Strange Harvest
Architecture / Design / Art
StrangeHarvest is written and collated by Sam Jacob.


Useless Proclamations for a Beautiful City



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The London Architecture biennale is underway, and it's already managed to set a depressing new low. 'Proclamations for a Beautiful City' is an 'installation' by Alain de Botton. Apparently it is 'questioning the role of the architect in creating beauty in the city. The series of proclamations are posted on the outside of the Yard Gallery, directly onto the street.' Get that - directly onto the street! how raw! Actually, it's a few quotes from his tedious new tomb 'The Architecture of Happiness'.

The installation itself looks worse than Costcutters, the neighboring discount supermarket. Perhaps there is in an intended irony: chastising architects for forsaking beauty whilst using cheap and ugly design. I wouldn’t bet on it though, as it is written without humour but with the tone of voice of a sanctimonious shitcock.

Take this for example: “The duty of the architect is to make it beautiful”. Who on earth would use the word ‘duty’ in relation to a job in the 21st century? Does this ridiculous pseudo-intellectual imagine himself to be in the 18th century? What fantasy does this cotton-mouthed pundit live out? And why are the letters made to look like they are 3D, suggesting eternal profundity - though thankfully this will be in the bin before the month is out.

What is it about architecture that attracts such ill-informed opinion? Institutions such as the RIBA and the Architecture Foundation are so star-struck and crippled with self doubt that they let self appointed gas bags – like Alain, or hammy TV presenter Kevin McCloud - onto their stages, into their events calendars as a kind of bait to attract genuine ‘members of the public’.

My objection is not that it is comment from outside the profession. Quite the reverse, as these characters seems to come across as though they were pretending to be an architect – acting out a hollow parody which only serves to re-enforce the most clichéd of ideas. These always believe that architectural concern should be some kind of vague poetic guff: ‘light’, ‘space’ ‘form’ – rather than a whole range of other things. It re-affirms the lie that architecture is somehow separate from everything else.

I would argue that most architects don’t understand what architecture is supposed to be about, but at least they appreciate and understand the process. These self-appointed outsider experts often argue that their ignorance, their ill-informed position is an advantage as it mirrors the man-in the street. It’s simply a fraudulent way of dressing up their personal likes and dislikes as something more universal, of trying to add weight to their opinion by adding meringue.

They also act as though they have stumbled upon an unremarked culture, like an Elizabethan explorer reporting back to court. They don’t know that architecture is perhaps the most comprehensively dissected of professions: thousands of magazines and journals, from the archi-porn of Wallpaper to obscurist Marxist pamphlets. It certainly isn’t something you can pick up by leafing through a couple of Sunday supplements. Alain de Botton suggests that Herzog & de Meuron are worth watching. No shit, Alain. But he also thinks Calatrava is great – which is where he reveals the moronic level of his understanding, and his inability to avoid being sucked into simply regurgitating half digested current mainstream opinion, PR puff, and in-flight magazine froth.

It’s the sheer vacuity of these pronouncements that is astounding.
Fundamentally, at its heart is mean hearted conservatism: nosey, interfering and obstructive.

At least we won’t have to put up with this hack-philosopher, this airhead-eggheads homilies-dressed-up-as-erudition for too long. One can bet that Alain is only here to promote his book, carpet-bagging the current vogue and interest in architecture before he flits off to milk another unfortunate sphere of life.

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Posted by anothersam at June 20, 2006 1:21 PM.

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Contents:

More Scenes In Cartoon Deserta

Eiffel X-Rays

Beyond: Values and Symptoms

Sub Plan

Shenzhen: Window of the World

White Power

Generic Powerpoint Template: Delivering Bad News

Duplicate Array

The Best New Building In London

Book Review: The Infrastructural City

A Balloon in the Pantheon

Letters From The Pantheon

Henry Moore in Motion

On My Steel Horse I Ride

The Michael Jackson Monument Design Competition

Now Showing: John Baldessari Sings Sol LeWitt

Obscure Design Typologies: Life Guard Chairs

Osama bin Laden Cigarette Lighter: Novelty Products as Congealed Culture

Absurd Car Crashes: A Eulogy for J.G. Ballard

Candy Pistol

Now Showing: Dan Grahams 'Rock My Religion'

