Showing posts with label SMITHSON Alison & Peter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SMITHSON Alison & Peter. Show all posts

May 1, 2015

INTERVIEW WITH
ALISON AND PETER SMITHSON 
By BAYKAN GÜNAY
BG: Alison and Peter, the fifties mark a milestone, a turning point maybe in world
architecture and you played an important role as a member of Team 10. What
sort of impacts did Team 10 have from the fifties onwards?
AS: I don't honestly think I can judge that and I am not sure that anybody can. I
am very nervous of thinking too much in the past; partly because the inherited
cast of mind of the Scottish person is very conscious of the past and therefore it's
something I have, in a way, to protect myself against. And we get asked for a lot
of archival material and if it gets more than two and a half days a week that I have
to fish something out of the archives or remember something (because now we
are getting a lot of questions on the fifties, questions on the sixties are beginning)
you feel you are running a mortician's parlor: I would much prefer to just react
to what is outside, now.
BG: The reactions you put forth against CIAM's understanding of the separation
of functions, let us say emphasis on more greenery and light, rather than identity
and association, are still being advocated by many of the (I should not say schools)
but many of the recent urban design ideas. I have a certain feeling (of course, as
I insist I am a man outside the events) so looking at it from the outside, that from
the fifties on, there was a transformation in the field of architecture and urban
design and I would suggest that many of the ideas which are here now, like
traditionalism or historicism or vernacularism, I even think that Post-Modernism
in architecture, all diverge from that point onwards. Maybe in the first
instance, some principles were used with regard to space organisation but then
it also turned back even in formal architecture into imitations, etc. Maybe you
did not imitate form but at least you sort of attacked the space organisation which
was prevailing then. So would this be a wrong comment?
AS: It is very difficult to comment; we are always dealing with ideas, we try to be
forward-looking. In a way I think you are in that position yourself with your work,
concerning yourself with what is happening to Ankara and in what direction it
might go on; one should probably, while we are here, comment on the role of the
Architecture School on this really rather splendid campus because it has not only
a particular connection, but a general connection. That is, in Europe they are
training too many architects, and a number of schools are having to close and the
universities are often quite willing to lose their architecture faculties because the
students are there for a long time on campus and do not get sufficiently involved
with the other faculties. I sense that this perhaps is also happening here: we
looked at some students' work yesterday, where they were dealing with extending
the School of Architecture building and in having the existing conditions explained
to us, we found out with Charles Polonyi's help, that already the basic
ideas of the campus, the basic concept, had been compromised by the architects
themselves, never mind by any other faculty. So I would put in a plea for the
architects to get more involved on the campus. Now when I say that the architects
themselves had compromised what I saw as the basic idea: I see the campus as
laid out along a ridge with a pedestrian way running along this ridge, feeding
buildings on either side that look outwards and across the service roads which
are lower down the slope on either side, and these service roads feed car parks.
Now what has happened when I say compromised is that a car park has been
brought right up into the slope, on to the crest so that the smell of the cars is
here, whereas the original idea of the Campus was to keep the smell of the cars
down the slope, and put the pedestrian way on the crest of the ridge so that one
walked through sweet-smelling space and then went into the buildings on either
side without any fear of traffic movement and certainly without any smell from
the cars. Now, for the architects to compromise the concept is really terrible,
because by their actions they should teach. The school building is splendid, it has
marvellous spaces, it is well kept, but I think you should get that car park out of
there and down the slope where it should be, immediately off the service road,
and ask other faculties to do the same, if anybody else has also broken that basic
concept. Do you have a comment on this because I think with it being early
summer, coming from England we are very conscious of the marvellous smell on
the campus, the scent of the blossoms coming out.
