First transmitted in 1986, Stop the Bulldozer asks if conservation at all costs is inhibiting contemporary architecture.
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Archive programmes chosen by experts.
For this collection, Janet Street-Porter has selected
programmes about post-war architecture.
More programmes on this theme
and other BBC Four collections
are available on BBC iPlayer.
The world's need for housing and shelter
becomes more desperate than ever.
Even in London or Paris, the number of homeless is in tens of thousands.
In the meantime, we continue to destroy units that have worked.
Whole parts of cities have been wilfully demolished, and,
with it, cultural and human symbols
which once formed the landscape of a town.
We live with the strange contradiction.
While the span of human life has been extended
by modern science and technology,
the life of material things has been shortened.
Everything is disposable - cans, houses, even cities.
The last ten years has seen a change.
Our euphoria for progress and the future has become stale.
In its place, a longing to look back.
The old wholesale market of Paris was, for 100 years,
the centre of many activities.
An entire neighbourhood lived off it.
Shops and restaurants drew a lively crowd,
often until the early hours of the morning.
But over the years,
the market outgrew its purpose, choking the area with trucks.
Like everywhere else, there was a need to relieve the inner-city area
In 1969, the market was moved out of Paris.
The attractive, cast-iron pavilions by Victor Baltard,
built in the 1860s, stood empty and deteriorated.
They were pulled down and the entire area razed to the ground.
A new shopping centre was built in its place - the Forum des Halles.
The architects for this vast scheme were Claude Vasconi
and Georges Pencreac'h.
Much of the shopping was sunk into the ground,
leaving open the view of the old Bourse de Commerce
and the church of Saint-Eustache.
The new buildings are an attempt to create the modern equivalent
of the old glass-and-iron pavilions.
They filter the light down to the lower levels,
minimising the feeling of oppressiveness.
The fan-shaped architecture blends well with the surroundings.
It does not dwarf the old buildings.
The Forum des Halles is both urbane and expansive -
a courageous step to create a generous public space
few capitals nowadays can afford.
There are new hotels, smart restaurants,
sports facilities and many shops.
But by pulling down the old markets,
Paris misses out on a vital experience
which people are only now beginning to recognise.
The cheerful chaos, with its smell, noises
and the mixture of people from all walks of life,
was vital for the whole town.
The boutique-ing, with the ensuing gentrification of commerce,
has replaced the rough and tumble.
Everything is orderly and sterile.
As a result, a lifestyle Les Halles once generated
and supported is for ever lost.
London was faced with the same problem as Paris.
The old wholesale market had outgrown its original purpose
and the area was hopelessly congested.
In 1974 the market was moved out to Nine Elms.
The whole area lay open to greedy office development
and major road schemes.
Plans carving up the whole district were already on the drawing boards.
Fortunately, by the time London had finished discussing
the future of the market,
the pendulum had swung away from modern solutions
towards preservation of the old.
Instead of destroying, they opted for repair.
People realised that a planned environment can never have
the same feeling of liveliness
as an environment grown up over a long period of time.
The present market buildings date from 1830.
They were restored, the roofs were repaired and re-glazed
and some of the later 19th-century additions were removed.
But Covent Garden has done more than just restore buildings,
it has restored a social context.
The benefit for the whole area has been enormous.
It has been revitalised.
It has helped to revive a central urban space
which most modern cities nowadays urgently need.
CALL TO PRAYER
In many places, a reconstruction of the past is vital.
In the desire to join the 20th century,
many Arab countries have blotted out their history.
The almost total destruction of old buildings
was a condemnation of the way of life associated with poverty.
Nobody wants to live like their fathers.
Many Arab cities have become places of nowhere.
The future lay in the shining palaces which came from the West.
The beautiful old streets and houses of Jeddah crumbled
and were allowed to rot.
A significant chapter in the history of Saudi Arabia
was threatened to be wiped out, creating a collective amnesia.
The Arabs, due to almost unlimited wealth, have become a fast-moving
and almost continuously changing society.
In recent years, it has dawned on them
that in order to find a national and collective identity,
people have to come to terms with their past.
An extensive restoration process of old Jeddah was begun.
In America, too, people are learning that many old buildings have still
a lot of life in them.
The visible past may be culture, but it is also money.
The old Washington post office,
a ten-storey Romanesque wedding cake of a building dating from 1899,
was considered an eyesore,
out of step with the aspirations of a modern city.
A few years ago, public concern prevented it from being pulled down.
Now, it has reopened under the fancy name of The Pavilion.
