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Great Modern Buildings

October 10th, 2007 · Posted by Skuds in Life · 6 Comments · Life

Another thing I am enjoying this week is the Guardian’s series of pull-outs on great modern buildings – a great improvement on wallcharts of mushrooms or sharks. (I’ll reserve judgement on the booklets of speeches and interviews. I kept them all and just never got round to reading any of them)

So far they have done the Empire State Building, The Guggenheim in Bilbao and the Pompidou Centre in Paris. Tomorrow it is the Gaudi cathedral in Barcelona and I am really wondering what will be there for Thursday and Friday.

All the buildings so far have been world-class icons. I would expect the Sydney Opera House to feature at some point, but then what? The Lloyds building would be a contender, but it is too similar to the Pompidou. Surely not the Gherkin – its pretty but just another skyscraper really. Britain doesn’t have too many examples of large-scale, world-class, iconic architecture. All our best architects get their best commissions abroad, with Spain leading the way these days.

The Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai? Hundertwasserhaus? The Scottish Parliament? The Welsh Assembly building? Portmeirion? The Crawley College Tower?? Actually, now I think about it, we do have a structure in Crawley with a small chance of being included: the bridge at Gatwick Airport. But its not really up there with the other icons. And if something as old as the Empire State Building counts as modern then how about some of the Albert Speer designs? Extremely dubious with all the connotations, but visually impressive.

I am not enough of an architectural anorak to be on the edge of my seat with anticipation, but I’m still enjoying a worrying level of anticipation. If I had to put money on it I would go for Le Corbusier’s Unite d’Habitation in Marseilles as a long-shot.

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6 Comments so far ↓

  • Gordon Seekings

    Not sure how “modern” modern is but one of my favourite buidings built in my lifetime is the Post Office (now BT) Tower. I’ts iconic, is a very practical building from the telecoms point of view, and I think aesthetically pleasing in design.

  • Danivon

    Gordon, as the Empire State building is older than you (it is, right?), I think you are safe with the GPO tower.

    The Twin Towers at the WTC were pretty impressive, if hardly beautiful. There’s the London Assembly building or the Eden Project as well.

    But I think Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater is a design classic.

  • Skuds

    I considered the GPO tower but I don’t think it aged well, by which I mean it has slipped from public consciousness. Some buildings just get more established and popular and influential as they get older (Pompidou centre?) others get overlooked, and I think the tower is one of them.

    Also, there have been a lot more telecoms towers built since then – Sydney, Seattle, Toronto which are better known internationally I think. Also I think of these things as more works of engineering than architecture – like the London Eye.

    Falling Water is brilliant, but I get the impression this series is sticking to larger buildings. WTC were impressive for their size but not their looks. Too plain to be pretty but too pretty to be brutalist. Definitely iconic, and even more so since they came down. (Interesting fact in the ESB pull-out: a B-52 crashed into it and it survived.)

    I reckon the HSBC HQ in Hong Kong, or the new tower next to it are better than the WTC anyway.

    Anyway, colour me stupid, but it wasn’t the Gaudi cathedral today. It was an apartment block, and tomorrow is the Jewish Museum.

    I’m going to play safe and predict the Sydney Opera House for Friday.

  • Danivon

    Wrong Skuds, it’s the Eden Project tomorrow.


  • Skuds

    Well done.
    Maybe they will do it again and include the Sydney Opera House.

  • Gordon Seekings

    Hey you guys it was never the GPO Tower to the best of my knowledge as the GPO ceased to exist in 1969 and the Post Office (now BT) tower opeend after that.

    So far as the Eden project is concerned then I for one will support that having been there half a dozen times – including one visit before it opened to view the building site.

    What I like about the place is not just the buidlings but the artwork around the place as well.