People have been referring to us – the lovers of bricks and fresh air, typology and history, architecture which looks like architecture – as ‘the Roundheads’. Which is more than a bit odd, since Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army was a rabidly modern organisation, and the prototype for the Calvinistic celebration of materialism and technical prowess which typified 20th-century business practice.
The Roundheads didn’t believe in iconography; they detested theatre and reduced symbolism to information. History and tradition were the objects of their scorn. A total refusal of anything tainted by rhetoric and ornament – and the past – paved the way for industrialisation and the expansion of British influence over the globe. Sounds to me very much like the world of ‘starchitecture’ – the belief that ‘process’ (sic), ‘methodology’ and ‘critical theory’ can stand in for ‘design’.
You see, there are really two ideologies at work here. The first is based on the study of places, cultures, habits and customs – the vernacular, in fact – and the belief that architecture is a discipline with its own history. The second thinks that ‘history is bullshit’ (to quote Will Alsop). The avantgarde is disgusted by the messiness and unbearable wetness of traditional construction, and their distrust of authority and historical precedents might make them just corrupted Roundheads.