Beneath the surface of Architecture

                              by


                   ALUN DOLTON




               ...
Beneath the surface of Architecture

                             by


                  ALUN DOLTON




                D...
Abstract




      Beneath the Surface of Architecture is a study about the relationship between
      architecture and so...
Acknowledgements




     This work could not have been produced without the continual help, support
     encouragement of...
Biography




     This dissertation is the culmination of Ten years studying Architecture and in total
     seventeen yea...
Beneath the surface of Architecture
Contents



           Introduction                     1


Chapter 1 - Site Study                      11


Chapter 2 - A...
Beneath the surface of architecture




 1
Introduction


                  'Being a powerless group, architects are a convenient scapegoat for the more
        forc...
Beneath the surface of architecture




                    ' Present day concerns for static objects will be replaced by ...
Introduction

        seem harmless when they stop at the surface and consequently mask problems of
        social structu...
Beneath the surface of architecture




            Modernity…the condition of living imposed upon individuals by the soci...
Introduction

                 From this context it is apparent that he is referring to social and political
        event...
Beneath the surface of architecture




6
    7
Introduction

        concrete in construction as displayed at New Street Station, demonstrates the
        application of...
Beneath the surface of architecture




 8
     9
Introduction



                 From investigating the respective definitions of anthropology and
        architecture, t...
Beneath the surface of architecture




           Chapter 1




 10
      11
Site Study




                 This chapter explores the current situation in architecture, through critique
        of a...
Beneath the surface of architecture




              …Utilitarian, arrogant and repelling...Rogers and Power 2001




12
...
Site Study

                  Following the success of Brindley Place, the infamous Bull Ring of the
        1960' has bee...
Beneath the surface of architecture


                    ‘Watching eyes of celluloid tell you how to live...




        ...
Site Study

        having a poor relationship with the urban context in which it sits and the people
        that inhabit...
Beneath the surface of architecture




      Site study 2001 - Interfaces

      Station street




 16
      17
Site Study

        base of the ramp that cuts across the front of the building. Bridges fly across the
        rear acces...
Beneath the surface of architecture




      Site study 2001 - Interfaces

      The pedestrian ramp

      The housing s...
Site Study

                 However staying with the object now, it is obvious that parts of building
        become tota...
Beneath the surface of architecture




  The site as dynamic object




 20
      21
Site Study

                 In shifting the emphasis of the study away from the built form to viewing
        the site as...
Beneath the surface of architecture




 Scene 1 - 2




 22
      23
Site Study

                The Rush.


                Scene 1 - The Ramp


                " WOULD ALL MEMBERS OF THE PU...
Beneath the surface of architecture


Human Behaviour matters more than function - Alsop 2001




   Scene 3 - 4




 24
 ...
Site Study

                 Scene 3 - The Pallasades


                 After recovering from the McDonald' incident the ...
Beneath the surface of architecture




 Scene 5




 26
      27
Site Study

                 Scene 5 - The escalators.


                 The void in the heart of the scheme is occupied ...
Beneath the surface of architecture




 New Street Station Circa 1890 from Collins




 28
      29
Site Study

                 Having explored the site from a built form point of view, and from an
        experiential po...
Beneath the surface of architecture




 Enforcement




 30
      31
Site Study

                 In Collins'account, the station during construction was referred to as
        "Grand Central...
Beneath the surface of architecture




 The Bull Ring with direct links to new Street
 Station - Laing 1963




 32
     ...
Site Study

        atmosphere. '
                    The scheme comprises probably the most comprehensive multi
        l...
Beneath the surface of architecture




           Context




 34
      35
Site Study

        understanding of the theories that combined to drive such a process, it becomes
        possible to as...
Beneath the surface of architecture




 Chapter 2




36
     37
Advancement of the Human Species



                In the search for an answer to the question 'why', the study examines ...
Beneath the surface of architecture




                     No such thing as a mistake in architecture. Alsop 2001




 3...
Advancement of the Human Species

                For Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers the modern movement began with
      ...
Beneath the surface of architecture




               Modernity is that transient, the fleeting, the contingent: it is on...
Advancement of the Human Species

                Hilde Heynens work 'Architecture and Modernity' discusses two views of
 ...
Beneath the surface of architecture




           Modernity…the condition of living imposed upon individuals by the socio...
Advancement of the Human Species

                The Constructivist movement in Russia, occurred against the backdrop
   ...
Beneath the surface of architecture

               Class mass and mob for fifty years and more
               Had to trav...
Advancement of the Human Species

             These texts do not advocate the idea of modernisation of the city directly,...
Beneath the surface of architecture




           La Citta Nova - Antonia St Elia 1914 - From Theory and
           Desig...
Advancement of the Human Species

                Also from the futurist group, Antonio St Elia was writing manifestos
   ...
Beneath the surface of architecture




                        'A great epoch has begun.
                        There ex...
Advancement of the Human Species

       example, 'The business of architecture is to establish emotional relationships by...
Beneath the surface of architecture

             La Sarraz Declaration - From Frampton


             1. The idea of mode...
Advancement of the Human Species

                Aside from the futurists, in Europe the Congres Internationaux d'
      ...
Beneath the surface of architecture




                   ‘Contemporary architecture must crystallise the new socialist w...
Advancement of the Human Species

       architecture of the utmost simplicity was the correct foundation for a
       con...
Beneath the surface of architecture




                   Somebody, I believe he was English said that modernism was perh...
Advancement of the Human Species

       architecture and the human condition had been weakened in favour of following
   ...
Beneath the surface of architecture




           Chapter 3




 56
      57
Humanity Displaced

                The analysis of the La Sarraz declaration and the Athens Charter reveals
       that t...
Beneath the surface of architecture

           The establishment of rules has been the death of architecture – Alsop 2001...
Humanity Displaced

       when the new generation led by the Smithsions and Aldo van Eyck, challenged the
       function...
Beneath the surface of architecture




 60
      61
Humanity Displaced

                Theirs was notion of the permanently ruined city - ruined in the sense that
       acc...
Beneath the surface of architecture




62
     63
Humanity Displaced

       Declaration in forty years have proved to be an 'abuse perpetrated first on the poor
       and...
Beneath the surface of architecture




 64
      65
Humanity Displaced

       back on the life of the city to offer an artificial 'safe' environment, away from
       vehicu...
Beneath the surface of architecture




 66
      67
Humanity Displaced



                This demonstrates that in some cases architects are allowing the
       profession t...
Beneath the surface of architecture




 68
      69
Humanity Displaced

       construction process is controlled by many factors which the architect has little or
       no ...
Beneath the surface of architecture




     Fig All is not well in the field of architecture




70
     71
Humanity Displaced

            however at this stage the study examines the notion that architecture in the
       tradit...
Beneath the surface of architecture




   72
        73
Chapter 4
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      75
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Dissertation submitted to the Birmingham School of Architecture in partial fulfilment of Master of Arts in Architecture Design and Theory. September 2003

