Demolition

World architecture... what's happening generally....

Postby phil » Mon Nov 01, 2004 11:03 am

Yes, Diaspora I think I did take you up wrong in what you were saying. I think I attacked the concept more than the point you were really making (Because conceptually I find it very difficult to even imagine a recreated Pillar with someone else on top, but that is because I simply never saw the pillar in the first place).

The point I suppose I was making is that if a monument commemorating a specific individual had been proposed it would be hard to choose who it should be because all different social and cultural groups would more than likely have a different opinion. The point I was trying to make, to both yourself and Graham, is that I don't really think that it would be as simple as you are both making it out. God knows what sorts of massive debates there might have been if, for example, it was proposed to place St Patrick on top of a recreated Pillar! The reason the Spire works is that it does not have any emmediatly obvious meaning apart from being a landmark to define the city centre. Yes, in the early stages it probably would have got quite alot of support, but I think it would have just turned out to be a farse in the long run with the public more than likely turning their back on the project.

I know what you mean with regards to the whole concept of the 'shock of the new'. People will nearly always choose what they are familiar with and what does not pose a difficulty to them.

One thing it has made me think of is if there are any monuments around the world in which the original figure or sculpture was replaced by someone else at a different time. Of course the concept of a triumphal column such as Nelson's goes far back, but I wonder if there are any direct replacements of one person for another on the same column? I know of monuments being re-dedicated, such as the Victoria Monument in Dun Laoghaire, but I am unaware of any that have been altered so as to commemorate someone else visually.

ps, apologies for this longer than usual post.
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Re: Demolition

Postby Paul Clerkin » Mon Jan 03, 2005 9:38 pm

Celebratory demolition? The whole idea stinks

Deyan Sudjic
Sunday January 2, 2005

Observer

Here's a neat idea for a new television series. Let's get the public to nominate the six vilest books in the English language and in the grand finale, they get to burn them live on camera. No, we haven't come to that yet, but later this year, Channel 4 is offering us the next best thing. Demolition is a four-part series that promises as its climax the total destruction of a major piece of architecture. Or as Nick Kent, the executive producer, puts it: 'The final night of the series will see a spectacular celebratory demolition of one of the nation's nastiest eyesores.'
Whether or not the occupants will have been evacuated in advance, he does not say. In the run-up to the 10th anniversary of the Stirling Prize that goes each year to Britain's best building, also broadcast on Channel 4, Demolition will be inviting nominations for what they call 'the vilest building in Britain'.

Each candidate 'will be judged by a panel of experts, according to its quality of construction, scale and aesthetics'. The viewers will vote for their least favourite, which then may - or more likely, given the logistics of blowing up MI6 or Sellafield, may not - get its coup de grace on time as prime as Channel 4 has to offer.

Now, of course, there are plenty of bad buildings out there and plenty of things that I would rather that Britain could see the back of. In London's Hyde Park alone, the Queen Mother's gates or the animal war memorial; practically anything designed by Broadway Malyan, responsible for the clump of monstrous apartment blocks opposite the Tate Britain.

But even in the era of such playground bullies as Jeremy Clarkson or charisma-free Paul Burrell and Janet Street-Porter in the jungle, Demolition is a series which stands out as a stinker of an idea. It is wretchedly ill-conceived TV programming. After the appalling vision of the Twin Towers reduced to rubble or the tsunamis in the Indian Ocean, how can anybody find even a hint of the celebratory in watching a building erased from the world? To suggest that dynamite is the enlightened planner's best friend is to take us straight back to the mentality that produced so many of Britain's worst buildings in the first place. It is an offer of the quick-fix solution that is no solution.

Tear it down and build something new is the usual response of the unscrupulous politician in a hurry to make his mark, more interested to be seen to be decisive than in less photogenic, but more effective solutions to the problems of Britain's cities. There are already far too many examples of comprehensive development demolishing whole areas three times within a single lifetime.

Look at the Gorbals, whose tenements were described as vile in the 1960s when Glasgow City Council demolished them. The tower blocks that replaced them were blown up to cheers in the 1980s, and now there are already abandoned areas of two-storey housing in the city that were put up to replace the replacements.

Or look at London Wall. Depending on your taste, it was the greatest eyesore in the postwar rebuilding of London or the most impressive attempt at realising a modern grand plan, made up of a dozen glass slabs hoisted up on stilts in parallel rows on either side of a dual carriageway. Twenty years after the last of them was finished, they have all but vanished. Who can really claim that the swaggering, bulky replacements are an improvement? Tearing down buildings before their time is the ultimate in profligacy. Making buildings consumes precious resources and energy and we shouldn't just throw them away without a struggle to make them better.

