While visiting Nottingham Trent University recently I was shown the building that was originally built as an art school.
It's a magnificent Victorian structure that has proved to be a convincing place in which to make art.
Adjacent to this temple to creativity is a 1950s extension that my guide confessed he used to hate but was now beginning to appreciate. The building is a good example of '50s style in brick, with metal windows and thin slightly projecting hints of concrete. I would guess that it was built when my friend the guide was aged about 10, and is therefore in a style synonymous with his early youth.
I remember my father, who was born in 1885, hating late Victorian architecture with a passion. He always associated it with an age of depression.
He never did come round to changing his view.
I wonder what work today will become hated by our current 10-12-year-olds. Is there a style that is synonymous with the early 21st century?
In architecture proper I suspect there is not. We seem to be building edifices that are quite distinct from each other, which, at their best, reflect an enlarged sense of enquiry, range of materials and new technologies.
Our young people will be able to hate the singular, as opposed to a style. If, however, we consider the house as an example we do find there is a current style which can be found in great numbers littering the edges of our towns and cities.
The volume house builders are constantly creating the norm that our young will hate with alacrity. Sadly, the norm of the 'noughties' is much the same as the '90s, '80s and '70s, which means we have at least 40 years of continuous hate that will eventually end up in a revolution. This 'market led' vernacular is ironically not loved by the market, it is just that the market does not have any choice.
In the context of the Thames Gateway, there is a very real danger that throughout the 'noughties' and the 'teenies' thousands of these lumps of hatred will be deposited in an indiscriminate manner all along the Thames and into Essex. The driving force to build at all would be the apparent need for homes in the South East, as opposed to homes, jobs and the creation of a proper place. The government would rather deliver its numbers than be seen to frustrate that goal by embarking on a proper debate about the opportunity and the nature of the place and urbanism today.
In 2025 our disgruntled, ill-educated 12-year-olds will wonder what on earth we thought we were doing along the Thames when we knew so much, harboured such talent and had an economy that could deliver something better, more exciting and more engaging than we did.
If we are so good, why don't we do something better?