Thursday, March 19, 2009

OH on my old neighbourhood

Owen Hatherley on Tower Bridge:

Well-known Venturite architect comments on the curious puritanism of the common critiques of this gigantic castle on the Thames - terms like sham, pastiche, faux, and the general belief that there is something wrong with fantasy and illusion in architecture. These are all very good points, and there is something enormously knee-jerk about the dismissal of these sort of Victorian (ooh I almost wrote 'monstrosities') structures. The problem for me, though, is what kind of fantasy something like Tower Bridge represents. By encasing its then extremely advanced technology in twin turrets slathered in ickily Mad King Ludwig detail, Tower Bridge's fantasy doesn't seem like something genuinely fantastical or surprising, but as a sort of built emblem of what happened to British capitalism in the closing decades of the 19th century. That is, the collective, cross-class consensual hallucination that the most urbanised, most technologically advanced country in the world was actually a sleepy, rural backwater, one where 'an Englishman's home is his castle', and where a nation which then oppressed a large chunk of the globe was imagined to be mild-mannered, keeping itself to itself.

the rest here

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