Soviet modernist architecture was born in 1918 after the Bolshevik October Revolution when massive urbanisation required new approaches to community living. The Avant-garde Constructivist movement promoted concepts which dictated that structure and function should determine building form. Functionalism rather than aesthetics was seen as the driving force for a new approach to architecture. However, this period came to a swift end in the early 1930s when Stalin wanted architecture to promote prosperity and pride by returning to monumental scale, decoration and neo-classicism. A stylistic about turn that has been repeated many times across the world over the last century.
Architecture is the art for the ages. Buildings and their sheer mass provide a model of stability and permanence. They bear witness to temporal events and provide an index to time and histories through their scars. They grow progressively ruinous over time, some quickly and some slowly, as successive caretakers seek to fit them into their time. So it is with our homes.
Principles of Space
A Model City
Croydon, was heavily bombed during the war. Out of the rubble a new Croydon centre was designed that would be a symbol of ambition and modernity. Central Croydon offers up a landscape of concrete, steel and glass that swept away a riot of Dickensian alleys and lanes. It represents a lasting and living piece of recent modern history. The ‘skyscrapers’ of south London stand as evidence to the visionary ideas of a generation of British architects who worked throughout the 50s and 60s to deliver a grand plan for the creation of a shining new business and retail centre outside the overcrowded centre of Greater London.
By the early 60s Croydon was recognised nationally as a bastion of British enterprise, commerce and culture. However the model whereby the car would be at the centre of the planning model where you could be whisked into the city centre on raised highways and underpasses and deposited in one of the many multi story car parks has grown old. The thin skyscrapers have proved inflexible and difficult to maintain. It is all out of tune with today’s need for renewable, scaleable and sustainable developments,
That the model has grown old does not detract from its relevance and endurance. Croydon is now poised once again to regenerate itself with plans to substantially renew large parts of the city centre.
St Augustine’s Villa in Brighton was built as conventual building in 1906 and then added to in 1912 and 1931. What was first (of all) St Augustine’s Private House for Ladies became in time The Sisters of Augustine Convent then St Augustine’s Nursing Home. Finally, the Benedictine Order acquired it in 1994. The nuns stayed until 2009. Guardians temporarily cared for the property until 2013 when planning permission was granted for a small development of new houses and apartment conversions. Adapt and change. So it goes on.
21st Century Town
According to Peter Ackroyd in Thames, Sacred River, the Thames more than any river has acquired perhaps the most famous history. In its 215 mile course, from source to sea, the constant references of the past, its industry, defence and culture create a complex and grand landscape which charts some of the most significant events in English history: - the river as history. It continues as new industries and cultural symbols change and regenerate the landscape.