Should the Euston Arch be rebuilt?

Discussion in 'London and the South East' started by _pH_, May 18, 2009.


Should the Euston Arch be rebuilt

  1. Back to the past! I like Grecian arches!

  2. Back to the future! In a space age styleee!

  3. Couldn't give a toss as long as the trains run on time

  4. comedy option/i <3 kittehs!

  1. Azrael

    Azrael circling Airstrip One

    Depends what materials you employ, surely? And I'm sure you can plan the station with a separate, large Central Hall unlikely to need modification. Connect it to sheds in more flexible materials in a classical style.

    Or produce something entirely different. I just want classicism and historical styles in general there as an option, and I'm extremely dubious that practicality is the main issue after hearing endless architects go off on one about "pastiche"!

    Actually I'm convinced that the split between historicism and modern architecture is false. Holden's designs certainly reference the past. Architecture should be an extremely broad church.
  2. teuchter

    teuchter je suis teuchter

    I'd be interested to see the interior of that building, and whether it has any particular relation to the facade, and if so, whether that relationship benefits or compromises it.

    The classical style is quite useful for making non-descript facades, if that's what you want. I'd describe that as a neutral addition to Tottenham Court Road.
  3. Crispy

    Crispy The following psytrance is baṉned: All

    It's a completely standard office building on the inside. Terry only did the facade, IIRC - the developers originally planned a Modern facade but the planners said no.
  4. teuchter

    teuchter je suis teuchter

    Just like folk like you seem to go off on one about "glass shoeboxes" as if that it what any bit of contemporary architecture is going to be.
  5. teuchter

    teuchter je suis teuchter

    Probably with rather less natural light than might have been possible if the facade had been designed with the occupants rather than the conservative planners in mind.
  6. Azrael

    Azrael circling Airstrip One

    Except that I'm not making sweeping generalisations about modernist buildings: simply ones that happen to look like giant shoeboxes. :D The pastiche argument is used against all historicism.

    St Pancras shed extension:-


    Note I've already posted up pictures of Charles Holden's work, and some of the Jubilee Line Extension. I want a diverse range of styles. Can you say the same? Are you happy for historical styles to be built alongside modernist ones?
  7. Azrael

    Azrael circling Airstrip One

    This sort of thing gives historicism a bad name. It shouldn't be about window dressing. If it's to be done, it should inform all aspects of the building, inside and out. Sticking a bit of classical wrapping paper around a modern building usually robs it of any claim at authenticity.
  8. teuchter

    teuchter je suis teuchter

    To answer this fully would end up in a rather long post, but -

    Yes I certainly like to see a diverse range of styles. But I'd rather we focussed on the design than the style. The first question that should be asked about a building is whether it is well designed. The "style" of it is significant but somewhat secondary.

    Developers, architects, planning authorities and anyone else responsible for the form of our built environment should be given a hard time over bad design. There are plenty of bad buildings in all kinds of "styles". It's rather frustrating that the debate gets polarised into the rather unsophisticated one of traditional vs. modern in so many cases (thanks for that, Prince C.). It distracts from what we should really be talking about, as far as I'm concerned.

    As for "historical styles" - well I find them rather problematic. Especially when they are just a (usually bad) imitation, rather than an intelligent re-interpretation. My observation is that there are few contemporary buildings built in "historical style" which are very interesting, or just any good in general. Which is why I asked if you have any examples.

    Well, yes. Again - give me some examples (from the past couple of decades) where a historical style has been successfully used to create something more than wrapping paper.
  9. teuchter

    teuchter je suis teuchter

    (Are you familiar with Adolf Loos' giant Doric column by the way?)

  10. Crispy

    Crispy The following psytrance is baṉned: All

    I bet you're familiar with his giant column!
    Way hey hey :D
  11. teuchter

    teuchter je suis teuchter

    This is a serious thread Crispy.

    I provided an opening for your type when I posted Mr Cocks' Monument a little while ago but no-one took it.
  12. Azrael

    Azrael circling Airstrip One

    Library at Downing College, Cambridge, 1990-2.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Brentwood (catholic) Cathedral 1989-91

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    I don't see why construction in the last few decades should mean anything: classicism's been with us for over two millennia! Gothic at least one millennia. If historicism led to unimaginative buildings, it would afflict us as much in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries as it does now.

    I agree that the debate is a silly polarization. That comes largely from the modernists, because they're dominant. Richard "Robin Hood Gardens" Rogers tried to get Quinlan Terry's Chelsea Royal Hospital rejected behind-the-scenes. Prince Charles has, at most, stopped a few monstrosities going up. He's fighting a loosing rearguard action.

