'The more time we spend in a world where we don't even know how the kettle boils, the more we will demand that our architecture shows us how its made.' This remark by Natalia Kokosalaki, a second-year student at South Bank, encapsulates something forgotten in the easy equivalence made between hi-tech and avant-garde architecture.
The label hi-tech is driven by a venerable design tradition. This tradition says that architectural virtue is inherent in the emphatic revelation of how a building is made and how it stands up. What the student's comment points to are the reasons why this rather simple idea has become so tenacious.
She suggests that the manifestation of so called 'truth' in architecture works inversely with the growing absence of understanding of cause and effect in the rest of our everyday experience. Put another way, the more you get a simplistic version of truth to materials and structure, the more mysterious the lying that is going on in the rest of our lives.
Considered in this light, it makes sense that huge advances in IT and virtual reality are accompanied by their architectural opposite. It is essential, to avoid madness in the world of computers, not to ask yourself about physical cause and effect; but the most feted architecture of our day celebrates physical cause and effect to the exclusion of almost everything else.
Despite its progressive pretensions, hi-tech architecture is as much a reassuring Nanny as the most retro of faux-classicism. In the face of complexity it proposes the reassurance of certainties long past.
Always keep ahold of nurse for fear of finding something worse, as Hilaire Belloc remarked.