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  1. 1. Beneath the surface of Architecture by ALUN DOLTON Dissertation Submitted to the Birmingham School of Architecture University of Central England In partial fulfilment of the Master of Arts in Architecture Design and Theory September 2003.
  2. 2. Beneath the surface of Architecture by ALUN DOLTON Dissertation Submitted to the Birmingham School of Architecture University of Central England In partial fulfilment of the Master of Arts in Architecture Design and Theory September 2003.
  3. 3. Abstract Beneath the Surface of Architecture is a study about the relationship between architecture and society, how it is currently, how it came to be that way and why. Through examination of design theories that have led us to this point, and investigation of design theories that can comprehend the current situation through the application of knowledge gained from the field of anthropology, the study seeks to re-establish the position of architecture within today's society.
  4. 4. Acknowledgements This work could not have been produced without the continual help, support encouragement of my wife Ursula, particularly in the final stages of the production of this work, proof reading, assistance, bullying to ensure that this work reached completion. In the development of this project I am indebted to my course director, project supervisor, and mentor, Professor Mohsen Aboutarabi, along with the team of visiting tutors, Taina Rikala, David Bradford and Robin Sergeant, whose collective enthusiasm, criticism and rigorous questioning have enabled me to shape this work.
  5. 5. Biography This dissertation is the culmination of Ten years studying Architecture and in total seventeen years active involvement in the Architectural Profession. From living and growing up in Devon, I was born in Plymouth 1971, I started my career whilst at school, joining a local Architect in Brixham for work experience during the summer holidays. From leaving school I worked for a small Architectural practice in Paignton, developing a sound base of practical experience, whilst training towards becoming an Architectural Technician through the BTEC route at South Devon College of Arts and Technology. I moved to Birmingham in 1993 to commence my real training in Architecture, discovering to my surprise that Architecture is a process as well as a profession, and not a product as I had previously believed.
  6. 6. Beneath the surface of Architecture
  7. 7. Contents Introduction 1 Chapter 1 - Site Study 11 Chapter 2 - Advancement of Human Species 37 Chapter 3 - Humanity Displaced 57 Chapter 4 - Regarding Humanity 75 Chapter 5 - Architecture and Anthropology 95 Chapter 6 - Architecture Revisited 105 Conclusion 121 References and Bibliography 127
  8. 8. Beneath the surface of architecture 1
  9. 9. Introduction 'Being a powerless group, architects are a convenient scapegoat for the more forceful generators of society's ills.' - Rykwert 2000. A poignant phrase by Rykwert signifying that the relationship between architecture and people has turned sour, critics talk of the failure of modern architecture, and urban devastation at the hands of 'short sighted' planners. Built form conceived as autonomous objects that have no relationship with the people they are supposedly designed for, or in some cases, not designed for any specific group of people in the first instance. Mike Davis talks of social apartheid in his studies of Los Angeles, due to the secular nature of new developments, rich people having their own streets, transport systems and air conditioned spaces, with safe neighbourhoods with private police forces (Pope 1996). There are trends affecting our cities where migrations of poor people toward the cities cause more congestion coupled with migrations of rich people out into the suburbs causing social exclusion (Rogers 1997). Voids being left in the cities as self centred developments are designed to exclude all but its intended users (Pope 1996), and particularly in London's Docklands, where uneven development leads to left over spaces and ghettos. (Rogers 1997). These developments of which architecture has a role and in the past has contributed to. Although political and economic forces dictate where development takes place, there is a process of which architecture is part of although some would have is believe that the architect’s skills are not needed. 'The architects and decorators actual designing is limited to advice on the surface dressing (mirror glass or Gothic or Renaissance or Chinese or some sheathing details derived from Art Deco patterning)' (Rykwert 2000). The point is, is bad architecture and planning, responsible for this? and as architects are we really relegated to 'Questions of style and ornament, which may
  10. 10. Beneath the surface of architecture ' Present day concerns for static objects will be replaced by concern for relationships, shelters will no longer be static objects, but dynamic objects sheltering and enhancing human events, accommodation will be responsive, ever changing and ever adjusting. ' Richard Rogers (1996) taken from foreword to 'Supersheds' by Chris Wilkinson 4 26 5 37
  11. 11. Introduction seem harmless when they stop at the surface and consequently mask problems of social structure and context.' - (Rykwert 2000). If this is the state of architecture, is it possible to prevent the profession of architecture from being mistrusted by the public and the industry alike? The scope of this work is to investigate the role of architecture in society, which begins by revisiting my original point of departure, the Richard Rogers quote… ' Present day concerns for static objects will be replaced by concern for relationships, shelters will no longer be static objects, but dynamic objects sheltering and enhancing human events, accommodation will be responsive, ever changing and ever adjusting. ' Is it a claim that architects are missing the point in making buildings that have no relationship with the people that are intended to use it? The second part of the quote may shed some light on the context that he is referring. '…shelters will no longer be static objects, but dynamic objects sheltering and enhancing human events…' From reading into Rogers' reaction to the events that led up to the decision to launch the competition to build a cultural centre in the heart of Paris. Opposed to the idea of entering, deeply mistrustful of the very word 'culture', and the notion that it was to be accommodated in a national arts centre, a cultural monument to one man (the French President). Especially when the government had played a central role in the wars with students during the revolt of May 1968. The result…From an early stage Piano and Rogers assembled a team to investigate ways of giving the centre a wider mix of activities, a deliberate subversion of the brief the idea of a cultural centre was replaced by 'Live centre for information and entertainment'. The objective to attract a wide a public as possible, cutting across traditional institutional limits, making a peoples' centre, a university of the street, becoming an urban landmark, a replacement for the missing Agora. (Appleyard 1986).
  12. 12. Beneath the surface of architecture Modernity…the condition of living imposed upon individuals by the socio- economic process of modernisation.' Heynen Collision Sequence from Preliminary Site study 2001 4 6 5 7
  13. 13. Introduction From this context it is apparent that he is referring to social and political events, and that the claim that shelters will become dynamic to shelter such events reveals, that the quote is an observation of a trend that his architecture is obviously a part of. The same statement can also be read as a critique of the way that present day architecture has little relationship with human events. The investigation of the role of architecture begins with an examination of a particular site in the built environment, of the theories that delivered the architecture in question, and the social criticism of such an approach to the problems of the city. From reaching an understanding of the current situation the objective is to investigate ways that the field of anthropology can contribute to understanding of the complex relationship between architecture and the social condition in which it sits. The work is divided into six chapters which through a process of continual examination builds up a picture of the social relevance of architecture. Chapter 1 - Site Study, explores the current situation in architecture, through critique of an object, a test subject. The object is explored from viewpoint of its dialogue with the city on a physical and psychological plane. The exploration of certain key events that have occurred in history that have helped to shape the object, along with technological breakthroughs that have enabled the site to be the way that it is. The history relating to the building reveals a series of events that occurred relative to itself. The findings of this building appraisal highlight the need for a more in-depth investigation, one that engages with the thought processes that enabled such an object to be enforced on the life of the city. In the search for an answer to the question 'why', the study examines the driving force behind the events that led to the reconstruction of New Street Station into its present form in Chapter 2 - Advancement of the Human Species. The history of modern architecture reveals a number of key players, Le Corbusier being the most prominent, indeed the use of reinforced concrete in the construction of New Street Station, is similar to many of Le Corbusier's buildings, although again we are in danger of looking at the problem superficially. The use of reinforced
  14. 14. Beneath the surface of architecture 6 7
  15. 15. Introduction concrete in construction as displayed at New Street Station, demonstrates the application of techniques developed by Le Corbusier in his later work. The social aims of the modern movement, reveal that the thinkers at the time were trying to comprehend the social condition, and that the social condition is constantly changing, meaning that new approaches to architecture are constantly being sought. The study reveals that architecture is at a disadvantage to other arts because it results in the built form that people have to live with, and whether intentional or not, has a relationship with those people. In the case of most architecture of the modern movement, it has proved to be a negative one. In Chapter 3 - Humanity Displaced The analysis of the La Sarraz declaration and the Athens Charter reveals that the notion of living became less prominent in the discussion as economics and efficient building methods dominated. In effect issues of humanity became displaced from the discourse of architecture. The exploration of the direction of subsequent debates reveals that the displacement resulted in what is now termed as the negative relationship, between people and architecture. The study examines the human cost of this relationship to reveal why it is a negative one, acknowledging the social determinism of the 1950s and 60s, which saw people as meekly following an architecturally bestowed order, was bound to fail if people's beliefs and wishes were not taken into account. Having determined that architecture should be about people, and not about building, the study moves on to investigating what this actually means for the field of architecture, and how, if possible this is to be achieved. In Chapter 4 - Regarding Humanity establishing that understanding the social structure of society in the primitive sense, reinforces the link between architecture and people; and having determined that part of the failure of modern architecture is the down to the exact opposite. By establishing that there are similarities between architecture and anthropology, the study demonstrates that there could be a way of establishing new rules, and new approaches in the theoretical sense, but not necessarily in the practical sense. The study needs to look deeper into the relationship between the two fields to arrive at a practical application of one to the other.
