February 7, 2015

Humane Architecture

From Luxemburg.
I found this interesting blog, devoted to the beauty of brutalist architecture. Ok, so I really enjoyed the Coventry Cathedral, for example, which is one example of brutalist architecture, but honestly, I find it hard to imagine living an interesting and satisfying life surrounded by, or in, these naked buildings of raw concrete. Which, by the way, is what brutalist means; it has nothing to do with brutality, but with béton brut, or raw concrete. (This is a word the Swedes have loaned from the French rather than the English; the Swedish word for concrete is betong.) While these brutalist buildings can be wonderfully beautiful on photo, once I get up close to them, they are really repulsive. Like they don´t want me there. Perhaps there is no wonder so few of them are pictured with people in or near them on that blog (and when they are, the people appear ant-like).

We certainly have examples of uninspiring architecture in Luleå, like landstingshuset (the county council house), Valandhuset (mainly shopping), the court- and policehouse, and the highway bridge over Lule river. Exept for the last one, none of them are exactly brutalist, but certainly people have thought, and still think, them rather brutal to the eye. All these compete for the prize of "ugliest building in Luleå".

Again, Luxemburg.
Pretty and popular architecture is often traditional. It´s all about buildings that make us connect to our cultural roots, make us feel safe and happy. It´s no wonder people love to come to Gammelstad and the church village (which is on the World Heritage list) in the summer. We certainly go there often, and it´s mandatory for visitors to be taken there. We have the Residence, a wood castle from the 19th century which is the home and office of the landshövding, or county governor. I have never been, but part of it opens to the public at certain days of the year, for example the governor invites his people to fika every year during Advent. Also, there is the theatre, built into the old harbour store houses, thus preserving the old town while accommodating for the new.

But I find that really modern architecture has taken a leap forward in the hearts of ordinary folk. Certainly, our Culture house is very popular. My absolute favourite buildning in the world is probably the new Birmingham library and I so wish it was here where I could go enjoy it every day!

I think those brutalist buildings would be so much more inviting if they were decorated with colour and perhaps textile on the inside, a bit like old castles, where the walls were more or less carpeted both to show off and keep the drafts out. I have read, though, that concrete crumbles away under layers of graffiti, so perhaps it simply can´t take paint. Also, I was once told that measurements are the key to making architecture inviting to humans. If the scale of it is too large, so that we feel small, we become stressed and tend to avoid it. Perhaps that is why we like to buy and build small cottages for our holiday homes. I also heard that the important thing about building good cathedrals is to accommodate both humans and God, for example size the foot of the pillars to fit humans, and raise the ceiling so that one can look up to the heavens, and create an image of that inner heaven, the ideal heaven. Perhaps that is what makes brutalism in Coventry cathedral work so well, it invites God, whom we have come there to meet, and in contrast to other brutalist buildings, there is much art in there, which invites humans. So, to preserve the brutalist architecture (and the plain ugly) I suggest we use more art! Much more art to the people!

More from Luxemburg.

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