The UK’s new housing minister has held up a Neoclassical federal courthouse building in the US state of Alabama as an example of what this country should aspire to build
In a tweet that sparked outrage among architects, minister Kit Malthouse unfavourably compared a modern glazed scheme by Robin Partington & Partners (now Apt) on Oxford Street with the temple-like Tuscaloosa Federal Building and Courthouse by the Chicago practice HBRA Architects.
Both built in the last 10 years. One will stand for centuries, one won’t. Our new “Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission” will help us creat the conservation areas of the future. #MoreBetterFaster pic.twitter.com/FJcwcbxb8D— Kit Malthouse MP (@kitmalthouse) 4 November 2018
The tweet, which has had more than 300 ‘likes’ on Twitter, prompted Manchester-based architect Ian McHugh to predict the onset of a new era of ‘style wars’, while RIBA president Ben Derbyshire questioned whether the government imagined that a Neoclassical future ‘was a better future’.
Duncan Blackmore of developer Arrant Land responded that he was sickened by what he called a ‘shamelessly reductive anti-progress pandering to right-wing populist nostalgia’, while Invisible Studio’s Piers Taylor accused Malthouse of having ‘no idea’ what he was talking about.
Last week, Malthouse – who replaced Dominic Raab as housing minister in July – cited the Philip Larkin poem An Arundel Tomb in concluding a speech about beauty in the House of Commons.
Malthouse said: ‘At the end of the poem, he ends with that very famous line “all that will remain of us is love” (sic).
‘And in 200 years’ time, 300 years’ time, what will the generations look at and see as a symbol of our love for them, projected forward in time?
‘Well, all that will remain of us is those things that we build today. And you and I are joined in our ambition to ornament their lives and create the beauty that will enhance their existence for centuries to come, as ours has been enhanced by the generations that came before us.’
Partington’s £120 million Park House mixed-use scheme for Land Securities involved contractor Mace and engineer AKT II and won several awards after its completion in 2013.
HBRA’s Alabama courthouse is a $48 million (£37 million) scheme built in 2012 and was part of the US General Services Administration’s (GSA) Design Excellence programme.
It features a portico modelled on the Greek Temple of Zeus at Nemea and, according to its architect, ‘establishes a dignified presence for the Federal Government and provides a civic resource of a scale and architectural aspect reflecting the unique identity of the city of Tuscaloosa.’
HBRA and Partington’s rebranded practice Apt have both been approached for comment.
🤡'both built in the last ten years. One will stand for centuries. One won't' 🤡 pic.twitter.com/3FCfqnh13s— Owen Hatherley (@owenhatherley) 5 November 2018