  16. 16. Beneath the surface of architecture 8 9
  17. 17. Introduction From investigating the respective definitions of anthropology and architecture, the aim of Chapter 5 - Architecture and Anthropology is to establish that in the field of research there is a symbiotic relationship between the two. The study progresses the research into this relationship to investigate ways in which knowledge gained from anthropological research can be applied to the field of architecture in contemporary society. Anthropologists can help us to understand how the relationship between buildings and society worked before it became so complicated, and by extension trace the stages of the complication. (Blundell Jones 1996) The study of architectural anthropology in an academic sense is one thing, but applying the principles to the very real problem of architecture in the current social climate is quite another which is addressed in Chapter 6 'Architecture Revisited'. The notion that anthropologists can tell us far more about the complex relationships at work within the city forces an investigation of how things worked when things were less complicated, as proposed by Peter Blundell Jones. In investigating the validity of Blundell-Jones' claim, observation of events and buildings in rural areas of Sri Lanka prompts a re-examination of the site study and the social context in which it sits. Prompting a deeper understanding of the reasons why it is having a negative relationship with the people that are intended to use it, and by extension the areas in where a positive relationship can be achieved. In the Conclusion, Repositioning Architecture. The study has demonstrated that there is at present an uneasy relationship between architecture and humanity, as a result of the thinking of the twentieth century being proved wrong. The direction of the study towards the field of anthropology has revealed that there exists a problem of perception of the purpose of architecture, and likewise the field of anthropology. The study reveals that this is a problem that wh can be addressed through re-evaluation of both fields to arrive at a framework for the application of architecture to the problems of society.
  18. 18. Beneath the surface of architecture Chapter 1 10 11
  19. 19. Site Study This chapter explores the current situation in architecture, through critique of an object, a test subject. The object is explored from viewpoint of its dialogue with the city on a physical and psychological plane. The exploration of certain key events that have occurred in history that have helped to shape the object, along with technological breakthroughs that have enabled the site to be the way that it is. The site has been chosen as it demonstrates the failure of the totalitarian approach that was borne out of the modern movement and the rigid approaches to city planning. In that the planned cities of Le Corbusier and the megastructure ideas of the Smithsons that have been eroded by human involvement. The totalitarian megastructure city plan for Birmingham is currently being dismantled in favour of what is being promoted as an approach that is claiming to put the people first. Leaving the site as one of the few surviving components of that solution, the modernist megastructure that was proposed and largely built for Birmingham. This site in itself is a good example of the enforcement of a modernist megastructure on the city centre. It is suffering from the backlash against modern architecture, in that it is generally referred to as an eyesore, part of the concrete jungle metaphor that the people of Birmingham want to disassociate themselves from. The site’s purpose, New Street station is proving to be totally inadequate as the journey into Birmingham by train delivers the you into a confused, congested mass underneath the city. Birmingham is now a city in transition, it is a city is undergoing major reorganisation, and transformation. The Inner Ring Road dubbed the concrete collar by some has been gradually dismantled during the past ten to fifteen years, and has enabled the regeneration of Broad Street, along with the construction of Brindley Place and the development of a whole new quarter of Birmingham. The scheme began with the construction of the National Indoor Arena and International Convention Centre. Part of a bid to hold the 1996 Olympics, unsuccessful though the bid was it managed to hold attention on Birmingham long enough for investors to see the potential for regeneration of the city.
  20. 20. Beneath the surface of architecture …Utilitarian, arrogant and repelling...Rogers and Power 2001 12 13
  21. 21. Site Study Following the success of Brindley Place, the infamous Bull Ring of the 1960' has been removed, to be replaced by a bigger and ' s better'New Bull Ring of the 1990' with shopping malls and a twenty-first century department store, in the s, shape of Future Systems'Selfridges. ' Whether you regard the building as an exotic toadstool, a sequined boob tube or an alien spacecraft is immaterial. This is already the new Birmingham'(Pearman 2003). . Development is now spreading to the Eastern side of the city centre, with the demise of ' Masshouse Circus'and car park. Attention has shifted to ' Eastside' the former industrial quarter of Digbeth, encompassing the former Curzon Street Station, Millennium Point, Grimshaw' part science museum, part university, part s giant screen Imax cinema, (Pearman 2003) . Plans are afoot to move the central Library to ' Eastside'The New library - , a keystone of Birmingham' urban renaissance…a dynamic public place…the s most important building since Pompidou (Rogers 2002). Which will probably see the removal of Paradise Circus and the ' Brutalist'library complex; which leaves the complex that is simultaneously known as the ' Pallasades'and ' New Street Station' : the site which is part of an extremely complex situation in Birmingham. It is the site that in addition to New Street Station and the Pallasades shopping centre, also comprises other less obvious activities Stephenson Tower a residential block sitting above the station, and Ladywood House, and office block sitting above the shopping centre. Not to mention the three separate car parks and the servicing facilities that also sit above the shopping centre. In the context of the study, the chosen site gives an ideal test subject in that it is a problem site and demonstrates the current chasm between people and architecture. It is more of a living entity than say the ' Ring' Bull regardless of how it performs ' architecturally' (in the traditional sense) or functionally or even psychologically with those that use it, it is an object that is inextricably linked to the daily life of the city. The study commences through examineing the site as a static object to test Rogers'claim, ' Present day concerns for static objects will be replaced by concern for relationships'To investigate why a building that appears to have been . conceived as a static object, is failing in its position as part of the city centre, and is
  22. 22. Beneath the surface of architecture ‘Watching eyes of celluloid tell you how to live... . The Bull Ring 1998 ...Spiral city architect, I build you pay’ (Black Sabbath 1973) 14 15
  23. 23. Site Study having a poor relationship with the urban context in which it sits and the people that inhabit it. The relationship with the city, or lack of it is best demonstrated at the edges, or interfaces. The New Street interface. Is the one that is closest to the activities of the city centre. Is the Pallasades. Any glimpses of the site from New Street are of the blank concrete wall of shopping centre, which practically obscures any routes from the station to any of the main spaces of the city centre. Ladywood House is an office block that sits uncomfortably on top of the concrete plinth, which is similarly divorced from the life of the city. The entrance to the offices is crammed between two retail units at street level, where shop-fronts loom out of the shadows as the deep concrete plinth flies out over the street to sit on a run of thick concrete columns. A long ramp crosses the front of the megastructure providing service access to the shopping centre by means of storage units being situated directly above the retail units. The ramp also provides access to the car parks that exist on different levels of the structure resembling a derelict industrial facility. The plane in front of the car park ramp is taken up by the new footbridge, where blackened glass and white steel turrets sit on the platforms, with white steel and translucent polycarbonate panelled bridge spanning between them, again blackened by the constant onslaught of diesel exhaust smoke. The Navigation Street/Stephenson Place edge, comprises car park entrance ramps, barriers and surveillance cameras, a spiral pedestrian ramp connects the street level to an elevated walkway along the back of the shopping centre above. Although much of the tangle is invisible from the nearest edges of the station, as the whole scene is also hidden from view by a two metre high concrete wall lining the back of the pavement to Navigation Street, and Hill Street. The second interface is the one that buts up against Hill Street and Station Street. Here much of the site is obscured from view behind the ever- present two-metre high wall. This serves to make a one sided street, as the wall turns along Station Street, an opening forms entrances to the car parks and the
  24. 24. Beneath the surface of architecture Site study 2001 - Interfaces Station street 16 17
  25. 25. Site Study base of the ramp that cuts across the front of the building. Bridges fly across the rear access road named ' Queens Drive'after the street that used to run through the full length of the Station. One linking the Pallasades with a stair tower that permits access to the bus station that sits beneath the Bull Ring Centre. The second bridge links the corner of the Pallasades to the surviving concrete block of the 1960' Bull Ring Centre. The Queens Drive forms the taxi route to the main s entrence of the station and what sounds like a prestigious address for the residents of Stephenson Tower, which sits on top of the parcel depot, forming what passes for social housing. The people were and probably still are, placed in the block by the Local Authority as opposed to wanting to live there (Coleman 1985). At the third Interface, with the Bull Ring. A series of holes surrounded by the ubiquitous two metre wall make up the landscape which is punctuated by surface level car parking and Birmingham' infamous one way system of access s roads. The Pallasades flies out over the short stay car park and station entrance with its deep concrete plinth sitting on columns making another dark entrance. What is apparent in the case of New Street Station is, what is traditionally perceived as the architecture, has transcended the threshold of what Rem Koolhaas refers to as ' Bigness' Meaning that the building has become too big and . complex to be comprehended by a single architectural gesture or even number of gestures. Koolhaas argues that ' size of a building alone embodies an ideological program independent of the will of its architects.' (Koolhaas 1997). In reading the site complex, this argument appears to hold true. Especially when explored further in the context of Koolhaas'Five theorem of Bigness as developed in his book Delirious New York (1978). In reading the five theorems in conjunction with the site it comes as no surprise that enablers such as technological breakthroughs, have in time permitted this type of megastructure to come into existence. ' The combined effects of these inventions were structures taller and deeper - Bigger - than ever before conceived, with a parallel potential for the reorganisation of the social world - a vastly richer programmation' (Koolhaas . 1995)
