Wednesday, August 10

“It’s a monstrous building”, “this ridiculous abortion”: in defense of ‘ugly architecture’ | Architecture | ICON Design

In February 1887, nearly fifty writers, painters, sculptors, architects and other “passionate enthusiasts of the hitherto intact beauty of Paris” published a manifesto in the newspaper. The weather. They protested “in the name of French good taste, art and history threatened, against the erection in the heart of our capital, of the useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower.” That campaign was useless. The immense popular success that it garnered during the Universal Exhibition of 1889 turned that “abortion of a ridiculous and thin profile of a factory chimney”, as it had been described by Guy de Maupassant, into a monument that has been overwhelming all who visit for 132 years. the City of Light, including the most cruel and heartless.

Construction of the Eiffel Tower, Paris, for the Universal Exhibition on April 15, 1888.
Construction of the Eiffel Tower, Paris, for the Universal Exhibition on April 15, 1888.Roger Viollet / Roger Viollet via Getty Images

This same story has been repeated dozens of times. The architecture seems interesting, and not necessarily good, It differs from “pure shit” – as Frank Gehry described in 2014 “98% of the buildings that are built now” – in that it must provoke emotions. Emotions and, unfortunately, opinions. In May 1984, Prince Charles gave his opinion on the project for the expansion of the National Gallery of London performed by Ahrends, Burton and Koralek. It seemed ugly to him. He called it “a monstrous boil on the face of a good friend.” Those words motivated the original design to be replaced by a solution palliative, by Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi, which we can see today in Trafalgar Square. “Your opinion is the only thing to which you have no right as sovereign “, Mary of Teck could say to her granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II. Too bad good advice isn’t hereditary.

It must be a matter of the nobility, because to Franz Joseph I, Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, and King of Bohemia, modern architecture seemed as ugly as it did to the Prince of Wales. It is said that he ordered to cover all the windows of the Hofburg Imperial Palace from which you could see the building that Adolf Loos designed on Vienna’s Michaelerplatz (1910-1911). Contrary to the decorative excesses of the Viennese architecture of the time, Loos projected a completely bare facade, without any type of decorative motif, as he had defended in Ornament and crime (1908), a fundamental manifesto for the architectural modernity that began to take shape at the beginning of the 20th century. The local press began a smear campaign against the project (cartoons were published comparing the project to a manhole cover) and the controversy reached such a point that the authorities suspended the works. The architect was forced to introduce modifications to make his building less ugly and to be able to finish its construction. What did? He put up some flower pots.

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Looshaus, designed by architect Adolf Loos in 1910 on the Michaelerplatz in central Vienna on January 17, 2018.
Looshaus, designed by architect Adolf Loos in 1910 on the Michaelerplatz in central Vienna on January 17, 2018. VLADIMIR SIMICEK / Getty Images

As with the Eiffel Tower, again it was the artists who spoke out against the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York, 1956-1959), by Frank Lloyd Wright. A total of 21, including the masters of abstract expressionism Willem de Kooning and Robert Motherwell, signed a letter of protest in which they refused to display their work at the museum. The project consisted of a large helical ramp, whose curved and sloping walls described an exhibition space that transgressed all the standards for art containers applied for centuries. In addition to being weird on the inside, the building was ugly on the outside. Critics compared it to a washing machine or “an inverted bowl of oatmeal”, while Norman Mailer said it “destroyed the mood of the neighborhood.” At almost one hundred years old, “the best architect of the 19th century” – as Philip Johnson liked to say with all the bad milk in the world – signed a building that was too modern and radical for the very modern New York and its extremely radical artists. In 2019, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Aerial view of the Guggenheim Museum by Frank Lloyd Wright on February 11, 1977 in New York.
Aerial view of the Guggenheim Museum by Frank Lloyd Wright on February 11, 1977 in New York.Santi Visalli / Getty Images

Although it also includes a happy ending made in UNESCO, the history of the Sydney Opera (1959-1973), by Jørn Utzon, was much more gruesome. Poorly planned works that delayed the completion of the work for a decade over the agreed deadlines, cost overruns that multiplied the initial budget by 15, contractual shenanigans and endless personal tensions between Utzon and the local authorities, forced the architect to resign and abandon the project. That scandal acquired a national dimension, and divided public opinion for and against the building. Utzon was declared persona non grata by the Australian Government, and his name was not even mentioned on the opening day of his work. Now, his characteristic profile is stamped on stamps and coins.

