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James McQuillan

‘Aedequate in terms of function’ seems to be the stumbling block here. There are a host of variables in assessing architectural design and the student’s authorship, and certainly just because a project is ‘aedequate in terms of function’ is never a pass! Other aspirant professionals such as engineers, surveyors, interior designers and even unqualified people can and have provided programmes that fulfill the ‘function’, I suppose, but the architect is expected to provide something significant, which can only be described as signifying the social role of the building, or in ancient terms, its ‘decor’, or ‘decorum’.

Modern architecture which neglects this aspect in favour of reductive answers based on notions of objectivity, are to be condemned. A few modern architects have, however, captured something extra in their productions, and have been rightly recognised. None the less, most architects really don’t know what they are doing, except to follow some fashions and hide behing pat formulas that they have picked up before or arfer graduating.

The real measure of the prevalent confusion is to be found in the weakness of criticism today. A breed of architectural journalist has emerged who seem to ‘tout’ large practices using the proffered press-releases, and they tend to dwell on the alledged ‘newness’ of such a fresh venture, and fightinh the battles of the Bauhaus all over again! In actual fact, very few people are to be found doing anything new at all, and if so, they are rarely recognised at the time.

Conservation awareness is perfectly fine, but is never a substitute for scholarship and real thinking about architecture. As for teachers of architecture, they are rarely on top of their reading ( architecure is a general discipline, usually ignored in favour of specialisation), and they reflect the faults of their professional brothers, in the main.

James McQuillan, Architect and Historian.

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