Wednesday, 10 September 2003
I first saw it wondering the streets around BEA’s office in the City. I happened across the Lloyd’s building - a landmark in and of itself - turned the corner, and saw Swiss Re. The audacity of it takes your breath away, and I predict that it will both dominate and define London’s skyline for at least the next twenty years.
As I understand it, this nickname first came about when people saw the plans, because the building looks like nothing more than a giant pickle stuck into London’s skyline; it wasn’t a complement. However, in the transition from renderings and artists’ mock-ups to reality, the disparaging comments have ceased. Yes, it does, trivially, look like a giant pickle, but the building is so awe-inspiring in both its scale and detail, one quickly forgets.
This is a great contrast with so much other current architecture. Most projects these days are conceptualized, designed, approved and built from CAD and nothing else, resulting in buildings that aren’t on a human scale at all; they look clean and fresh on a 21-inch flat screen, but fail to transition well to concrete, glass and steel. The result is buildings that weather and date quickly.
In public architecture, we’re seeing more things like Federation Square in Melbourne - a multiple-city-block monstrosity that should have been stopped long before seeing daylight. It’s ugly, it doesn’t integrate with the rest of the city at all, and will be a permanent blight on Melbourne. The architects that I know (yes, you Inger!) love it, but no one else does. Are we giving architects and the design boards they sit on too much power? Has the process of selecting the best design for the inhabitants of a city turned into a farce, where architects get to show off to each other with self-referential, egotistical portfolio fodder, at the expense of millions in public funds and more in lost opportunity?
Don’t even get me started about multiple-use urban planning…