    Of course you can design badly in all genres. But that's separate from the prejudice which historicism faces. Usually a cry of "pastiche" is all that's needed. I'm aware that historicism dominated in the past. We should be open to good design in all genres, but that's only possible when architecture is no longer dominated by people who reject the past.
  13. Azrael

    Azrael circling Airstrip One

    Ah yes, that. :cool:
  14. Crispy

    Crispy The following psytrance is baṉned: All

    Way hey h..
    oh never mind
  15. Azrael

    Azrael circling Airstrip One

    If the opening involves the Loos Doric ... ouch! :eek:
  16. teuchter

    teuchter je suis teuchter

    I think those photos are a mixture of that library and Brentwood Cathedral. Anyway, that doesn't really matter. I haven't seen either of the buildings in the flesh (perhaps I should take myself on a Quinlan Terry tour some time) but from photos they look alright - they appear to have used decent materials and to be coherent in themselves.

    I suspect both of those buildings had fairly generous budgets. Personally, if I were the client, I would have spent that money on something more interesting but that is entirely down to my tastes of course. I find it a little peculiar, in a way, that people want to build that kind of stuff when there is already so much of it knocking about courtesy of the Victorians. But I can't say that either of those examples are "bad" buildings in themselves, from the information available. Quite rare examples though.

    As regards Euston by the way - if there were a competition I'd be interested to see what someone like Terry came up with (I don't dispute that he does what he does well). I wouldn't want to rule him out on principle.
  17. Crispy

    Crispy The following psytrance is baṉned: All

    I don't think he's got the guns for big infrastructure, personally.
  18. teuchter

    teuchter je suis teuchter

    Regarding this -

    The point is that technology and the way we live have changed much more dramatically in the past 50 - 100 years than they did at any time in the past.

    The options available to an architect now are so much greater than to one working in the 1860s. It seems silly not to take advantage of these, especially when faced with dealing with a set of requirements hugely more restrictive than those faced by the Victorians.
  19. Azrael

    Azrael circling Airstrip One

    True, as the style is deeply unfashionable amongst the architectural community. The skills are no longer taught. Mr Terry was failed when he submitted classical designs on his architecture course: he ran up (parodies) of modernist works and passed! He taught himself the tools of classicism by touring old buildings, but it takes a rare degree of dedication and bloody mindedness to do that. By the by, Mr Terry thinks there's an endemic problem in the way architecture is taught: five years of theory instead of an apprenticeship system. He makes a convincing case. I'd love to see his design for Euston, and what others would offer against it.

    As to why we should build in this style, it's been honed and perfected over two thousand years. A vernacular that well understood allows exciting things to be done. And simply, it can be extremely beautiful. Add in the benefits from harmonizing with surrounding buildings and you have a winner.

    It can also lead to new styles. Charles Holden was trained in historicism, and his buildings clearly draw inspiration from his predecessors.


    What's the roof at Oakwood but a medieval great hall imagined in concrete?


    If the prejudice against historicism were put aside, it could only help new styles. There's nothing to be gained from rejecting the combined experience of centuries.
  20. Azrael

    Azrael circling Airstrip One

    Possibly not, although Brentwood Cathedral is large and impressive, and his Cambridge buildings stand out amongst tough competition. Point is, Mr Terry is more-or-less fighting it alone. There should be dozens of practices out there competing with him in the same genre.
    I'm not at all sure about the rate of technological innovation: the ironwork of Victorian buildings is surely as revolutionary as the changes in the 20th century. And I don't see the conflict between historicism and technology, as if historicism would hold us back. All sorts of exciting things could be done with a fusion of historic styles and new materials: to give one of the most famous examples, the concrete dome in the Pantheon.
  21. Crispy

    Crispy The following psytrance is baṉned: All

    I agree with you about architectural education btw. It badly needs fixing
  22. Azrael

    Azrael circling Airstrip One

    Do you have any ideas on that front? I like Mr Terry's suggestion of an apprentice system -- he says it helps students get a feel for the practical instead of just the theoretical -- but I'm sure there's alternatives.
  23. Crispy

    Crispy The following psytrance is baṉned: All

    No specifics, but at both the universities I've been to, the teaching was geared towards turning us into beard-stroking pseudo-philosophers. 'What is the psychogeography of this space, mr. Crispy?' - 'what are you trying to say about the suburban condition with this piece?' Bleuch. When I present my work to a panel of critics I want to talk about how my building succeeds as a piece of urban design and a place for people to be in, not how it cleverly references deleuze and the alienation of modern consumerism.
  24. teuchter

    teuchter je suis teuchter

    That's true. And there perhaps exists more prejudice against it than there should be. But there are reasons for it being unfashionable. Most people who spend a large number of years doing architecture realise that on the whole it's a rather restrictive and unimaginative approach to design - particularly, as I said before - in the context of what we have available, and what we want to do, now.

