Do not get me wrong, architects. I like you as a person. I think you are nice, smell good most of the time, and I like your glasses. You have crazy hair, and if you are lucky, most of it is on your head. But I do not care about architecture. It is true. This is what I do care about:
As you can see, architecture is not on the list.
Apparently Pat Flanagan, who is responsible for the development of many of South Africa’s major shopping centres – including Riverside Mall, Nelspruit; Somerset Mall, Somerset West; Northgate, Randburg – thinks we need more. But then I guess he would.
On an economic level, there are those that dissagree. I don’t know much about that, but on an urban level, well, malls are anti-urban! They unsustainable. They’re generally awful to look at. And unless South African developers and architects can reinvent the typology, make them more respectful of the uniqueness of place, less ‘fuck you, city’, I’m not sure we really do need any more.
If we really do need more retail facilities, which I’m sure many under-serviced areas do, then we need something other than big-box solutions. But fine-grained, sound urban solutions won’t make Pat and his ilk a lot of money fast. And that’s really what Pat’s after. Money. At the expense of the people who really live in the cities.
You want to proliferate ‘fuck you, city’ urbanism? Well, fuck you, Pat!
Charles Holland, director at FAT, an award winning architectural practice based in London, writes a cynical open letter to Other Architects on his Fantastic Journal. He insists we should all stop entering architectural competitions. He gives ten reason. I think he might be right.
They are a pretty terrible way of procuring a building. Imagine a system where you want something but you’re not sure exactly what it is. So you make a list of things you think you want and invite everyone in the world to send you their ideas for what it looks like. You have no other interaction with them, communicate – if at all – by email and, in the end, hope for the best and pick the one you fancy. This is the architectural competition process. It’s similar to internet dating, but less fun.
Times Live asks some of South Africa’s top architects about the buildings that inspire and appall them. Can’t say I’ve ever heard of these top architects.
Does South Africa have a characteristic style of architecture? Is it Cape Dutch, mud hut, concrete slab or corrugated iron shanty? Is it retro-futuristic such as the Hillbrow Tower or modern innovation like the Constitutional Court?
In answer to this question: ‘Is there anything unique about South African architecture?’ from Nicole Hijbeek of Design Mind following the Open Think Box debate, I wrote this… “South African architecture is unique to South Africa: in its weakness…”