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Concrete Crusader: Angry Bird

20 Oct 2015

She’s already shaken up comments on Urban Realm’s website but now  the internet’s most outspoken architecture critic puts the world to  rights with a fresh assault on  ‘lefty concrete modernists’, white  render... And Michelle Mcmanus.

She’s already shaken up comments on Urban Realm’s website but now the internet’s most outspoken architecture critic puts the world to rights with a fresh assault on  ‘lefty concrete modernists’, white render... And Michelle Mcmanus.

Choose a pair a knickers. Choose a sandwich filling. Choose a pair a socks. Choose a political party tae vote fur. Choose a big telly that ye can pay up on weekly installments frum Bright Hoose. Choose DFS sofas, cars, MP3 players and electrical back scratchers fur those hard tae reach spots now that yerv put on two stone since ye came back from a two week bender in Mykonos... Choose eating pot noodles fur breakfast and wondering who ye are on a Sunday morning, whilst staring oot the windae at yer neighbours staffie Keanu droppin’ it like its hot in yer garden right beside yer feature Charlie Dimmock decking. Choose sitting on that DFS sofa watching X-Factor wondering how the f*ck Cheryl-Versace Prada-George-fae-Asda-Versini-Fernandez-Cole gets tae judge people who can actually sing, whilst sticking a Rustlers burger intae yer mooth. Choose the thuglife, pishing yer last in a miserable luxury waterside flat in Glesga Harbur, whilst playing Call a Duty on yer Xbox. Choose life... And if yer designing a building in Scotland, be sure tae choose white render, zinc cladding, wonky angled walls and a complete disregard fur context too! 

Holler. Big Chantelle here. Most of ye will know me frum the Urban Realm comments section. Aye. And most of ye will know, via my much acclaimed discourse of course, that there’s quite a few things which get ma goat when it comes tae architecture.
Alien versus Predator.....Mohammed Ali versus Joe Frazier...... Batman versus the Joker..... Michelle McManus versus elastic waistbands. Some of life’s greatest rivalries. Not the greatest however. That belongs to Modernism versus traditionalism. Let’s focus on that last one.
Now I don’t hate buildings which are modern. I don’t. I like living in a civilised hoose that doesn’t resemble a favela shack. I like indoor cludgies. I don’t even dislike the way modern buildings look. Ye know, everything has its place. Aye. That’s it – everything has its place! And if buildings function well for their inhabitants, utilising the best technology available at the time, then all is well. All is well.

What I do dislike however is the complete disregard fur the past that is shown by architects sometimes. Not all the time. Just sometimes. I cannae deny it. It gets me mad. Seething. I mean, not that long ago, I was sitting in George Square in Glesga, enjoying the sunshine whilst I partook of some thinking. Big Zenga Fae Easterhoose wiz there tae – I tried tae tell her that her 2 fur 1 choc-ices she got in Farmfoods wid melt if she never took them hame quick but she was getting wired intae a cheeky wee Greggs meal deal so wiz pulling me a deafy. I digress. What I noticed was that the square is quite nice – classical, stone, traditional,proportioned an aw that. Oh, and then there’s George Hoose and that college building loomin’ over the City Chambers resembling a Bucharest commie block cross-bred with a gangbanged Joey Essex stickle-brix construction. Why wid anyone think it was a gid idea tae build things that look like that in that particular location? Why? The square’s character is established with a different ‘architecture’ – one that is erm, actually pleasing tae the eye.

I had a similar experience when I trekked tae Edinburgh not so long ago too. I was sitting in Princes Street gerdens (think I was eating a chicken subway but cannae rememba) feeling really proud and patriotic lookin’ up at the castle knowing that’s where Harry Potter got his start in life before he went on tae save the wurld an aw that. But then as I turned roond it dawned on me – there’s a lot of crappy buildings stuck between the beautiful ones. Ye know the kind – concrete, blocky, big elongated windaes. Buildings which are just lazy excuses for buildings. Buildings which some bloke from the local art college thought wid be ‘edgy’, ‘cool’ and ‘progressive’ if they were crammed intae a world heritage site which, like George Square in Glesga, already has an existing architecture heritage. Buildings which spoil the cityscape. Buildings which are listed by the authorities because they are of importance presumably. But their importance is only understood by the uni-educated cliquey types. Fur the rest a us – they’re aboot as attractive as a pair of Kerry Katona’s skid mark ravished leggins.

And that’s the hing. Life wid be boring if everyhing wiz the same. It wid. I know that. Yoo know that. But surely the specific heritage of specific places should and must be respected? Can I get an R.E.S.P.E.C.T please Aretha hun? Why pit stylistically different buildings intae a classical civic square? Why? Glesga has an abundance of places for such things. What would have been the harm in constructing a building(s) similar in material and style tae what was already there that still functioned wonderfully for today’s needs? If Leonardo DaVinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ painting was damaged, de ye hink they’d restore it by getting Neil Buchannan fae Art Attack tae put glittery paint ontae it, ye know, to be ‘progressive’. Naw. They’d restore so that it resembles its creators intent. And that brings me on tae a similar topic – the Glesga School of Art restoration.

