Beautiful Spaces

For fear of coming across as a total cynic, opinionated and pessimistic, objectionable and possibly anarchic, this blog post is long overdue.
The trouble, I find, with taking too seriously some of the topics which I blog about is that you can easily forget that there are loads of other things out there to smile about. Despite all the bad news on TV, the world is not exactly crumbling down into a pile of dysfunction, waiting for a keyboard warrior or other noisy activist to shine a light on the mess…to take to the street, banners in hand, demonstrating against the powers that be, chanting justice! justice! justice!…for someone, anyone!! to come to the rescue.

No, that’s not what is happening. Atleast in Manchester, thats not what is happening.

As a matter of fact, there are pockets of beauty, peace, happiness, tranquility, contentment and calm everywhere. Even in some unlikely places, as these pictures demonstrate:

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So, these pictures from Salford Quays are appropriate

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Several years ago, when I first visited the United States, I noticed just how much modern architecture there was about, and at the time I liked it. Everything looked big and new. It was incredible, I was really impressed. I told myself this was what it meant to be a Super power, this was what it meant to be the first world. The Architectural landscape across the East Coast alone, in states such as Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina, and Georgia convinced me that at least in the western world, this had to be the pinnacle of opulence.

Many months later, poring over the pictures I took, I got the sense that a lot of it was too grand for its own good; a bit conspicuous, as if the buildings were saying ‘Look-at-me-I-am-great‘; the pointlessness other than serving an aesthetic function is akin to  a sea shell adorned with exuberant colours, but which is hollow. You kind of want it to have something else. To serve an additional function than just being cute. Similarly, this phenomena can be likened to an American size McDonald’s burger, which will tease your taste buds, but may not be all that good for your health. It’s the equivalent of a woman who is so beautiful, a model of models, looks like Barbie but has the emotional and intellectual response of a teaspoon.

Visiting Shanghai several years later, I was struck by just how much China seemed to be following in the steps of the US, departing from traditional architecture, to embrace this glitz and glamour which at some level was pointless. Like Washington DC and Atlanta, there were too many imposing buildings about, shopping malls and office blocks that hugged the sky, standing there looking all mighty and strong, but which were mostly empty inside. I wondered whether the whole thing was necessary, or whether like the expo I had come to see that October of 2010, it was largely a political statement; a show of economic power, as if saying, We are rich, look we can build large structures.

But don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there’s something wrong with having grand architecture. That’s not what I’m saying. I have in my spare time collected quite an impressive collection of buildings from all over the world, and many of those buildings are massive structures. I just didn’t particularly prefer what I saw during that trip, and it’s perfectly possible that on a future trip I’ll have a totally different experience.

To me, some of the more modest buildings I have encountered even here in the UK make more sense. At least in terms of utility and function.

And while the general environment of the cities I visited during the US trip was warm and friendly, I now know that I wasn’t fully persuaded about some of the buildings I encountered. It turns out that there were too many similarities, and not enough distinction. Or to put it another way, many weren’t different enough from each other for their true character and individuality to shine through. Diversity even in architecture has got to be a good thing.


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