Love them or loathe them, but don’t knock them

Why do we love some buildings and hate others? Why have some become icons, while others will forever remain symbols of a hated regime? Do our relationships with buildings, even after demolition, help define them – or us? Sometimes as the song goes, we don’t know what we’ve got ’till it’s gone; and usually it takes the threat of losing something to make us realise how much we are going to miss it. If this perverse streak in human nature is true in love, it’s also extremely common with buildings. Often, all it takes is a bit of time for buildings and monuments to grow on us, especially if they were shockingly new or different when they first made their appearance. Many of these buildings have gone on to become part of the world’s treasures.

The word “Gothic” as a description for such architecture as Notre Dame and Salisbury Cathedral, was originally coined as a term of abuse. Christopher Wren had St Paul’s Cathedral in London built under wraps in a partly-successful bid to prevent critics compromising his work. In Paris, the Eiffel Tower and the Centre Georges Pompidou were both initially greeted with disdain from many quarters, while Gaudí’s glorious Casa Milà  (also known as La Pedrera) in Barcelona was unloved and neglected until the 1980s – it is now part of a collective of Gaudí buildings designated by Unesco as a World Heritage Site. In other instances, such as the Old Library in Trinity College Dublin, cities grow up to meet the scale of new buildings, so what was once hulking and dominating begins to fit in.

The Irish Times