    Note that it is the people who actually do architecture who mostly come to this conclusion, rather than the historians who just study it.

    Not really true. The majority of time spent studying architecture is taken up doing studio design projects. As in, designing stuff, and then defending it against criticism. Not sitting around reading books. There may be some schools which allow students to hide behind theory more than they should, but design, and the (genrally quite tough) critique of it, is at the heart of all architecture courses and is the most important element in determining a student's success.

    That is the generous way to look at it.

    You might also say that it is the style that happened to be adopted by an incredibly powerful empire hence its familiarity (and association with power and stablilty) throughout Europe and consequently much of the rest of the world colonised in turn by Europeans.

    I'm not sure I'd call it a "vernacular". An early example of the blandness that can result from globalisation, perhaps? That's a bit unfair really because like you say in the right hands good things can be done with it. Not much new can be done with it now though. It's a fundamentally conservative style. If you want "exciting" then classicism isn't really at the top of the list.

    All good architects draw inspiration from their predecessors. Do you think currently practicing architects haven't spent a great deal of time looking at historical styles?

    I don't really buy into this kind of comment I'm afraid. Yes you can say that if you want. What it is is a solution to a basic structural problem, expressed.

    Big beams spanning the big spans, with small beams spanning between them. It's not rocket science. A basic structural system, used by different designers throughout history because it works, not particularly because the builders of medieval halls were geniuses.

    I could say that the roof of the current Euston station was "the coffers of the Pantheon, suspended between beams inspired by the something or other medieval whatsit" but it still wouldn't tell you whether it was any good or not.

    As it happens I think it is rather good.
  25. teuchter

    teuchter je suis teuchter

    There's no doubt that this is an issue in some schools, I have to say.

    Which universities were those?
  26. Crispy

    Crispy The following psytrance is baṉned: All

    :hmm: I'd rather not say :hmm:
  27. teuchter

    teuchter je suis teuchter


    There are a few things I could say, too, but amn't going to here...
  28. Azrael

    Azrael circling Airstrip One

    I'm fundamentally conservative, so that tallies. :D

    Classicism is "conservative" in the proper sense: it conserves past ideas and styles. That isn't the same thing as boring. It isn't about a particular historical style but historicism in general. What about Gothic? The glorious flights of fancy the Victorians went off on couldn't by any stretch of the imagination be called dull.

    Too many contemporary architects try to bury the past. You say resemblance between Oakwood's roof and medieval halls is coincidental, but why did Holden expose the beams in that way, instead of using steel and burying it in concrete, or some other method? His earlier work shows a progression from historic styles to something original. Now there's a fetish for glass and steel; it might employ ancient construction techniques, but overt reference is frowned on.

    As for fashion proving things, it's usually a poor argument. I gave practical reasons why classicism (and historical styles in general) have gone out of fashion: students aren't taught them, or their vocabulary. Responding to technology isn't the cause. Traditional key structures have also gone out of fashion in music, and traditional prose in literature. Abandoning the past is ideological, not practical.

    Ultimately all I want is diversity. I have nothing against new styles, and welcome experimentation. The reverse doesn't seem to be true. Mr Rogers tried to have Mr Terry's design for Chelsea Hospital suppressed. A certain type of modernism seems to want the past destroyed. I distrust all Brave New World ideologies. If I've got it wrong, modernist architects should be happy to have historic styles built.
  29. Azrael

    Azrael circling Airstrip One

    All sensible moves. But if the schools and universities adopt your apporach, they'd have to start considering popular opinion in a serious fashion, and that doesn't fit well with unfettered experimentation.
    "Theoretical" doesn't just mean sitting around reading books; what you've described is a theoretical approach. I think Mr Terry was referring to working hands-on with an architect, seeing the day-to-day realities of the business and so on.
  30. lang rabbie

    lang rabbie Je ne regrette les gazebos

    Can I just state that [IMHO] Quinlan Terry is an utterly inept designer. He has no serious understanding (either academic, spiritual, or psychogeographical!) of the way that the classical Orders should be used, and just provides "classical" architectural wallpaper to suit his conservative clients.

    John Simpson is almost as bad when he moves beyond domestic architecture to large scale projects like Paternoster Square!

    There are "Modernist" architects with a much better understanding of the underlying rules of proportion underlying classicism, who I would be far more willing to trust to incorporate a reconstruction of the Euston Arch alongside a contemporary rebuild in preference to having a mediocre building by Terry, Simpson or "Robert Adam".

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