The capital has never looked worse than it does today
Modernism is a civilisational catastrophe on a global scale. But pricing that in, one has to ask how London architecture has managed to sink to yet lower depths over the last decade.
A few examples:
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The giant glowing ball of Stratford
This one hasn’t been built yet — and hopefully never will. It’s a proposal for a spherical stadium, the height of Big Ben, whose illuminated exterior surface would display advertisements visible across a large part of east London.
While digital touch is often used for remote experiences, the MSG Sphere London is proposing to bring infrasound #haptics to a #concert venue. However the controversial project is proving to be sensory overload for less desirable reasons! https://t.co/aKlQt3Ul49 pic.twitter.com/jYcuuXNENM
— IN_TOUCH_UCL (@IN_TOUCH_UCL) August 13, 2021
It almost dares the critic to use the phrase “Bladerunner aesthetic”, but overgrown vulgarity is a likelier outcome here than dystopian grandeur.
The Marble Arch Mound
Speaking of monumental disappointment, here’s what happens when an obviously stupid idea gets off the drawing board. For reasons never adequately explained, it was decided that what the West End really needs is an artificial hill made out of scaffolding and astroturf. The visiting public disagreed.
So what to do it now? In ancient Sparta, there was a mountain where unwanted infants would be exposed to the elements. I’d suggest that the Marble Arch Mound is put to a similar use — only for misconceived municipal projects.
Nine Elms was central London’s biggest brownfield site — a massive opportunity to show the future what we were made of.
Well, posterity won’t thank us. From the sinister Borg cube of the US embassy to the apartment blocks wrapped around Battersea Power Station like gangrenous bandages, this is less regeneration than degeneration.
Though especially egregious, Nine Elms is not atypical. London over the last few years has been holding a festival of spreadsheet architecture, with developments like the Lewisham Gateway and whatever they’ve been doing round the back of the Shell building.
You know things are bad when the modernists go quiet. Never happier than when rhapsodising some concrete horror like the Barbican, they’re oddly silent about latest outbreak of towers.
It’s as if London’s contemporary architecture fails on every criterion (except making money, of course).
Lambeth Palace library
I saved the most disappointing for last.
It’s not that the new Lambeth Palace Library is outstandingly hideous. It has some redeeming features — for instance, it’s use of bricks. Unfortunately, it also looks like three or four them, crudely arranged.
— AAsArchitecture (@aasarchitecture) May 10, 2019
Given the architectural legacy to which the C of E is heir to — including the old library — is this really the best they could do?
The Government keeps on telling us that we should support new development because there’s no reason why new buildings shouldn’t be beautiful. And that’s right. They don’t have to be ugly.
And yet they are.