In the clock tower, ten enormous new bells, replicas of Westminster's,
chime the hour.
The main attraction of this building has always been its arched galleries
looking down on a magnificent court -
a cross between a cathedral and a cotton mill.
The floor was once the sorting office,
with a catwalk for inspectors to check on the honesty of the sorters.
This is now a vast marketplace,
housing 22 shops, 19 restaurants
and eight floors of offices.
A highly successful urban fairground
and a perfect stage set for the wooden kitchenware
and the lavender-filled cushions of Laura Ashley designs.
The increasing appreciation of vernacular architecture,
especially of industrial buildings, has saved many warehouses
and factories from destruction.
An old industrial car repair shop of the 1930s
on the Regent's Canal in London
was taken over by the television company TV-am.
The architect for this conversion was Terry Farrell,
an ardent postmodernist.
It is a whimsical, glossy and, most of all, humorous.
The showbiz razzmatazz of the exterior
reflects what goes on inside.
The egg-cup finials are a particularly witty touch,
providing a corporate identity.
The back facade overlooking the canal
has preserved just enough of the old-world charm.
It has been brightened up with colour,
balconies and some additional windows.
As a result, a relatively undistinguished industrial building
has been saved and has gained in character and personality.
Farrell's solution for the front is less happy.
An Art Deco movie-house architecture.
The architect could not work with a strong unifying statement
as at the back.
The old front was simply an undistinguished glass block
that Farrell demolished totally, to replace it with a curved front,
hoping to liven up a rather dull area.
MAN: Well, TV-am has added a lot more life to the street side,
where we radically changed the facade.
And that was a rather seedy street. and it has given a lot of impact.
It has said to that part of Camden Town that TV-am is here,
this is your new neighbour.
On the canal side, I think, by keeping the old wall
and adding a bit of colour,
the kind of colour you would find on canal boats,
it really kept a continuity with the canal.
It's a relatively good neighbour
although it still looks like it is an entertainments building
rather than a brewery or what have you.
You see, the modernists threw away the history books.
In the 1920s, they said history is dead.
It's only the future we're now concerned with.
And that was an attitude, it wasn't a reality. You never can.
Society exists at a point in time, which is a continuity with the past,
looking to the future, but it's now.
And to express now is the act of the architect
or the artist or the writer, whoever.
And to express the now of where we are does involve looking back.
NARRATOR: This is not the dawning of a new generation, conscious of some
spiritual link with the past, as some preservationists want us to believe.
It is simply the recognition that many industrial buildings provide
marvellous large spaces surrounded by good solid walls -
commodities that modern buildings seem to lack.
Maintaining and renovating older buildings costs less than
pulling down and rebuilding.
The saving of energy and raw material is considerable.
The dock areas of London have been derelict for 20 years.
Ever since large container ships began to use the seaports,
the warehouses that stored the goods shipped up the Thames
from all parts of the world became obsolete.
In the '60s and '70s, many were pulled down
and replaced by undistinguished buildings.
In recent years, a hectic restoration programme has been put in motion.
The whole area has become one of the most active building sites in London,
a paradise for speculators and developers.
The New Concordia Wharf was built in 1885.
It was commissioned by a wealthy grain merchant who named it
after the town of Concordia in Missouri
where much of the grain came from.
The building served as a grain store for nearly a century.
In 1980, threatened with demolition,
the wharf was bought by a young developer who restored the building
for private and partly commercial use.
The original architecture has been retained where possible.
The brick was chemically cleaned and the parapets and sills restored.
Where new windows were needed, they were matched to the original.
Inside, many of the original features are preserved.
Past centuries preserved only what was precious,
exemplary or sumptuous - castles, cathedrals.
Now we preserve not only for symbolic, but for other reasons -
for sentimentality, for decorativeness, for continuity.
Recording and saving our past has become a widespread concern.
A gregarious society collects.
We all have become collectors of relics,
many of us with an eye on profit
rather than out of a genuine desire to preserve.
One should conserve all buildings that still have a value,
whether it's a human value, because people love it or remember it
or remember people who lived there
or actually like the appearance of it.
I also include a value in resource terms, that it may actually
be more economic to keep buildings
than to pull them down and rebuild them.
Of course we should preserve, but you have to preserve the very best.
You can't preserve everything.
The evolvement of a nation's culture is a continuing process.
So when you are preserving today,
you've got to bear in mind what the people in the future
are going to think about what you've preserved,
and when you are designing for today, you have an obligation to the future
to demonstrate the best that today could do.
