After having been subjected to Will Alsop's 'Dream for Barnsley', I can take no more! Surely this wanton use of digital images to force feed us the current 'starchitects' version of the built environment cannot be allowed to continue? I had hoped that the 'digital sketches'(? ) for the Goldsmith College Arts Complex as featured in the AJ (31.1.02), were where the line would be drawn, but no. I open this week's AJ to find that Barnsley will first be transformed into a messianic icon of the north, with the hope being to rival Gateshead's Angel I expect, before huge shards of jauntily angled colour transform it into a Stonehenge for the new Millennium, forever changing the way that urban design is approached, conceived and administered!
It is not that the principles behind Alsop's architecture should be questioned, but the continual need to produce images that amount to little more than rapid fire mouse movements in cyan and other such non-committal hues, passed off as 'thought in process'.
The irony of such coverage is further enhanced by the backlash that occurred when it was announced that Archigram had won the RIBA Gold Medal (AJ 14.2.02). Here is a practice of radicals that dedicated their time to bringing architecture to the public in a way that could be easily related to, and ultimately digested as plausible form, while pushing the boundaries of contemporary understanding of the subject. And yet almost every week, in a similar vein to Foster, an Alsop drawing makes it onto the pages without so much as an 'excuse me, what the f**k is that?'
(Handy things, these hotlines to the editorial staff. ) It must also be made clear that showing a video to the residents of Barnsley depicting 'The Day of the Triffids on LSD' cannot be the way to convince a public that remains highly sceptical of our profession that what you see is what you have been dreaming of (remember Aylesbury, Will, you weren't going to live there). Certainly Alsop's approach to architecture is 'alternative' and often fresh, aided by employing poets, artists, actresses and the like within his office, and yes, his work is undoubtedly of great appeal to many students of architecture; but this digital doodling is ultimately damaging, and should be considered only as an interpretive method of design, not hailed in some terrible moniker reading apocalyptically as 'Some day all architects will think like this'! (It hasn't happened yet, but it will).
Perhaps I should try and swear on TV, then I too may be able to design what the hell I like and blame the system around me when it is rejected by those who will have to live with it.
Alan Morrissey, by e-mail