Wednesday, December 19, 2007

17/12/2007 E-mail received from Tony Kiley

To all interested,
Im sure that few buildings from the modern era in Cape Town would be capable of generating the concern and interest as well as highlighting issues of theory that are being brought up by the proposed demolition of Roelof Uytenbogaardt's 1970's 'masterpiece'.
Some thoughts in no particular order.
The building is a very rare example of Corbusian Brutalism where the architect specifically attempted to apply this style to a wholly commercial project.
Due to its exposure to the weather, a similar building could not easily be attempted in first world countries that have much more extreme climates.
The building is impossible to secure and any attempt to control the many entry points would destroy the concept.
The design uses deliberate shock tactics which invert traditional ideas purely to make a (largely) spatial (sculptural) statement. In concretising this formalist sculpture, (the three dimensional design is extremely skillfull and competent) the building realises an extreme form of plastic modernism which is unadaptable to change of use or form.
Ultimately time has proved that the building is no more than a utopian attempt to invert the traditional Shopping Mall in the name of off shutter modernism.
We are told that the concept is a souk (a vibrant shaded north african street market full of people and produce) but in reality this couldnt be further from the truth.
The building blurs the historically important quality of inside and outside and therefore ‘entry’ which defines and dramatises the perception of both. This is fully in keeping with the modernist goal of doing just that.
The sloping walkways are not fun or interesting. They do no more than obstruct the clarity of things and appear what they are which is contrived.
Roelof would never have done this building in his mature years and I would guess privately admitted being in two minds about the buildings overall success while never doubting its sculptural competence.
I have long tried to imagine what other use could be shoe-horned into the building and the closest I have come is a place of education but when I am honest, I dont believe any other use would make sense especially given the location.
Modernist buildings have by definition short lives. The cost to repair the concrete rot alone would be hard to manage. Large areas of steel have little or no cover as it was not bent to the designed curves.
Tony Kiley. {admirer of Roelof Uytenbogaardt.}

No comments: