Skip to comments.Michael Gove's war on architecture: curves fail the test
Posted on 12/17/2012 8:58:55 AM PST by Cvengr
A clampdown on so-called architectural extravagance means British schools will no longer feature anything other than straight lines. Why is the joy of curves lost on our education secretary?
That's Frank Gehry out of the running then. And don't expect to see any new schools paying homage to Antoni Gaudi, Buckminster Fuller, Le Corbusier or even Christopher Wren. And Zaha Hadid might have won the Stirling prize for a school last year (Brixton's Evelyn Grace Academy) but she can forget about building another one here any time soon, no thank you, Dame. You might want to check your child's pockets for protractors as well.
Why? Because the government has banned curves from new school buildings. Not just curves but also "faceted curves", indents, dog legs and notches. In other words, any shape you like as long as it's a plain box. The Department for Education is cracking down on what it saw as architectural extravagance in the now-scrapped Building Schools for The Future (BSF) programme. Its new "baseline designs", unveiled on Monday, call for affordable, stripped-down, purely functional school buildings. Nothing wrong with that per se, but in taking his war with architecture into abstract geometrical realms, Michael Gove is revealing the source of his secret trauma.
(Excerpt) Read more at guardian.co.uk ...
In Gove's mind, good architecture seems to be indelibly associated with New Labour and the 1990s. And nothing signified that era of moral and aesthetic decay so much as the curve. Look how it sprang up in the pods and blobs of Will Alsop! Look how Norman Foster besmirched the City with his curvaceous Gherkin, then built a spherical City Hall in London for the new (New Labour) mayor (and his lickspittle architectural advisor, Richard Rogers). Curves were everywhere: Gehry's Bilbao Guggenheim, the London Eye, the Eden Project, the Scottish parliament, the Millennium Dome (New Labour and Rogers again, ugh!), Zaha Hadid, Jonathan Ives' iMac, the Ford Ka, the sun, the moon, Kylie Minogue's bum. It must have been 10 years of wonky hell for Gove.
So now he's literally putting things straight. Perhaps this is the first step towards a square new coalition utopia a world entirely designed by Lego, Rubik, Mondrian and David Chipperfield. Although that sounds a bit colourful. Perhaps colour should go too. Who needs it, after all?
Curves or no curves, the sentiment for practical, low-cost, functional school buildings is one all architects can get behind. Think of Alison and Peter Smithson's seminal, scrupulously rectilinear Hunstanton School a shining example of postwar modernist architecture. Or the standardised, prefabricated school design Oscar Niemeyer produced for Brazil's education department in the 1980s. This was so successful, 508 schools were built to it, each customised to local needs. Why couldn't a similar thing happen here? Oh yes, because Niemeyer's design had curves in it. ------------------------------------------------
Just when you thought things couldn't get nuttier, now all British school architecture must look like show boxes, without the lid.
Just my opinion but once the novelty wore off Gehry’s creations it became apparent there’s nothing really worth while under the chrome.
so the guy wants low cost, low maintenance public buildings. he should be celebrated. if someone wants a hugely expensive taj mahal. let them build it with their own monies. as for public funds, they need to be spent wisely, for public purposes, not for self aggrandizement.
Economic design and Functional design may be applied more effectively than ruling the architecture must be a shoe box.
More stupidly, he is ruling that design professionals aren’t to be used to design buildings. He prefers a franchise styled, one-design-fits-all solution without any site adaptation.
if it saves the taxpayer money now and in the future,. that would be a good thing.
“One rule fits all” just doesn’t work. Especially one government rule. How about just applying a little common sense? Choose sensible architects, choose simplicity, and choose low costs—within reason.
For instance, lower maintenance costs down the line, as well as lower initial costs. A brick school makes sense if it saves having to prep and paint it every couple of years. And stone or brick or concrete makes sense if you want to cut down on fire risks.
There’s something to be said for functional modern architecture. But anything build modern for the sake of modern is usually pretty ugly.
Common sense. It’s in short supply. But it’s what the guys who make the decisions need most.
What about the roman arch?
That’s the point. It doesn’t. It just ensures the public expenditure is ugly.
If it’s Design-Build, the contractor will pocket the differential. If it’s Design-Bid-Build, you end up with cut and pasted designs without any design wherewithal to adress actual design.
