The Secret Life of Building - Channel 4

The Secret Life of Building - Channel 4

Postby Zygnoth » Sun Aug 07, 2011 12:08 pm

Just saw the first episode of this documentary series and was wondering if anyone else has seen it.

Some of the 'science' bits in the series are a bit dubious to say the least and, in my opinion, do more harm than good. The waffle about the golden ratio seems a bit contrived as well. Overall though the series does show how small and dark a lot of the houses in Britain were built over the last 50 years...
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Re: The Secret Life of Building - Channel 4

Postby henno » Tue Aug 09, 2011 7:14 pm

last nights programme was exceptionally good.

it showcased how innovative Norman Fosters willis building was when first opened in the 70's, introducing open plan to the offical masses.
the parts about the gerkin and bland open space offices should be watched by all architects.... it put forward the big problem with 'developer driven' architecture and the lack of a specific tenant when designing office spaces.

altogether a very enjoyable interesting programme
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Re: The Secret Life of Building - Channel 4

Postby Zygnoth » Mon Aug 22, 2011 7:05 pm

I've finally caught up with episodes 2 and 3 of the series.

My mind is a bit mixed with the series currently. The buildings are beautifully shot and the interviews Tom Dyckhoff has secured are very good indeed. However, I'm getting a bit tired of the presenter. In my opinion, he seems to be working from a conclusion back to a starting position. The logic and science is very unscientific in my opinion as well. A few griefs I have:

- the Interpolis building (episode 2) vs. the Casa de Musica (episode 3). Here, Tom loves the Interpolis building - "it's quite incredible the different variety of spaces...it is really joyful, it makes you feel really happy." On the other hand, he seems at odds with the Casa de Musica for the same reason "a warren of oddly shaped rooms with clashing materials and random styles...it seems wonderfully playful...buildings can seem playful but actually add to our anxiety." The interview with the psychiatrist and staff leads him along the route of the psychotic building. What annoys me about this section is that he visits the Interpolis building during the working day - the building is in proper use - while he visits the Casa de Musica also during the working day - the building is not in proper use. The Casa de Musica is a concert hall - a venue that needs a huge number of people to make 'work'. The building is not designed to be wandered through aimlessly - more a collection of different spaces. The room with the green pyramids is a full performance space; the green pyramids being used for acoustic reasons.

- the Gherkin vs. the BMW factory (episode 2). Tom is not convinced with the Gherkin and loves the BMW factory. He argues with Lord Foster that he should have pushed for a more social atmosphere in the building - "if he can't change office culture, nobody else can challenge it." I felt that Foster was entirely justified in saying that the building wasn't just for Swiss Re and if it was, then a social element would of course make sense. The Gherkin is sitting on some of the most expensive property in London, possibly the world, and Tom seems to be naive about the economics of these buildings. The BMW factory is completely different - a huge space for a single firm. The factory is not especially tall so it can be assumed that BMW were not short on space. Here, adding a social space was an obvious choice - not so obvious with the Gherkin.

- the Gherkin vs. the Interpolis building. Tom argues that the space within the Gherkin is drab and boring, which Foster agrees with. Foster recognises that the floors can be designed better - there's no reason that Interpolis type eclectic spaces could not be used within the Gherkin and that blame can't be passed straight to Foster as an ambassador to architecture.

- Hertzberger's Centraal Beheer - no grief here. Fantastic building, still looking great.

- Bilbao Guggenheim - he seems to hate the idea of people visiting it for the building and not the museum within. I can't understand why this is considered a bad thing. There are famous buildings all around the world that people visit that are not just buildings. People don't always visit churches for the religious message contained within. People visiting London will go to the British Museum, V&A, Tate Britain, Tate Modern, etc. because their guidebooks tell them that they are great buildings - part of visiting cities involves looking at the best buildings. Gehry is probably the most famous public figure of architecture in the world (possibly after appearing on the simpsons) so it would be inevitable that this building gets visited for being itself.

- the visit to Professor Fred Gage in the Salk Institute. "Physical, scientific proof that architecture changes our brains and our bodies." Maybe it's the scientist inside me screaming out, but I just couldn't buy that this is scientific proof. I refuse to acknowledge that mice brains improving due to their toys being changes and water moved is as conclusive as the viewer is lead to believe. I agree that it is very interesting and, definitely, worth pursuing but it isn't scientific proof and Tom knows this.

I guess the fact that the buildings are being shown and the debate is opening has to be a good thing. Architecture rarely makes it into the living room so Tom Dyckhoff should be applauded for this. Personally, if somebody makes bad arguments, I find it hard to give much weight to everything else they say. Tom's insights are just not structured enough to be believable - there is a lot more work to be done.
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