Sunday, 8 July 2012

Fifty Shards of grey and a pimped up porch

It’s been Shardmania week in London. 

A previous post noted how the Shard reflects different weather conditions.  Much of what gets written about buildings of this kind in the national press is a reflection of prejudices and preconceptions about other things - projected onto the subject building like the attention-seeking lasers that marked the Shard’s inauguration.

The build-up to Thursday’s display, for example, included an intemperate (and ill-informed) rant by Simon Jenkins in Tuesday’s Guardian, claiming that the pointy tower ‘seems to have lost its way from Dubai to Canary Wharf’ and has ‘slashed the face of London for ever’. 

At the other end of town, and the other end of various kinds of scale (sublime / ridiculous? - but which way round?), the recently completed visitors’ entrance to Kensington Palace – initially refused planning permission by Kensington and Chelsea Council  –  prompted former RIBA President Jack Pringle’s memorable accusation that Prince Charles was  "pimping his palace with a puffed-up porch”.

If you’d prefer to live in a twenty-first century state rather than the Ruritanian / feudal model of our country that has been in evidence through the course of the Jubilee (yes, I’m with Jack on this one…), then you’re not going to go for a neo-Regency porch, however elegant; and if you don’t like outward and very visible signs of foreign wealth taking over from the home-grown variety in our capital, then the Shard is going to upset you, and you are never going to be able to consider it an architectural masterpiece. 

Little of the discussion of either project is really about architecture or urbanism.   This is something that cloud capp’d towers and gorgeous palaces will always have in common – along with the fact that neither of these particular projects seems a very good fit with the mood of Austerity Britain, which is better represented by the New Boring movement. 

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