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The streets of post-revolutionary 1960s Paris sang once again the “too modern for this city” when Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers erected in the beautiful and historic 4th district the ugly and ultra-modern Center Pompidou (1971-1977), a kind of oil rig full of scaffolding, ladders and colored pipes. That irreverence high-tech it didn’t go down too well. The world He then published that “this jingoistic fanfare by a pop band” was “a violation of Paris.” Thick words for the second most visited museum in France, only behind the Louvre.

The Lloyd's Building, in London, designed by British architect Richard Rogers.
The Lloyd’s Building, in London, designed by British architect Richard Rogers.Kevin George / Alamy Stock Photo

Immediately after that, Rogers, already without Piano, would go back to bet on the technological scandal in a historical setting with the Lloyd’s Building (1978-1986), a very ugly tower in the middle of the City of London. In a gesture halfway between respect and provocation, the architect kept the façade of the former headquarters of Lloyd’s of London, a neoclassical building built in 1928. Its Portland stone coffered semi-dome would serve as access to one of the most amazing interior spaces of 20th century architecture.

Brutalist architecture has been, for a few years, the object of this process of adaptation of the collective architectural palate. In the middle of the last century, in the empire of rough concrete the sun did not set: since Chandigarh until LondonThrough Belgrade, Boston, Madrid, Marseille or São Paulo, new and old democracies, communist dictatorships, prestigious cultural institutions and housing ministries seeded the planet with an architecture that no one seemed to like. For reasons that cannot be determined with exactitude, in the early 1990s, “young architects, designers and painters began to revel in such much-touted buildings as the Trellick Tower designed by architect Erno Goldfinger, a 31-year-old concrete block of flats. terrifyingly brutal flats that cast a monumental shadow over West London’s bohemian interior, ”explains architectural critic Jonathan Glancey in Brutalism: How unpopular buildings came back in fashion. Overnight, those concrete monstrosities that scandalized half the world were no longer ugly.

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Palace of Festivals, designed by Francisco Javier Saenz de Oiza, in Santander, Cantabria.
Palace of Festivals, designed by Francisco Javier Saenz de Oiza, in Santander, Cantabria.Alamy Stock Photo

What will be the next ugly architecture to switch sides? There are those who believe that the time has come for the redemption of postmodernism. We are faced with a movement dangerous, that dragged masters of the stature of Francisco Javier Sáenz de Oiza to its uncertain quicksand, as demonstrated by the Cantabria Festival Palace (Santander, 1986-1990). Although judging Oiza’s outstanding work by this building would be like judging the Beatles by Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, we will see who can be seduced with those salads of classic orders of colors and Disney characters turned into caryatids. Meanwhile, postmodernism has already put its first pike in Flanders: in 2018 the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC, the commission for the preservation of iconic places in New York) incluyó al AT&T Building (1984), by Philip Johnson and John Burgee, in the category of protected building, placing this skyscraper in the shape of a rococo closet among the most important works of architecture in New York.

Today’s ugly architecture continues to attract contempt, more or less founded. In our country, the Mirador Building (Madrid, 2005), of MVRDV and Blanca Lleó, is, without a doubt, one of the most hated works and, dare I say, also one of the most misunderstood, of the skyline from Madrid. Banner of the best years of the Municipal Housing and Land Company of Madrid prior to the bursting of the real estate bubble, the MVRDV and Lleó project belongs to that group of residential buildings that combined unconventional interior spatial solutions with a risky exterior appearance , diametrically opposed to the tedious monotony of the PAUs on the outskirts of the Spanish capital. Despite its countless successes, every time the Mirador Building is discussed, the accent is almost always on its problems. For the vast majority, it is an ugly building. Nothing more.

But ugly architecture takes time. It is possible that, after a few years, the Mirador Building will stop being ugly and will be one of the most beloved in Madrid. If not, it is not serious either. You already know that “doctors cover their mistakes with dirt, lawyers with papers and architects advise to put plants”, as Frank Lloyd Wright once said. I wonder which jungle we will have to go to when we decide to cover the Torres WHAT once and for all.

This building called Mirador, designed by the MVRDV studio, is a residential suburb in the extreme northeast of Madrid.
This building called Mirador, designed by the MVRDV studio, is a residential suburb in the extreme northeast of Madrid.Alamy Stock Photo

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