Architexts

Published on 29th March 2017
It’s often said that there are only seven stories in literature and nothing now is ever truly new. But, while Helen Fielding openly acknowledges Bridget Jones as a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, and Harry Potter could be viewed as a variation on the Red Riding Hood theme – the monster overcome, order restored – are we really so limited in the rest of the artistic world?

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Is Tracey Emin destined to always be the femme tragique, are Billy Bragg and Bob Dylan merely carrying the old social commentator’s mantle dropped by Cervantes and Plato? And what about architecture, can we hope for anything new?

The arrival of concrete and its brave new world of utilitarian chic is considered, by some, to be the last great architectural statement. It changed our skylines and altered our perception for a short time before being pulled down; an embarrassing blot on the architectural copybook, but what has followed in concrete’s footsteps? We’ve seen mock-Tudor in the interwar period, and Prince Charles’ Poundbury Village has been scoffed at for its neo-Georgian aesthetic, so where does architecture go from here? There may be nothing new to say, but there are plenty of different ways to say it.

Intertextuality is key in the modern home, not just in the furniture and decor we favour, but in the building materials and designs we choose. While some people believe that the merging of styles creates ambiguity, a fuzziness of focus, the blend of old with new, natural with synthetic and soft curves with sharp angles works to deliver a contrast in the twenty-first century home which was absent before, and could be considered a statement of its own. You won’t be surprised to hear it, but at Apropos we are mad about the meld.

While perceptual ‘relief’, which promotes soft contours and the subtle play of light and shadow, is considered very much on trend, it is Gaudi who is the best-known advocate. As modern home-owners use natural colours, glass and light, Antoni Gaudi took flowing organic forms and made them solid with a childlike exuberance.

With undulating stonework and cleverly placed light-wells he created stunning effects, which are now emulated in subtle forms in modern buildings, most commonly in troglodytic eco-homes which work to maximise natural light, but can also be found anywhere with a well-placed skylight.

Cubism, most famously championed in Josef Chochol’s architecture of the early twentieth century, is also back, and an area in which we specialise. The idea of simply stacked angular shapes could have been developed with glass in mind; the crystalline form adding a sharpness to corners and a multifaceted element to the design, drawing the viewer in.

Glass, aluminium and the angular aesthetic can be found throughout the country in new-build properties, while period homes nod to the contemporary world with contrasting extensions.

It could well be that originality is obsolete and ‘new’ a redundant word, but everyone knows that it’s not so much the story, as the way that it is told that makes a masterpiece. Which is why J.K. Rowling is celebrated, Bob Dylan revered and Tracey Emin controversial. Which is why architecture that is both exciting and bespoke will always be beautiful.

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