Friday, January 18, 2008

Industrial semi-abstract

click photo to enlarge
I worry about about modern architecture. Not in a way that keeps me awake at night, but in a way that makes me say, "Is that the best we can do?" That probably sounds arrogant so let me enlarge. In the best architecture of the twentieth century we saw the realisation of the idea that the best buildings are those where the form arises in large measure from a design straightforwardly fulfilling its purpose. Louis Sullivan's much misquoted "form follows function" summarises the approach, and it's one to which I subscribe.

Industrial buildings invariably do this: so too do some commercial buildings. But many do not. Much domestic housing is tricked out in borrowings from historical and vernacular styles - a bit of mock half-timbering here, a bit of Victorian cresting or herringbone brickwork there, the intention being to lay on a veneer that impresses the viewer. And, increasingly, our major cities are being decorated by "iconic buildings", that, in their way, do the same. I listen to the adulation that accompanies the latest Frank Gehry or Zaha Hadid building and often find myself asking, "Why is it that shape?" Am I wrong in thinking that too often the answer is, "Because it can be?" City authorities queue up for the services of such architects, intending to secure a "Gee whiz", landmark building. But it occurs to me that if you want to build well you don't build for effect.

This factory in Boston, Lincolnshire, is a big, shiny, metal-clad box with an interesting, blocky, protrusion. Is it a filter, an intake, or something else? Whatever it is, it is that shape to most efficiently fulfil its purpose: an example of form following function and organically producing something of interest. And providing me with a semi-abstract photograph!

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 150mm (300mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f11
Shutter Speed: 1/320
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On