

0:24:220:24:26

A heart-shaped pool is

a pun, and

a commentary on a certain lifestyle.

0:24:260:24:32

Arquitectonica's

building responds

to the present-day demand

0:24:320:24:36

for more fictional architecture,

0:24:360:24:40

for facades which communicate a story.

0:24:400:24:42

This is part of their tremendous popular appeal.

0:24:420:24:45

Unfortunately,

still,

0:24:460:24:48

the majority of the buildings that are put up are just buildings.

0:24:480:24:53

And they're not designed except as shelter.

0:24:530:24:57

There is no particular

image

intended

0:24:570:25:00

or there's no attempt at communicating any new idea.

0:25:000:25:04

There's generally no concept in them.

0:25:050:25:07

And hopefully this...

0:25:080:25:10

The tide is turning.

0:25:110:25:13

We

wouldn't want every building

to be so interesting

0:25:130:25:15

that you would be just be completely bowled over

0:25:150:25:18

every time you walked outside.

0:25:180:25:19

So it's kind of nice to have a grey background

0:25:190:25:22

and every now and then

an interesting building.

0:25:220:25:25

NARRATOR: Arquitectonica's success is fairly recent.

0:25:250:25:28

Their

first clients were, in fact,

Laurinda Spear's parents.

0:25:280:25:32

Fresh from university, they built a house for them

0:25:320:25:35

at the edge of Miami Bay.

0:25:360:25:38

The back pays homage to the modern movement.

0:25:380:25:41

From

the terrace,

it gives one the feeling

0:25:410:25:43

of being on a ship at high sea.

0:25:430:25:45

The

front is painted

in different shades of pink,

0:25:580:26:01

a cheerful irreverent touch that must make the modernists

0:26:010:26:04

turn in their graves, despite the references to

ship architecture

0:26:050:26:08

and the use of translucent glass blocks,

0:26:080:26:11

one of their favourite materials.

0:26:110:26:13

WATER LAPS

0:26:260:26:29

Befitting

the Florida climate,

outside and inside form one unit.

0:26:350:26:39

The pool is integrated with the building

0:26:390:26:41

right outside the living room.

0:26:410:26:43

The

pink wall is in fact

the reverse of the facade.

0:26:490:26:52

It protects the pool from inquisitive neighbours.

0:26:530:26:56

LAURINDA SPEAR: I think generally Americans haven't until recently

0:26:560:27:00

looked at architecture as art.

0:27:000:27:02

They've looked at it from a functional point of view

0:27:020:27:05

and

in a different way,

0:27:050:27:07

in a different category than art.

0:27:070:27:09

But we are among other architects, I suppose,

0:27:090:27:12

who are starting to be more artistic

0:27:120:27:14

and to look at our buildings as sculptures

0:27:140:27:17

or as a form of painting or art or something else.

0:27:170:27:19

Our buildings try to bring about a certain romance

0:27:200:27:22

and a certain fantasy about architecture

0:27:220:27:25

that sometimes painters have seen,

0:27:250:27:28

and our work often attempts to introduce

0:27:280:27:33

a certain element of surrealism

0:27:330:27:36

and poetry into modern architecture.

0:27:360:27:39

NARRATOR: The

Palace in Miami

was Arquitectonica's first try

0:27:430:27:46

at a skyscraper.

0:27:460:27:47

The

icy, glass tower is pierced by

a smaller

0:27:490:27:51

stepped building in glass and stucco made to look like brick,

0:27:510:27:55

which protrudes at the other side - another surrealist joke.

0:27:550:28:00

In

most of Arquitectonica's

buildings,

0:28:000:28:02

one gets the impression that the architecture

0:28:020:28:04

has gone a bit out of control.

0:28:040:28:06

This is exactly what is intended - a visual anarchy,

0:28:060:28:10

mixing

elements of art, fairground

and pop culture,

0:28:100:28:14

anything to make the building stand out,

0:28:140:28:16

to prevent it from becoming boring.

0:28:160:28:19

As one critic has pointed out,

0:28:190:28:21

they look as if they were built by Alice in Wonderland

0:28:210:28:23

after she studied at the Bauhaus.

0:28:230:28:25

The

Babylon is a ziggurat-shaped

luxury apartment house.

0:28:280:28:31

30 years ago, most houses in the neighbourhood

0:28:310:28:34

looked like the villa next door.

0:28:340:28:36

Then came a flood of anonymous apartment blocks

0:28:360:28:39

with no feeling for scale and place.

0:28:390:28:41

Arquitectonica has put up a building which does not dwarf its neighbour.

0:28:450:28:49

The colour of the old roof is echoed in the facade.

0:28:490:28:52

But

The Babylon seemed to be

only a short-lived dream.

0:28:590:29:02

With soaring land prices,

0:29:040:29:05

greedy developers threatened to tear it down

0:29:050:29:08

even before it has been occupied,

0:29:080:29:10

to replace it, probably, with a cost-effective horror.

0:29:100:29:13

Architecture

has become big business.

0:29:180:29:21

The pride in being big, which fills the heads of most businessmen,

0:29:210:29:24

has also infected architects.

