The creation of a commission to investigate the beauty of new buildings caused a sensation in the media, and the chairman was exposed to a hate storm unusual turbulence, even if he had to endure this regularly. Hate storms arise when powerful interests are threatened, and that was no exception. There is hardly a human being in this country who does not know what Milan Kundera calls the progressive "ugliness of our world" and who does not hope something can be done about it. No one with whom I speak denies the need for a large number of new homes. However, they all hope that this need can be reconciled with our deep-seated desire for beauty.
Kant wrote that in judgments about beauty we are "candidates for agreement". Through aesthetic judgment, we seek a world that enhances and enhances our humanity, and even when we are attracted to eccentricities and original gestures, we want them to fit into the community just as we fit within ourselves. I would go further and argue that the aesthetic judgment is rooted in the neighborhood's sense. In my view, it is the commandment to love one's neighbor as oneself, which is most obviously hurt by the ugly blocks thrown at our cities. It is obvious that the planning system must provide the homes and infrastructure we need. but it also has to deliver what people want to see, something they can enjoy, how we enjoy our home.
In the architectural press, it has repeatedly been pointed out that the creation of a commission on beauty in construction is merely a reversal of the "style wars" of the last decades of the 20th century. The articles practiced all the snobbish contempt for the & # 39; Nimbys & # 39; with her & # 39; historicist & # 39; Fantasies and Christmas Card Pastiche and showed no awareness that the debate has continued since David Watkins's devastating criticism of Pevsner, and above all, that there are no philosophical arguments and visceral feelings that could be cited in support of Kundera's criticism.
It is, of course, right that we should avoid a return to any kind of war. At the same time, however, we should acknowledge that the dispute over style is a bleak reflection of a deeper and more fundamental conflict around the place. Modernity was rich in stylistic innovations. The humane and imaginative factories of the Bauhaus, the elegant residential projects of Oud and the villas of Mies and Le Corbusier were created. But there was also a kind of styleless colloquial language, which is characterized by the glass facade and the reinforced concrete cube. Out of this purely functional idiom, buildings have been built that are only built when they have fallen into decay.
Versions of these destructive structures can now be found in every city in the world, sometimes transformed into devices such as the walkie-talkie building in London, more often tarnished only in empty mirrors that face their surroundings with an icy inhuman face. They define the nowhere above the city, where the ghostly enterprises float, malignant wizards of life below. Their effect is visible to all as they challenge our need for a place that belongs to us and to which we, in turn, belong. They do it anywhere, and therefore nowhere.
Our need for belonging is part of who we are, and it is the true foundation of aesthetic judgment. If we lose sight of it, we risk creating an environment in which the function triumphs over all other values, including aesthetics. It is not that there is a war of styles – any style can prove acceptable if it leads to a genuine unification, and the point is recognized by a variety of contemporary architects, and not just those who are traditional Have prescribed grammar. It's not about style wars anymore, it's about a growing recognition of the deep truth we build to belong. Many committed Modernists start from this truth – for example Alain de Botton in The architecture of happiness and Rowan Moore in Why we build, Among the new settlements that are popular, there are so many settlements built in polite modernist style as in a kind of traditional vernacular. The important point is that we all, the homeless and the disadvantaged, as well as those who have invested their savings in a property, want us to have a home that is also a home.
For this reason, ordinary architecture, adventurous as it is in the use of materials, shapes and details, can not rely on the excuse of an artistic license to sneak through the planning process. In art, we try to give the most exalted expression to life and its meaning. In everyday arrangements, we simply try to do what looks right. In both cases, it is about the pursuit of beauty. But the two kinds of beauty touch different areas of the psyche. To create art you need imagination and talent – what the romantics called "genius". To create everyday beauty, one needs only humility and respect. In art, we are free to explore life in all its facets, to enter imaginary realms and to open ourselves to our highest claims. Artistic beauty is the culmination of our efforts, and inactivity is synonymous with despondency. Achieving this climax requires a distinctive artistic personality and an original and creative use of the available forms.
In everyday life, on the other hand, beauty is a matter of adapting our arrangements to the contours of ordinary needs and interests, when we set a table, plant vegetables in rows or arrange the pictures on a wall. Everyday beauty is within our reach, while artistic beauty is the occupation of the few. There is a lot of architecture somewhere between the two, as it is very much a matter of getting in and out of the work, but also of overcoming aesthetic problems whose solution requires imagination and even inspiration. For ordinary people, however, everyday convenience counts, and this is reflected in all the criticisms we hear in recent developments. In everyday building, it is just as risky to be prominent, dominate, boastful and iconic as in social gatherings. Everyday beauty is a matter of manners, not style.
Our job as commissioners is to examine the characteristics that people most appreciate in the buildings around them. My hope is to find the way ordinary people can express their opinions through the planning process in order to settle in a place they can be proud of. I have no easy task. But someone has to do it, and why not a philosopher whose only interest in the result is the same interest that everyone shares, namely the interest in beauty?