It’s like making a regulation that all maladies are prescribed aspirin to save medical treatment costs.
Here’s to right angles, frankly! That fad can die and I’ll be happy to shovel a load on top of it! A friend plays at Gehry’s LA Philharmonic hall, and says he is dizzy by the time he’s negotiated the backstage area leading to stage. My doctor’s office building is set off the street at an angle, and I have helped more wanderers find the EXIT. That is bad, for a building in EQ country. Another medical building here in So Cal has oozy hallways and few right angles. I really hate that building. Hard to get oriented to which way you are going.
I celebrate right angles, spelling rules, 4/4 time, and all other Traditions which were embraced for a reason!! Order > Chaos works for me.
I have nothing against innovative archetecture. There is great modern archetecture. I just don’t think Gehry will pass the test of time.
They have one of his chrome gew gaws on the U of Mn campus. Look at it up close and it’s all dented and already starting to rust. They’ll probably have to completely redo it in 10 years. Oh and it’s ugly too.
IMHO, the real problem is with the newer building codes. They are much more academically driven with very little wherewithal in their application. The dictate how a building is designed, rather than codifying aspects of designs.
Older codes would provide safe values for parameters to be used by tradesmen when more rigorous design calculations weren’t cost effective,....they rounded up the design for a safe value.
Today’s codes tend to require computerized calcs, and 8 hr long manual calculations for values past contained in a table.
They tend to favor shoe box designs, because less calculations are required.
Note: the no curve and straight line philosophy also applies to no eaves, no wings to the bldg, etc.
They literally look like shoeboxes.
I like that ... it would make a good tag line!
who cares if it’s ugly? you can’t eat ‘ugly’. would you prefer having lovely, artistic designs soaring to the heavens when the people being overtaxes to pay for them have to eat dog food?
I’m an architect, the more expressive the form, the better. I think the guy is a putz. He’s just begging for the Chinese, who aren’t creative, to design all their buildings.
Let’s put it another way. He’s advocating a single design to live in a brick, which is NOT less expensive, Nor more functional for all situations.
It is more likely that he wants to promote a particular company to mass produce the schools without any competition, without any professional oversight.
A 4 ft dogleg in a floor plan isn’t an embellishment, but it might very well allow rooms to be properly sized to meet functional and economic constraints.
If he wants to save money, then stipulate a cost per SqFt or cost per student in the construction cost.
The reason so many ‘modern’ bldgs lack eaves and are maintenance intensive is because they aren’t being designed by professionals thinking through their designs, but are simply cookie cutting their design documents to meet codes, then apply them generically. It doesn’t save money, either in the short term or long term, but it does allow construction without regards to consequences.
Part of being a superior culture is having superior art and architecture. However, it shouldn’t come at the expense of needful things. It’s disappointing, though, that conservatives line up to celebrate mediocrity.
Quoting Architectural Record, “Even the Bauhaus had curves.”
What about this one:
Even the Chinese have more innovation.
Not necessarily. A more conventional form can be both economic and beautiful.
I think the guy is wrong too, but for a different reason. Good architecture and economics are not mutually exclusive if you hire someone who is really creative.
Just use the nearest prison for design inspiration. Thats what all our newer high schools look like here.....prisons.
if you have to waste taxpayer dollars to be a ‘superior’ culture, you ain’t. a ‘superior’ culture is one in which the government does not engage in grandiosity, but keeps things humble and efficient.
now if YOU wanted to spend YOUR money on something grandiose and foolish, then go right ahead.
Still standing after 62 years, with only 5/8 in thin concrete shell roof.
Strictly rectangular is grandiose and inefficient.
You’ve taken for granted some key words in your rebuttal. Waste, grandiosity, humble, efficient, and foolish are subjective. I don’t think any architect or municipality would advocate being arrogant, wasteful, grandiose, foolish, or inefficient.
Now if you believe there’s a maximum cost/sf that a municipality should employ based on some vetted considerations, they can live or die on those considerations. Calling for banality for its own sake, which seems to be what this joker is doing, is a whole other matter. Who would advocate such a thing? Believe me, many people are afraid of creative architecture and will default to tried and true (banal).
Ya’ll need some Soviet in your public building style?
Still ugly too.
This article is making a design specification sound like a ban. I’d rather see a demand for a density ratio or something like that, but I suspect Gove is suspecting monkey business with anything less than clear demands.
