Bleak houses : disappointment and failure in architecture by Timothy J. Brittain-Catlin

By Timothy J. Brittain-Catlin

The ordinary historical past of structure is a grand narrative of hovering monuments and heroic makers. however it is usually a fake narrative in lots of methods, hardly acknowledging the private mess ups and disappointments of architects. In Bleak Houses, Timothy Brittain-Catlin investigates the bottom of structure, the tales of losers and unfulfillment frequently overlooked via an architectural feedback that values novelty, reputation, and virility over fallibility and rejection.

As architectural feedback promotes more and more slender values, brushing aside convinced types wholesale and subjecting constructions to a Victorian litmus try out of "real" as opposed to "fake," Brittain-Catlin explains the impression this superficial criticality has had not just on architectural discourse yet at the caliber of constructions. the truth that such a lot constructions obtain no serious scrutiny in any respect has ended in great stretches of gruesome glossy housing and a pervasive public illiteracy approximately architecture.

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Gifted, hardworking architects 22 CHAPTER 1 can lose battles about style, or politics; they can choose a path which is unpopular or unfashionable, and as a result be pretty much forgotten. They can be a person who recoils from the overwhelmingly macho nature of most architectural criticism, or from the small cliques that influence or even decide what is fashionable. In small countries, for example Israel and the Nordic countries, these cliques can be tiny, a kind of dictatorship of opinion that survives because there is no bulk of opposition to it, or because simple, strong alliances can be forged between cultural critics and politicians.

44 An architectural story about either of these two should be about anything other than what conventional architectural history might expect from them. Alongside the mutilators are the loser-architects who built over the ruins of fine buildings that were destroyed to accommodate them: we have seen the case of Herbert Baker, hopelessly trying to defend the almost indefensible act of being party to the destruction of Soane’s 44 CHAPTER 1 Bank of England and then trying to disguise it. The architects of the building that replaced Penn Station in New York—and their British equivalent, the Architects Department of the British Railways Board, who put up the unloved structure that replaced Thomas Hardwick’s famous propylaeum at Euston, one of London’s main train stations— are obvious examples.

6 Nobody knows whether Field fell out with his various associates, or owed his success to them; or was too nice or insufficiently ambitious to develop an assertive, growing practice. Alternatively, for that matter, whether he was too bad-tempered, or difficult to deal with. In fact little seems to be known about his personal and social life beyond his childless marriage to an artist. I have no idea whether Field saw himself as a failure, and for our purposes it does not matter either way. We can all imagine that he heard that epiphonic fanfare, time and time again; and yet nothing substantial, no real fame, no real place in the history books, ever came out of it.

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