Monday, 29 April 2013

An architectural family tree at Cannon Street - the song remains the same

Peter Frame's Rock Family Trees are a delight for music geeks - and appear to be a nice little earner for their author and artist.  Someone should do the same for postwar UK architecture - though I suppose the market might be a bit more limited.

An example of an architectural family get-together can be seen at Cannon Street.  The powerful exoskeleton of Foggo Associates' new building over Cannon Street Station (centre of picture) has a clear affinity with its neighbour, Arup Associates' 80 Cannon Street of 1972-6 (the Pevsner guide calls the latter a 'startling tower', though rather more startling towers have appeared in the vicinity since that was written...).

Foggo Associates emerged in 1989 from Arup Associates, where Peter Foggo (who died in 1993) and his team had been responsible for many of the latter's most notable projects through the 1970s and 80s.

The recent reminiscing prompted by Lady Thatcher's death has reminded us how much there was that was awful about the 1980s.  Arup Associates' work from that decade showed them unable resist the tide of PoMo, and included the part of Broadgate covered in stuck-on granite framing, seen above - one of the more dignified commercial projects of that decade, but nevertheless unlikely to be regarded as highly by posterity as projects such as 1 Finsbury Avenue nearby - which was only a year or two earlier, but really the swan song of Arup's more rigorous 70s style.  Other 1980s projects by Arup Associates, such as the building at Bristol Harbourside, also look rather dated, at least in parts, and suggest that being 'civic' was not their forte - whatever one thinks of the whole sorry saga of Paternoster Square, it's probably for the best that their scheme for that site remained unbuilt.

The new Cannon Street building can be seen as a return to form for the Arup family - a welcome contrast to the skin deep architecture that is so prevalent elsewhere.

Rock family tree comparisons spring readily to mind - for example, the embarrassment of Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant, a hero of the 60s and 70s, getting himself a new wave perm in the Thatcher years - but fully redeemed by his own remarkable return to form more recently.

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