Thursday, April 14, 2016

Novelty in architecture

click photo to enlarge
Architecture is no less subject to the search for novelty than any other art, craft or commercial undertaking. Novelty catches the eye of the public and, frequently, the money of the buyer. It can be the entirely legitimate result of new ideas, improved technology etc. But it can also be a deliberate application to an object with the sole purpose of realising a sale, a veneer laid over something that is otherwise unexceptional. To be fair, novelty can enrich the public sphere regardless of its motivation. However, where a form doesn't spring from an underlying need or function too often it fails.

I passed some new flats in Stoke Newington in London recently. The overall form was commonplace - a large block with a grid of windows, some floor to ceiling glass walls, and glazed stairwells. The main feature that distinguished it from other blocks of flats was the decorative treatment of the solid walls. These were painted lemon yellow and overlaid with strips of galvanised mesh arranged in a lattice-work pattern. The metalwork had no purpose that I could deduce except decoration. My first thought on seeing it was, will each of the points where it is fixed to the wall develop a water stain below? This was followed by the thought that the painters will really struggle when it needs painting again. I've commented elsewhere on this blog about the unforeseen consequences of decorative treatments on new architecture. Perhaps an algorithm could be built into architectural software that would identify locations with the potential to develop stains. Perhaps it already exists.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: Elevation Detail, Newington Court, Stoke Newington, London
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 39mm (78mm - 35mm equiv.) crop
F No: f5.3
Shutter Speed: 1/200 sec
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On