Old Manchester Town Hall 1834-1912

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Architecture in the raw

Photographed just before its destruction in 1912 Manchester’s pre-Waterhouse Town Hall was the subject of study by students at the Manchester School of Architecture published in 1915.

Few buildings of this quality have ever been demolished except during a war. Empty of people, furniture, and paintings with flecks of debris on the uncovered floor we see its spaces in their purest form.

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The Economics of the Ideal Villa

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…or In a Recession Classicism is King

Is it a sure sign of a housing market in crisis when innovative design gives way to a rather more bankable product? 2001, perhaps in retrospect the high-water mark of Cool Britannia, saw Kathryn Findlay of Ushida Findlay Architects win a RIBA competition for the design of a new country house. Her starfish inspired Grafton New Hall offered the prospect of a contemporary (if private) landmark. Seven years on, and in more chastened financial circumstances, the news emerges that an altogether more familiar design is to be built by Robert Adam Architects. As Edina Clouds (we kid you not) a correspondent to the always finely attuned Manchester Evening News remarked: yet another example of excess and bad taste

To which project is she referring?

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The Independent: Dead in the water

The Judicious Eye

For summer reading CiA recommends Joseph Rykwert’s “The Judicious Eye: Architecture against The Other Arts” (Reaktion 2008). Provoked by the discontinuity between the contemporary architectural environment and artistic practice Professor Rykwert charts the history of the relationship between architecture and the fine, decorative and applied arts over the past two centuries.

He discusses the many proposals to produce a total aesthetic experience, from Percier and Fontaine’s delicate neoclassicism to the various products of the Bauhaus. Despite the optimism of this synthesising project and the critical acclaim with which each attempt was received, his conclusion is that this process has failed in its purpose. He paints the following dispiriting but familiar picture:

Object-buildings, whether high-tech or Emirate style, occupy the soil in the same way and make the same demands on their users. They are similarly separated by atrophied and wind-swept semi-public spaces that seem to cry out for some garnish, some tonic to articulate the ground level. That is usually provided by an out-of-scale and arbitrarily-shaped sculptural object.

Despite this contemporary scenario, after the weaving of a magisterial history of the relationship between architecture, art and design Rykwert holds out a guardedly optimistic hope that “they will, of course, continue to weave into other unpredictable patterns which will be conditioned by pressures at which, like my reader, I can only guess.”

Amazon link

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For how this synthesis might effect The City, The Building, The Room watch this space.