Architects are the last people who should shape our cities

Jonathan Meades in The Guardian:

Le-Corbusiers-Unite-dHabi-010Architecture, the most public of endeavours, is practised by people who inhabit a smugly hermetic milieu which is cultish. If this sounds far-fetched just consider the way initiates of this cult describe outsiders as the lay public, lay writers and so on: it's the language of the priesthood. And like all cults its primary interest is its own interests, that is to say its survival, and the triumph of its values – which means building. Architects, architectural critics, architectural theorists, the architectural press (which is little more than a deferential PR machine) – the entire quasi-cult is cosily conjoined by mutual dependence and by an ingrown, verruca-like jargon which derives from the more dubious end of American academe.

From early in its history, photography was adopted by architects as a means of idealising their buildings. As beautiful and heroic, as tokens of their ingenuity and mankind's progress, etc. This debased tradition continues to thrive. At its core lies the imperative to show the building out of context, as a monument, separate from streetscape, from awkward neighbours, from untidiness. A vast institutional lie is being told in architectural magazines the world over, in the pages of newspapers and in countless television films. It's also being told on the web – which is significant, and depressing, for it demonstrates how thoroughly the convention has seeped into the collective.

The mediation of buildings can never be neutral. As long ago as the 1930s, Harry Goodhart-Rendel observed: “The modern architectural drawing is interesting, the photograph is magnificent, the building is an unfortunate but necessary stage between the two.”

More here.