  26. 26. Beneath the surface of architecture Site study 2001 - Interfaces The pedestrian ramp The housing scheme The vehicular ramp 18 19
  27. 27. Site Study However staying with the object now, it is obvious that parts of building become totally divorced from the life of the city, as different activities are self- contained and focussed on the interior. The use of air conditioning systems, has permitted the interior to eliminate the need for windows opening to the outside world for ventilation, the use of lifts and escalators has permitted totally different activities to co-exist, in isolation, but at the same time on top of one another. The architecture of the building has in itself become the city. Drawing on my previous research, ' The Beaubourg Experiment'where I was looking at Centre Pompidou, which has been described as an ocean liner in the centre of Paris, (Piano 1997). New Street Station is also too big to fit into the urban grain at in the centre of Birmingham. The key difference being the way that Centre Pompidou has a positive relationship with the people of Paris, and gives the appearance of something that has been rigorously considered and worked out (Beaudrillard 1984). Although it seems strange to be comparing New Street Station with Centre Pompidou, one is a railway station with associated ancillary facilities, and the other is a centre for arts and culture and also a project of Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano, who will feature in the story later. Both buildings are extremely public structures. The study is not about comparing railway stations. It is using the complex that contains the railway station as an example of architecture. Both have a relationship with the public, one positive and the other negative. We can examine the relative merits and demerits of such a construction, but we are dealing with it from an abstract point of view, as a building is an over-large and over complex object. I have deliberately attempted to describe the built form to demonstrate that it is not necessarily the arrangement of the buildings making up the site complex or its physical appearance that is important here. Sure, we can criticise the dark spaces, the poor weathering of certain built elements, the relative ugliness of raw concrete. We can discuss its relationship with the built fabric of the city but this only gives us a superficial view.
  28. 28. Beneath the surface of architecture The site as dynamic object 20 21
  29. 29. Site Study In shifting the emphasis of the study away from the built form to viewing the site as a dynamic object. It is the convergence of the railway station and the shopping centre forms a route that if one is arriving on foot into the city centre from a train journey; this is the route that they will have to take. The study investigates how this situation came to be through analysis of not the design of the building itself, but the trend in architecture and urban design at the time. The result of which will not necessarily give us an understanding of the situation, but will allow us to understand why it is the way that it is. As part of the city it becomes part of the experience of the daily lives of thousands of people. Those walking through the site. Those driving through the site. Those buying and selling in the site. Those delivering supplies retail units within the object. Those catching buses around the perimeter of the object. Those travelling through the city on the dozens of trains that pass beneath the object every hour, those that board or alight from those trains to find their way out into the city. The site is a dynamic object and it is the shift in thinking from a static object to a living entity that begins to enable us to understand it. It is the experience of making a journey through the site that makes it a part of the city, and demonstrates its effectiveness as an architectural object. The experience that is the most memorable is one of a journey that is made by thousands of people every day, the commuter…on their daily migration from the suburbs to the city centre. In examining the Relationship with the people the study concentrates on the experience of making this journey through the site a rush hour. The journey is broken down into six parts, which become scenes for different events.
  30. 30. Beneath the surface of architecture Scene 1 - 2 22 23
  31. 31. Site Study The Rush. Scene 1 - The Ramp " WOULD ALL MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC, FOR THEIR OWN SAFETY, KEEP TO THE LEFT SIDE, WHEN MOVING ALONG THIS RAMP!" Says the electronic voice that issues from speakers that are suspended above the seething mass of people that make up the living surface of the ramp. The ramp provides the setting of numerous collisions as programs of shopping and travelling co-exist in the same place, in that the shopper suddenly finds more people to avoid as they walk up New Street. Conversely, the traveller is suddenly confronted with a moving wall of people, as they reach the base of the ramp. On the ramp itself, the flow of those travellers merges with the flow of shoppers, moving up in to the Pallasades, causing friction as the ' rush'to catch trains ' collides'with the slow amble of the browsing shopper. Scene 2 - McDonalds A white line drawn down the centre of the ramp tries to order some of the chaotic flow. In order to assist this, signs and electronic voices constantly remind pedestrians to keep left. Half way up (or down, depending on your direction of travel) Mc Donald' happens! What seems like hundreds of people spill out, laden s with flimsy ' Coke'cups, and ' Mac and Fries' brown paper bags. Whilst others Big in stand in the doorway eating or talking on mobile phones, all interfering with the hoards of people who seem to be constantly moving up the ramp. On exiting McDonalds, it is bad luck if you actually want to go down the ramp!
  32. 32. Beneath the surface of architecture Human Behaviour matters more than function - Alsop 2001 Scene 3 - 4 24 25
  33. 33. Site Study Scene 3 - The Pallasades After recovering from the McDonald' incident the stampede encounters s smaller incidents as activity at shop-fronts interrupt it. At the top of the ramp two large overhead signs welcome you to the Pallasades shopping centre, well, one actually as the soign to the left hand side is obscured by the concrete canopy that projects out over the ramp Predominantly. ' Woolworths'dominates the left-hand side of the tunnel which is the entrance to the Pallasades. with women standing outside with kids in Prams as their friends are inside. On the opposite side it ' Newlook'with its extension over the high level walkway, situated at the head of a stairway, linking the shopping centre with Stephenson Place below. The head of the stair forms a flashpoint as people stand and wait to get a clear space to be able to move down, at the same time as an almost constant onslaught of people climbing up to avoid having to contend with the ramp. More groups of young people stand guard on the entrance chatting to their friends on mobile phones, blocking the path for those who want to go inside. The Newt is a pub that has its entrance on the ramp although the pub is situated on the lower level. The ramp entrance merely takes you down two flights of stairs to get to the entrance lobby. Scene 4 - In search of New Street station At the end of the tunnel, the ceiling height rises to a double height space, where on the ground the chaotic crossing of peoples’ paths breeds more collisions, near misses, stopping, changing direction, annoyance and frustration! The constantly moving mass of people in the shopping centre makes railway station is difficult to find, although there is an overhead clock above the crossroads with some small signs pointing to different parts of the centre. New Street Station is identified as being straight on although from this point there is no indication of anything resembling the station. Following the flow of people being deflected from one corner to another they negotiate their way around the shop units that block their path to the void.
  34. 34. Beneath the surface of architecture Scene 5 26 27
  35. 35. Site Study Scene 5 - The escalators. The void in the heart of the scheme is occupied by a bank of escalators and stairs, forming the link with the railway station below. The top of the escalator finds people arriving from the railway station, laden with bags and suitcases, stopping dead, trying to recognise anything that constitutes a sign of a way out. Much to the aggravation of the ones who do know where they are going, who have to almost climb over them. Ironically on the opposite side if the escalator void is an open café which does permit long views to the void from the shopping centre. Scene 6 The concourse. The ride down the escalator causes a similar series of events, as people race down the escalator suddenly to be confronted with seething a mass of people. Some standing mesmerised by the destination boards as they try to find where to catch their train. Some distribute promotional goods, some generally mill around. Others moving from person to person telling the same elaborate story of how they are homeless and how they need your spare change; all blocking the way for those who want to get from the city to the train and vice versa. Around to the left and just behind of the base of the escalator, is the entrance for those arriving by car or taxi, with the constant stream of ' Black-Cabs'dropping off and picking up. To the left in front are the ticket counters with the general air of anxiety as people try to get through the interminable queue to buy their ticket and still be able to catch their train in time. ' Rush' based upon my experience of trying to get from Corporation The is Street to New Street Station, on an evening typical of any other; the majority of people are leaving the city after the day' work. The shops are open in the s Pallasades, the kids have finished school for the day, and all three groups seem to converge in the same place. The same journey on a Saturday is far more difficult, as even more people are shopping.
  36. 36. Beneath the surface of architecture New Street Station Circa 1890 from Collins 28 29
  37. 37. Site Study Having explored the site from a built form point of view, and from an experiential point of view, the inevitable line of questioning goes in the direction of: how did it get to be like this? And perhaps more importantly, why did it get like this? The investigation of the question ' how'observes that the megastructure is gigantic compared to the urban context in which it sits. The urban grain has been destroyed, although it has been steadily eroded since 1845, when Birmingham street commissioners and council were looking into slum clearance in the densely packed medieval core. (Collins 1992). The station complex itself was designed in isolation by an architect working for the then newly nationalised British Rail, and is not dissimilar in its conception to others that were modernised during the era of electrification of the West Coast Main Line. In the era of the white heat of technology (Curtis 1998) where it was thought or maybe hoped that technology would solve all of society' problems. s We can examine the site history to give us reasons why things are the way that they are, but as we shall discover in more detail later, the history only gives us a limited view. Events that have happened in the city are taken out of their original context and placed in the linear form given to it by the historian, on the authority of Peter Collins we learn of ' slum clearance at someone else' s expense' At the same as time that the public were exerting pressure on the . railway companies, complaining that the existing station at Curzon Street was too far out of the city centre. As a result, areas such as Peck Lane and the Froggery, along with three churches and a synagogue disappeared from the city map, as the site was lowered by 25ft in 1850. Lewis Mumford gives similar accounts of urban devastation in the name of the ' public good' towards the end of the nineteenth century. Obviously neither of these historians were there at the time, Lewis' account of the effects of the industrial revolution on the city, were fashioned out of Dickens'hard times (Pope 1996).