PS: I was upset by the fact that in the pedagogy, the teaching of this program, the
faculty had not fed them with the fundamental organizational ideas of the
university. When you asked what the impact of Team 10 has been, you could say
that there has been a kind of seepage of the Patrick Geddes ideas into the general
consciousness, in some way using Team 10 and CIAM. That is, it is quite normal
now in a European school for the student of his own volition, on his own
initiative, to try to understand the nature of the fabric which he has been asked
to work. That is a very Geddesian idea, i.e., don't touch it till you think you
understand it. Then you don't have to continue with the existing fabric, but if you
understand it you have the right to intervene; like a doctor looks at the symptom,
then he tries to figure out why you have the symptoms, then once he thinks he
understands, that 'right to touch' is won, is earned by the understanding. Thinking,
forward, the nice thing to happen would be like the Paris Haussmann
commission to bring clean water from the hills, to provide central drainage and
cleaning systems for the drainage; that was part of the process of putting in the
boulevards, air, trees, etc.; on the surface, it was just putting in a street, a traffic
way, but it carried out all these other things. The mood of Europe is again
undoubtedly towards a more green Europe. Taking the view that the culture
grows from the bottom, that every decision that is taken about a building should
now have built into it the notion of how will it effect the immediate environment
and then the countryside, and in a way the global environment. Because if it is
true that the ozone is effected, it is not because of one industry: it is our collective
acts, each individual act; that every time you buy a refrigerator the old is on the
waste-heap. So that the consideration of building an urbanism is suddenly, I
think, in a way Patrick Geddes - continued. Talking about British heroes, the lady
that went to Skutari to help with the...
AS: Florence Deadly Nightshirt.
PS: Florence Nightingale: she invented medical statistics because they discovered
when they put the soldiers in the hospital, the ones nearest to the lavatory died
first: but that was just an observation. Then she started to build statistics, they
say that medical statistics started with Florence Nightingale. Well that is a classic
bit of Green thinking, isn't it? That is, it is not the will of God, you are actually
getting infected through the air. Well, why I brought that up is, she had to start,
as Patrick Geddes had to start, from the bottom, i.e., there was no previous person
who thought that way. In fact Nightingale was resisted by the medical profession,
they thought the collection of statistical information was useless, like it took two
generations about child birth, about washing the hands of the doctor delivering
babies. They would not believe that the infection was due to them. You have got
to perceive each act as having an action on the whole.
AS: And by each act you should teach and it is the acts of the members of the
staff (in parking their car where the air should be absolutely sweet) you could say
is the first act of messing up the teaching system.
PS: If the faculty had fed that piece of information in, you would have found in
the students' projects some consideration of those factors. If the car fumes are
meant to stay down the slope because the carbon monoxide is heavier than
normal air, it is logical for the car park to be below the ridge line, but also, if the
prevailing wind is this way, you would want to put the building to block the air
flow from taking the carbon monoxide on to the top. That is Green thinking, but
there is no discussion of this: you would expect these thoughts to be coming from
the young people.
PS: Because they are the potentially Green Generation, but it is very hard for
them, unless they are pointed toward it, given the examples, to understand what
we are talking about.
AS: Part of our 1950's influence was a kind of osmosis. One of the things we used
very early on, in illustrating AD essays was a mosaic of black and white
photographs, i.e., a long, scanning strip of separate, but overlapping,
photographs. Now this has become absolutely standard. You go to a students
board in Europe and you get these long scanning strips or mosaics of
photographs, either made by one person or by the year, to inform themselves
about a site. And of course it even entered into art about ten years ago, withHockney's mosaics of Polaroid pictures, and when he started this a number of
people in England said to us 'Hey, Hockney must have gotten hold of an old AD\
i.e., they recognized where it had come from, so that it is by very secret routes
these things influence, take hold and it is for other people to make the connections;
I think it is not for us to look back at history.
When you walk into a place freshly, you are able to notice things that the local
people don't notice. You are also in a position (because you are in and out and
you could say you don't have to carry the can) to say things that the local people
may feel but don't necessarily want to speak out, you know we are for keeping
our head down in our own country. It is easy just to swan in, but you hope that
by saying aloud these observations they will be creative, because you recognize
the fact that people can say things in their country and nobody takes any notice;
that it is not even a matter of inclination to keep your head down. You are invited
as a foreign visitor to say something and therefore often you can, by perhaps
saying something, release some energy or unstop a bottle-neck.