And I think if we don't stop doing pastiche
and if we don't stop preserving indifferent buildings,
the future will look back on us
and say, "They really didn't do what they should do."
And you can learn about the future by looking back,
and if you look back now, you can see how vigorous
the patrons and designers of the past were.
They were totally committed to the present.
NARRATOR: The many insensitive ways
in which architects have dealt with an old environment
has made us afraid of modern solutions.
Previous centuries seem to have had more courage
and stronger convictions.
In St James's Street, London,
a row of houses built over a period of 200 years
seems to create no discord.
They acknowledge each other, enter into discourse.
Yet when they were first built,
each new addition must have come as a total shock.
We seem to accept the red brick next to the Georgian sandstone.
Nobody, except historians, is unduly worried
about the total break in the window line.
Why are so may people alienated by the latest addition to St James's?
Have we become so familiar with the architectural language of the past
that Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian styles all form a unit in our minds
while the language of the modern architects strikes a wrong note?
This office building by Tripos is a blatantly modern building.
Like the others, it makes few concessions to its neighbours.
It should soon be regarded as an equal partner, contributing its share
to the patchwork of the street made up over a span of 200 years.
It is vital that each period leaves its imprint.
When a modern building, like this one by Timothy Rendle,
matches the quality of the old one, the style seems immaterial.
Good quality transcends time.
Otherwise we end up with nothing but buildings like this...
MAN: We have lost nerve, because it's so much easier to look back,
to copy the past rather than move forward.
Any new buildings are put behind old facades,
and, as William Morris said, that is the most terrible thing you can do
to an old building - use it as a death mask.
And it advances you nowhere at all
because you don't get a good new building
and you've lost your original old building.
If you only keep the facade, what point is there keeping even that?
The fashionable German architect, Helmut Jahn,
was commissioned to extend Chicago's Board of Trade, built in 1930.
Helmut Jahn's openly declared love affair
with skyscrapers of the Art Deco period made him an obvious candidate.
Synthesis is one of Jahn's favourite words - blending between old and new.
Jahn has added a black-and-silver building.
Its glittering grid looks like a Rolls-Royce car grille -
sophisticated and chic.
The glass panes are a striking contrast
to the buff-coloured limestone of the old building.
The rather squat shape does not obscure the original skyscraper
by Holabird and Root.
A new trading floor for the largest commodity market in the world
was the main reason for this extension.
Jahn has created a large,
column-free space on the third floor of the building.
Above it rises a soaring atrium 12 storeys high.
It is a technical tour de force.
The outside wall of the old building
has become the inside wall of the new one,
creating a clear visual link between the old and the new wing.
The inside of the old Board of Trade is a marvel of Art Deco style -
mirrored surfaces, black marble and ivory carving.
Jahn repeats some of it in the entrance hall to his new extension.
The motif of the scallop echoes the lush decoration in the old part
in its various forms and sizes.
Of course, the obsession of the 1930s with elegant surface detail
can no longer be reproduced.
A closer look at the new decoration reveals a distinct deterioration.
Plastic will never be the same as lacquer.
Where the new building gains over the old one is in its use of space.
The architect has employed the modern findings of technology
to create a dazzling atrium.
The decorations are still historical,
but in its spaciousness, and in its openly acknowledged eclecticism,
it is the building of the 1980s.
In many places, the lack of the past makes people invent one.
The dividing line between the genuine
and the fabricated past is getting thinner.
Imitation villages and replicas of old buildings
are springing up everywhere.
This is not a medieval festival in Italy,
it is a commercial for a television station
being shot in the court of the recently finished
new arts centre in Miami.
This blatantly historical building
is the work of America's number-one architect, Philip Johnson,
a man able to play with any style.
For Miami, with a very large Cuban population,
he has opted for this pseudo-Spanish architecture.
With its cheap imitations of a vernacular style,
it is not only a betrayal of the past,
but also an appalling sell-out of modern architecture.
The flimsiness of the ironwork
and the fake old street lamps might fool the viewers of the commercial,
but a second-rate Spanish pastiche is exactly what Miami did not need.
In its quaintness, it is hopelessly provincial. It lacks any urbanity.
A stunning contemporary and urbane building
would have been more appropriate
in a town striving to put itself on the architectural map.
WOMAN: It is a most superficial kind of pastiche.
And I am not against history.
I'm a historian,
I am not against using history.
But I believe in the intelligent
and responsible use
of whatever source you want to quote...
