Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Strangely Butch Delicacy

Rodney Gordon was one of the greatest British architects of the 20th century, and the architectural illiteracy of this country must be at least a major reason for the truly remarkable series of indignities he suffered. First, most of his buildings were credited to his boss Owen Luder; then they won interminable 'worst building in Britain' awards from sundry aggrieved traditionalists; and more recently the finest of his works have either been demolished, or await demolition, or are being considered for demolition or have been so altered that for some, demolition would have been preferable. He also died three months ago, and no obituaries in the national press resulted whatsoever. Anyway - the latter situation at least has been rectified, viz this impressive obituary in the Times by Jonathan Meades, which has already elicited one irked comment - not usually something you see appending an obituary notice. Some names were named in the full version of Meades' obituary, and I happen to have the full version, featuring the following paragraph:

...that, however, is hardly surprising, given that Gordon was a brutalist, probably the greatest (as well as unquestionably the youngest) of the English brutalists and thus a ready target for indolent bien-pensants, cheer-led by Sir Simon Jenkins and Margaret Hodge, whose antipathy to the architecture of the 1960s is as drearily predictable, as dismally unseeing, as was their parents’ and grandparents’ to that of the 1860s. These people fail to differentiate between the many strains of modernism and, more importantly, between what was good and what bad. Nor, in their arrogance, do they realise that tastes change. Today brutalism has countless admirers who were unborn in the era of board-marked shuttering; a new generation of aesthetes is as opposed to the clichéd, kneejerk calumisation ”concrete monstrosity”, as John Betjeman and Osbert Lancaster were to “Victorian monstrosity”.

Amen to that.


Blogger Matthew said...

Owen - I tried to post a comment which gently mocked the complaining 'Rachel', but they didn't publish it. Instead the dribblings of another moaner has now appeared.

I'm impressed by your insider knowledge vis the author and unedited content. I spent Friday afternoon trying to puzzle it out, though admittedly JM was at the top of my list.

4:44 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

It strikes me as incredibly bad taste to post carping comments on a bloody obituary as if it's Comment is Free, even one as trenchant as this - no-one wrote appending the Solzhenitsyn obit 'well, everything apart from One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is shit anyway' (true as that might well have been...)

Who were your other candidates, out of curiosity?

11:37 pm  
Blogger Matthew said...

I had one other candidate in mind, but I would get them into trouble for mentioning their name. Truthfully, JM became the obvious choice, but I was glad to have this confirmed.

7:07 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you squint that last image looks like a gigantic fist stubbing out a cigarette.

Just sayin'.

11:35 am  
Blogger owen hatherley said...


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11:30 pm  

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