Building well is difficult. Building architecture is next to impossible. Building next to a work of architecture creates even greater anxieties.
The Amanda Levete, Architects proposed addition to the Paisely Museum and Art Gallery, loaded up on klonopin, seems oblivious to any anxiety, particularly when it comes to essential transgressions of architecture's three-millennia-old language.
They have aped the apse of the original and shoved it next to the existing. Meanwhile, inexplicably, they've programmed it as the new entrance, glazed it in glass, red in their model, but more like the bronze glazing so popular in the 1960s & 70s in their aerial perspective. For reasons only the architects know, they've attached to this oxymoronic apsidal entrance an anamorphic version of the USS Arizona Monument. Uncanny.
We seem to be back in the 1960s, only nothing is cool, there's far less sex, and all the wrong drugs.
775 words later, Studio Egret West fails to address the issue: color! The problem is NOT "timber" versus aluminum; it's white versus bronze. The Balfron behemouth is a remarkably muscular Brutalist "duck" that depends on relatively delicate white window frames that pop from the dull concrete. How could restoration architects not understand something so basic? Would you change the color of the windows in Sterling's Clore Gallery addition to the Tate?
Adding on to an existing architecture, or site in general, is an invariably nettlesome business. Hence, I appreciate the challenge and the verve that fuel this proposal. That said, I'm always a bit suspicious of project proposals that begin with an evening rendering. We all look thinner and younger at night.
There are all sorts of strategies for alterations and additions, and within those varied tactics one can use. While the images afforded here (and on the architect's web site) are nominal, from what I’ve seen, I can't imagine any coherent strategy at work other than not giving a fig about establishing either a “good fit” or a striking analogy through contrast. Leicester Cathedral may not be Amiens, but it deserves better than a muddled bicycle shed.
Perhaps as the drawings become more plentiful (and larger), the project’s value will become clearer. But for now, I’m flummoxed it was approved at all.
Anyone who's designed a holocaust memorial, or even visited one for that matter, knows how impossible it is for the architecture to succeed while, at the same time, attempt to "tell a story." In the face of unspeakable inhumanity, the more silent the architecture, the powerful the message. The choice of site for this monument may have been the most powerful architectural decision. The architecture of the proposal would improve immensely were it to be less overtly didactic (mastaba-as-death chamber and heroic parallel walls demonstrating we all die alone) and simply work quietly to exploit the charged space between the Christian monument to the death of one and the memorial to the murder of millions.