Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Architecture of the wagged finger

Peter Cook on British architecture at last year’s Venice Biennale reminds me of some reactions (Paula Scher) to the Helvetica typeface (see recent Helvetica posting, 19th January: Can a typeface nag?):

Using Venice as a point of cultural definition also involves the much-maligned ‘national' pavilions and you can never help the instinct to make a beeline for your own mother ship. So Shock! Horror! Despair! Sadness! Distaste! Misery! Misery! Misery! At a level of pretension that leaves one gasping, the British Pavilion takes seriousness to a new dimension of Cromwellian piety. While legitimately criticising the banalities of consumer-commercial British housing of the last twenty years the curator, Ellis Woodman, presents a show of quite deliberate interpretational mannerism [so] as to make his real intention very clear: under the mantle of reasoned thinking this is actually a show of Puritan zeal, where guru Tony Fretton is for once outmanoeuvred by Sergison Bates who ponderouslv come across as even grimmer than their familiar grim.

For those who have a pictorial memory of the architecture of Fascist Italy comes immediately to mind. Indeed, the stripped-down presentation accentuates this impression. Friends from other places kept referring to it as ‘dry’', but had no need to recall a history of tedium and architectural whinge that occurs from time-to-time on the British scene: the deliberately dull accompanied by the pious drone - the architecture of the wagged finger. Thank God that history suggests these periods are usually followed by a moment of Great British Invention and playfulness.

Architectural Review, November 2008, p.28

No comments: