Sunday, 18 September 2011

Train crash townscape on the Mersey

The Mersey, like most rivers as they approach the sea, is relentlessly horizontal; but the architects of two major recent projects next to the 'Three Graces' on Liverpool's waterfront haven't taken the hint, and both schemes - the new Museum of Liverpool (featured in this week's AJ) and the adjacent 'Three Black Coffins' of Mann Island - have espoused the Architecture of Funny Shapes for their inspiration.

One can't help wondering how much of the visual confusion and discord that has resulted would go away if they could just have straightened the things out.  It is common for 'look at me' architecture to try to be different in as many different ways as possible, but the loss of the prevailing Cartesian order of horizontals and verticals seems like one degree of difference too far.  In the future, when the style war debates have been forgotten, the funny shapes may be the things that above all else result in a disagreeable degree of disharmony.

Prince Charles, in his notorious 1984 intervention on architecture at the RIBA, asked 'Why has everything got to be vertical, straight, unbending, only at right angles - and functional?'.  I doubt whether this kind of outcome is what he had in mind, but it reminds us that you should be careful what you wish for.

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