  38. 38. Beneath the surface of architecture Enforcement 30 31
  39. 39. Site Study In Collins'account, the station during construction was referred to as "Grand Central station at Birmingham" as ' Builder'reported on 25th January the 1853; on the erection of vast 25 ton ribs, 45 of which make up the roof. This appears to be typical of the reporting of the time…(input from Pevsner,) great engineers of nineteenth century, achievements seen as an overwhelming progression and advancement of the human species…advances in technology, production and the sheer size of structures that could be erected, and the grandeur of these new civic buildings (notion of the public good) such as the hotel that was being erected on the site by the London and North Western Railway. The hotel became the Queens Hotel when it opened on 1st June 1854, along with the station becoming New Street Station, I suppose the name ' New Street'sounds more glamourous than ' Peck Lane' although where the name , ' Grand Central Station'went, Collins does not say. There are other significant dates that are picked out by Collins. From the enlargment of the station during the 1870' to the events of World War II taking s, their toll on the station as it sustained numerous direct hits, along with other key areas of the city. Herbert Manzoni, City Engineer and Surveyor, who features prominently in the History of Birmingham during the mid part of the twentieth century , in his plans to transform the city centre into a new modern city, instigated the reconstruction of New Street Station, and the development of the Bull Ring. The topping out ceremony of the offices in 1968, the opening of the shopping centre took place in 1970. The scheme introduced the access to the platforms via escalators reaching down from a new ' dispersal bridge' The new . system of subways deals with luggage and mail, excavated beneath the railway. The tortuous route identified in ' rush' that runs from corporation the , street to the Bull Ring, through the concrete structure, is an existing public right of way across the site. It was diverted to pass through the shopping centre to connect with the then ' new' Bull Ring Development. The promotional literature for the Bull Ring centre, sheds some more light on the driving force behind the arrangement at the station. The project offers a new concept of city centre shopping designed to afford complete shopping comfort in an air-conditioned
  40. 40. Beneath the surface of architecture The Bull Ring with direct links to new Street Station - Laing 1963 32 33
  41. 41. Site Study atmosphere. ' The scheme comprises probably the most comprehensive multi level trading centre in the world' …boasts John Laing Construction, and ' will include the main retail markets for Birmingham - department stores, supermarkets and 140 shop units, restaurants, coffee bars and many other amenities…including one of the largest Woolworth' stores in the country.'The s shopping centre was conceived as the primary focus with its ‘convenient’, ‘new modern interior environment’, boasting the’ longest escalators in Europe’, even the ' Muzak'system of playing unobtrusive background music over a series of loudspeakers, (Laing 1963). The plan also included landscaped gardens between buildings, where people could enjoy the ' freedom'of circulation through a network Subways where no one needed to cross a road, and traffic flows would be continuous eliminating congestion in the city. Facilities will be provided for entertainment and recreation so that the scheme will become a centre of attraction at all times. The public are drawn to the centre whether arriving on foot, by car, bus or by rail (Laing 1963). Improvement works to the station in 1989 following the fire at Kings-Cross Station in London. And the additional footbridge that forms the Navigation Street entrance was built in 1991 in an attempt to ease the congestion. The historical record gives us a sequence of events that have taken place to arrive at the current situation, but that is all it does, the history in this case is given from the point of view of the railway company. This design approach was not born overnight, it is an approach that was borne out of debates ranging from the 1920' in the modern movement and it s, would be unfair to criticise the building without investigating the social, political and artistic framework that the design approach originated from. Through examining the thought process in the context of the social condition that resulted in the construction of the megastructure many years later, the tracing of the design process back to its theoretical roots, will reveal why some things are the way that they are. The intention being, through developing an
  42. 42. Beneath the surface of architecture Context 34 35
  43. 43. Site Study understanding of the theories that combined to drive such a process, it becomes possible to assess the object from the viewpoint of its intentions. Having analysed the site as an object that fits uncomfortably with the city, and finding it as an object that has a negative relationship with the life of the city; and to a degree how it came to be. The critique of the object reveals that it is architecture in the traditional sense that is unable to comprehend the complexity of the current city, and by extension that the traditional approach to architectural research is limited to the question of ' how 'as opposed to ' . The history why' relating to the building reveals a series of events that occurred relative to that building. The findings of this building appraisal highlight the need for a more in- depth investigation, one that engages with the thought processes that enabled such an object to be enforced on the life of the city.
  44. 44. Beneath the surface of architecture Chapter 2 36 37
  45. 45. Advancement of the Human Species In the search for an answer to the question 'why', the study examines the driving force behind the events that led to the reconstruction of New Street Station into its present form. The history of modern architecture reveals a number of key players, Le Corbusier being the most prominent. Indeed the use of reinforced concrete in the construction of New Street Station, is similar to many of Le Corbusier's buildings. Although again we are in danger of looking at the problem superficially. The use of reinforced concrete in construction as displayed at New Street Station, demonstrates the application of techniques developed by Le Corbusier in his later work. Admittedly it is Le Corbusier's buildings that were built after World War II in the reconstruction of Europe, that have been copied by the British Planning authorities to cope with the demand for new affordable housing. Here the site displays more characteristics than were developed in Le Corbusier's housing schemes. It is a megastructure borne out of thought processes that took place during the early 20th Century. It is clear that these buildings were borne out of the spirit of the age rather than the ideas of one man. Through focussing on the developments in technology and construction, and the effects that they have on the people of the time, we can build up a picture of the social condition that architecture was trying to respond. Historical research reveals that there is no single thought process that resulted in the design of the site object, but elements of many that are seemingly unrelated, in terms of both thinking and time frame. Therefore, the study progresses in this chapter through exploring the ideas of the thinkers at specific periods through history. Those that history has revealed, were prominent figures in the 'modern movement', or more accurately, those that are instrumental in changing the direction of thought in architecture in terms with its relationship with the human condition.
  46. 46. Beneath the surface of architecture No such thing as a mistake in architecture. Alsop 2001 38 39
  47. 47. Advancement of the Human Species For Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers the modern movement began with erection of steel structures such as Joseph Paxton's Crystal Palace in 1851 and Deutert's Gallerie de Machines, Paris in 1889 (Appleyard 1986). Following this logic, it appears that the original structure of New Street Station should have been considered as belonging to the modern movement. Technology had permitted structures to become taller and deeper than they had previously. However, the notion that they were decorated in the style that was popular at the time, Gothic cast iron structures for example, makes them attached to one of the many revivals of the Victorian era. This art historians' approach classifies the building by the style in which it was decorated as opposed to its position in modernity as part of 'the constant search for progress and development of new forms.' (Leach 1997) Therefore in the study modernism is not treated as a style or an art movement, as exemplified by Charles Jencks (Modern Movements in Architecture). The purpose of this work is to examine modernism in its role as a response to a social condition. Before examining the work of the 'modern movement', it is worth taking a moment to examine what it is we really mean, by 'modern'. The concept of modern is one that has been with us since the Roman Empire and has been used to define the current epoch (Heynen 1999). Which negates the notion that modernism should be considered as a historical movement. Not surprisingly, the idea of modernism is one that is difficult to define, for some it is the aesthetic practice of modernity. For some the practice of modernity began with Descartes during the age of the 'enlightenment' (Leach 1997), where science became the centre of thinking. For others it began with Baudelaire and Flaubert in 19th Century France, and for others it is architecture responding to social condition that is modernity, that social condition being the early part of the 20th century, where social change was exposed to the sudden onslaught of modernisation (Leach 1997). In the context of the study, It is modernism in its role of responding to modernity as a social condition that is the main area of interest.
  48. 48. Beneath the surface of architecture Modernity is that transient, the fleeting, the contingent: it is one half of art, the other being eternal and immovable. (Baudillaire 1972) 40 41
  49. 49. Advancement of the Human Species Hilde Heynens work 'Architecture and Modernity' discusses two views of modernity: the pastoral view and the counter-pastoral view. In the pastoral view of modernity: Politics, economics and culture are united under the banner of progress. Progress is seen as harmonious and continuous, as though is developed to the advantage of everyone without any significant interruptions. This approach is exemplified by Le Corbusier and Antonio St Elia. In the counter pastoral view of modernity, the discussion of modernity is inseparably bound up with the problem of the relationship between capitalist civilisation and modernist culture, as exemplified by Adolf Loos and Walter Benjamin. Fundamentally, the two views can be reduced to the pastoral view being about technological advancement, and the counter-pastoral being about artistic and sociological factors imposed on society as a result of technological advancement. At this juncture, the study concentrates on the pastoral view to examine the bold aims of the young thinkers that were proposing that the application of modern technology to the problem of architecture would be the solution to society's problems. Historical research reveals that the design theories and manifestos of the modern movement are linked to historical events, however, they do not happen in isolation or in a linear sequence. In what is sometimes referred to as the heroic period of modernism (Frampton 1980) there are many significant movements in art and architectural discourse that occurred during the time frame 1900 - 1930, these were operating in different social conditions. Industrialisation throughout Europe and the US, forming the primary driver for technological advancement resulting in the Futurist Movement in Italy from 1909 and its position against the backdrop of the formation of a fascist state (Frampton 1980).
