Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Municipal Pride

Belatedly, a link to Kosmograd's post contrasting the unified design of Tokyo's metropolitan boroughs with (shudder) 'the logos of the assorted London boroughs, a truly horrific collection of bad clip art, worse typography, pointless squiggles, and the occasional moronic slogan ("The London Borough", "putting residents first", "the brighter borough")'. This reminded me of the municipal logo of my delightful hometown, which you can see above. Despite fitting at least two of those descriptions, particularly in the case of its horrendous typography, I admit to rather liking the fact that (unless someone wants to prove me wrong) Southampton is the only British city which advertises the fact it has tower blocks on its every leaflet and bit of notepaper. Also enjoyable is the yacht passing under the Bargate (which equally curiously, dwarfs the tower), a prophecy of the city's nigh-inevitable total flooding when climate change really kicks in. 

* For people with too much time on their hands and a wide knowledge of unpleasant English port cities: we ought to ascertain exactly what tower block this is supposed to be. It doesn't look like L Berger's fine blocks for St Mary's, Shirley or Millbrook; has little resemblance to the (admittedly clad to the point of unrecognisability) Millbank tower of my one-time summer abode, Northam estate; nor does it look like either Eric Lyons' Castle House or the (lamented, at least by me) twin towers (Seifert?) that were knocked down to build the West Quay ultra-Mall. Perhaps, in contrast to how the Bargate gets its own recognisable image, it is merely the pure form of the tower block, a sort of council flat isotype? Alternatively it very, very slightly resembles the drab HSBC tower which welcomes the visitor at the station. Anyone?


Blogger Seb said...

Merton - what the hell. I imagine that's supposed to be a water wheel, but it reminds me of a bogroll.

The Tokyo ward logos are a great example of when the overzealous commitment to bureaucratic consensus & unanimity of purpose produces good results - as opposed to the scattershot middlebrow branding that apparently runs rampant in London boroughs. I shudder to think how much money each borough blew on that bunch of corporate-"tasteful" Quark illustrator digifarts.

As for the Tokyo ward mon, I used to (and shall again very soon) live in this one - which is okay. Minimal and slightly standoffish, but with a soothing green, obviously a reference to the many tree-lined boulevards. Not as cool as Minato, but significantly better than the faux-Star Trek motif of Nerima.

11:06 pm  
Blogger roger said...

Oh, the crenelated thingy isn't supposed to be the Alamo? Are you sure?

2:03 am  
OpenID uptothehouse said...

Plato would be proud. You picked pretty much the worst parts of Southampton to be familiar with, no? I haven't been for a long time - in fact I've been to Portsmouth more often than I've been to Southampton in the last few years, and that's not an admission I make lightly.

10:59 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah there needs to be a bit more pride in municipal design these days.

Otl Aicher's not bad for municipal design work - He did some stuff for Isny and Muenster.I think he went to the Ulm school of design


See the expensive monograph for more - his town stuff isn't on the internet very much.


Ned Ludd

3:07 pm  
Anonymous Lang Rabbie said...

Am I imagining it, or was there briefly an even more inept version of the Southampton logo c.1987 ???

I wonder if it was chosen from a staff suggestion competition or suchlike, and then given a half-way professional makeover a few years later.

11:15 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

Ah, Lang, I had been hoping you would comment! I can't say if there was a similar logo in 1987 (I was 6) but I know personally a few people who were on or associated with the Labour group on the council in those days (Alan Whitehead, Dad of an old friend, token Trot Josie Brooks, and my parents know John Denham) so I can say for definite that none of them have any aesthetic sense whatsoever, so that sounds plausible.

12:02 am  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

Oh, and:

Plato would be proud. You picked pretty much the worst parts of Southampton to be familiar with, no?

Honey, I didn't pick which parts of Southampton to be familiar with, they picked me (or rather, circumstances of rent and mortgage fluctuations plus council house allocations picked me. Just be thankful I didn't brag about my teenhood on the Flower Estate, as is often my prole roots-flexing wont)

2:14 am  
Anonymous Matt said...

It looks a little like the leading edge of a hulking ocean liner - I wonder if it's a airbrushed version of Wyndham Court?

5:41 pm  
Anonymous Lang Rabbie said...

It must be a contender for the last use of Modern architecture as a signifier of broader "modernity" and/or progress in public iconography in the UK.

It is an indication of out of the loop Southampton was (is?) that 1960s developments were still being revamped in "hi-tech" skins long after everyone else had moved onto "pomo" decoration.

10:28 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

Yup. Are there other examples of that recladding other than Millbank tower, do you know? I don't mind the white and red fibreglass or whatever it is all that much, it ruins the unified look of the estate (one which Pevsner gives particular praise as I'm sure you know) but at least they didn't slap a pediment on it.

As if to prove your point btw about it being out of the loop, still:, as well as some utterly fucking dreadful Ikea Modernism (that hotel near British Gas) there has been some egregious pomo erected in Soton in the last few years - the buildings that replaced the Dell and the Cricket ground are the most appalling examples.

10:57 pm  
Anonymous Lang Rabbie said...

I have a recollection of a dreary brick block of a building near Above Bar being covered in lots of mirror glass and space frames.

I think a large chunk of the facade got blown off in a gale c.1998.

11:22 pm  
Blogger roger said...

Hey - a bit OT, but I really think, Owen, that you ought to put a bid in for this tunnel system under London. It would be very useful for the Kinofist collective, plus you could use it for various nefarious projects if you decide to become an accelerationist supervillain. And wouldn't that be fun? The bidding is a little rich, but see if they take IOUs.

2:29 am  
Blogger Kosmograd said...

You may be interest to read in the latest issue of Creative Review (Dec 2008) and article on City ID and Dalton Maag and there plans for signage and wayfinding in Southampton.


As part of the mapping and signage project they've even created a font called Southampton Display.

Generally , their designs are very restrained and modernist, straight out of the Otl Aicher playbook. It's part of a rather specious concept City ID call Legible Cities, with the concept of improving the User Experience of Southampton.

City as Software, anyone?

2:04 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

City ID did Sheffield n'all. I think I like their stuff although the lingo is a bit wank. Don't they read the Pevsner guides?

I'd like to creat a font called Derby Sans or Skegness Neue.

(I'll do it one day instead of writing about it)

Helvetica is of course a diviation from the Latin word for Switzerland - Helvetier.

Ned Ludd

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