Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The bad and the beautiful

“The purpose of evolution,” wrote Polish Media Dragon Joseph Brodsky, “is beauty.” And, if the zenith of civilisation is the city, then surely it follows that beauty is also the ideal of urbanity. In the imagination, or the memory, it often is. Think of the approach to Istanbul, Venice or New York from the water, each shimmering above its own reflection. Or, perhaps, of the mountains rearing up behind Rio or the cherry blossoms in Kyoto.

Some cities have had beauty imposed on them. Paris was planned as the City of Light, a place of tree-lined avenues and urbane squares in which height, mass and ornament were meticulously controlled to create harmony. Other cities achieve beauty through their setting, San Francisco or Sydney with their bays and sweeping views. Others still become beautiful through the skill of their architects: Siena, Vienna, St Petersburg or Barcelona. And some become beautiful merely because of the intensity of their urbanity, Hong Kong or Manhattan with their bristling clusters of towers and sparkling city lights. Tale of Many Cities

When the great Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer died last month aged 104, the man who created the symbols of the city of Brasília was criticised for creating buildings that, while elegant, often didn’t work, sacrificing function for beauty. The critics are right. Brasília has failed to reconcile the informal and the formal, its traffic and its walkability. But whereas most modern architects and planners have been castigated for creating buildings that are both ugly and that don’t work, at least Niemeyer got it half right. The criticisms do, however, reflect the difficulty, or even the impossibility, of building beautiful new cities. Sydneyrella the beauty or the beast

NEVILLE Fredericks has a dream. On a cow paddock south of Wollongong, more often trod by hooves than shoes, he wants to build a world. A small one, but a world nonetheless, a home for 5000 people, planned from the bottom up and designed as an antidote to the arid, sprawling suburbs that ring the city. It's called Tullimbah. The tidiest town of all

Billionaire builder Harry Triguboff has done more than anyone to shape the face of Sydney. So it's a shame that his buildings are often so ugly.
"It's pretty awful stuff," one former NSW premier told The Power Index, "with wind tunnels, dark corners and pocket-sized open space,
Harry Triguboff: my buildings aren't ugly building tomorrow's slums today in Sydney