Monday, 4 April 2016

Now That We Need Them

Yesterday was that rare thing in this part of the world - sunny. And so we decided to go to Antwerp.

We had a look at the glorious train station and then walked down a pedestrian street called Leysstraat.

Leysstraat is lined with highly ornate buildings and almost all of them sport friendly figures or faces on their highly decorated facades. The few buildings in the street that have been built since the war are plain, lacking in craftsmanship and altogether unendearing. They lack individuality and most  of them reminded me of the Budapest Communist Party Headquarters design story, told by Tibor Fischer in Under the Frog (waking up late for his appointment with those commissioning the headquarters, the architect jumps out of bed and straight onto the complex model he has made of his projected building, destroying it instantly; unable to construct an equally elaborate new model in the 10 minutes he has left before the meeting, he grabs a shoebox and presents that, successfully, instead).

Why do we meekly accept the progressive endrearying of our urban environment? Why do we never rise up against the slow but steady tide of lowering standards and expectations and the assumption that prettiness is neither desirable nor affordable?

More basically, why at the precise moment when we created something - the traffic jam - that meant we really needed nice things to look at to distract us from the fact that we were stuck in a morass of fumes and metal, did we decide that utterly plain facades were the way to go?

If you would like to meet some of the stony Leysstraat population, you can find them here.

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