  50. 50. Beneath the surface of architecture Modernity…the condition of living imposed upon individuals by the socio- economic process of modernisation.' Heynen 42 43
  51. 51. Advancement of the Human Species The Constructivist movement in Russia, occurred against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution in 1917 and the subsequent formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) (Frampton 1980). Following the First World War and the massive application of technology to the war effort, came the ambitious modern city planning schemes of Le Corbusier in Paris and the rationalisation of construction methods of the Frankfurt school against the formation of the nationalist state in Germany. Architectural history reveals that each school of thought had an influence in the overall movement with ideas cross fertilising between the Futurists and the Modernists and between the Modernists and the Constructivists, and vice versa (Banham 1960), (Frampton 1980). During the early twentieth century there were thinkers writing about the modernisation of cities, embracing the spirit of industrialisation. Georg Simmel in his essay 'Metropolis and Mental Life' 1903, is saying that the pace of life in the modern city is fundamentally changing the nature of interpersonal relationships, resulting the intensification of emotional life as people try to exert their individuality on life in the city. What he terms as the swift and continuous shift of external and internal stimuli reduces man to a commodity, subject to economic division of labour. 'single cog against the vast overwhelming organisation of things and forces' what he later describes as the 'concrete institutions of the state.' What he is saying is that the city is taking man's individuality and reducing him to part of a system. A mood echoed by Walter Benjamin in his review of Engel's work on life in London, 'Londoners have had to sacrifice what is best in human nature to create all the wonders of civilisation that their city teems.' A further discussion that Benjamin has with the text is regarding the movement of people through the cramped spaces of London. In that the 'greater number of people that are packed into a tiny space, the more repulsive and offensive becomes the brutal indifference, the unfeeling concentration of each person in his private affairs.'
  52. 52. Beneath the surface of architecture Class mass and mob for fifty years and more Had to travel in the jangling roar Of railways, the nomadic caravan That stifled individual mind in man, Till automobilism arose at last. Marinetti Rooftop test track at the FIAT Factory - from Towards a New Architecture 44 45
  53. 53. Advancement of the Human Species These texts do not advocate the idea of modernisation of the city directly, but to a degree are stating some of the problems of the city, and identifying the condition in which Le Corbusier, St Elia and Loos are responding to. Walter Benjamin goes further in his essay on Paris to criticise the master builders of the nineteenth century for not perceiving the functional nature of iron, in that in his view did not address the constructive principle of architecture. 'The builders model their pillars on Pompeian columns, their factories on houses, as later the first railway stations resemble chalets.' A common theme in these works and the works of the Futurist movement in Italy and the early modern movement in France and Germany is the Reaction to Bourgois culture, with its perceived elitism of the middle classes. Ornament in architecture was seen as a manifestation of this elitism, and from an artistic point of view the overall trend seems to be one that is looking for an art that is for the ordinary man. By extension industrialisation is resulting in bigger buildings that no longer have the same meaning as the styles that they were being adorned with. There are poems from the Futurist movement in Italy, that capture the excitement of a new freedom found by industrialisation. The advent of the motor car changed the shape of cities forever. The story of Marinetti overturning his car into a factory ditch during an impromptu motor race, on the surface could not be further from the story of architecture and its place in society. However the story captures the excitement of the age (1909) and is said that the experience prompted him to write his first manifesto that inspired Futurism. (Banham 1960) In his manifesto Marinetti was advocating that we take this new found freedom and make it the basis for the modern city, looking for new reasons for existence solely out of special conditions of modern living and its aesthetic value in our sensibilities. Metaphors of the shipyard a re a recurring theme…'active, mobile and everywhere dynamic…shipyards blazing with electric moons',
  54. 54. Beneath the surface of architecture La Citta Nova - Antonia St Elia 1914 - From Theory and Design in the First Machine Age - Reyner Banham 46 47
  55. 55. Advancement of the Human Species Also from the futurist group, Antonio St Elia was writing manifestos regarding the position of architecture within the context of the city. 'We no longer feel ourselves to be the men of the cathedrals and ancient moot halls, but men of the Grand Hotels, railway stations, giant roads, colossal harbours, covered markets, glittering arcades, reconstruction areas and salutory slum clearances.' - From St Elia's 'Messaggio.' This is a mood that is later echoed by Le Corbusier in 1923 (Towards a new Architecture) where he is criticising the architecture of the nineteenth century, and at the same time is looking at technological advancement in the form of ocean liners, aeroplanes, automobiles etc. These observations enabled him to make judgements about the spirit of the age and the need to define a new realm for architecture. In criticising architecture in the traditional sense, he is saying that 'architecture is stifled by custom', and 'the styles are a lie', he is trying to steer architecture away from its concerns with ornamentation, to make it address the real issues (Banham 1960). In Marinetti's work, there is a strong representation of the idea that technology will replace all earlier design principles, in particular against the ornamental applications of the classical traditions, columns, mouldings, marble, etc. The Futurist ideals of liberating architecture from the shackles of tradition demonstrate that there was a new spirit in architecture, aimed a repositioning architecture to a role that was more central to the needs of society. In the manifestos of the futurists there are more revealing statements about their view of the position that architecture should be occupying in society. Comprising key ideas such as the departure from Mythology and Mystic Idealism, to the destruction of the academic institutions (this was against the backdrop of Fascism) Further ideas expressed are the '…homage to the triumph of industrialisation…' and being 'fundamentally opposed to culture.' (Banham 1960) Again this is a notion that is championed by Le Corbuiser, although he is not going so far as to advocate the destruction of academic institutions for
  56. 56. Beneath the surface of architecture 'A great epoch has begun. There exists a new spirit There exists a mass of work conceived in the new spirit, it is to be met particularly in industrial production.' Le Corbusier 1923 48 49
  57. 57. Advancement of the Human Species example, 'The business of architecture is to establish emotional relationships by means of raw materials.' (Le Corbuiser 1923) Marinetti enthused that 'Lifts no longer hide away like solitary worms in the stairwells…lifts must swarm up the facades of buildings like serpents of glass and iron.' Le Corbusier in his proposals for towers in the park, in his words, would provide an architecture worthy of our time. 'No more courtyards, but flats opening on every side to air and light, and looking not onto puny trees of our boulevards of today, but upon green sward, sports grounds and abundant plantations of trees. The jutting prows of these great blocks would break up the long avenues at regular intervals' (Le Corbusier 1923). In Le Corbusier's view of relationship between man and house, he saw the house as tool, subject to successive improvement, claiming that men are living in out of date houses, and by extension that man is becoming demoralised. In Le Corbusier's view of the epoch we have gained a new perspective and a new social life, but have not adapted the house thereto. Claiming that 'the problem of the house is a problem of the epoch. The equilibrium of society depends upon it.' In identifying that the problem of the house is bound up in the greater problems of society, the proposal is that modes of industrial production can help to redefine the house to make it socially relevant. 'If we eliminate from our hearts and minds all dead concepts in regard to the house, and look at the question from a critical and objective point of view, we shall arrive at the "house machine", a mass production house, healthy (and morally so too) and beautiful in the same way that the working tools and instruments which accompany our existence are beautiful' (Le Corbusier 1923). In St Elia's manifesto, modern building was conceived as being like a giant machine. What is interesting to the study relating to New street Station is that St Elia's drawings for grand central station in Milan, also referred to as 'Milano 2000' exhibit some of those same elements, demonstrating the approach that is manifest at New Street in the all encompassing megastructure.
  58. 58. Beneath the surface of architecture La Sarraz Declaration - From Frampton 1. The idea of modern architecture includes the link between the phenomenon of architecture and that of the general economic system. 2. The idea of ‘economic efficiency’ does not imply production furnishing the maximum commercial profit, but production demanding a minimum working effort. 3. The need for maximum economic efficiency is the inevitable result of the impoverished state of the general economy. 4. The most efficient method of production is that which arises from rationalisation and standardisation. Rationalisation and standardisation act directly on working methods both on modern architecture (conception) and in the building industry (realisation). 5. Rationalisation and standardisation react in a threefold manner. (a) They demand of architecture conceptions leading to simplification of working methods on site and in the factory. (b) They mean for building firms a reduction in the skilled labour force, they lead to the employment of less specialised labour working under the direction of highly skilled technicians; (c) They expect from the consumer (that is to say the customer who orders the house in which he will live) a revision of his demands in the direction of a readjustment to the new conditions of social life. Such a revision will be manifested in the reduction of certain individual needs henceforth devoid of any real justification: the benefits of this reduction will foster the maximum satisfaction of the needs of the greatest number, which are at present restricted. 50 51
