Download Bleak Houses: Disappointment and Failure in Architecture by Timothy Brittain-Catlin PDF

By Timothy Brittain-Catlin

The standard heritage of structure is a grand narrative of hovering monuments and heroic makers. however it is usually a fake narrative in lots of methods, infrequently acknowledging the non-public mess ups and disappointments of architects. In Bleak homes, Timothy Brittain-Catlin investigates the bottom of structure, the tales of losers and unfulfillment usually neglected by way of an architectural feedback that values novelty, repute, and virility over fallibility and rejection. Brittain-Catlin tells us approximately Cecil Corwin, for instance, Frank Lloyd Wright’s good friend companion, who used to be so beaten through Wright’s genius that he needed to cease designing; approximately architects whose surviving constructions are marooned and mutilated; and approximately others who suffered variously from undesirable mood, exile, loss of expertise, loss of documentation, the inaccurate neighbors, or being out of style.

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

Architecture critics, Brittain-Catlin indicates, may possibly study anything from novelists approximately tips on how to write approximately constructions. Alan Hollinghurst within the Stranger’s baby, for instance, and Elizabeth Bowen in Eva Trout vividly evoke memorable homes. pondering like novelists, critics may see what architectural losers supply: episodic, sentimental methods of taking a look at structures that relate to our personal event, classes discovered from undesirable examples which could make constructions larger.

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Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta, Malta, were all losers. Courtesy of the author. 42 CHAPTER 1 design the London County Hall, the city’s municipal headquarters, on an unequalled prominent site diagonally across the Thames from the Palace of Westminster. Knott’s original design was criticized bitterly by unsuccessful competitors—Lutyens, in particular—and all the grandeur and élan that it originally had were forced out of it, bit by bit. He did not live to see its completion—he died “quite suddenly” in 1929, according to a biographer, aged only 50, possibly wrecked by drink.

He was the runner-up in a competition to rebuild a well-known school in Preston, Lancashire, in 1919: the winning scheme, by Stanley Adshead, a Regency-style architect then on the way up, looks like a weaker version of Field’s own design. And although Lloyds’ directors seem to have been happy with Field, he never became “the bank architect,” and was never awarded the most prestigious jobs: in fact, his Wealdstone branch of 1903, described in my introduction, marks the high point of his bank-building career.

But I think his talent seemed to have failed him too, and he had no new ideas; the economic situation after the First World War made it very difficult for an old-fashioned, second-rate designer to attract ambitious clients. His later projects almost parody the idiosyncrasies of his earlier ones, with grossly inflated doorcases and consoles. And—perhaps most devastatingly—there is not a single canonical history of Western, or British, or English architecture that has anything to say at all about Field’s various genres, even though examples of them are on every British high street; these histories are written by a different sort of person, the kind of person for whom the sentimental or romantic architecture of the beginning of the twentieth century remains a sideshow.

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