Wednesday 21 July 2010

Building Utopia

I'm not normally a Frother (although I have increasingly become a Grumpy Old Fart as the years have passed) but I recently came across something that got my blood up. Planning Department models for new building developments.

Our local authority just had its annual Town Show which is supposed to be festival celebrating and advertising all the great stuff about our town. Brushing aside the fact that this is Dagenham, and there is little if anything to recommend it to anyone outside a nuclear missile silo, I was more than a little incensed by the planning departments stand at the show.

There's a lot of new building development going on in our borough - much of it long overdue - and some of the recent projects were being showcased at the Town Show. In pride of place were the architects models of the proposed developments... and that's what ticked me off. The standard of the models was appalling with wobbly joints, gaps in the foamboard walls and poorly painted figures. Worse still they utterly misrepresented what the finished buildings will actually look like. Planning models, like architects drawings, are all pastel shades and soft lines of a Utopia that never exists. Even when brand spanking new these buildings don't look as clean and bright as the models. What annoys me most is the fact that all the models on display showed the new development in isolation and gave no indication of how the finished project will look next to existing buildings, street furniture, illegally parked cars, litter and graffiti!

Maybe I'm painting a bad picture of Dagenham (OK I am) it's not a bad place to live, but it looks nothing like the idealised pictures and models the planning department use when trying to sell new projects to the public (otherwise known as the "consultation process"). If the architects can't even make a decent model why are they being trusted to make the full scale version? What the council need are some tabletop gamers to make properly constrcted models with some decent painting, proper scenery, ... and maybe a trench system or two.


  1. I hear you about the models! The other semester I had to teach on our campus that houses all the commercial design and architect majors. They always have a bit display of all the models they are working on. Some were pretty nice but most were horrid wrecks! Being a modeler since a kid and specializing in scratch building structures in N and HO scale, I would just shake my head.

    If you saw how the model would look in reality, you would just get depressed. "Our city looks like THAT!?!" you would say as the reality hit you. Yep. That's the power of models. And they know it!

    BTW this would make a good Douglas Adams story.

  2. I'm not as worried about the models as much as I am about the proposed designs if your illustration is anything to go by.

    At least I can smash a bad model with a hammer. This thing looks like a bad 1960's pizza flashback. Another one from the crap Piet Mondrian school of cool.

    Like your blog, though :)

  3. I'm not opposed to modern architecture, I quite like it in fact, but it has to be tasteful, stylish or iconic. This new building is none of these. It stands out like a sore thumb and shouts CHAV at full volume. Its only saving grace is that the lower floors are reserved for a new public library and other local services.

    Utility aside, this building is still an eyesore.


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