BG: As far as I understand from your talks in the last few days, I think that you
don't want to enter large theoretical frameworks but you would rather prefer to
look at things from the very essence of the events, from where things originate.
That was very much visible in Peter's lecture where he mentioned the story about
the children, that it is out of the basic needs of human beings that problems arise
and architects should in the first instance tend to solve these problems. Well, in
this respect, may I raise another question (because this disvalidates my questions
and I am simply trying to pick up new questions) what sort of differences then
shall we find for instance, between Haussmann's, operations in Paris and your
London-Road study in this respect? Again, a bit historical, sorry!
PS: My own feeling is that in terms of urbanism we have had no effect whatsoever
because four fifths of what we saw in Raci's studio was what we were rejecting
forty years ago, i.e., urbanism people making compositions of buildings in
advance; in advance of real needs, real clients, real construction. We thought that
it might be possible to invent a kind of graphics, together with documentation,
of some sort you cannot imagine, that would guide the development of an area
without prefixing forms because Raci and you keep on saying (and it is correct)
you cannot just give an architect a pre-fixed shape in a plan and say 'fit it into
that' because we know what happens; in modern times you just get a banal
building, an object. It is exceptionally difficult, you think you can make a diagram
.. just to take a simple example about real things: look at this in a Geddes way as
if it is a village. There is a big street here which does not seem to carry many
people, maybe you could make another connection; there is enough capacity; you
examine also the kind of human action. Again a simple example from the Bath
Campus...
AS: Because it is also on a ridge and you are overlooking the terrain,
PS: that the social spaces that work well, the university discovered, are where
students look out of the building and where people somehow naturally gather
and sit talking. That space on the drawings intended for social space people don't
use, it could be used as a computer area... you organically remodel. Taking that
into town-planning, your project, there is a powerful drop in the contour because
there is an old wall, therefore that if there is no longer housing, maybe this is a
place for a belvedere, a look-out place. You identify the possibility but you don't
specify how. Then the obvious thing, like when there is an underground station
that is clearly going to generate the town's pedestrian flow and therefore will
need more pavements... How do you put that over to the municipality? We have
never been able to effectively find a way. We haven't done any commissioned
urbanism since the Berlin Mehringplatz and Lutzowstrasse Competitions.
AS: You mentioned the London Road Study; it was on well-accepted theoretical
principles of one decision at a time, right/left or yes/no, and I don't think it has
been followed at all in the London ring roads or anything. It is as if in this really
practical urban theory one has had no influence at all, or rather one is influencing
the people who are still trying to fight the system. Influence may come through,
but at the moment we can't see it. And, to go back to what you said earlier about
thinking of the users, Team 10 always swung (as CIAM did) from the whole
pattern to the detail and back again. I think that it was good to use a program on
campus, and it might be a good policy to push this, to make quite a high
proportion of the projects on campus, serving the needs of the University, then
invite the other faculties to have a look, to show that you are trying to put
something in, that you are in a way trying to extend the thinking of the original
builders of the Campus. Always a response, with the original intentions in mind
and the changing patterns of use. You might even find some of the faculties then
coming to you, and say Look, our accommodation isn't quite fitting our current
pattern of use. Would you like to do a study?' then it could be put to the
administration, to perhaps in the summer holidays do some conversion work,
and I think that this input of the architecture faculty into universities is something
that really should begin to happen more. What happens at Bath?
PS: It is very difficult to keep on bringing them back to the principles on which
the Campus was originally designed, because they will say 'That is not the way
it's done now', because they are not innocent people, and know what the world
trends are, they pick up ideas and get excited by them, like anybody else does.
AS: It is consumerism and shopping.
