Sunday, December 11, 2011

Brutalist by name, brutal by nature

Intelligent comment from the Adam Smith Institute on why the British Housing Estates need to be knocked down as soon as possible:
Opposition to post-war architecture tends to focus on aesthetic concerns. And, certainly, much of it is appalling ugly, almost to the point that merely looking at it fills you with despair. But its mostly deeply pernicious effect is surely the way in which it has affected people’s behaviour, by forcing them to live in an environment which is cold, desolate and practically inhuman. Naturally, I am not suggesting that post-war architecture caused the riots. But the idea that it was a contributory factor certainly has the ring of truth about it.

He mentions similar constructions in Italy.
Incidentally, the picture I’ve used here is not actually from a post-war London housing estate. It is a photo of the Vele di Scampia estate near Naples, which was the setting for the stunning, shocking film Gomorrah. If you’re sceptical about the social consequences of bad architecture, I’d challenge you to watch that film and, bearing in mind that it is based on real events, ask yourself whether many of the things depicted would be possible in a traditional street layout. For me, it’s a shining example of brutalist by name, brutal by nature.

I went down south with a bunch of friends last year to visit Monte Cassino and on the drive we had to go through some little towns that looked as if they had been built after the Second World War when some Italian government official decided to make the entire country into a suitable movie location for nihilist post-apocalyptic filmmaker. As a bonus, the population seemed to be practising to gain employment as zombie extras the same films.

I've never in my life seen any human dwelling more closely resembling a gargantuan garbage heap.

Scruton has quite a bit to say on the subj. Starting about 7:14



Teresa B. said...

"No one wants to live in it because it's so damn ugly!"


If it was in Toronto it could be the new ROM.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Oh the ROM!!!

Don't get me started!

Gene Peck said...

No matter the excuse makers say, beauty is not subjective, it is objective, hence God gave the ability to discern beauty. What we so often see is an "excusism" by those of poor taste or otherwise who give us ugly in any form. Are they mean? I think so!

Teresa B. said...

Interestingly, The New Liturgical Movement blog posted, the hour long, "Why Beauty Matters" by Scruton this morning.

HJW said...

Most of them are regular O's P. readers, though some won't admit it.

Steve T. said...

Miss White, this exposition of the importance of beauty is exactly what I'm talking about. I grew up down the block from a New York City housing project, which actually was a touch less hideous than the one in your post. It was the very same projects that produced the rap group The Wu-Tang Clan. We really need people who preach beauty and truth to counter those who've been preaching ugly and lies for the better part of a half-century now.

Edward Spalton said...

There are, of course, appallingly ugly developments. However, many so-called "sink" estates of today were built and landscaped pretty well. They were very desirable places for people to go to live when new.

In those days, councils could pick their tenants. They were looking for the respectable working class, people in regular employment with a history of paying their rents.

Then such "discrimination" was outlawed. There was a huge effort from the Sixties to eliminate all differences between the treatment of the deserving and undeserving poor.

Quite a small proportion of "rough" families (who know their rights very thoroughly) can terrorise an area and drag it down. Combine this with the anti-achievement ethos of "progressive" education and people are locked in.

I have a friend who runs his own successful accountancy practice who came from such an area before it was degraded. He went back to have a look at it recently and said it was the most depressing experience. Whilst quite a few of his contemporaries had made moderately successful careers, he doubted whether anyone from the area could do so now,