Monday, 10 December 2012

The Romance Of Modernism

There is a strange public opinion which holds that Modernist architects were in some way destructive rather than creative forces, as if their work was a deliberate and spiteful attempt to blot our landscapes with huge and unwieldly blocks of concrete. The opinion is usually based on the misconception that these new buildings were erected on the sites of half beam Tudor houses or whatever heritage buildings the Luftwaffe failed to bomb, and reinforced by the fact that this style of building has fallen out of fashion, and surviving examples are often neglected and unsympathetically treated.

Basil Spence (1907-1976) was a Modernist, but he was also a romantic, an idealist, influenced as much by the ancient as the modern, and by his hugely enthusiastic, almost child like view of the world (the short film below confirms this: not only does he say how much he admires children's art, he also sticks his tongue out while sketching, like a kid concentrating on drawing a castle). I don't have a massive amount to say about his buildings, other than that I like them enormously and I know that he created them in anticipation of a braver, newer world that still hasn't materialised.   

Life Guard Barracks, Hyde Park

Cannongate, Edinburgh

Glasgow Airport

Scottish Widows Building, Dalkeith

Swiss Cottage Library

British Embassy, Rome
Here's a short film that gives you a flavour of where Sir Basil was coming from, as well as featuring fantastic archive footage of some of his greatest works. The series is called 'The Pacemakers', and it documents 'people who change the world they live in'. Sir Basil certainly did that and, in terms of setting the pace, we still haven't caught up yet.

With regard to that idea that Modernists were insensitive to the requirements of real people, here's Spence's self-designed  holiday home in Beaulieu, Hampshire: he practiced what he preached - at the weekend, anyway.

1 comment:

  1. Superb. See Sir Basil meeting a fellow Modernist hero, on a blog commemorating another architectural icon here: