Friday 5 March 2021

‘Nothing is too good for the ordinary people’

A Guest Post by Arthur T

Amongst the flurry of EO reversals that Joe Biden has been signing willy-nilly - and a story that the BBC has failed to pick up is the following:

… ‘Biden revokes Trump's "beautiful" architecture executive order.'...

Drowned out by the chorus of derision surrounding every policy initiative that Donald Trump sought to promote, was a policy to make public buildings in the future of designs that the public could relate to in terms of what might be described as a comfortably familiar town or cityscape - in Trump’s terms ‘beautiful’. Buildings that would suit DT’s populist support were, perhaps mistakenly, straight-jacketed into the category of ‘Classical’ architecture - a throwback to the ‘white supremacist’ social history of the USA and the UK so despised by the MSM.

With the demise of the high street, and the reliance upon publicly funded buildings to maintain a semblance of identity to town and city centres, is it not perfectly reasonable to imagine that new buildings should be likeable - to be enjoyed by the tax-paying public?

Extension to National Gallery Trafalgar Square

There was a similar debate in the UK during the 1980s at the time of HRH The Prince of Wales’s ‘carbuncle’ speech, when a High Tech Modernist competition-winning design by architects ABK was abandoned in favour of a Classical architecture-derived design. The result was generally accepted as a feature on ‘the face of a well-loved friend’ and has become a familiar, unobtrusive addition, complementing, not detracting form, the townscape of Trafalgar Square.

What Donald Trump wanted was something similar - buildings that most Americans could relate to - buildings for the people, not just for the élite to drool over - buildings that were accessible, without the corporate ‘Keep Out’ label.

In London, we are seeing the same trends; the move out of City Hall, a building supposedly designed to encourage public access, (and at least in principle, allow public scrutiny of activities within) - to a more isolated and less accessible site in Newham. I have long held the view that the present day metro-élite city-dwellers are the descendants of the champagne socialist Modernists of the inter war period. The tenet of Modernism: ‘Nothing is too good for the ordinary people’ has a hollow ring to it these days.

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