Sunday, 1 November 2009


This morning's weather made me think of Alan Power's talk yesterday in which he mentioned one of the most basic of our physical needs - the need for shelter. Alongside this thought is the notion that is reflected throughout the exhibition, that no matter what grand visions an architect might have, ultimately his or her buildings are for people to inhabit and must fulfil certain functions.

What a pleasure to be indoors in a safe, warm and dry place.


At Thinking Aloud this week, we were discussing two of the group's fascination with and passion for architecture. It was difficult, they said, to pin down exactly what fuelled this fascination, but they listed several things which contributed to it. One of those things was the way in which architecture reflects social and cultural history.

Alan Powers' throughly informative timeline, running down the centre of the gallery offers some surprising information. Visitors to the gallery have added their own ideas of important events to a more personal timeline folder in the resource area of the gallery.


It's great to explore an exhibition with an enthusiastic group of Walk and Talkers who point out something new to look at and think about each time.

Yesterday I particularly enjoyed the insight given by Nigel Green's contemporary photographs of the buildings, commissioned specially for the exhibition. His glimpse through a half open door into a splendid room at The Reform Club reminded us all of the uneasy relationship between public and private, with the tantalising view of  a place accessible only to a private membership. The notion of public and private came up again as we talked about Nigel's image of light flooding through the windows onto the landing and staircase at Clouds House. One of the group recalled childhood visits to a relatives home where, behind one of the closed doors on the landing (through which one would never dream of going), there was an aged aunt who had long since taken to her bed and was never seen - a strange experience which I can recall from my childhood too.

As we left the exhibition, the final discussion was about the photographs of Tony Fretton's British Embassy in Warsaw. The beautiful reflections of sky, trees and surrounding green areas belie the bomb-proof glass in the front skin of the building,  the strangely "trapped" green inner courtyards, the office furniture arranged in precise military rows, the hostile spiked metal railings shutting off the outdoor passageways all acting as reminders of the times we live in.

Thinking Aloud comments from the group:

a favourite building - The Lowry, Manchester (pictured right)
most disliked building - County Hall, Lewes
why they love architecture - the "wow" factor and
"Architecture is frozen music" (quote: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)


The idea of architects as special thinkers is still going round in my mind. What is a special thinker? Are we all special thinkers in our own way? Or does that de-value the notion of being a special thinker.

Referring to my constant companion, I Googled "special thinkers" and found that The Economic Club of Chicago was holding a Special Thinkers Forum to "address the questions and principles of complex adaptive systems and their lessons for business". Other "special thinkers" are portrayed as visionaries such as Will Marre, who, Google tells me, is founder of the "American Dream Project" purportedly a special thinker with "... a new vision for improving life at personal, local and national levels".

Architects, it seems, are a combination of many things - business man, mathematician, artist, philosopher,  visionary and more. Alan Powers mentioned in his talk yesterday the Victorian architect A W Pugin, who believed that architects had a moral and social remit to change the world, a responsibility which continues to be taken seriously in the light of our changing planet and the challenge to re-think the way we live and use our planet's resources.