PS: They are consuming them, and of course the urbanist is running a very long
program, isn't he? He is like a horticulturalist. He knows that the ideas won't
come to fruition for a generation and a generation on. Therefore in a way the
campus structure will only come through if it is sustained over a long period, so
that the idea becomes clearer as it goes along. And I find at Bath that I can't
produce any real influence on this process because fashions in university buildings
arc as in other places. And these people are very responsible and devoted to
the university, these are good people.
AS: But all the more reason why the architects' department should all the time
show a concern for the way the university is developing, and as it were, have a
'doorstep project' that the students realize, that it brings a kind of reality, 'it could
happen here', would we really like it if. That kind of consciousness is necessary
to be grown in the students. I also think that unless the architects take this kind
of active role on their campuses they won't learn how to deal with people, how
to fight this consumerism. By pure chance we were asked to have another look
at one of our Team 10 documents, because somebody was wanting to do an
academic exercise on it, and we had to bring it with us because we knew we had
no other time. The piece that I was reading last night happened to be a Team 10
discussion on consumerism, how difficult it was to deal with administrators and
fight off this sort of supermarket-culture that we are all involved in where they
say 'yes, but we've just seen something smashing somewhere and never mind the
old idea, let's do this because presumably where we saw it had an old idea that
they've just pushed aside'. Cities were nice in the old days. There were always old
men who could remember the intention of why they put the fountain there, or
why they paved that street, and why they didn't do something else, or who planted
that tree in grandmother's day or something. Now this is all lost, largely because
of the great number we are, but also because of these really horrific pressures of
the 'McDonalds and Coca-Cola culture'.
BG: Yes, but probably that is something we can't help, but you brought out
certain issues where the architect can be helpful. In that respect you point out
something: the architect is not simply a designer, the architect is more than that.
He should go into the preparation of the design process, the design, the aftermaths
of design and even the consequences of design should also be in a way dealt
with by the architect. How could this effect architectural education? What sort
of new measures should be then located into architectural education?
PS: That's a good question because it enables me to continue in a practical way...
When we opened the new building for the School of Architecture in Bath, the
head of the School said 'We will have a two-day meeting', actually very like a
Team 10 meeting, and he said 'We will call it Genesis', i.e., how the design process
began, and it was fantastically good. A footnote on this is that we invited the
president of the University and the man I'm talking about, the registrar, and the
contractor, and the administrators in his department to this lecture, so they
would hear the genesis of the building they had just finished, and what influenced
it, and we had the person who worked on the concept of the university as a young
man, someone who is now the boss of a firm was then an assistant.
AS: In his first job.
PS: You know, the man that did Hook, did the University of Bath general plan;
his assistant from the time: so he went through the arguments on which the
university plan had been based. We followed naturally on that, what happens
twenty years later, how do you reinterpret. They invited other people (because
we are a mixed school) an engineer came who worked on Piano's art gallery in
America. He started in the same way, he said 'This woman',
AS: Schlumberger.
PS: They are a French drilling company.
AS: Strasbourg-Alsace.
PS: She wanted to make this art gallery in Houston where there are no planning
regulations and no zoning, therefore she said every building built in this town
which is successful, like a new restaurant or a little shopping thing, immediately
skyscrapers come around and kill it because real-estate men see it as a point of
attraction.
PS: She said 'Before I commission an architect I've got to buy, nine city blocks.
I am going to put the art gallery in the middle, nobody will be displaced but I will
have the freehold, they will have leases...' She accepted a piece of the town as the
urban landscape setting; it's another of these 'how to save portions of the town
you like'. The art gallery and the car lot over the road; the pace of the area has
changed of course but not changed much. There will be more people in the street
and there will be more car movement, but it's probably an increase of say five
percent, whereas if it happened the other way the increase would be times fifty.
AS: The trees are all there, the density is still the same round about.