This Concrete 'O': On Serotonin, the M25, and the Motorik Picturesque

Church of the Literal Narrative

Philadelphias Floating Architecture

Now Viewing: Married To The Eiffel Tower

Le Corbusiers Image Hoard: Poeme Electronique

Giant American Signs: Original Learning from Las Vegas Footage

Giant Soviet Signs Cut Into Forests

Bricks Melted Into Icicles: Napalm Decorative

C-Labs 'Unfriendly Skies' & 'Bootleg' Volume

2 The Lighthouse: Self Storage & Architectural Hallucinations

Ceci N'Est Pas Une Pipe: Infrastructure as Architectural Subconcious.

Viva Sectional Cinematography!

Now Showing: The Installation of an Irreversible Axis on a Dynamic Timeline

Plug: Junk Jet

Sim Seasons Greetings! The Rise of Neo-Winter

Geography in Bad, Festive Drag.

The Ruins of the Future

High Tech As Steampunk ...

On The Retro Infrastructural

Simulations of Industry: High Tech Architecture and Thatcherism

David Greene: The Big Nothing

From The Factory to the Allotment: Tony Wilson, Urbanist

Koolhaas HouseLife / Gan Eden: The Revenge of Architectural Media

Ruburb-ric: The Ecologies of the Farnsworth House

The Architecture of Divorce

Flagrant Delit: The Movie

Landscape as Clothing

Telly Savalas Looks At Birmingham Redux

Acts of Un-Building: Timelapse Demolitions

Yard Filth: Next Years Hot Look

Stonehenge: A Black Hole At The Heart Of British Architecture

The Popemobile: Mechanised Robes & Motorised Architecture

Tarmac Adam, Tarmac Eden

The Secret Language of Surface

Some Housekeeping

Information Fields: Agriculture as Media

My Bloody Valentine: Sound as Substance

A Cubist Copse: Gehrys Serpentine Pavilion

Olympic Model Protest

Spouting Off: Some Thoughts On The Fountainhead

Form Follows Dysfunction: Bad Construction & The Morality of Detail

Floating Homes

Vintage Tradeshow Surrealism: International Grune Woche

Moving Houses: Buildings In Motion

Desktop Study: The Strange World of Sports Studio Design

Married to the Eiffel Tower: More Objectum Sexuals

60 Years of The Crazy Horse Memorial

Married to the Berlin Wall: "The Best and Sexiest Wall Ever Existed!"

Inflatable Icebergs: Sublimated Guilt Has Never Been So Fun

The Cinderella Effect: Phantom Architectures of Illumination

Two Deaths and a Retirement: The Strange Shape of British Architecture

If London Were Like New York: Antique Schizo-Manhattanism

If London Were Like Venice: Antique Geo-Poetic Speculations and Hydro-Fantasy

41 Hours in an Elevator: The Movie

NASA: Mapping the Moon with Sport

Lemon Squeezy: Design Tendencies after the Juicy Salif

Stadium Seat Mosaics

The Nihilistic Beauty of Weapons Arranged in Patterns

Light Vessel Automata

Dogs: Britains Greatest Design Obsession

Madison Avenue Modern

Detroit Sucks: The Motor Shows Last Gasp

Mies' Grave: Cut Out Model

All You Can Eat

Valentine Machine

The Tools of Re-Geography

Floating in a New Town Sky

Authentic Replicas: Football and the Franchising of Place

Folk Football: Landscape, Space and Abstraction

Haystack House

A Wishing Well with a Fat Up Pipe

The Camoufluers and the Day-Glo Battleship

Pseudoccino: Instant Coffee Foam

Yesterdays Technology, Today

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Form Follows Felony: The Secret Home of the Un-Dead Canoeist.

Architectural Magazines: Paranoid Beliefs, Public Autotheraphy - More on Clip/Stamp/Fold

Little Magazines Seen Today

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The Ghost of Christmas Futurism

Petrified War Machine

Military Deceptions

Chapters for an Imaginary Book About Architecture

Shrouded Plinth - Urban Striptease

In the Night Garden - Surreal Landscape of Nostalgia

Kim Jong II, The Great Architect

Pill Box Picturesque

Un Clear Monument

Place Faking: Instant Heritage for the Thames Gateway

The Marc Bolan Memorial Crash Barrier.