My Goodness, that is hideous.
i work in a public building. you should have seen all the drooling and extravagance that went into designing this mess. and the quality is horrendous. but don’t worry the taxpayers paid for it, and now with out higher operating costs and cuts to the budget, we’re losing people.
i know a lot of freepers dislike government employees, but...
I’m interested in forms that reflect their time. Convention, as it’s commonly understood, means “traditional” which really has no meaning for architecture. “Traditional” architecture is a manifestation of the considerations of a specific time and place. It’s not always transferable. What is called traditional is really derivative or thematic. The true tradition of architecture is innovation that matches cultural and physical constraints.
True conventions, many of them, are being negated by new technology such as visualization, documentation, and fabrication tools.
“Note: the no curve and straight line philosophy also applies to no eaves, no wings to the bldg, etc.”
No wings??? Are you saying that classic building design patterns are now being ruled out by building codes?
Sounds like they wasted the tax payers’ money. There’s nothing wrong with working for government. Daniel worked for the government.
He's a legend that will last a lunchtime.
One of the thinnest concrete shells ever built (1951). Designed as a Cosmic Ray Lab in Mexico City.
Note, no re-entrant corners.
The reason and the answer lies in the book...Fountianhead
No, traditional and convention are not the same.
Even so, tradition is not static or unadaptable. Its ‘time and place’ had endured for thousands of years.
All of architecture is derivative. New technology doesn’t fundementally change that.
Still standing after 62 years ... unfortunately.
Do you find any other flavor of hypar appealing or do just prefer the rectangular brick concept?
We dislike government employees for a reason. With very few exceptions you are parasites.
Buildings should look like bacon. A perfect balance of curve and rectangle.
Michael Gove, Tory member of Parliament and the U.K.s secretary of state for education since 2010, has declared a controversial war on curves or faceted curves in school buildingsas well as minimal indents, dog legs, and notches in the plan shapes. Folding partitions, glazed walls, roof terraces, and ETFE roofing are also banned.
At this years Venice Biennale, Aberrant Architecture, whose very name seems designed to offend Gove, created an installation in the British Pavilion inspired by Oscar Niemeyers experimental 1980s school-building program in Brazil. In and around Rio de Janeiro, Niemeyer and his collaborators built 508 precast concrete schools of standardized design. The architects proposed this radical scheme as a model for austerity in Britain, but Niemeyers Modernist designs would have failed Goves test. The undercrofts of these buildings are surrounded by arched loggias, and the facades are punctuated by lozenge-shaped windows. Even the Bauhaus had curves.
Taken to its logical conclusion, an indoor running track may not be an ellipse, but must be a rectangular running path.
Structurally and seismically, horizontal plan irregularities might require additional design effort, but this is different than an edict disallowing a final shape of a structure to have these appearances.
The below are typical irregularities which have special concerns when calculating structural design requirements. Maybe he read about this, but doesn't know how to design within the codes.
“Maybe he read about this, but doesn’t know how to design within the codes.”
Sounds like it. When will we ever learn that micro-managing and centralized planning don’t work?
lol~! gee thanx! ;-)
Keystones are a good example of a traditional motif that shows up in contemporary architecture. Its typical role these days is ornamentation, but its original use was to hold up an arch.
Labor, cost, codes, and cultural constraints determines movements in architecture. I personally don’t want to see anymore EIFS keystones. The masses are comfortable with tradition, but tradition doesn’t mean style. I don’t know if architecture is the only art form that allows the masses to dictate its aesthetics, but they do, and they shouldn’t.
I believe digital fabrication is going to be the end of traditional architecture,and for that, I’m grateful. I hate postmodernism, but I’m glad it freed us from top down aesthetic taste. I believe much of what we call tradition has endured by quasi-force, like this guy in England is doing.
We’ll still have the old buildings around, and we should preserve them. I like the old buildings. What I don’t like is trying to reproduce them, or using their motifs in clumsy ways.
This is all my humble(but accurate) opinion. No, I don’t hate neo-traditionalists. What I hate is when architects design neo-traditional architecture even though they don’t like it.
Fake keystones are not what I’m talking about.
We could have architecture that is authentic. There is hokiness in so-called “traditional” architecture and in modern architecture as well. We don’t need to be wasting resources on hokiness.
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