PS: The end of that story about the pedagogy: we had (you could say that) half
the students in the upper school. So the kind of Team 10 meeting was the
administration, the engineers, service engineers; not people simply talking about
things. They were the people who had done the work, they made the building,
therefore it was direct information which for the young architect is fantastic.
AS: It was successful on several counts. One is the idea of the family getting
together, the enlarged family having a few guests. The Team 10 idea had
penetrated as a teaching method, as a communication method. And the next was
the business of people feeling they could tell all the details of the actual production,
all the little faults and things that went on, because they trusted everybody
who was listening. One of the most successful things apart from 'what a nice event
it was' and 'how everybody enjoyed it'; this communicating directly was so
successful I am sure that the Bath School is going to repeat it because everybody
there could see that it was a marvellous family way of extending that collective
sense to outside the school, outside the three professions (architects, structural
engineers, service engineers) who were trying to learn to work together better,
which is the teaching method in Bath. It was a real reaching out, and this I think
is a marvellous teaching method because everybody is learning, and the communications
are kept going.
BG: So it is not simply participation of people, but participation of the architect
himself in all the events.
AS: The architect must take the action, he must in a way make the connections
and go out (what we said earlier) an architect in a way has to take the position
of the old man; he has to understand the fabric of what he is dealing with and
take up the position of 'remembrancer', and also the 'seer' into the future. He
has to have the foresight to know which direction he should move in, in order to
keep the original idea and not get it spoilt, and to fend off all the poor things that
happen to it. And another reason, apart from running a mortician's parlor of
one's own past dead life, we created this role for ourselves of 'remembrancer', of
the context, of the place, of the fabric that you are trying to deal with. We must
be forward looking as well, because otherwise you put on this old man's hat all
the time.
BG: The horse's
AS: Blinkers, yes, that's right.
BG: Well, in fact I think architecture students, at one time, 1968 to 1970's, tended
to deal with societal problems, but then it also created its own dilemmas where
architects then had forgotten to deal with architecture. So in fact, this is a new
man who will be conscious of politics, engineering sciences plus architecture. So
he must be more than the man we are thinking of now. Is that so?
PS: Difficult to imagine such a thing.
BG: Or shall we put the architect into the political field as well?
PS: I don't think I can do it because fundamentally it is a craft. Unless you do it
yourself there isn't any product, can't do it as a politician.
AS: The way is through good work ... so that the politicians are listening to
architects, engineers, service-engineers, thinking and acting as 'remembrancers',
and acting as people who are looking forward. If politicians can observe this, they
begin to understand what it is you have to offer, and they don't just say 'O.K., we
bought the plan, now you go away. We the politicians are the administrators, can
deal with it'. They realize that you can actually contribute all the time and should
work together all the time, to keep these cities alive, and to keep the qualities of
the various places in the city that people really are connected to, and that you
must not destroy their sense of connection, by just wiping whole bits of cities.
PS: One thing came up in the discussion where I got cross with Chris Abel is
'Team 10 had no kind of political follow-through'. I have always thought that
Team 10 was the effect (to repeat what was said then) was that someone like
Bakema had tremendous social energy, could actually follow it, follow a project
through and if necessary would go to the Queen if it was blocked. Holland is a
small country; someone was saying about Denmark, it worked because it was a
small country, that is, a famous architect can follow a project through, he can
help with its initiation not by being in the council of administrators but by
telephoning his friend who is the Queen's doctor or the prime-minister's; you
know, the old Ottoman system, and you paid the price. Bakema was a good
working architect when he was young, do you see, in the end the buildings
suffered because the office did them, because you can't put your energy
everywhere. This is why we are saying that Raci is on the point of collapse because
his energy is too far extended, he can't keep it going all the time (he won't
physically collapse because he is very strong) but you lose control because the
control is personal. When it goes beyond the person you got to be a different
kind of person who sets up systems and will see them through.
