13 September 2010

How to Apply Concealer


Buildings ∕ Hardscape ∕ Signage

The Hayward.

I was not around in the 1960s or 1970s to see the buildings of the South Bank Centre in London, so I don’t know what the signage was like in those days. But I do know that the big colourful signs that are tacked all over the complex now betray a certain lack of love for their architectural heritage on the part of the people who run these buildings. 1960s brutalism, as exemplified by the Hayward and the Queen Elizabeth Hall, both pictured here, can indeed be hard to love. That is, it can be hard to love if what you love is flat, multi-coloured, letters-as-cartoons.

On the left, the Queen Elizabeth Hall. On the right, the Hayward Gallery.

These flaky masks deny all the qualities (volume, substance, materiality, roughness, depth, anchoredness) that the buildings stand for. The original design is so uncompromising, however, that the undeniable, unconquerable volumes win out, and the contemporary signage looks like so many price-stickers that one day will be faded, curled and outdated as they cling to a forgotten tin in the back of your cupboard.

In the background, the Queen Elizabeth Hall. In the foreground, the Hayward Gallery.


2 responses to How to Apply Concealer

  1. humanshield

    another awesome blurb, dude. batting 1000. but if they were to expand the banners around more surfaces brutalism might lose. pretty daft grafics no matter what for a town that i’m guessing is overflowing with design talent.

  2. C.D.

    Thanks for your comment. I think if they wanted to expand the banners on the surfaces so much that the brutalism of the builiding would be denied, they would have to draft in Christo and Jeanne-Claude, the building wrappers. The result would be that the details of the contours would be lost, but the fundamental strength of its bulk, its juts, thrusts, jags and outcrops, would in fact be accentuated.