The New York Review of Books, via an article submitted by a man appropriately named Martin Filler has “deconstructed” Prince Charles dislike of modern architecture.
Deconstruction, in case you did not know, is the postmodern literary process of discovering or inventing words or actions from your victim in order to uphold your preconceived beliefs.
Filler’s belief is that modern architecture, and those that create and design that architecture are good. By “good” he evidently does not mean “beautiful”, “useful”, or “lasting.” Instead, the word translates into “ability to win awards.” Awards which are created and doled out by men such as he.
Prince Charles, Filler was aghast to discover, disliked the works of architect Richard Rogers, a designer who, bucking tradition, is not a narrow-rimmed glasses wearing, clad-in-black German. Rogers looks like your grandfather, a jolly and elegant old man. You would never guess by looking that this man could have brought so many grotesqueries into the world.
Filler classifies the great Prince’s dislike of Rogers’s designs as “mental illness”, which itself is caused by “inbreeding.” Conspicuously, Filler fails to mention his own family tree, so one can only wonder what horrors hang from its branches.
Here is a typical Richard Rogers building. It evokes the feeling of an Edward Hopper painting. There is nothing out of place; everything is perfect; clean lines and a sound structure. And utterly depressing. You can actually feel your happiness leaking away the longer you stare at it. It is ugly.
This entry is typical of modernist design. Almost entirely glass, with weird jutting angles and structures tacked on which appear to defy gravity. The building looks like a puzzle, one that the viewer will tire of after they have figured it out. It might also be the creation of a precocious nine-year-old, cobbled together from a set of building blocks your aunt picked up in the Amsterdam airport. It is also ugly and looks ridiculous and ephemeral, especially when set next to brick and stone structures.
This next attempt continues the erector-set theme, here evoking thoughts of a Japanese miniature found in a 1960s Godzilla movie. You look at that egg-shaped structure on the right and expect that, any moment, Mothra will emerge and start spraying silk over terrified citizens. At least Gojira would incinerate the shell of the cocoon with his atomic breath. The building is not so much ugly as it is silly.
To contrast these purposely juvenile structures, we have those designed by Quinlan Terry, Price Charles’s “favorite living architect”. Filler calls Terrys’ work “soporific” and is miffed that Terry believes that beauty can be objectively defined. This, of course, is no less than the truth.
Here is an example of how to best incorporate the new with the old: by remembering the classical structures are common for a reason. Terry’s facade neatly hides the dull apartment building. It cleverly rides in front of and is not flush with the old structure, so that an effort has to be made to look up. The lines of the stone are neither too close nor too far apart. The detail is welcoming, particularly the homey “shutters” astride the second floor windows, the shape of which is echoed in the top layer of “attic” portals. The third floor’s mini balconies reinforce that idea that we are at home. This is a warm and comfortable place to live.
This is a commercial building in Tottenham Court Road, London. Terry is not responsible for the asinine statue (of Elvis?) next door. There is nothing immediately remarkable about this building. It will not win an award. Indeed, you would hardly notice it as you walked by. It appears so solid and permanent it looks like it has always been there and, even stronger, always will be. At night, the windows will glow and tell viewers that “Lasting work takes place here.” It is a manly building, a gentlemanly building. It is not flashy, it does not draw attention to itself. It fits.
This is an interior for the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, a building which particularly irritates Filler. This, of course, is the chapel, a room at least remarkable for its inclusion. The windows are exactly placed, the stiles are reminiscent of stained glass. The cross at the end of the room is not overwhelming, but neither can it be missed. The wood walls, wide chairs, and ceiling moulding lend a warmth which is needed to combat the austereness of the walls.
Filler classifies Terry’s work as “neo-conservatism”—a self-contradictory term, incidentally. This proves that Filler has fallen prey to the belief that the only art that is “good” is that which is new, subversive, or controversial. Whatever other faults the handsome young Prince Charles has—and there are many—he at least knows that this attitude is bereft of logic.