AS: You see already he is having to use students to make the sort of drawings
that the committees expect to see. When I was in Samarkand, the urban design
department has an old Russian house (partly in order to hold the property)
wooden boarded, wooden ceiled; they have all their plans of Samarkand, of the
past thirty years, up on the walls; revised, anything from every five years to every
two years. First you could see political kind of revisions and then the last seven
years you felt that they were beginning to revise these plans on a sort of eighteen
month basis, with a fresh lot of assistants with fresh gimmicks out of the
magazines and it had become absolutely crazy, this worrying about presenting
drawings, communicating to the people, communicating to the politicians, communicating
in order to get the money allocated; and communicating participation,
where to put the road, where to put the market and so on. It was absolutely
desperate and you could see in a way that Raci has got into this position, that
almost it would be better to say 'O.K. we will take full responsibility for this
demonstration bit and unfortunately the rest we just got to chance that somebody
else will come along and take responsibility and hold another bit'. And you do it
as a demonstration area of what it is you are trying to talk about and then you
seed another area. It is in a way like gardening, you've got to put the real seeds
in, nurture them and get the real plants before anybody can see, and then
hopefully hold it long enough in order to get the fruit, and this is why you've got
to get this instilled in the young people. And that is why I say the odd exercise,
on campus, to show this was the original 'plant' as it were, and this is how we
must keep it growing, and keep trimming it and protect it from all the things that
might happen to it. And again, to make offerings to the campus, to show how
architects think and how they can make contributions. If, in the first instant it is
too delicate, politically, to offer your services to one faculty, to show how by
altering its accommodation to make it serve better the occupants, you might take
something like the guest accommodation that we are in; take a block and analyze
it to see if it is actually serving the pattern of both residents and guests to its best
ability and actually finding out from the users, both the short-term guests and
the long-term residents, how they need to occupy the building, and what sort of
space you need to be a useful member of the university community because that
is really the essence of it. If you put a single resident in one room who is going
to stay here a couple of years, they can't really be working at their peak because
they are constrained all the time, you know. That is, an academic resident
(whether it is one person or two people) they need a study space, they need a
kitchen space that they can go to at any hour of the day or night because they
might want to work long hours sometimes. You might have separate apartment
units byconversion; usinggaps (filling indents) in the buildings that are not really
serving any particular purpose, absorbinga couple of balconies that are not really
being used and, by looking next door at the very successful early housing which
has now got beautiful planting grown up around it, putting a lean-to roof over
an extended ground floor so making two extra big units. An apartment unit,
whether it is one-room, two-room; one person, two person; each unit has to be
perfectly self-contained because the socializing takes place other ways now than
the way architects originally thought it would take place.
BG: So, this also brings in one other question, or one other issue: once you make
a design, it also should be open to further changes and there should always be
someone, because ways of living change, ways of using space change. So buildings
should also be, well maybe buildings cannot be so elastic but there should be
something there, something elastic to cope with the new functions, the new way
of life.
AS: You are taking up one of these Team 10 themes, of the building being able
to respond, being able to grow and change, but exactly how it is done, in a way
the architects not only have to learn how to do this and they have to show to other
people how it can be done without somehow destroying the initial building or
extending rather than destroying the initial idea, serving people better and if you
can learn to deal with, as it were, the relatively new guest house, perhaps you can
also learn something of how to deal with the old better.
PS: I would have thought, other than examining the fabric, kind of understanding
it, that it is difficult to build into a building the potential for change in a society
when you don't know what its change is going to be. I think it is more the other
way round like the urbanism where the person is making the alteration, to feel
himself obliged to understand the underlying nature of the building before he
makes the change even though that change is very violent. For example this
business of the impact of information technology; it could not possibly have been
perceived that it would change two thirds of the operations to work in the near
dark; I mean communications are working in low brightness with screens and
things, like they do in a bank now. That could not have been perceived even ten
years ago, that your windows are not for the work process whereas in the
'twenties, having daylight in the office was you should be able to work without
straining your eyes, and sunlight is healthy and so on. You can't perceive what
changes.
