Post modern apathy in the built environment ?…

Jonathan Glancey, the Guardian architecture critic, writing in his Guardian column today, Extinction of Engineers, bemoans the lack of skilled workers in the uk, and sees our sector as a nation of call centre operatives and customer service facility managers, threatened by a glut of postmodern apathy.   Yes.  This backs up the findings of the recent Arup report for the ASC – that we dont have the skills in the UK to address the sustainability targets and visions being set down and proposed.

In another article in the same edition  Jonathan Glancey provides a profile of Edward Cullinan, who has been designing thoughtful and sometimes daring buildings for long enough to see a number of them listed

Two comments in this article caught my attention

Cullinan remains equally in thrall to the wayward genius of Frank Lloyd Wright. The great American architect was much influenced by Voysey, even if Wright went on to design such avant garde buildings as the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. Voysey’s individuality and craft and Wright’s originality and verve are forces that have inspired Cullinan throughout his 52-year career as a practising architect. “I cherish that word,” he says. “I’m always practising. And one day might even get there.”

and, in an attack on design build…

 “Good architecture does demand money. The buildings we did for the University of East London [alongside London City Airport], for example, look great from 50 metres away, but when you get up close you can see the effects of ‘design and build’ construction, meaning that the architect is not responsible for the building works. The details just aren’t good enough. The level of craftsmanship is far too low.”

Voysey and Wright were lucky that they did not have to practise their craft in a cheapskate world of “design and build”. None the less, Cullinan, more so than most contemporary British architects, has lived to shape some of the best-made, most cherished British buildings of the past 50 years, buildings that, if you could slice into them, would shine with Grade I gold.

Having spent a fair amount of time as both a project manager on architect led and design and build projects, I am not sure I entirely agree with this.  The low level of craftsmanship is a symptom of the industry’s lack of investment in skills and training over the last few decades, rather than architect-contractor forms of contract.   And, in both approaches the relationships just did not foster a spirit of collaborative working to the benefit of the building or facility, but a reinforcement of silos and hidden agendas.

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