..within the requirements of society,
of the programme for the building,
of the need, of the use for the building.
I don't think there's a great building
that doesn't answer these questions.
And I think you feel it the minute you see it
and walk into the building.
NARRATOR: This is a new office building in Soho.
It is the work of Quinlan Terry, an ardent classicist.
Terry built a replica of a Georgian town house.
It is an attempt to recreate the architecture of the 18th century
with scrupulous attention to detail.
The building technique and finish
are based on genuine 18th-century formulas.
The building cannot hide a certain wooden expression.
However pleasant to the eye, it does not breathe life.
Buildings are a reflection of a certain lifestyle,
certain views of the world.
When these change, buildings must also change.
MAN: You get this kind of schizophrenia
when you have an office building
by Quinlan Terry which looks like, I don't know what,
some kind of housing stock on the outside,
but it's ultramodern on the interior.
You could say that this schism is very much part of modern life
but I think the positive...
positive achievements of the earlier 20th century
was a confidence in its own time
and a refusal to kind of split life in this way, you know,
in such a kind of schizophrenic way.
So, I think we've got to come back at some point, rather,
to a confidence in our own capacity, you know,
and our own capacity to build sensitively and realistically
with the materials or sources and instruments of our own epoch.
NARRATOR: Frankfurt had an old famous city centre.
It was almost totally destroyed by bombs.
After the war, the remains were cleared away
to make room for modern solutions.
These were meant to improve people's lives.
Instead, they turned Frankfurt
into one of Germany's ugliest post-war cities.
During the last ten years,
the city fathers decided to improve their image.
3,000 buildings were given a preservation order
and Frankfurt began to restore many of its old sites.
This is the old town square of the city.
The houses look as though they have survived several centuries.
They were, in fact, built in 1985.
After the war, all that remained were remnants of the town hall
and a badly damaged church.
Over the years some rebuilding was done.
The various schemes reflect how our attitude towards restoration
has radically changed during the last 30 years.
The houses built in the 1950s
try at least to keep to the scale of the original square.
Then, in the '60s, the city opted for a modern building
opposite the oldest remaining timber-framed house.
The perpetrators of this act of vandalism, believe it or not,
are, in fact, the keepers of our cultural inheritance.
This is the museum of history.
There is no doubt that the latest reconstruction is popular.
The old town square has again become the parlour of Frankfurt,
with an eye, as it is always nowadays, on commercial success.
Boutiques and restaurants
thrive in this sort of Hansel and Gretel architecture.
The nostalgia of today is for Italian piazzas and cobblestone streets,
but we want them without dirt, disorder, without the ugly grey.
In short, we want history, but it has to be dry-cleaned.
GERMAN MAN: Many people make fun about them,
especially the intellectuals, of course.
Whereas the people of Frankfurt, they like them because they are...
somehow signs and symbols of remembrance, of the past,
of that what Frankfurt has been before the war.
And if one respects that desire of people,
that at least on one place some of these houses have been reconstructed
and showed the former structure of the city,
I think it's worthwhile to do it.
One should not take these houses serious.
One should not take them as real. They are not real.
They are something... They are symbols, like I say,
they are signs, for something that has been, and that's all.
NARRATOR: Frankfurt also possessed a splendid example
of a 19th-century opera house, designed by Richard Lucae.
It, too, fell victim to the bombs.
The new opera house, built after the war,
was very much in line with modern theatre building -
functional, with no symbolic meaning or atmosphere.
Recently, it was decided to rebuild the old opera house as a concert hall
and conference centre.
The badly damaged building was totally gutted,
the facade skilfully restored and repainted.
The present change has sharpened our eyes to the quality of past buildings
and to craftsmanship.
After the destruction of most ornament,
we begin to value the rich language of the 19th-century architecture.
The inside has been totally adapted to modern needs.
A new concert hall was hung into the old frame,
allowing for better seating arrangements.
The old entrance hall, leading into the new foyer,
was faithfully restored.
FAINT PIANO MUSIC
But a modern version has replaced the grand staircase,
which was too expensive to reproduce.
It is interesting to note
that the juxtaposition between the old and the new
makes one more aware of the historical elements.
Some parts of the building, like the old crush bar,
have been painstakingly restored.
Modern rooms were introduced in the upper gallery.
The restoration of Frankfurt's opera house is a good example
of how one can adapt to modern needs
without losing the advantages of the old building.
This new opera house offers all the amenities of a modern theatre.
At the same time, it responds to people's expectations
of a festive event.