0:29:240:29:27

Some of them employ several hundred people.

0:29:270:29:29

LAURINDA SPEAR: We

don't aspire to be

a huge SOM-type of operation.

0:29:380:29:41

Really we want to maintain a size

0:29:410:29:43

that we personally can design all the projects

0:29:430:29:47

and not have to farm out the design to someone else.

0:29:470:29:49

And to this date all the designs are originated by the partners.

0:29:490:29:53

And that doesn't happen in some of those very large firms.

0:29:530:29:57

There are teams that are assigned to various projects

0:29:570:30:00

and they have committees that review.

0:30:000:30:02

And...the decision-making becomes so corporate in its organisation,

0:30:020:30:09

and instead of...

0:30:090:30:11

And incidentally very little emotion is

left to the decision-making.

0:30:110:30:15

And there are aspects of architecture that are very rational,

0:30:150:30:18

but there are aspects that are very intuitive and...

0:30:180:30:22

And somehow there has to be that... other element in the decision-making.

0:30:230:30:29

And we feel that if we maintain control of the design decisions

0:30:290:30:33

that

we won't lose

that important part.

0:30:330:30:37

NARRATOR: But

will they be able to

resist the pressure of big business?

0:30:400:30:44

Already they are building apartments in New York,

0:30:440:30:46

a shopping centre in Houston, an amusement park in Nigeria,

0:30:460:30:50

a museum in Philadelphia and a bank in Peru.

0:30:500:30:53

They are moving into a different league.

0:30:540:30:56

The

60-storey Helmsley Center in

Miami, housing offices and a hotel,

0:30:590:31:04

the triple-arched 45-storey Horizon Hill project in Texas -

0:31:040:31:08

their

new daring designs

are pushing our imaginations

0:31:080:31:11

further into fantasy.

0:31:110:31:14

CHILDREN

PLAY

0:31:140:31:16

7,000

miles away, another

young group of architects

0:31:210:31:24

are breaking away from the modernist movement

0:31:250:31:27

and are attracting much attention.

0:31:270:31:29

The Miyashiro primary school

near

Tokyo was designed by Team Zoo.

0:31:290:31:33

CHILDREN SING

0:31:390:31:41

Their

buildings are evidence

that Japan is also

influenced

0:31:410:31:44

by the concerns of postmodern architecture.

0:31:440:31:46

Their approach is a radical departure

0:31:460:31:49

from the barren and stark buildings

0:31:490:31:50

designed by other Japanese architects.

0:31:500:31:52

It

is making a direct link to

traditional Japanese architecture,

0:31:590:32:03

reinterpreting it in a modern way.

0:32:030:32:05

Team

Zoo offers a complex of small

buildings, easy to understand,

0:32:090:32:13

easy to use.

0:32:130:32:15

This is a total departure from the obsession of housing everyone

0:32:150:32:18

under one roof.

0:32:180:32:19

The

play world of children

is interlaced

0:32:220:32:24

and forms a dialogue with the school world.

0:32:240:32:27

Little

networks of squares

and streets, as in a city,

0:32:290:32:32

avoid endless dark corridors,

0:32:320:32:34

so synonymous with a repressive institution.

0:32:350:32:37

CHILDREN LAUGH

0:32:370:32:39

This

school, which was inexpensive

to construct,

0:32:450:32:47

is both intimate and exciting.

0:32:470:32:49

Another

young architect

of outstanding success

0:32:530:32:56

of a very different kind is Helmut Jahn.

0:32:560:32:59

He is the president of one of the big Chicago firms,

Murphy/Jahn.

0:32:590:33:03

He has already over 30 large buildings to his credit.

0:33:030:33:07

17 huge projects are under construction,

0:33:090:33:12

among them

an airport,

a subway system,

0:33:120:33:15

and skyscrapers in South Africa, New York and Houston.

0:33:150:33:19

With almost as many awards to his name,

0:33:190:33:21

his success is indeed staggering.

0:33:210:33:23

A native of Germany,

0:33:230:33:24

he has moved into the forefront of world architecture.

0:33:240:33:27

Jahn

is in love with the skyscrapers

0:33:290:33:31

of the Art Deco

and Beaux Arts period,

0:33:310:33:33

like the Wrigley, built in 1921...

0:33:330:33:36

..or the Tribune Tower,

0:33:380:33:39

the winner of the skyscraper competition of the same year.

0:33:390:33:42

In

his buildings,

he's trying to incorporate

0:33:440:33:47

some of the formal inventiveness and symbolism of the old skyscrapers,

0:33:470:33:51

combining them with modern materials and techniques.

0:33:510:33:54

One

of his latest buildings

is on Chicago's South Wacker Drive.

0:33:560:34:00

By

using different coloured glass,

0:34:080:34:09

he discovers more and more decorative possibilities.

0:34:100:34:13

TRAFFIC HUMS

0:34:130:34:15

SIREN WAILS

0:34:170:34:19

Articulated

entrances,

columns, recesses

0:34:320:34:35

and a definite top

0:34:350:34:36

are all a reaction to the straight museum glass box.

0:34:370:34:40

HELMUT JAHN: The last ten years

have

brought one of the most interesting

0:34:430:34:47

periods in architecture since the '20s.

