Blog #6 – Modern Architectural Marvels or Expensive Eyesores?

As architectural design changes over time so does the traditional landscape of European cities. The buildings I have chosen to look at are considered by many as modern architectural marvels but others see them as expensive eyesores. I have chosen buildings in London with the exception of the Pompidou Centre in Paris, as I could not discuss modern architecture without mentioning what has become one of the most remarkable buildings of the twentieth century.

Pompidou Centre, Paris, 1971-1977

Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers

Renzo Piano was born in Genoa, Italy in 1937. From 1959 to 1964 he studied at the Milan Politecnico, where he taught until 1968. In 1970 Piano established a partnership with the English architect Richard Rogers. President Georges Pompidou wanted to create an original cultural institution in the heart of Paris focussed on modern and contemporary creation and held a competition which was won by Piano and Rogers. They were required to complete an architectural project that had to meet the criteria of “interdisciplinarity, freedom of movement and flow, and an open approach to exhibition areas”. The Pompidou Centre was built with steel and was shocking with its colour-coded plumbing and its exhibitionist structure and was regarded as ugly by traditionalists when it was first built but it is now seen as an “enormous achievement, technically and conceptually”. This is truly a fun building and I love the flowing design and the innovative way they freed up space inside by placing the escalators on the outside of the building.

Richard Rogers was born in Florence, Italy in 1933. He attended the Architectural Association School in London before graduating from Yale University. After the completion of the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the Richard Rogers Partnership was formed. His works reject the classical past and his interest in uninterrupted interior spaces has made Rogers an heir to the functionalist tradition. His concern with total flexibility and obvious technical imagery has been termed Late Modern.

Lloyds of London Building, London, 1978-1984

Richard Rogers Partnership

After winning another competition, to replace the existing headquarters of Lloyd’s with a new structure Rogers took the technological expressionism of the Pompidou Centre to its extreme. With this project Rogers was inspired by a determination to work with the visual grain of the city and did not want the building to look out of place, I really like the aesthetics of the building but some feel it is out of place and it is known by some as the inside-out building. Like the Pompidou Centre, the building was innovative in having its services such as staircases, lifts, electrical power conduits and water pipes on the outside, leaving an uncluttered space inside. The twelve glass lifts were the first of their kind in the UK.

Millennium Dome, London, 1996-2000

Richard Rogers Partnership

The Millennium Dome was commissioned to mark the beginning of the new Millennium, it was an exposition hall made of a fabric enclosure with tensile support and “was intended as a celebratory, iconic, non-hierarchical structure offering a vast, flexible space”. The Dome attracted intense media coverage and generated more political and public debate than any other British building of the last 100 years. the building itself was remarkably inexpensive. More than 6 million people visited the attraction during 2000, me included. There was a wide variety of exhibits and an amazing show similar to the Cirque du Soleil shows. Although I like this monumental building for me it is not as aesthetically pleasing as some of the others included here but I did feel it was worthy of being included.The Dome has now become the home of the O2 arena, one of the UK’s most popular music venues.

Norman Foster was born in Manchester, England in 1935. He received his architectural training at Manchester University School of Architecture, which he entered at age 21, and Yale University, where he met Richard Rogers. He worked with Richard Rogers and Sue Rogers and his wife, Wendy Foster, as a member of “Team 4” until Foster Associates was founded in London in 1967. Foster has generated a sophisticated architecture based in technology and his firm’s work shows a dedication to architectural detailing and craftsmanship.

Millennium Bridge, London, 1996-2000

Foster and Partners

The Millennium Bridge was developed with sculptor Anthony Caro and engineers Arup, the commission resulted from an international competition. A shallow suspension structure, it is London’s only pedestrian bridge and the first new Thames crossing since Tower Bridge in 1894.The bridge has a uniquely thin profile, forming a slender arc across the water, and spanning the greatest possible distance with the minimum means. The bridge opened in June 2000 and an astonishing 100,000 people crossed it during the first weekend. However, under this heavy traffic the bridge exhibited greater than expected lateral movement, and as a result it was temporarily closed. Extensive research and testing revealed that synchronised pedestrian walking caused this movement. The solution was to fit dampers discreetly beneath the deck which proved highly successful and the research undertaken by the engineers has resulted in changes to the codes for bridge building worldwide. Although not a building I chose this bridge, as it is a wonderful modern achievement that springs from a dynamic collaboration between engineering, art and architecture.

London City Hall, London, 1998-2003

Foster and Partners

The goal was to create a headquarters building for London’s mayor and the Greater London Authority that would become a new landmark for the capital. It is a visionary feat of design and engineering. Its shape is derived from a geometrically modified sphere and portrays a revolutionary appearance. It seemed initially that the new city hall would be slightly out of context, given its location near historic landmarks, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, but as the surrounding buildings rise around it, London City Hall begins to “perform its duty as a trendsetter for the future of London”.

Swiss Re Tower, London, 1997-2004

Foster and Partners

Set in London’s financial district and officially known as the Swiss Re Tower this buildings distinctive shape has already made it recognizable landmark. The 590-foot- high, 40-story, 76,400-square-meter Swiss Re Tower is said to be London’s first environmental skyscraper. The idea behind the overall form is to forge a connection with nature and although dubbed “Gherkin,” the spiral in its shape more resembles a pinecone. The tower’s uniqueness is reflected in the fact that there is little chance of a duplicate being built. It has become a recognized addition to the city’s high-profile skyline that includes St Paul’s Cathedral, which speaks volumes for its impact and acceptability. However there are those who see the new tower as a building out of context with its surroundings.

There are obviously numerous modern buildings being added to European cities that are changing the traditional landscape, which for many are considered eyesores rather than visionary marvels. I chose these buildings as to me they portrayed a good example of the variety of modern architecture and how it can be blended into historical surroundings. I actually like all of the buildings included here, they are all truly amazing architectural designs and due to the approach of each of the architects I feel they add to rather than detract from the London skyline.’s_building



  1. lemontulip Said:

    I LOVE that you used architecture in your theme. I don’t think I was expecting anyone to do that. It seems that all the buildings you’ve included attempt to celebrate modernism in a very bold way. With something so new and daring, there will always be naysayers and those who think that we’re going backwards in regards to the quality of architecture. But I agree with you that they are genius projects and add to our human achievement. Swiss Re Tower is especially awe-inspiring. Are there buildings that you DO think are “expensive eyesores?” Thanks for providing both facts about the works and your own thoughts. Very informative and entertaining to read. Thank you 🙂

  2. Mayra Said:

    You did a great job! Your theme as architecture was a great idea. Each piece of art had its summary and relation to your theme. You did an excellent job in providing information. This was something new to me. i really enjoyed the art work you selected and really enjoyed reading about it. In the beginning, you did great at dividing the biography about the authors. You met all the requirements. Thanks for sharing! Keep up the good work!

  3. Jim Said:

    Very interesting. Good job tying them all together in the expensive eyesore theme. The Dome and the Bridge both fascinated me. I’m very glad the Millenium Bridge didn’t suffer any catastrophic failures as experimental designs sometimes do. You’ve provided a good amount of information on all of the items and their designers, good job.

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