AS: Sometimes the architect is asked to build a building that can be extended, or
build a building that can have its partitions changed and what you are describing
now is that any office developer in the West and in HongKong now must have
this enormous floor to ceiling because we have to build in this particular amount
of change, i.e., the deep floor for services.
PS: But two thirds of that will never be used, that is, by the time it is built, the
technology is obsolete.
AS: Well it will be nice to have the space.
PS: The argument is then 'Can we get that space back into the room?'
AS: That is the thing that the architect maybe has to foresee... but if you take the
business of the bank, even the first year could take the bank that is on campus.
That bank was made like a nice umbrella by the architect. In a way he must have
been slightly stupid not to realize that a bank probably needs a basement or a
store.
AS: The needs that you can see just walking into that bank (cardboard boxes full
of old files, the furniture pushed to the side) makes a very good first year program
because they will have to be sure that the store that you make isn't then a security
hazard and so on and does not ruin the nice little umbrella that the first architect
made. Again, by just putting the drawings up in a place and notices up saying
'Come and have a look', every person on campus would understand what the
architects were trying to do. They may not be able to read drawings, but they
would have the place in their mind and it would start to help them read drawings
and immediately you would start to communicate to several thousand people,
enlarge their knowledge and next time they see a drawing they will think 'Well,
I can read drawings because I did, I know that bank'. This is the sort of Team 10
connections of things.
BG: Well I know interviews make you tired but...
AS: Make anybody tired,
BG: I have one very personal question,
(PS: 'Will you lend me two million Karajans?')
BG: It is about Hook. I call it the third generation of New Towns in England and
it was not built. The first generation Stevenage, Harlow; the second I would
suggest Cumbernauld, for instance. And I think Hook found some of Team 10's
ideas appropriate but it was not built. This was a big question in my mind.
PS: You mean 'why'.
BG: Yes, was it because there were no more housing problems or because it did
not fit the society?
AS: Nothing is particularly for any one reason, it is just perhaps it had chosen a
site where I think that there were many voices who could speak to ears in
important places and it just had to be dropped. Milton Keynes was slightly later
and it went ahead, and it probably was not as interesting a plan. I mean you are
quite right, Hook has become something people refer to, even in England now.
And also it was to do with the ideology of the assistants who worked on it, they
were very left-thinking young architects, much more revolutionary thinking than
we were, much more politically minded and therefore in a way it was their
Waterloo. They were very upset to lose it so that everybody who worked on it has
remembered it. If you see the drawings now you tend to laugh, they are so very
primitive.
PS: But they were attempting what we were describing; I mean the plan for the
Bath campus by the same man (and the drawings were very similar) is an attempt
to establish kind of energy nodes without, in the first instance, drawing anything
in the way of buildings.
AS: Yes, it was the planless plan.
PS: They then fell into the same problem we all fall into, they then had to produce
a brochure for the University of Bath and they had to draw something.
AS: They had to make little sketches themselves, little trees and people walking,
people pushing prams. But when I say they are primitive drawings, they were not
inept, whereas what I worry about, also with the students here, they are not really
putting their energy into the drawings. They are not getting excited about being
an architect. They are not working enough that they energize each other, there
is not a sort of sense of architecture as a profession building up in the studios.
Again it is just a fleeting impression but it may be that such small things as having
the heating on at nights either makes or breaks this sort of situation. Again, you
have got to communicate this to the administrators of a university, why it is this
faculty wants (even if only at certain periods of the year) its heating on at night.
PS: You fight that all the time at Bath. We are the only faculty that works through
the night. Very nice, just the physical experience as you walk these places, only
one building with light pouring out at three o'clock in the morning, and it is not
bullshit, you go in and it is forty percent of the students at work.
AS: But that again can become a communication to the rest of the faculties that
this discipline has its own sort of needs and maybe is serious about its contribution
and that this business of staying with it through the night if necessary is the
way that the architect wishes to stay with the plan right through until it is on the
ground and been inhabited.