Then there is the fickleness of taste. Time and again, we have seen that all it takes to turn an eyesore into priceless national heritage is the passing of sufficient time. What makes this whole business so curious is that Channel 4 promises us that Demolition carries the blessing of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

It owes its genesis to George Ferguson, the institute's publicity-crazed president with his silly season notion that attracted far too much attention last summer for X-listing buildings that he didn't care for. 'Vile buildings are an affront to our senses,' claims this sensitive soul. In a masterpiece of Orwellian double-speak, he claims: 'Demolition is about planning for a better future.'

Concentrating on encouraging the building of good new architecture might be a more productive, and certainly more dignified use of his energy. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

I for one will certainly be scanning the back catalogue of Ferguson's firm, Ferguson Mann, with more interest.
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Re: Demolition

Postby Hugh » Tue Jan 04, 2005 11:38 am

Demolishing buildings from simple aesthetic prejudice is worse than burning books. The act of book-burning is purely symbolic in that other copies of the texts will survive elsewhere.

In contrast, examples of real architecture are one-offs. Once they're gone, they're really gone.
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Re: Demolition

Postby gweilo » Wed Jan 05, 2005 4:31 pm

Eh Deyan....

Look at the Gorbals, whose tenements were described as vile in the 1960s when Glasgow City Council demolished them. The tower blocks that replaced them were blown up to cheers in the 1980s, and now there are already abandoned areas of two-storey housing in the city that were put up to replace the replacements.


What are you on about? This from the man that organised Glasgow City of Architecture 1999? Evidently 5 years is a long time ago. Have you been to Glasgow recently? For your information the New Gorbal's has been one of Glasgow's real successes and property there is now much sought after. So much so that that new schemes have been built by the likes of Elder and Cannon, Page and Park, and there is a new 16 storey tower by Piers Gough about to start on site. Additionally Glasgow City Council is about to embark on another version in neighbouring Oatlands, and housing assocaitions are to do the the same in Laurieston directly opposite the city centre. It all looks a darn sight better than the Homes for the Future legacy of 1999. Check your facts before you start spouting mate!
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Re: Demolition

Postby space_invader » Thu Jan 06, 2005 2:29 pm

he's still smarting from the slaps his well-fed chops regularly received while in Glaswegian residence.
he didn't realise we're even more elitist (snobby) up here than them down there.

ha ha

poor boy.
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Re: Demolition

Postby Frank Taylor » Thu Jan 06, 2005 3:10 pm

gweilo wrote:Eh Deyan....
Look at the Gorbals, whose tenements were described as vile in the 1960s when Glasgow City Council demolished them. The tower blocks that replaced them were blown up to cheers in the 1980s, and now there are already abandoned areas of two-storey housing in the city that were put up to replace the replacements.
What are you on about? This from the man that organised Glasgow City of Architecture 1999? Evidently 5 years is a long time ago. Have you been to Glasgow recently? For your information the New Gorbal's has been one of Glasgow's real successes and property there is now much sought after.

I think you may be missing his point. I don't think he is attacking Glasgow or the Gorbals but pointing out that the social problems that go along with council owned housing for the poor, often become associated with the architecture of the buildings themselves. Eventually a point is reached where everyone agrees that tearing down the buildings is the only way to regenerate the area. A new set of buildings is built in a new style and arrangement and used to house the same people. Unsurprisingly, the same social problems continue and the buildings are blamed again.

In many cases the buildings themselves are structurally sound and when colonised by rich people, the social problems and the stigma associated with the architecture disappear. For example, look at the many orphanages and poor houses now converted to loft apartments in London or council flats that have been sold privately. Even Trellick tower is losing its stigma and it costs a few hundred grand to live there.
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Re: Demolition

Postby space_invader » Thu Jan 06, 2005 3:15 pm

maybe that is his point frank. but he's just plain wrong when he referes to the gorbals.

firstly, the cheers heard following the tower block demolitions were throated in 1993, not the 80s - sujie-boy should know this.

secondly, the replacements for the blocks were 4-6 storey modern tenement developments, some sociial housing, some private dwelling. it's generally conssidered to be a success by residents as well as those concerned with regeneration.

sujie-boy should know this too.
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Re: Demolition

Postby gweilo » Thu Jan 06, 2005 3:20 pm

I don't think he's having a go at Glasgow or the Gorbals Frank but I do think he should be more careful with his examples especially as it patently isn't true. I wouldn't expect such sloppy research in a paper like the Observer and more so from someone who lived in Glasgow and given his roll here should know the city better. The New Gorbals isn't about gentrification per se as properties are generally reserved for people who are prior residents of the Gorbals or can prove descent before being put on the open market. My point was that it is a successful community now and the replacements of the replacements have definitely not been abandoned as Deyan states they have. Other than that bone of contention he makes some good points in the article but how can I trust someone who appears to be making something up?
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Re: Demolition

Postby Frank Taylor » Thu Jan 06, 2005 4:12 pm

You're right: factual inaccuracies this broad are inexcusable, particularly for someone who should have more local knowledge. However his point is still strong and stands regardless. As for not trusting someone who makes things up, I was looking at the article from a position of trust as I only knew him through '100 Mile City' which is a great book.
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