Wednesday, 18 November 2009

The Architectural Consequences of the Berlin Wall

NEO-HISTORICAL EAST BERLIN Florian Urban (Technische Universitat Berlin)

"In all central areas of East Berlin one finds prefab blocks from the 1980s that show similarities to the adjacent late-nineteenth-century tenements and to other historical styles. They were erected on the block perimeter from precast concrete parts and adorned with loggias, gables, bay windows, tile ornaments, and mosaics. Neo-historical relics such as ornamented street signs, cast-iron lampposts, period gift shops, newly built “Old Berlin restaurants,” and a number of partially remodeled late-nineteenth-century neighborhoods bear witness to a new popularity of the old city in the last decades of the German Democratic Republic. How can this change be explained? Why has the East German regime, which for decades thought modernist architecture to be the only appropriate expression of a socialist system, all of a sudden represented itself with rebuilt gothic and baroque churches, remodeled nineteenth-century residences, and newly erected pseudo-historical department stores? Why did East Berlin architects design arbors and ornamented façades in the center, while at the same time the large tower block developments on the periphery were still under construction?"

This timely new book, the first in the Ashgate Studies in Architecture series I am editing, has just been published. Future books in the series include contributions from Frank Brown (University of Manchester), Jan Birksted (University College London) and Duanfang Lu (University of Sydney).

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Ten Years After

Julian Holder's review of MANCHESTER ARCHITECTURE GUIDE appeared in The Architects' Journal 27 May 1999

Nearly 10 years ago Deyan Sudjic ridiculed Manchester's aspirations to bid for the Olympics in the year 2000 by reason that its architectural character was defined by razor wire, security doors and industrial warehouses, writes Julian Holder. Since then a lot has changed, not least through losing the Olympics bid and having the heart blown out of the city by the ira.

With the wraps now coming off new buildings at a rate of knots, this guide is a timely contribution to the current renaissance of architecture and civic pride in Manchester. The last such guide was by Dennis Sharp in 1966. Then a Victorian building such as the Midland Railway Hotel was ridiculed for terracotta that looked like 'jellied liver'. Like it or not (and not so long ago we didn't), such commercial architecture is one of the glories of Manchester, while some of its public buildings created new standards in the nineteenth century.

If it's a while since you've seen Manchester, this handsome guide, genuinely pocket-sized, will be an eye-opener. This is not merely for the exciting new works it illustrates, such as Stephenson Bell's Quay Bar, but for the quality of James White's photographs, which give a Claudian golden glow to the former 'rainy city'. Courtesy of global warming, this reputation is now undeserved as Manchester has, allegedly, a lower annual rainfall than Madrid. In truth, you have to get up early on a summer morning to see the city quite like this, but the photographs make you want to.

With an authoritative introduction by John Archer, the guide's only danger is being overtaken by the present rapid pace of development in Manchester. Descriptions of the 69 sites, from the thirteenth-century Chetham's School to Calatrava's Trinity Bridge of 1996, are brief but sensitive, and the layout and overall design are excellent. Given the number of visitors expected for the Commonwealth Games in 2002, it should be a winner. Aimed at the incomer and tourist, the guide has useful maps for the six colour- coded routes around the city centre, together with suggestions for eating and drinking, a glossary, and an index of architects. It is a model that many other cities could follow in search of the heritage pound.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009


The following review by Antonio Machado appeared in his blog ODESPROPOSITO April 14 2007

Para evitar a chatice dos anónimos comentários de humildes mas "engenhosos" deputados, perdão, de humildes arquitectos, sinto-me compelido à escrita desta hesitante (e adiada) posta sobre as minhas actuais leituras.
Estou em ler (não "ando" a ler, como o "outro", até porque eu praticamente não ando - eu "conduzo" - e não estou para chocar, a alta velocidade, com nenhum poste...), estou em ler, portanto(s), e como ia escrevendo, o Modern Architecture Through Case Studies 1945 - 1990 de Peter Blundell Jones (PBJ) & Eamonn Canniffe. Vende-se com o prometedor subtítulo Divergence Within the Post-War Consensus, que não consta (mistério...) do meu "papper". (Ter-se-á, o sub-titulo, com o vento, perdido no caminho?)
Como o titulo indica, o livro analisa 45 anos da história da arquitectura através do "Case Studie" de 18 obras de outros tantos autores, começando na (indiscutível) Eames House, e acabando na Sainsbury Wing (vá lá, vá... do... "isso"...) passando por Aldo Van Eyck, Stirling, Scarpa, Erskine, Foster, Rossi e Eisenman, entre outros (realmente) menos... "batidos".
Os autores e as obras escolhidas seriam sempre motivo de discórdia... estas (maiores de) 18, parecem ter sido escolhidas em função da sua representatividade na obra de autores representativos (pois...) das diversas práticas e debates da arquitectura "moderna" do pós-guerra, "ignorando" ou preterindo a obra "final" (e nada "tardia"...) dos mestres (modernos) da primeira geração, Aalto, Corbusier, Mies (mas também de Louis Kahn...), sem as quais as minhas boas memórias da arquitectura da segunda metade do sec. XX, desaparecem ("apagadas"...) em (country) "Void".
Outros "minor defects" a apontar? A preferência por uma selecção demasiado (5 em 18) "centro-europeia" (até a obra do... "esse"... é a secret Masterpiece na "Old Europe") e angló-fona (5 em 16 das 18). Falta o Japão, a Asia... e na Europa, os "periféricos" (e só para não sair da letra "Z"...), Utzon ou Siza. Falta... enfim... não interessa ir por aí, até porque o livro é (comme d' habitude...) muito bom.
Só para ler a valente cacetada da "conclusion", no emergente "starchitetc" dos globais (pós "queda do muro" e pós primeira guerra do golfo...) noventas, ou para ler sobre o (state of) architectural "denial" da Eames House, já teria (terá) valido a pena.
Fica a recomendação.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Temple of Alatri

Adolfo Cozza's reconstruction of the Etruscan temple at the Villa Giulia, Rome
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