Friday, 16 July 2010
Brutalism. Modernisms ugly brother
So as I eat lunch at London's Barbican once in a while I wonder what makes this Brutalist piece such a success within the context of London. Its vast harsh skinned space is a desired location for so many Londoners searching for some of there "own breathing space" and silence while the rest of the London streets are packed and loud during week days. The Barbican is like Oscar Niemeyers Brazilia only maybe more...human?
Brazilia when built was a monument of modernists obsession to reach order and purity. Its what I like to think a perfect example of an architect combining modernism+architecture rather then humanity+architecture. This Utopian dream of white washed order and pure forms became brutal, dirty and it became a ghost land of vast wasted space. Nature and humanity therefore acted against it.
Barbican on the other hand was brutal from the very beginning. The ugly one within the context of the city. Rough skin, imposing sharp angled towers which stand tall...Quasimodo on the Notre Dame bell towers. But then what happened?
People reacted against it in a different manner. Londoners with there capability of keeping things in order...clean and tidy...like a tea party, taking care of modernism's ugly brother. Every balcony now contains lush colored flowers and plants. The area is swept twice a day and therefore the clean concrete ramps lead your eyes to the towers in the sky...in a funny way it all works. As I eat my sandwich I love it...my hands touch the stoned surface of its skin. Within this structure totally resembling imperfect humanity there is light and color. The Barbican is a dramatic backdrop to life in the city. It amplifies very little thing, the flowers and palms on the balconies, the child's smile, the sunshine...but also the stormy sky. I enjoy the way the Barbican makes you notice the rest of the world around you. In the eyes of modernisms ugly brother there is hope to something more beautiful in its relationship to the rest of the city. This is to say that the Barbican was an experiment which reacted with the context of London at the right time and place in a healthy and successful way.
London being a city of monuments should not be afraid to embrace experimentation. Of course there have been many examples of bad architectural experimentation...many would say more bad then good...but we must introduce the optimism and action for the better stuff. In fact because of this lack of a fresh eye and confidence London has put all its effort in undoing modernism and concentrating on preservation...this is dumb and expensive. So lets not make mediocre architecture that provokes a negative response. Lets make new architecture that invites humanity to live and take action rather then sleep walk through out daily lives totaly not inspired by the growing city.