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Arts and Craft, maintenant?

4362 Views 5 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  Manuel
Hugh Pearman
You just can’t get rid of some architects. If they are successful, everyone wants to use them. The older they get, the more in demand they are. It was true of America’s Frank Lloyd Wright and France’s Le Corbusier; it’s true today of America’s Frank Gehry, Italy’s Renzo Piano and Britain’s Richard Rogers and Norman Foster. This has always been an art in which wide acceptance comes relatively late in life – though these are striplings compared with Oscar Niemeyer, creator of Brasilia and still working at 100. Even so, we’re now at a pause moment. What comes next?

The problem is most acute here in Britain because we have enjoyed a long, golden era of architectural eminence. It might not have seemed quite that way to those of us living here, but that is because we generally mistrust our best architects and force them to make a name for themselves overseas. That’s what began our last great period. When Rogers and Piano, with no work to speak of in Britain or Italy, jointly won the competition to build the Pompidou Centre in Paris in 1971, the nascent style known as high-tech hit the world stage. Rogers’s former partner, Foster, was close behind: his Willis Faber (now Willis Corroon) building of 1975 in Ipswich is now Grade I-listed.

That tells you everything. When a given style is regarded by con-servationists as historically important, then plainly it is no longer current. High-tech is still a saleable currency - look at Foster’s mega-projects in Russia and China, or Rogers’s billion-euro Barajas airport, in Madrid, so much better than his compromised T5 at Heathrow. Rogers is also enjoying a retrospective at London’s Design Museum, fresh from its showing at the Pompidou. Younger architects don’t design like that, however. It’s so last century. Incredible, in a way, it has had the run it has.

Nor do the younger architects default to one of the other tropes of recent times – the “polite modern” white box. Recently derided by Kevin McCloud, of Grand Designs fame, the white box is a 1990s thing, in truth, and has - like the weird-shaped-icon-building boom - run its course.

Rogers’s cooperatively run firm is now known as Rogers Stirk Harbour. Ivan Harbour, one of those younger names, is responsible for England’s first Maggie’s cancer-support centre, just opened in Hammersmith, west London. It’s a graceful, cheerful, modest and necessary little building, and it is nothing like the work his boss used to do. Handcrafted, solid-walled, richly coloured, not remotely mechanistic beyond the gesture of its floating roof canopy: arguably, this is not so much in the high-tech tradition as in the Arts and Crafts tradition. Which, appropriately, defined the last high point of British architecture, a century ago.

Harbour’s Maggie’s Centre, however, does not engage with the latest obsession in British architecture, known as new ornamentalism. In a nutshell, ornament is no longer a crime. Actually, a lot of high-tech was ornamentation by stealth - all those exposed struts and pipes were ways to dress up a basic box - but there was always an underlying functional rationale. With new ornamentalism, there is no such thing. Ornament is ornament.

It has been around for a while - Will Alsop, always the maverick, never had any crisis of conscience over strictly unnecessary decoration. From his Stirling prize-winning Peckham Library to the black-and-white box on stilts that is his Sharp Centre for Design, in Toronto, he blazed a trail in the jazzy-surface treatment of low-budget buildings.

Alsop champions one of the larkier younger sets of architects, the firm known as Fat (it stands for Fashion, Architecture, Taste, provocative words when it set up shop in the late 1990s). Fat is now getting to build, rather than merely goad people, as it did in the early days with manifesto slogans such as “Kill the modernist within”. Take the abstracted (concrete) gothic screen of the Sint Lucas art academy, in the Dutch town of Boxtel. It is actually a very old architectural device - the imposing new facade uniting a less than sublime collection of older buildings behind, in this case from the 1960s. It is none the worse for being lightly leavened with humour.

The same is true of the new John Lewis store in Leicester, now being completed by one of the starrier younger names of the moment, Foreign Office Architects (FOA). Department stores, like theatres and art galleries, are blank-walled boxes that have to be dealt with somehow. FOA are a deadly serious bunch, but in Leicester they used net curtains - sold by the kilometre in John Lewis - as an inspiration. The result is a hugely enlarged filigree pattern, sandwiched in glass to form the building’s skin. When were net curtains ever trendy? In this form, they are.

The equally serious firm of Caruso St John, best known for its austerely beautiful New Art Gallery, in Walsall, shocked its fans when it fervently embraced multicoloured patterning on its Museum of Childhood extension in Bethnal Green, east London, in 2006. It is now building an arts centre in Nottingham with coloured concrete panels, moulded, again, with local lace patterns.

New ornamentalism, however, comes in many forms. Some architects still can’t stomach pattern-making for its own sake. Instead, they shuffle the windows around, use bright colours, work with artists or do all three simultaneously, as another younger firm - Haworth Tompkins - has with the Coin Street Neighbourhood Centre in Waterloo, central London. There, it worked with the artist Antoni Malinowski, a partnership dating back to their Royal Court Theatre rebuild. It is as if artists have licence to do things architects cannot. They give permission to be unfunctionalist.