  59. 59. Advancement of the Human Species Aside from the futurists, in Europe the Congres Internationaux d' Architecture Moderne (CIAM) was set up as a research group. The debates within CIAM range from the 1920's to 1950's give a time line for the changes in thinking that resulted in the design theories. At CIAM I in La Sarraz Switzerland, 1928, twenty-four architects from seven countries, signed the 'La Sarraz Declaration' A manifesto for the advancement of modern architecture, based primarily on the work of the Frankfurt School led by Max Ernst. The aims being that culture would change, forming a new culture to match the character of the new epoch. That architecture and planning would lead to emancipation of the people, in that it would deliver the enhancement of everyday life. At first, from Frampton's reading it appears the La Sarraz declaration placed emphasis on building rather than architecture. Although the emphasis is on building as the elementary activity of man intimately linked with evolution and the development of human life. A feeling that is echoed by Patrick Nuttgens in his book 'The Story of Architecture', where he traces developments in architecture through building techniques. The declaration proposes that architecture will dictate the way that people will live, which is in keeping with the view of modern architecture of the time. From Heynen's reading, it is Ernst's view they were developing a culture that anticipated a future society, rationally organised and conflict free, possessing equal rights and common interests. Along with the proposed rationalisation of the construction industry, the congresses discussed the problems of minimum living standards, based on socialist principles. (Frampton) The aim was to achieve this by the application of industrialisation and construction to the use of space. By extension the view was that progress was the result of increasing rationality of all levels of society (Heynen 1999). The La Sarraz declaration appears to be the springboard for architecture to shift from dealing with social issues to one of technological advancement. The socialist principles were aimed at addressing the housing needs of the poor and under-privileged. The technological aims were to develop a 'Pure and sober
  60. 60. Beneath the surface of architecture ‘Contemporary architecture must crystallise the new socialist way of life’ – OSA Manifesto 52 53
  61. 61. Advancement of the Human Species architecture of the utmost simplicity was the correct foundation for a contemporary culture and everyday life.' The key aim from this was the rationalisation of construction to make housing available to as many people as possible (Heynen 1999). Our own epoch is determining day by day, its own style”. – Le Corbusier (1923) Towards a new Architecture. At CIAM IV The Functional City, Athens and Marseilles 1937. The discussion focussed on the issues of optimum block height and spacing, based on the most efficient use of land and materials. The debated dominated by the personality of Le Corbusier shifted the emphasis from building to town planning – the functional city. The work of Le Corbusier centres around his work La Ville Radiuese, which was conceived as a reply to Moscow in 1931, regarding the development of Planned cities, in accordance with the Constructivist movement. In USSR the Institute of Contemporary Architects, (OSA) was set up as research group in a similar way to CIAM – its stated aim was to give USSR, the first socialist country, a built environment that would reflect its socio-political system. ‘Contemporary architecture must crystallise the new socialist way of life’ – OSA Manifesto. For the Constructivists the profession of architecture changed from one of decoration to one of social engineering. OSA advocated that there was change of the role of architecture in society. The architect should be first a sociologist, second a politician and third a technician. What is significant here is that the planned cities of the Soviet Union were designed with the notion of a socialist state in mind, which differs greatly from the populations of Western Europe. Taking the notion expressed by Charles Jencks in 1995 (Architecture of the Jumping Universe), that 'Form Follows world view.' The idea that modern cities can be developed for capitalist society based upon planned cities that were developed for communist society, highlights the fact that the connection between
  62. 62. Beneath the surface of architecture Somebody, I believe he was English said that modernism was perhaps Europe's Post-modernism. Once that formula was launched, it became ver painful to us. (Koolhaas 1991) 54 55
  63. 63. Advancement of the Human Species architecture and the human condition had been weakened in favour of following the building forms. In effect in one state form did follow world view, in the other form followed form. CIAM openly asserted that architecture was unavoidably contingent of the broader issues of politics and economics... and would depend on the universal adoption of rationalised production methods, for its general level of quality. (Frampton) What is significant here is that the emphasis in the debates seems to be focussed on efficiency from a materialistic standpoint, although there are mentions of humanity, in ‘minimum living standards’, the actual process of living seems to be absent from the discussion. It is possible that the debate was steered away from dealing directly with the issues of humanity. The social aims of the modern movement, reveal that the thinkers at the time were trying to comprehend the social condition, and that the social condition is constantly changing, meaning that new approaches to architecture are constantly being sought. The study reveals that architecture is at a disadvantage to other arts because it results in the built form that people have to live with, and whether intentional or not, has a relationship with those people. In the case of most architecture of the modern movement, it has proved to be a negative one.
  64. 64. Beneath the surface of architecture Chapter 3 56 57
  65. 65. Humanity Displaced The analysis of the La Sarraz declaration and the Athens Charter reveals that the notion of living became less prominent in the discussion as economics and efficient building methods dominated. In effect issues of humanity became displaced from the discourse of architecture. The exploration of the direction of subsequent debates reveals that the displacement resulted in what is now termed as the negative relationship, between people and architecture, the study examines the human cost of this relationship to reveal why it is a negative one. The architectural history shows that in the period following the Second World War, thinking continued to evolve as more experience demonstrated that some of the heroic ideals of the modern movement were proving to have social consequences. Post War Europe created need for massive reconstruction schemes of the scale that were proposed by the likes of Le Corbusier for La Voisin Paris, in the 1920's and the Futurists for Milano in the 1910's . Following the war, the congress continued to meet from 1947 onwards, reconvening with CIAM VI at Bridgewater, England where the emphasis shifted from the ideals of the functional city and minimum living standards, in what Frampton describes as 'the triumph of liberal idealism over materialism'. The shift apparent in the attempt to transcend the abstract sterility of the functional city, by affirming that ‘the aim of CIAM is to work for the creation of a physical environment that will satisfy man’s material and emotional needs’ (Frampton 1980). CIAM VIII also held in England in 1951 this time at Hoddesdon. Where the British Modern architecture Research Group (MARS) affirmed that ‘People want buildings that represent their social and community life to give more functional fulfilment. They want their aspiration for monumentality, joy, pride and excitement to be satisfied’ (Taken from the MARS Manifesto 1943). CIAM IX at Aix en Provence in 1953 saw the bowing out of Le Corbusier, admitting that the younger generation were more in touch with social issues, that the old guard. The mood at CIAM IX became the decisive split within the congress
  66. 66. Beneath the surface of architecture The establishment of rules has been the death of architecture – Alsop 2001 58 59
  67. 67. Humanity Displaced when the new generation led by the Smithsions and Aldo van Eyck, challenged the functionalist principles, in favour of the search for the structural principles of urban growth, structural principles based on the family unit and looking for the next larger unit. Acknowledging the basic emotional need of belonging, a sense of identity, recognising this as a prime contributor to the reality that the short narrow street of the slum succeeds where the spacious redevelopment frequently fails.' The critique of the functionalist principles being based upon the notion that the functional city precluded a sense of community, based on experience of observing Street life in London in the 1950's. The final CIAM X held at Dubrovnic, Yugoslavia, in 1956 which saw the break up of CIAM which was superceded by Team X or Team 10 depending on who you read, comprised a new approach with younger members who had previously worked for local authorities. The Smithsons working for Greater London Council, for example and began questioning the Functional city of the 1930's which was beginning to manifest itself in many London boroughs as the city planners were taking the ideas developed in the Athens Charter and imposing them where they saw fit. The Smithsons were opposed the high rise blocks spaced out over a plain that had been formed by razing entire areas of city, in favour of a megastructure approach which involved the imposition of dense blocks on existing urban areas. As Frampton states, 'it is one of the paradoxes of Team X that Bakema proposed the megabuilding as the psychological fix for the megapolitan landscape just when the Smithsons hed begun to entertain doubts as to the viability of such structures.' Ironically the complex at New Street Station exhibits some of the qualities of Team X early work, that they subsequently moved away from, the project for Berlin Haupstadt for example, with its causeways above the old street, with escalator access to shopping levels and the roof.
  68. 68. Beneath the surface of architecture 60 61
  69. 69. Humanity Displaced Theirs was notion of the permanently ruined city - ruined in the sense that accelerated movement and change in the 20th Century were incapable of relating to the pattern of any pre-existing fabric. This is a notion that is clearly demonstrated at our site, the New Street complex. The site has no real relationship with the existing fabric. There is actually no connection of the housing to the street, its access is via, the service road that runs around the back of the station. The housing block sits above a parcel depot, on some sixteen seemingly undersized concrete columns. The concrete wall enclosing the parcel depot isolates the site from activities along Hill street and Station Street. Although following the logic of the design, this approach is justified. After all, when all the shops are located inside a large modern air conditioned container, who needs to go out in to the wind and rain on the street to go shopping? By 1960, the Smithsons' thinking on the problem of city centre development had shifted, moved on, rather than continuing to advocate the megastructure, they opted for localised traffic free enclaves. Could this be what Manzoni was alluding to with The Bull Ring Centre, and indeed the city centre with its sunken precincts where people are free to walk about through a network of subways with traffic whirling around above them? The thinking within Team X was again shifted by Aldo Van Eyck whose anthropological research of the 1940's, personally preoccupied with primitive cultures and timeless aspects of built form that such cultures invariably reveal. His experience enabled him to develop a unique position where he attacked what he saw as the alienating abstraction at the roots of modern architecture. Five years of intense development had convinced van Eyck that the architectural profession, if not western man as a whole, had so far proved incapable of developing either an aesthetic or a strategy for dealing with the urban realities of mass society. Van Eyck asserted that Modern architects have been continually harping on what is different in our time to such an extent that they have lost touch with what is not different (Frampton 1980). In Frampton's history, fellow Team X member Giancarlo de Carlo: remarked that proposals from the La Sarraz