BG: Well, we are from that generation who lived it, many things happened so
that things really transformed into this loss of enthusiasm about education. I
think you have brought out the problem again, so we shall be more keen on this
thing probably.
Well, my last question (there is always a classical last question) what were your
expectations, not of Turkey, but of Ankara, and what have you discovered in
Ankara? Because Peter said something to me yesterday or the day before, that
he found the town not as a resort of touristic value, but a real town.
PS: I started with the traditional Western notion that Ankara was uninteresting,
just a new city without a life of its own. When we got all the guide-books out of
the public library, they did not say much more except one of the citadel and the
old culture in a way remaining intact; interesting because I like that kind of place.
And of course it is actually oriental, I mean, the further east you go the more
animals there are. But I think there are two aspects, it is a live city, and in its
traditional part it is fantastically alive. And the new city is really throbbing and
the buildings that you commissioned in the Republican period are remarkable.
AS: You were real patrons.
PS: You were really served well by the people you commissioned, as a devotion
to your Republic and...
AS: To well building.
• PS: The only one we looked at carefully, the Taut building is better built in my
view than it would have been if he had built it in Munich, that he really put
everything into it, i.e., the energy. He thought, 'Well, Atatürk is an idealistic
person, I will do something idealistically', as good as he could make, and I think
that is probably not easily visible to others, I mean people who are not professional
architects. There is hardly anything in the history books about the 30's
period, this period has been written off because of fascism... When I talk about
fascism it is not just a phenomenon of Germany and Italy, it is our view that the
culture, i.e., the buildings in Washington in the 30's and 40's the buildings in
France in the 30's and 40's, in Scandinavia in 30's and 40's, they all smell of the
centralized state... of passive peoples. And then you have to distinguish between
those architects who could not help being infected by the nature of the period,
i.e., strong central governments with strongly separated bureaucracies and the
people and all that, it was everywhere, but it just took this crazy turn in Germany.
AS: In Russia too.
PS: We are afraid of this period. When we took our daughter Soraya to Munich
we thought she wouldn't be infected by anti-Nazism, but the buildings scared her
and she was twenty something. Therefore it is very hard for us to look at this
period, and the buildings are mixed aren't they? You get this Swiss, Ernst Egli
(as you said, with the smell of the Bauhaus) and the Taut which is the end of the
Arts and Crafts Movement. And then these fascist buildings; but they are not so
bad. They don't frighten me, but maybe that is because
AS: Because what the architects were offering was more than just the fashion of
the period; could override the fashion.
PS: You see, there is no getting away from human memory (the 'remembrancer').
Nothing cruel has happened between our two nations since the first war, and
even then, you were regarded as honorable enemies as the Germans were
regarded as honorable enemies. Only this last war took such a horrible turn. But
that being so, nobody will write about this period in a guide book until two things
happen: first, the buildings are cleaner (it is really true) the tourist wants it to be
a bit smart, doesn't he; and also for the history book to reassess this period, then
the guide-book writer takes it from the history book. But I like oriental cities
because I like things to smell, the rain on the dust. When you get out of the plane
in Bombay, they open the door of the plane and the city comes in, fantastic. Like
it would be the other way round: you arrive at Stuttgart or Schiphol, a slight smell
of disinfectant. The whole culture is...
AS: You see we are losing this entirely in Europe because you used to go to
France (in the 1950's) and this could happen, sort of the smell of Gauloises would
hit you but now with the whole business of anti-smoking it has gone absolutely.
BG: Well,
AS: I am sorry we so overrode all your questions.
BG: After two or more hours of tiring, tiresome questions, thankyou Peter, thank
you Alison, for your participation.
AS: Thank you.
PS: There is one, just between us, sort of thing: the temple (Temple of Augustus,
Ankara) is fantastic: the Roman quality. I suspect if it was new it would be like
the Trump Tower (in New York) - have you seen the Trump Tower? Too much
of everything. Rome is wonderful, ruined!