Towards A Humane Architecture by Bruce Allsopp

Wednesday 29th November § 2 Comments

The cover of this book reveals it’s heretical intentions. A relic of 60’s social housing stands forlorn with one corner sheared away while rescue workers fluster in the wreckage. The title also contains an implied criticism of Le Corbusiers most famous works, ‘Verse Un Architecture’ (which translates too ‘Towards A New Architecture’) and the social eliteism that he encouraged.

Under the guise of an academic, Bruce Allsopp has produced a wildly passionate inditement of all that he sees as being wrong with the current state of architecture as well as berating society’s wider disinterest in design, with a particular vehemence reserved for the beurocracies of the urban planner. When I say ‘current’ it’s important to understand that this book was first published in 1974, but it’s frightening how apt his criticisms are considering the time period. Though he doesn’t use the term starchitecture he derides the architecture that they produce: the extravagant iconic building that is 95% image (the Bilbao’s of this world) which still consume our best architects. If nothing else, the issues of land ownership vs. public good are even more entrenched now. Has nothing changed?

Unfortunately there is a terrible flaw in this book, when Allsopp reveals his academic side in the chapter ‘Aedicule and Trilithon’. His theories about architectural history may well be true, but it reads so out of place with the rest of the book. Luckily this excursion into historical archetypes is only 9 pages long.

I would urge anyone student of architecture to read this book at the earliest opportunity (particularly with reference to the chapter “The Architect and his Ego”). This is without hesitation the best book that I’ve read concerned with the failings of architecture.

Towards A Humane Architecture

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