  70. 70. Beneath the surface of architecture 62 63
  71. 71. Humanity Displaced Declaration in forty years have proved to be an 'abuse perpetrated first on the poor and then even on the not so poor. The students revolt of 1968 was not only a necessary culmination of the crisis in architectural education, but also a reflection of the deeper and more significant dysfunctions of architectural practice. Although the idea of social programme was central to the modern movement itself, the result of its construction meant that cultural practices, regional identities that were formerly determined by topographical conditions, were effectively erased by clearing areas of city and destroying communities. ' After all, life was right and the architect wrong' (Le Corbusier 1965) From reading Le Corbusier's early work his texts were written in the style as to be predicting the future, and suggesting how the people in the future would live following a new order designed by the architects. In Le Corbusier's lifetime he witnessed how his predictions did not come true, and in the case of towards a new Architecture, the pace of life rapidly overtook the predictions made. The current situation is the consequence of those events and the designers' and thinkers' reactions to those events. The architecture has since been contaminated by subsequent events. The point being that design debates of the modern movement were responding to social conditions at the time. Le Corbusier acknowledged this in predicting that 'people will need to learn how to live with modern houses.' (Le Corbusier 1925) The site object is one that was conceived not out of a single design process but comprises characteristics of various design processes from the twentieth century. Ranging from the notion of building over the railway as displayed in St Elia's proposal for Milan in 1909. The residential block borne out of the minimum living standards of Max Ernst and the functional city of Le Corbusier to the megastructure idea exhibited by the Smithsons, where pedestrians are separated, segregated from vehicular traffic in a series of buried or raised walkways. In that the shopping centre is also the prime example of turning the
  72. 72. Beneath the surface of architecture 64 65
  73. 73. Humanity Displaced back on the life of the city to offer an artificial 'safe' environment, away from vehicular traffic and the inclement British weather. From a social view point, the housing scheme is made up of families who were forced together, following the relocation from their former communities. In anthropological terms, this means being uprooted from their lives, with all of the family heritage and memories that have accumulated over generations, being swept away in the name of progress. The changing direction of the CIAM debates highlights the discontent with this type of housing scheme is typical of the trend of slum-clearance programs of the 1950’s coupled with post war reconstruction. What the community did not lose through the blitz, they lost through the planners. The general consensus of the planners of such schemes was that the people were going to blindly accept the new on the basis that it would be better than the old. (Melhuish 1997) The analysis of the experience of travelling through the site it reveals that the current situation is part of what has become uncomfortable relationship between such buildings and people. This is however, part of a greater problem. The situation being that the relationships within the city have become so complex that they can no longer be'…comprehended by single or even number of architectural gestures…' (Koolhaas 1995). The enlarged time line for the creation of the site situation demonstrates that there is an ever-changing context that is the city, from a human viewpoint, the needs, wants and desires of the population are changing, evolving, adjusting, which makes the social aims of architecture more difficult to define. Renzo Piano makes reference to architecture as being a profession in crisis, where architecture is a socially dangerous art. Using the metaphor of you don’t have to read a bad book, you don’t have to listen to a bad piece of music, by the ugly apartment block in front of your house leaves you with no alternative: you have to look at it. In piano's view some architects relish their social uselessness, whether real or presumed. Giving them excuses for taking refuge in pure form or pure technology.
  74. 74. Beneath the surface of architecture 66 67
  75. 75. Humanity Displaced This demonstrates that in some cases architects are allowing the profession to become marginalised and relegated to the practice of applying surface treatments to buildings. For Rem Koolhaas architects are left in the position of Frankenstein's creators: 'instigators of a partly successful experiment whose results are running amok and are therefore discredited' (Koolhaas 1994). In this context Koolhaas is claiming that the question 'What is the maximum architecture can do?' is architectures debilitating weakness, instead proposing that a 'theory of bigness' be developed. A theory where architecture disassociates itself from the artistic/ideological movements of modernism and formalism, and in doing so regain its instrumentality as a vehicle of modernisation. Through the recognition that architecture is in trouble, the proposal is not to overcompensate with even more 'regurgitations of even more architecture', but to regain a strategic position of 'retreat and concentration' where strategies are developed to organise independence and interdependence of events within in a single container. Or put more simply, to comprehend and understanding the relationship between the human activities that the building is trying to address. Koolhaas' proposal could be addressing the point that Rogers is making when he is refers to changing concerns, if architecture cannot comprehend the complexity of human relationships in the traditional sense, then maybe it should be redefining itself in such a way as it can. Social engineering are becoming buzzwords. Having re-emerged from its placement with the Constructivist movement. What is clear is that the traditional view of the architect as hero has been exhausted what has traditionally been the architect's role has been undermined by other professions. Depending on view of the individual, the architect is seen as the one who merely make buildings look pretty, or spend the clients money of unnecessary personal gestures. This is merely a reflection of the current climate, the
  76. 76. Beneath the surface of architecture 68 69
  77. 77. Humanity Displaced construction process is controlled by many factors which the architect has little or no control over. The current political climate is willing people to move back into the city, the Kyoto summit and the climate change lobby are calling for what Richard Rogers refers to as sustainable cities (Rogers 1997). In Roger's notion of the sustainable city, activity is returned to the urban core as opposed to being dispersed along arterial routes and sprawling out into the countryside as has been the trend in recent years. We have learned that this is partly due to the failure of city centre schemes developed during the 1950’s and 1960’s, Birmingham being a prime example of this. There has been a Change in world-view since the 1950's and 60's where we are in an age of Globalisation. Where critics, the sociologists especially, are accurate and perceptive accountants of the loss in immediacy, in a sense of community, in security, which recent changes in the city have involved, but the do not seem to be able to help those of us that suffer the loss’ (Rykwert 2000). However, as the community goes through incremental change it can evolve and retain its coherence as work goes on. At present much of Birmingham once again resembles a bomb-site, but this time at the hands on the developers, building bigger and better versions of the developments that have been pulled down. Where did all those people go? All of the shop keepers, their customers, the people who ritually parked their car in the same spot every week, the community has once again been displaced. For some time, sensitive architects and designers have been fully aware that all is not well in the relationship between architecture and society (Blundell- Jones 1996). With the so-called failure of the modern architecture in the reconstruction of cites, which has been blamed for various social problems, which ironically are the problems that modern architecture was intended to solve.
  78. 78. Beneath the surface of architecture Fig All is not well in the field of architecture 70 71
  79. 79. Humanity Displaced however at this stage the study examines the notion that architecture in the traditional sense is incapable of comprehending the complexity of the human condition as exemplified by Le Corbusier. In examining Le Corbusier’s remark that after all life was right and the architect wrong. Blundell Jones asks, ‘how and why wrong?’ In the search for an answer to this problem, proposes that anthropologists can help us to understand how the relationship between buildings and society worked before it became so complicated, and by extension trace the stages of the complication. In the traditional sense anthropology and architecture could not be further from one another, however from breaking down both fields to reveal the 'frameworks' in which they operate, reveals that they have far more in common than the traditional approach would have us believe. The examination of the human cost of architecture reveals that it is not necessarily the buildings that are at fault, but the way that the subject of architecture has been approached in context with the people that are expected to use it. Many thinkers are highlighting the need for a new approach to architecture that concentrates on people rather than building, but not necessarily how this is to be achieved. Perhaps the notion that anthropology can contribute positively to architectural discourse could hold the key. It was in the 1970's as a reaction to the 'crisis of architecture and urbanism' that architectural anthropology became an accepted approach to the problems of the city. As highlighted in the debates of CIAM IX, X and when Team X superseded CIAM the stated aim was to build upon regional identities. (Frampton 1980) Predominantly the approach was that of the utopian ideal of sweeping away and replacing existing communities, rather than building upon them (Melhuish 1996), that could be blamed for the crisis. Henceforth, the social determinism of the 1950s and 60s, which saw people as meekly following an architecturally bestowed order, was bound to fail if people's beliefs and wishes were not taken into account. (Blundell-Jones 1996)
  80. 80. Beneath the surface of architecture 72 73
  81. 81. Chapter 4
  82. 82. Beneath the surface of architecture 74 75

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