Sunday, 27 March 2016

An Act of Vast Inattention

After bemoaning the ugliness of most things erected after about 1940, I took refuge in one of Michael Innes's agreeable Inspector Appleby novels. This one is called The Secret Vanguard and in it Innes shows Appleby reflecting as critically as me on the progress of architecture.

As the novel was published in 1940, I may need to push back my date for acceptability of buildings - or review my whole belief and accept that buildings I find hideous will eventually, like each season's fashions, grow on me. Perhaps all that I - and Mr Innes/Inspector Appleby before me - am/are suffering from is shock of the new.

On the other hand, judging by how rapidly modern buildings deteriorate, are torn down and replaced by equally unloveable, usually even taller ones, perhaps I'll never have the chance to get beyond the shock phase.

Here is the passage that struck me. In it, Appleby takes a taxi from Trafalgar Square to a library somewhere in Bloomsbury:

"In five minutes the taxi, much as if it had been a contraption in a scientific romance, deposited him at the threshold of the eighteenth century. Strange how these severe facades satisfied the mind. Or rather not strange; nothing subtle or inspired was involved - nothing more, probably, than observance of the law of golden section. Strange rather that, as if by some act of vast inattention, people had just ceased to build that way."

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