De La Warr was a very quiet damp place this Sunday and there were only a few takers for the Walk and Talk tour, which became more of a conversation about the exhibits and other buildings that people liked or admired.

There was mixed response to the selection of buildings and to the buildings themselves. One woman liked the Oxford Museum and said she felt the combination of gothic shapes, the cathedral like scale and the use of glass and iron were pleasing, but someone else said it looked like something from a nightmare. Someone else liked the scale and sense of calm radiating from a photograph of one of the rooms at Webb’s Clouds House. The early drawings for the British Embassy provided a starting point for a discussion about the job of a draughtsman and one of the tour said he had been a draughtsman and described how his job had been to interpret such sketchy drawings into comprehensive and usable technical drawings, a job now done on a computer. The economy of form and the relationship to the site of the Royal Mail Mechanised Letter Office was admired and we talked about the difference between seeing such a building in isolation and then in relation to nearby houses and what it might be like to open the curtains and see such a building on a daily basis.

The Economist Plaza model provided a focus for talk about the mix of old and new architectural styles and there were lots of questions about the Smithson’s style and their ideas about communal living, their ideas about streets in the sky and in particular the Robin Hood Estate in London. One question was ‘Why is mass housing so ugly ?’ not an easy one to answer …. we talked about post-war housing problems and the influence of the austere style of modernist of architects like Mies van der Rohe who said ‘I don’t want to be interesting, I want to be good’ ….which made me think that maybe a building could be interesting without being good but a good building would intrinsically be an interesting one.

The exhibition opened the way to discuss buildings in general and some that weren’t in the exhibition. The Gerkin or Swiss RE building was much admired by one of the tour, he said he loved the way it looked from different places and how the light made it look different every time he came across it. We also had a conversation about a TV programme about the construction of The Bahrain World Trade Centre with attached wind turbines and how tricky it was to put the turbines in place because of the high winds. The addition of wind turbines seems an obvious solution to problem of creating clean and efficient forms of energy. Fosters Lloyds building was also a favourite with all the services on the outside creating a deconstructed and futuristic feel.

There was a notable lifting of the spirits when we went up to look at the Matthew Houlding
pieces. Many people find these architecturally inspired sculptures imaginative and enjoyable, often projecting their idea about futuristic living on to them. I did come across man who was both confused and slightly annoyed by the fact the structures had no stairs or proper doors and that there was no sense of scale – he hadn’t realised that they were not in fact architectural models but an artist’s response to a particular sense of time and space. There were also some young children who were enchanted by Houlding’s pieces and we had a brief chat about doll’s houses and what kind of furniture they might put in these houses …they opted for decidedly old style furniture !

The Bahrain World Trade Centre www.worldarchitecturenews.com/index.php?fuseaction=wanappln.projectview&upload_id=935

Lloyds building
http://www.thelondontraveler.com/2008/05/modern-icon-the-lloyds-building/

Swiss RE http://www.eikongraphia.com/…/wp-content/SwissRe.jpg

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