Houses of Lords
I admit to being really quite pleased that chastened Millennium Dome creator Richard Rogers is building a housing development in Southampton, and not only because it'll be the first time one of those 'architects' have been allowed anywhere near the city since 1969. Of course the form of the development is pretty predictable: some luxury flats, built on the site of a disused shipyard. It all looks very CGI, but Rogers has had occasional moments of being off-message, so perhaps it'll have at least some gesture at being public: there's a library, at least.
I recently picked up in the consistently excellent Salvation Army shop in Deptford High St a 1986 book New Architecture- Foster Rogers Stirling, by Dejan Sujic. Three architects, two soon to be given the preposterous feudal titles: Lord Rogers of Riverside and Baron Foster of Thames Bank, respectively (Stirling died in 1992 before he had the chance). The book marks beautifully the coming to hegemony of the High Tech style, essentially an adaptation of the techno-romanticism of a Chernikhov or Sant-Elia for the purposes of the self-aggrandisement of the City of London. This wasn't entirely the architects fault. If you look at the projects that someone like James Stirling would have worked on from the 60s to 79s, you find a list of structures for universities, polytechnics, council housing. In the 80s the list would be museums, galleries, luxury housing and offices for stockbroking. This is where the work was, making explicit the link between museum culture and the rise to absolute power of 'financial services', both replacing a society where new things would be made, and public services would be provided.
The Lloyds building is perhaps the most staggering building built in London in the 20th century, completely out on its own, utterly uncompromising. IT on a visit there said it looked like the architecture the Soviets might have had if they'd won the Cold War, and indeed it does. All the signs of industry and function are worn on the outside, a structure aggressively proclaiming itself as a machine for working in. The interesting question is: why did finance capital want a Constructivist aesthetic? It isn't as if the style was adopted for housing or shopping centres.
This is especially key when the calmer but equally industrial works of Norman Foster have achieved a bizarre worldwide dominance, with another grandiose curve, lump or cock of glass being announced seemingly weekly: and both Rogers and Foster have designed some (appropriately ponderous) towers for Ground Zero. A possible answer to this is that their architecture evokes all that finance capital doesn't do: it looks like activity, industry, futurism, newness. Something dynamically surging into the future, not hurtling back to the 19th century.