0:34:470:34:50

Essentially, there has been a rethinking of the principles

0:34:500:34:54

which were established during the modern movement in

the '20s.

0:34:540:34:58

And I think it's also particular and peculiar

0:34:580:35:02

that this rethinking started to a large degree in this country.

0:35:020:35:05

We

very much tried to recreate

in those buildings

0:35:060:35:11

that element of excitement and surprise

0:35:110:35:14

and a people-pleasing aspect,

0:35:140:35:15

which the buildings of the '20s and '30s had

0:35:160:35:18

and which modern architecture never quite achieved.

0:35:180:35:21

There is an underlying interest

of merging

0:35:210:35:25

certain interests in technology

0:35:250:35:27

with, you know, aspects of popular culture.

0:35:270:35:30

And that is actually somewhat a positive view of

technology

0:35:310:35:36

and its influence on life and society and our work.

0:35:360:35:40

It is somewhat an optimistic attitude

0:35:400:35:43

which is so fast-fading in

this society

0:35:430:35:47

where there is an almost pessimistic outlook about the future

0:35:470:35:51

and what technology can give us.

0:35:510:35:53

But

I think buildings are the few

things which I think can uplift us

0:35:530:35:57

and can give us those elements

0:35:570:36:00

because they actually do affect

people quite a bit

0:36:000:36:02

because people spend more time in an office building

0:36:020:36:04

than they spend in their home.

0:36:040:36:06

NARRATOR: Jahn's influence on the face of Chicago

0:36:080:36:10

has been as radical as that of Louis Sullivan, Frank

Lloyd Wright

0:36:100:36:13

and Mies van der Rohe.

0:36:130:36:15

In

the State Of Illinois Center,

0:36:160:36:18

Jahn is experimenting with more humane office spaces.

0:36:180:36:22

He has chosen an asymmetrical shape which seems at first

0:36:220:36:25

to be rather awkward.

0:36:250:36:27

This is an official building, but by breaking up the surfaces,

0:36:270:36:30

he

avoids a too obvious

monumentality.

0:36:300:36:33

Three

big glass knuckles,

crowned by a sliced-off roof.

0:36:360:36:41

This is a bold and radical departure

0:36:410:36:44

from the familiar business tower with its congested office spaces.

0:36:440:36:47

14

floors of offices are dispersed

around a vast central atrium.

0:36:500:36:55

The huge open space is designed for pleasure

0:36:550:36:58

with all the paraphernalia of theatre -

0:36:580:37:01

waterfalls,

ponds, plants.

0:37:010:37:02

By scooping out the entire centre

0:37:030:37:05

and stretching a glass skin over a hi-tech frame,

0:37:050:37:09

Jahn diminishes the feeling of oppressiveness

0:37:090:37:12

which so often marks large office buildings.

0:37:120:37:14

This

is a conscious effort to break

with the stereotype skyscraper

0:37:160:37:20

and to create a new kind of typology for office building.

0:37:200:37:23

It fits well into the postmodern concept.

0:37:240:37:27

With all the interest in form,

0:37:290:37:32

expression, the conception,

0:37:320:37:36

the actual aspects about architecture,

0:37:360:37:38

I would say that at least

what we can

say for us as architects today,

0:37:380:37:44

we have not lost that interest

0:37:440:37:47

in all the technical and functional know-how

0:37:470:37:52

of the modern movement.

0:37:530:37:55

And

we expand and continue

and refine those principles,

0:37:550:37:59

but we have also found a certain dissatisfaction

0:37:590:38:04

about what modern architecture has done

0:38:040:38:07

to

ourselves and to our city.

0:38:070:38:09

In the process of looking for solutions to that,

0:38:090:38:12

we look to the past and we look to the future.

0:38:120:38:15

As such, we are postmodernists.

0:38:150:38:17

NARRATOR:

Helmut Jahn's buildings

are glossy, bordering on the chic.

0:38:200:38:24

Some

critics have accused him

of just doing some slick packaging.

0:38:270:38:31

To

those who find his buildings

too rich in details, too flash,

0:38:330:38:37

he replies, "We don't construct decorations,

0:38:370:38:40

"we decorate constructions."

0:38:400:38:42

There

is no doubt that his work

0:38:490:38:51

is technically tremendously skilful and daring.

0:38:510:38:53

Whatever one may think of their aesthetics,

0:38:550:38:58

his buildings are a new form of urban excitement.

0:38:580:39:00

Of

course, it would be

an exaggeration

0:39:030:39:05

to say that we are suddenly at the threshold of a new architecture.

0:39:050:39:08

A

concerted effort is still missing.

0:39:100:39:13

Values are gradually shifting,

0:39:130:39:15

but there is still a lot of overlapping -

0:39:150:39:18

a coexistence of the old with the new, the good with the bad.

0:39:180:39:21

The

next programme

will take a closer

look

0:39:230:39:25

at some of the architectural schemes that are ringing the changes,

0:39:250:39:28

allowing hope in an often

devastated

architectural landscape.

0:39:280:39:32

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.


Download Subtitles

SRT

ASS