By continuing to use the site you agree to our Privacy & Cookies policy

Filtering our way through today's multimedia maze

We operate in a world of information overload, which is why I gave up daily newspapers for The Week, a magazine summary of global and local news. My big mistake was entering the tidal world of email where, at the press of a cc, I am implicated as party to decisions simply by the supposed knowledge of their existence.

The real need is to filter information and get on with producing something. This I do; among a number of projects I am currently speculating on an intriguing, large and thankfully limited competition, but I also take delight in the tragicomic flow of ideas, propositions and queries.

Woudhuysen and Abley's Homes 2016, a pamphlet about the future, entertains. But I cannot help agreeing with Mark Twain that nowadays the future is never what it used to be. Another pamphlet is Erection, an insider's take on things architectural - Tatler with a very sharp edge. It concludes with 'Dear Rem: Dutch answers to everyday dilemmas'. While the questions may or may not reflect the concerns of their (pretend) authors, I would speculate that the answers are actually Rem Koolhaas' ramblings, randomly applied (readers who know his texts better can confirm).

On this latter point, Erection connected beautifully with Tate Etc. The members' magazine from the sugar-endowed art house featured the real Rem's ruminations on 'Architecture and the '60s: Still radical after all these years'. Koolhaas advises the fawning interviewer of the complexities and contradictions of everyday operations on the global architectural stage. Apparently all we British are similar; we don't have theoretical ambitions because we're sentimental; Koolhaas is forced to produce signature buildings by capitalism (but without condoning it) because identity (I think he is referring to signature) is all. It's a Pinter-esque game of question, answer and non-sequitur, where Koolhaas has become Peter Sellers' Chauncey Gardener, the halfwit in the comedy classic Being There, whose naive comments are treated as profound speculation by a lazy world of politicians and cultural commentators. Excellent stuff.

I happened also to be at the Tate to present a scheme for a small dose of community criticism so was able to grab a fleeting review of Edward Hopper's paintings. Fantastic light and composition but, as Andrew GrahamDixon noted, technically poor. Which could be an appropriate view of some of today's muchhyped architecture. Still, I noted that almost invariably Hopper painted frameless windows, a detail worth regurgitating and soon.

I also saw Nathanial Kahn's film, My Architect, the director's painful search for his identity while seeking out the many half-sisters produced by his philandering father, Louis.

It is an enjoyable way of killing time and he successfully exploits original footage of the great man. Indeed, it could have been a great film of the other life of an architect, except Nathaniel promulgates all the usual myths.

Louis was poor (well, having three families was expensive) and lived for the little work he had (well, from his 50s, when his wife's private income kicked in, he flew around the world producing enough magnificent buildings to achieve the status of a great). Still, what can you expect from a film that spends two minutes on the middle-aged director rollerblading around the Salk Institute in search of his father's soul?

I also had a day away advising on an Oxford college competition. What was interesting in this Egan-free zone was that there was a different understanding of cost, value and life cycle. Perhaps this is what you would expect of those who successfully inhabit building stock that dates from the late-20th century back to the mid-16th. I concluded that the future may, after all, be very much what it used to be - except that England keeps winning at cricket.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment.

The searchable digital buildings archive with drawings from more than 1,500 projects

AJ newsletters