What does all this tell us? That, following the eclipse of high-tech, the pendulum swing between rigorous, minimalist modern and decorative postmodern has slowed to a halt. There are no longer knee-jerk value judgments to be made about what is good and bad, style-wise. We are at an interesting moment. Yet, although new ornamentalism is the most obvious of various trends going on - shaggy eco-tech is another, the sort where buildings sprout plants and wind turbines - these don’t add up to a movement as internationally significant or long-lasting as high-tech.

I look at it this way. If Arts and Crafts faded at the start of the 20th century, and high-tech at the start of the 21st, then how long to wait for the next authentically British architectural movement? Quite some time, probably. All that pattern-making might just be architects doodling while they try to think up something new.
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Ca résonne avec ce que vous disiez sur Nouvel....
Article dans la même veine, très intéressant

La dentelle sur béton du nouveau musée d'art contemporain de Nottingham
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The future is parametric19 September 2008

In Venice last week, Patrik Schumacher, partner at Zaha Hadid Architects, hailed parametricism as the great new style after modernism. This is an edited version of his manifesto

We must pursue the parametric design paradigm all the way, penetrating into all corners of the discipline. Systematic, adaptive variation and continuous differentiation (rather than mere variety) concern all architectural design tasks from urbanism to the level of tectonic detail. This implies total fluidity on all scales.

The mass society that was characterised by a single, nearly universal consumption standard has evolved into the heterogenous society of the multitude. Contemporary avant-garde architecture is addressing the demand for an increased level of articulated complexity by means of retooling its methods on the basis of parametric design systems.

The contemporary architectural style that has achieved pervasive hegemony within the contemporary architectural avant-garde can be best understood as a research programme based on the parametric paradigm. We propose to call this style parametricism.

Parametricism is the great new style after modernism. Postmodernism and deconstructivism have been transitional episodes that ushered in this new, long wave of research and innovation.

That the parametric paradigm is becoming pervasive in contemporary architecture and design is evident. There has been talk about versioning, iteration and mass customisation for quite a while within the architectural avant-garde discourse, formulated at the beginning of the 1990s with the slogan of “continuous differentiation”. Since then, there has been both a widespread, even hegemonic, dissemination of this tendency, as well as a cumulative build-up of virtuosity, resolution and refinement within it.

This development was facilitated by the attendant development of parametric design tools and script. Parametricism can only exist via sophisticated parametric techniques. Finally, advanced design techniques like scripting (in Mel Script or Rhino Script) and parametric modelling (with tools like GC or DP) are becoming a pervasive reality.

But the parametric design tools by themselves cannot account for this drastic stylistic shift from modernism to parametricism. Late modernist architects use parametric tools to maintain a modernist aesthetic. At Zaha Hadid Architects, our parametricist sensibility pushes in the opposite direction and aims for a maximal emphasis on conspicuous differentiation.

Modernism was founded on the concept of space. Parametricism differentiates fields. Fields are full, as if filled with a fluid medium. Swarms have also served as paradigmatic analogues for the field concept. We would like to think of swarms of buildings that drift across the landscape or of large continuous interiors like big exhibition halls.

Imagine there are no more landmarks to hold on, no axes to follow and no more boundaries to cross. Contemporary architecture aims to construct new logics — the logic of fields — that gear up to organise and articulate the new level of dynamism and complexity of contemporary society.
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Quelle est la différence avec le post-modernisme (pas architectural, mais philosophique, littéraire et plastique)? J'ai l'impression que l'auteur définit le paramétricisme en se référant au modernisme, de la même manière que les philosophes et les écrivains post-modernes ont pu se positionner par rapport à une modernité révolue (abandon des utopies, des grands récits, des concepts totalisants, insistance sur les idées de réseaux, connections, fluidités, mutations, hétérogéneités, mouvements, interfaces, rizhomes, etc.)

En gros ce qu'il décrit c'est une n ième version (appliquée à l'architecture) des idées phares du post-modernisme qui imprègnent la plupart des théories depuis Lyotard, Deleuze et Derrida, et leurs successeurs à l'étranger. L'utilisation de systèmes informatiques pour accentuer les processus de différenciation et de complexification s'intégre parfaitement aux théories usuelles du post-modernisme non?
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Quelle est la différence avec le post-modernisme (pas architectural, mais philosophique, littéraire et plastique)? J'ai l'impression que l'auteur définit le paramétricisme en se référant au modernisme, de la même manière que les philosophes et les écrivains post-modernes ont pu se positionner par rapport à une modernité révolue (abandon des utopies, des grands récits, des concepts totalisants, insistance sur les idées de réseaux, connections, fluidités, mutations, hétérogéneités, mouvements, interfaces, rizhomes, etc.)
Er...oui, vu comme ça, ça semble une nième tentative. En même temps, fluidité, connectivité, mouvements etc ne se lisent que difficilement dans les précédentes tentatives.

Sur le fond, je ne sais pas ce qui motive la définition d'une telle essence. Le globalisme, l'universel (via les lois de la physique et la topologie) ? Si c'est le cas, c'est fondamentalement moderne et pas post moderne.
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