architecture » writing
It all started when, as a young architecture graduate in 1983 I was commissioned by New Zealand Architect to write a crit of Bill Algie's Michael Park Steiner School in Auckland. It was a sweet, daffy building, as I recall, where every classroom was designed quite literally to manifest the child's transition from womb to world, becoming more straight and square with each grade. Arriving in London, later the same year, I was so maddened by the summer show at the Architecture Association, and so goaded by my old Prof, Allan Wild, who said "don't tell me, write it down," that I penned a stinging critique. The office typist - yes, there were still typists then! - typed it up and I sent my first unsolicited ms to the weekly Building Design. What I didn't realise was that the AA was king, and what one didn't do was criticise, except in the most fawning terms. Needless to say, BD promptly put my rash critique on the inside front page under the banner headline, 'The Emperor's New Clothes'. Later the same week I was invited to lunch with Allan Wild and The Architectural Review's editor Peter Davey at the AR's eccentric premises in Queen Anne's Gate. There, in the flagstoned medieval basement pub - complete with fireplace, dusty bottles and stuffed lion, caught mid-roar - that the arch-modernist Nikolaus Pevsner had saved from the bulldozers and transplanted, holus bolus, I was invited to apply for a job as Assistant Editor. The Architectural Press was a grand establishment, with crazy internal stairs haunted by the ghosts of John Betjeman, Osbert Lancaster and of course Pevsner, all of whom had had my job before me, and the likes of J.M.Richards. I'd been in London several months, feeling semi-excluded as antipodeans do, and here I was, in at the deep end.
I wrote a lot for the AR, mostly under the by-line E.M. Farrelly which made people think I was a man. I was still the token antipodean of course, but it was fun and educational, with colleagues including Jonathan Glancey, now architecture critic for the Guardian, and Dan Cruickshank, tv star. My closest brush with limelight came in 1986 when I got to guest-edit my own issue of the AR, entitled The New Spirit, which later won the Paris-based CICA international triennial award for architectural criticism. The idea was that post-modernism was dead - I wished! - and a new spirit (Corb's term) was blowing through design.
A link to the essay is here... +
2 of the latest from a long line of articles.
... Monument 104 - Elizabeth Farrelly on Green Seduction +
... Monument 96 - Why is Contemporary Architecture so Crap? +