August 13, 2016

the water tower group was the prettiest group

It’s lots of pictures of buildings, grouped by their function. They are things like water-towers, gas holders and sawmills. The buildings are quite old and seem to belong to those parts of our towns that are unloved and decaying. Simultaneously we see the care and attention that went into their designs. Despite that care, these are not glamorous or celebrated buildings. They are just doing the job they need to do.

At first, it is the differences between the buildings that is most apparent. Some are purely modernist, some brutalist and some more traditional. Looking a bit deeper, it seems like their plurity merges into a more profound whole. This is not just the construction of the artwork or the functional similarities in the groups of buildings that are presented, but in the ways the buildings are designed to humbly engage with the community.

Although the styles and purposes are different, these buildings seem to have been designed and constructed with some loving-kindness towards their users and inhabitants. Not the kinds of thing that can carry any pretensions, they have served a function people needed, and in the process also tried to make the environment more pleasant for people to be in. It seems strange that we tend to lionize projects like mega-skyscrapers and avante-garde museums which seek to impress and disengage from the quotidien. Is it good that we focus just on what is new or what seeks to impress? What is it that’s really valuable and really real?