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Theodore Dalrymple on British Architecture


Distinguished Member
Feb 10, 2007
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Distinguished Member
Sep 3, 2007
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Intresting point about the survey in Bristol in 1947 - only 400 of 13000 polled in favour of the council's post war redevelopment plans. I often wonder at how beautiful Bristol would be had it not been for the war damage and late 20th century architectural horrors.
One lucky escape was Temple Church - the tower famously leans. It was very nearly destroyed by sappers during the blitz who assumed the church had been bomb damaged and were setting up a controlled demolition. Fortunately a local managed to convince them the tower had been leaning for many centuries.

There is the obligation to play devil's advocate with 20th century architecture. It was a real advance from 2 millennia of recycling classical and gothic elements. There is genuine merit in the phillosophy of 'truthful' architecture - where every element of a building is functional and does what it appears to. The new materials of steel, glass and concrete also allowed freedom for any imaginable shape to made solid. The problem in Britain is that so much of the new architecture was thrown up as it was cheap rather than good. I respect the position of the 20th Century Society and English Heritage when it comes to the listing of certain 'good' examples of 20th century architecture, I suspect in a few centuries time they will be thanked for protecting the sample of interesting buildings they have selected to preserve.

As to Dalrymple's suggestion that ugly architecture encourages ugly behaviour, I think he would have had little trouble finding similar scenes in the gin soaked London of of the 18th and 19th centuries.

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