I've recently felt the need to write something regarding how we treat and perceive architecture, especially the architecture of practical buildings. Having spent the past 6 months walking past and observing the destruction of Amex House, leads me to consider that the time and effort to create something that does fit in aesthetically with the surrounding environment, should last longer than 40 years. Perhaps it's an age thing? I'm sure someone younger than myself may not have the same considerations because 40 years is perceived to be a lot longer (give it another 20 and you'll understand!!).
Designed by Gollins, Melvin, Ward Partnership, Amex House was opened in 1977 clearly a nod towards 50's architecture imitating 30's Art Deco in the 70's. Observed from the sea, it's blue tinted glass and lines match the Regency line along the seafront... and that is the important thing. the only other building erected since 77 (before you get to the Marina) and right in your face, is the residential complex Van Alen Building, which just about manages to compliment the rest of the Regency frontage.
Having never worked in Amex House myself, I know a few people that have.. and not one of them has ever mentioned the architecture or what the interior design was like. I guess this is classic human perception, not many people will take notice of these factors in a building of workplace necessity. Amex House was a nightmare to manage (even for a multi-billion pound company (someone cocked up didn't they, but ofcourse, it was the the rich that funded it) It also had an unusually high amount of asbestos used in it's creation, especially for a late 70's building.
So with the gradual destruction of Amex House, the EPR Architect designed new HQ will suddenly come out of hiding. The EPR Design buidling resembles an Apple Store, from an interior point of view, obviously a pleasure to work in, but I suspect externally, that the lineage may not last as long as it's predecessor. Don't get me wrong, there a minute angles and areas which are interesting and have some thought put into the design, but you have to look for them.
As I continue to walk past this demolition, I get a guttural, bilious feeling of dread and sadness, combined with a sense of awe and wonder. I only got this once before and that was my first visit to Berlin and my initial vision of the Kaisser Wilhelm Gedachtniskirche. Since my initial visit, they have been constructing a new spire growing out of the damaged tower.
Infact, Berlin has a great way of holding onto what is left of it's historical architecture and literally constructing new within the old, without irradicating the original, there are many examples of this, the imposing Reichstag being just one, with Norman Foster's 1993 Neue Kuppel.
I've often wondered why architecture of the 50's mirrored the Art Deco of the 30's, yet in a more Brutalist vein. I am sure that WWII is to answer for that and Architects wanted to continue what was before with a cleaner, less curvaceous line.. I was bought up (there may be a more suitable verb for this) in Crawley throughout the 70's. Crawley was part of the New Town's Act of 1946 to rebuild and rehouse post WWII, the basic concepts of New Town Planning are similar to a Bauhaus social design that I once saw in Berlin. Whilst I am sure that many people born after myself will fail to appreciate key buildings in Crawley, I have three buildings burned into my subconciousness.
Crawley College Tower Block, opened in 1967, across the road is the old Public Library, Police station and Magistrates Court Block and just behind that is the Town Hall.
I consider these buildings to be an important part of Crawley's history. Without a doubt, they resemble atypical Civic/Urban architecture of the 50's. They ooze the word Civic, a word you'll have trouble finding 60 years later. but because they fall into the "Civic" category, they have to serve a more neutral purpose as opposed to a Capitalist based company who would want to show their wealth. At the same time, the main employment area of Crawley was built, with cycle paths from the surrounding housing estates... a utopia... and I guess it was. The original Architecture at Manor Royal, Crawley's Industrial Estate resembled American Grandeur... numerous frontages with Fountains and Statues, illuminated by night. This was the area of prosperity, where the money was... yet, very few photographs exist from the time. Since it's creation there have been 3 generations of build, you would be hard pressed to find buildings from the original concept. A classic case of Einsturzende Neue Gewerbebiete.
So if you were to demolish the three original Civic Buildings in Crawley would anyone remember them in 10 years?? Doubtful.... I am sure given another 50 years and you may not even find any history in what would be futurist social media.
So whilst I stumble around my memories of Architectural Crawley, the main point of this Blog post still stands. Does it take a building to be listed to be remembered, let alone saved? I can recall many Eighteenth Century stunning houses and mansions demolished to make way for new builds in Crawley, only because nobody knew they were there.. or was it the fact that no one had seen them, even if they walked past them on a daily basis?
Whilst it's purely personal, some architecture stands the test of time, and others built in the past decade or two, fail miserably, or is it the fact that their new contemporaries are so far out there, that they never stood a chance. Take Anton Gaudi and the fact that even today, modern architects work around and to the lines of Anton Gaudi's Creations, or maybe it's the fact that Barcelona is open to new Architectural lines without the need for wanton destruction.
Richard Rogers designs....like them or loath them, but they are certainly iconic and conjure a late 20th Century phase in Industrial Dystopian design. Twenty Years later and Zaha Hadid seems to be creating massive structures that are without a doubt more Naturalist than Brutalist. They seem to have a Ballardian Beauty about them that would only have been first imagined in 50's Sci Fi films.
How long is it until the Lloyds building is condemned when no one wants to move into it. It is already "overShardowed" and it seems that even it's creator is making cheese graters.
Gherkin's used to be the things you picked out of Big Macs, now you can't go anywhere without a Gherkin building popping up - old hat??
I do recommend anyone taking a walk around this area of London, it is fascinating. Start off at Sir Christopher Wren's monument to The Great Fire of London at Pudding Lane, the perspectives of past, present and future are unforgettable.
Zaha Hadid Architects seemed to be creating that which seemed impossible in Sci Fi films in the 80's and 90's, but I ask, does that mean that come 2100 AD, that we will be demolishing them? What will we be creating then? Since the passing of Zaha Hadid, who is next to take architecture to a phenominal peak.
Open your eyes, take a look around you, nothing lasts forever. Appreciate erections around you!!.