Bleak Houses: Disappointment and Failure in Architecture by Timothy J. Brittain-Catlin

By Timothy J. Brittain-Catlin

The traditional historical past of structure is a grand narrative of hovering monuments and heroic makers. however it is usually a fake narrative in lots of methods, hardly acknowledging the private disasters and disappointments of architects. In Bleak Houses, Timothy Brittain-Catlin investigates the bottom of structure, the tales of losers and unfulfillment usually neglected via an architectural feedback that values novelty, repute, and virility over fallibility and rejection. Brittain-Catlin tells us approximately Cecil Corwin, for instance, Frank Lloyd Wright's pal associate, who was once so crushed by means of Wright's genius that he needed to cease designing; approximately architects whose surviving constructions are marooned and mutilated; and approximately others who suffered variously from undesirable mood, exile, loss of expertise, loss of documentation, the incorrect acquaintances, or being out of model. As architectural feedback promotes more and more slim values, pushing aside definite types wholesale and subjecting constructions to a Victorian litmus try of "real" as opposed to "fake," Brittain-Catlin explains the impression that this superficial criticality has had not just on architectural discourse yet at the caliber of constructions. the truth that such a lot constructions obtain no severe scrutiny at all has ended in immense stretches of gruesome sleek housing and a pervasive public illiteracy approximately architecture.

Architecture critics, Brittain-Catlin indicates, may possibly examine whatever from novelists approximately the best way to write approximately structures. Alan Hollinghurst in The Stranger's Child, for instance, and Elizabeth Bowen in Eva Trout vividly evoke memorable homes. pondering like novelists, critics could see what architectural losers provide: episodic, sentimental methods of constructions that relate to our personal adventure, classes realized from undesirable examples that may make structures higher.

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Additional resources for Bleak Houses: Disappointment and Failure in Architecture

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Wright’s annihilation of Corwin is described in the Autobiography. It was Corwin—“the fine-looking, cultured fellow with pompadour 30 CHAPTER 1 and beard”—who greeted Wright when he arrived for his interview with Joseph Silsbee in 1887. 15 They quickly became inseparable, says Wright; they talked all night, about architecture, religion, everything. They fell out badly only when Wright found himself a girlfriend. Corwin is temporarily forgotten in the narrative while Wright works for Adler and Sullivan—the personal part of the story here is mostly taken up with Wright scrapping with the Jews in the office and working himself into Sullivan’s confidence.

Edward Welby Pugin, son of Augustus and a designer of ornate, idiosyncratic French-Gothic buildings, died in the Turkish baths of the Grosvenor Hotel at Victoria Station in London. 21 Yet the surviving buildings of the Barrys, Scott, and Pugin junior are magnificent if they are presented as the results of a fine artistic and creative temperament battling with the heritage of a famous father, charged with frustration, rather than as second-division Victorian monuments. Once one sees it like that, one sees too that the stylistic references and experiments in 34 CHAPTER 1 them—Scott’s early adoption of the Queen Anne style, and Pugin’s of an aggressive French flamboyant—are telling stories about their understanding and experience of their parents.

LOSERS 23 INTRODUCING THE ULTIMATE LOSER There are many, many kinds of architectural loser, and it is often possible to find one or two examples who seem to embody whole categories of loserdom. After the Gothic Revival had taught me about the first wave of architectural loser, I came across someone who is in many ways representative of the second—those condemned in the early twentieth century by the arrival of modernism. I started to study the work of the British late-Victorian and early-twentieth-century architect Horace Field, not least because his name cropped up recurrently in localized studies of Edwardian architecture; yet there was very little information on him, and he was absent from any narrative survey of his period.

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