That is a perfect illustration of aw that I despise when it comes tae the architecture community and thur ‘enlightened’ ideas on the built environment. As some of my fans (and detractors) will nae doubt know, I wanted the art school restored to what it was. Of course, on the auld Urban Realm battlefield comment sections, Scotland’s architectural equivalent to Lady Gaga, Alan Dunlop, or ‘Mr 1970s etch-a-sketch’ as I call him, chimmed in wae his own views. And yep, ye guessed thum – something different to wit Charles Rennie MacKintosh designed and something ‘contemporary’. To paraphrase Mr Dunlop, “MacKintosh would have wanted it”. Aye mate, Charles Rennie MacKintosh would have wanted HIS building, designed the way HE DESIGNED IT, and BUILT TO THE DESIGN HE DESIGNED to be rebuilt DIFFERENTLY to his vision. Aye. If you say so Alan. I believe ya – but the lie detector test doesnae, i’n’t that right Mr Kyle? And Mr Dunlop wisnae alone in his views.

All the usual lefty brigade were there to chime in muttering aboot how progressive it wid be and how we shouldnae hold on tae the past because of erm, the past is bad or sumthin. And there I wiz, like Uma Thurman in kill Bill pure maulin’ the Crazy-88s, takin’ them all on wae ma common sense. In fact, I’ve came up wae a term fur a certain section of the architectural types mentioned above: ‘the concrete modernist brigade’. That is, regardless of the location, heritage and history of the building or cityscape, these people, who dominate all discourse on the subject both in the media and at the educational state level, will design and build buildings according to their own myopic, usually left-wing, archy-views and impose them ontae whatever location. Without exception. Yer in a baroque plaza or a Victorian tenement street and there’s a perfectly functional traditional but damaged building. No sweat-- don’t rebuild or fix the beautiful one already there – put in a glass/concrete box. And then say it’s “unapologetically contemporary’. And bravo – you’ll git yer concrete modernist monstrosity. And if any sane folk should have the audacity tae question yer lefty Motherwell-Polytechnic-educated credentials, just say they are ‘small minded’ and thur traditional architectual yankerings are ‘backwards’. And you’ll win.

“That’s so pastiche”. “It’s not 1874 anymore Chantelle, get with the times”. “We need to embrace the future..... and that means that this white rendered, zinc-clad hoose is perfect for this sandstone Edwardian cul-de-sac”. If I was in the Bolshoy ballet or whitever it’s cawwed, I widnae start twerkin’ during a pirouette, wid a? And trust me, a can twerk wae the best a them. Bow down Beyonce. But ye get ma point. Things have thur place. Why spoil the ambience of historical and beautiful locations just so that ‘Davey’ can impose his value-engineered concrete utopia onto society? Oh, the little people – that’s you and me-- are living in the past.........

I think there is an immense bias towards tradtional architecture. Infact, some of my homies at the TAG (Traditional architcture Group) think so too. I think that the modernist ideology took hold after world war two. I hink the economic situation resulted in cheap, quick buildings being constructed to replace the stone beauties that auld Adolf bombed. And where buildings wernae destroyed I hink the left-wing, anti Judeo-Christian, anti-tradtional ideology took oor. So they were brought down regardless. Tenements flattened. Gorbals concrete blocks erected. Motorways mauling former communities. Sandstone in the bin. Concrete abounds. And the same ‘thinkers’ imposing this most wonderful future vision onto the poor bastards at the mercy of it all would quietly retreat back tae their town hoose in Park Circus whilst outwardly destroying the traditions of architecture in communities to fulfill their own ideological views.

I believe Modern architecture’s success is just one small part of the broader modern phenomenon of artists themselves rejecting serious and traditional architecture--perhaps partly because serious architecture takes so much time and energy and talent to produce: Buildings that ur quick and easy tae design and build, at least by comparison bring mare profits tae the people creating them. In ma opinion, many of todays celebrated ‘RIBA’ starlets ur like the weavers for the emperor in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.  The weavers said that the cloth wiz invisible tae every person who wiz either “Unfit for his post” or wiz “inadmissibly stupid.” Because the ministers who were sent to examine the cloth on the emperor’s behalf didnae want tae seem unworthy of their positions and because none of the people in the kingdom wanted tae believe that he or she was a fool, everyone praised it. But in fact the cloth didnae exist.  It wiznae until the emperor knighted the weavers and decided to wear his new clase in a public procession that a little child finally declared, “But he doesn’t have anything on!”  Soon everyone learned the truth.

I hope someday those famous architects imposing their concrete visions onto society will find themselves in the position of the ministers who finally looked at the emperor honestly and discovered he was wearing nothing at all. He was stark bullock naked. Holler!

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