Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Campus Novel


There is a whole subgenre of 'campus brutalism', and in the university (where, interestingly, they were less likely to be critiqued by sociologists) 1960s Modernists had perhaps the best opportunity to create their ideal cities: the self contained community of the campus college, set somewhere on the edge of a city, usually in parkland: Denys Lasdun's UEA being perhaps the most majestic and typical example, in its extraordinary formality and high suicide rate. So, accompanying my sister last week on a college-visiting jaunt, it was interesting to see the current state of the creation of artificial-academic space.


Most staggering of these was, by far, Edward Cullinan's Terminal Beach for the University of East London: a linear strip running parallel to the runway of city airport and the purposeless lake of Cyprus dock. For all his drably liberal intentions, this exponent of the 'organic' (as in his preposterous wooden school in Greenwich Millenium Village) consistently creates stunning non-places, outside of time and history. UEL's housing pods and expressionist classrooms, and their 'simulated trading floors' are bracingly desolate, feeling not so much like the edge of London but the edge of the world. After this the more urban interventions - Alsop at Goldsmiths, Libeskind at Metropolitan - seem positively normal, for all their extremism: the latter's metallic weaponry plunges into the Holloway Road with impressive force, but has nothing on Cullinan's awesome (if no doubt inadvertent) Ballardian-Blairite sterility.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

surely not as shocking as "Imperialist Brutalism"
US Embassy in Baghdad

4:06 pm  
Blogger Murphy said...

oh god, I have in fact seen this. it's rather petrifying indeed. Currently, RMJM are specialists in Blairite university buildings, and yet they used to design such things as York University, or even better Stirling University, all walkways, ponds, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, minor occupations of lecture theatres and betty blue posters...

2:14 pm  
Blogger Murphy said...

P.S. the brutalism article on wikipedia isn't very good at all.

2:15 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

No it's not: they can't all be this good (he says, blowing his own trumpet)

2:15 pm  
Blogger Sam said...

and where does this fit in?

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