"To beauty, truth and goodness," says the inscription.
This restoration is a sign of our longing to regain a bourgeois world
with the help of the props of the past.
But the people who dress up for Sunday morning concerts
are no longer motivated by the same feeling
as those for whom the original opera house was built.
The economic, social and spiritual world has altered beyond recognition.
The architecture once designed for an elite has become a stage set,
However loved, these restored buildings raise many questions.
It was Andre Malraux who said, "No man builds in a void,
"and a civilisation that breaks with the style at its disposal
"soon finds itself empty-handed."
Some architects are using the style at their disposal.
Restoring a building can also mean the fusing of old and new.
The south bank of the River Main at Frankfurt came through the war
It boasted many fine villas,
which the town gradually purchased to turn into museums.
The whole river bank will eventually become a museum area,
stretching for over a mile.
Several famous architects are engaged to create postal, film, fine arts
and architecture museums.
We did not make the decision like the Parisians made,
the decision really to tear down the whole centre
of one certain part of Paris
and to build that huge Centre Pompidou
which is almost a museums machine,
containing five different museums under one roof,
in one container.
We decided to split up these functions
and use all the different houses lined up on the Main, all of them,
to make small museums out of them - small is beautiful.
You still have contact,
you still can relate to as a person, as an individual,
which is why they're small.
NARRATOR: The architecture museum is a neoclassical villa
built in 1901.
It was totally gutted, rebuilt and extended at the back and sides.
The architect for this conversion was Oswald Mathias Ungers.
Ungers left the facade
but added a reddish sandstone base upon which the old villa sits.
He grafted his new building onto the old one.
A newly created arcade leads into the entrance hall.
Here it becomes immediately clear
how much the architect has imposed his own language.
The older villa is only the shell for the complex.
Ungers built a modern house within an old house.
It's an ingenious idea, intriguing, like a Russian doll.
The house becomes an exhibit.
What could be more appropriate for an architecture museum?
Being a postmodern building,
it, of course, cannot resist quoting.
The glass roof is a citation of Otto Wagner's Postsparkasse in Vienna
And the enclosed tree quotes
Le Corbusier's Pavillon de l'Esprit Moderne in Paris of 1937.
The square dominates the museum.
It runs as a theme through the entire building right down to the furniture,
also designed by Ungers, for the highly flexible lecture theatre.
A little further along the river is Frankfurt's latest acquisition,
the museum of fine arts, by the American architect, Richard Meier,
an expert in museum building.
Meier was also given an old villa dated from 1803.
But he opted to leave the old building alone
and construct an extension.
The square ground plan of the villa
is repeated in all its variations,
right down to the grid and the windows.
The new building forms an angle almost embracing the old villa -
a solution which creates a harmonious balance between old and new.
Meier links the two buildings by a dramatic bridge
which seems to pierce the heart of the old house.
Richard Meier's buildings
are like the realisations of Le Corbusier's dreams.
They are the last outpost of modernism, and yet, like Ungers,
they are of our time.
Everywhere nature is allowed to enter, creating airiness and light,
which counteracts any impression of monumentality.
MAN: Because the building as an addition, because of the site
and the park and the existing trees,
the idea of the building,
the concept of the organisation of the building
is one which is extroverted, it looks out, it reaches out, it...
Also the...the notion of the European curator
towards the use of natural light within the museum
allowed for the use of windows in all of the gallery spaces
so that wherever you are, you're looking out into the gardens,
into the city.
NARRATOR: As in his Atlanta museum, the inside features a long ramp,
giving a sense of progression through space.
The visit becomes a journey.
Making museum spaces is a very difficult task.
A neutral space is often the best way to see an object,
but it is also the most boring.
On the other hand, a lively, interesting space
often competes with the exhibits.
Meier breaks up the monotony of too large a space
with a highly flexible architectural solution,
often heightening the dramatic effect of the objects.
Smaller spaces alternate with larger ones.
Both adaptations, Ungers and Meier, show how modern architecture
can deal with an old structure and turn it into a building of our time.
Pale copies of the past,
pale distillations of old messages, do not echo any meanings.
Only strong and assured solutions
reflect the three dimensions of the past, the present and the future.
First transmitted in 1986, Stop the Bulldozer looks at the conflict between conservationists and those who feel that conservation at all costs is inhibiting contemporary architecture.
This programme examines the reconstruction of the historic centre of Frankfurt and the revitalised shopping malls of America, amongst others; whilst Terry Farrell discusses his design of the TV-am building.