By Timothy J. Brittain-Catlin
The ordinary historical past of structure is a grand narrative of hovering monuments and heroic makers. however it is additionally a fake narrative in lots of methods, hardly acknowledging the non-public mess ups and disappointments of architects. In Bleak Houses, Timothy Brittain-Catlin investigates the bottom of structure, the tales of losers and unfulfillment usually neglected by means of an architectural feedback that values novelty, popularity, and virility over fallibility and rejection. Brittain-Catlin tells us approximately Cecil Corwin, for instance, Frank Lloyd Wright's good friend associate, who was once so crushed by way of Wright's genius that he needed to cease designing; approximately architects whose surviving constructions are marooned and mutilated; and approximately others who suffered variously from undesirable mood, exile, loss of expertise, loss of documentation, the incorrect acquaintances, or being out of style. As architectural feedback promotes more and more slim values, brushing aside sure types wholesale and subjecting structures to a Victorian litmus try out of "real" as opposed to "fake," Brittain-Catlin explains the impression that this superficial criticality has had not just on architectural discourse yet at the caliber of structures. the truth that such a lot structures obtain no severe scrutiny at all has led to immense stretches of gruesome smooth housing and a pervasive public illiteracy approximately architecture.
Architecture critics, Brittain-Catlin indicates, may perhaps examine whatever from novelists approximately the best way to write approximately constructions. Alan Hollinghurst in The Stranger's Child, for instance, and Elizabeth Bowen in Eva Trout vividly evoke memorable homes. considering like novelists, critics might see what architectural losers provide: episodic, sentimental methods of taking a look at constructions that relate to our personal event, classes realized from undesirable examples that can make constructions larger.
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Extra info for Bleak Houses: Disappointment and Failure in Architecture
But when the true extent of Field’s disasters are known, from the sheer impossibility of realizing his old-fashioned village idyll in industrial late-Victorian England, to the decline in his powers, to the seedy, sad nature of some of his forlorn surviving buildings—in the case of his lovely bank branch at Wealdstone, its ravished beauty surrounded by all the ugliness of an uncared-for high street is an almost unbearable sight—the story is suddenly a great deal broader, a great deal more interesting, and says much more about the architect’s world than would the very limited conventional story of his few successes.
Almost all those who chronicle architecture as it changes over a long period of time choose their canon of buildings teleologically: no one ever seems to have broken out of this. These messages are tough and simplistic: they go one way and they do one thing. The losers, on the other hand, throw out a wide range of experiences for those who want to get to know buildings better. They offer ways of looking at buildings that can relate much more closely to our own experiences, and give a more accurate picture of the relationship between architecture and the rest of our culture than the old ways.
Agnes’ Church, Kennington, London, designed by George Gilbert Scott Junior in 1874, as reproduced in The Architect, November 16, 1888. Courtesy of Gavin Stamp. 2 The replacement church on the same site, designed by Covell & Matthews in 1956. Courtesy of Keith Diplock. MORE LOSERS What architectural tragedies these London railway station hotels have seen. Edward Welby Pugin, son of Augustus and a designer of ornate, idiosyncratic French-Gothic buildings, died in the Turkish baths of the Grosvenor Hotel at Victoria Station in London.