Warped Domesticity

The Nuclear Heritage Coast

Enjoy The Silence: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones

The Story of O (2)

Telly Savalas Looks At Birmingham

X100: A Design Exercise

How to Plan A New Town

Carpet Bomber

In Search of Britains Vehicular History

Scenes in Cartoon Deserta

Scary Suburbanism: Why Horror is at Home in the Suburbs

Re-Make Re-Model

I Like Your Manifesto, Lets Put it to the Test-o

How to Become a Famous Architect

Northampton - Sci-fi Pop Planning Promotion

Advertising Central Milton Keynes

Baltic Exchanged

Festival of Nostalgia

The Clapham Trainwash

Airports as Music

Test Card Dummies

The Velvet Underground at the Glass House

Duplikate: Kate Moss on the Production Line of Individuality

The Museum that Ate Itself

Hollow Inside: Starbucks Foam and the Rise of Ambiguous Materials

Revisions to the Architecture of Hell

Crufts: Dogs, Design and Aesthetic Genetics

Eos Airlines: Executive Bubbles over the Atlantic

London's Ugliest Buildings

1.51 Miles Of String

Google Earths Vertiginous Mapping

Church of the Ascension and Descension

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The Invisible Bungalow

House / Boat

Reading Lines: Skateboarding and Public Space

Mountain Sculpting

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Bat House Competition

Old Walton Bridge

Kiruna: The Town That Moved

Spray On Magnetic Defense

Chris Cornish: Prototyping History

The Jubilee Gestalt Vase

The Most Visited Location in the UK

Anything to Feel Weightless Again: The Cargo Lifter and the Tropical Island Resort

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2000 Years of Non Stop Nostalgia. Or How Half Timbering Made Me Whole Again.

Inside-out Aldwych

Backpeddling into the Future: The Historical-Futurism of British Architecture

Miss Selfridges' Feeling for Fake Snow. The Oxford St. Lights and Why We Need Artificial Winter

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Jeff Koons, Rem Koolhaas, Hans Ulrich Obrist at the Serpentine

Souvenir Empire

Celebrity Scents: The Bittersweet Smell of Success

Imperfect Pitch - Football, Space and Landscape

Product Placement: Making the Impossible Possible

Suburban Growth: Matthew Moores Field of Dreams

Perfect Sound Forever: The Secret Function of High End Stereos

Picture of the Week 1

A Little Light Product Placement

Some Advice To A Young Designer

London and on and on

In the Gallery of Ice Creams

Useless Proclamations for a Beautiful City

Mini Mies Chair

Topsy Turvy VSBA: Inverted Heros of an Upside Down Avant Guard

Harvest III: Buried Things

The Harvest II

The Harvest I

Estuary Urbanism

The Royal Families Trees

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How Geostationary Was My Valley?

The Psychotic Utopia of the Suburbs and the Suburbanisation of War.

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In a Lonely Place - Under Construction

Design Will Eat Itself

Mach 3 Nitro Gel - Design that's foaming at the mouth.

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The Electric Cenotaph

Russian Rok

Commitment ...

Dinner in the Iguanadon

Trace

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Leg Table Leg

Florentine Building Sites

Good Morning Britain

Football Pitch: Best of British

The Sad Photographer

The First Cut is the Cheapest - Blenheim Palace: pop architecture that goes for the jugular

Book Now For Christmas

Requiem for a Toilet Seat

Architecture that Destroys

TomTom Mobile 5 / GO 700

Winning Design

Another Croydon

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Holiday Snap: Canadian War Memorial, Vimy, France

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Anatomy of an Architectural News Story

Big Bens

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The Texas Tower

Its All About the Big Benjamins

G8 Security Tower

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The Exploding Concrete Inevitable. Lou Reed and the Casa da Musica

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Goal Sculptures

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The Mardas Touch

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Architectural Criticism gets Sharp

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Spray-on Snow

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The Knork

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Municipal Mummification

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Half Timbered Van

Feltham Future

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The Pop Vernacular

Design by Chefs

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Archigrams Pastoral Futurism

Sorry Mies

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Everything Counts - The Sound of Geography Collapsing.

Carlton Terrace Extension

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