I am at times in awe of what architecture can do. As for the shock, you will be dismayed as to my basic knowledge of architecture and the simplistic maxims I use for assessing a building.
1. The Julie Andrews Maxim. When Julie writes, she begins with A, B, C. When she sings, she begins with do, re, mi. When she builds, she begins with bottom, middle, top. But modern buildings so often don’t bother with a top.
2. The way in maxim. Obviously, you’ve got to have a way in. All buildings pass that test. But the sense of occasion when you arrive, well I’m not so sure.
3. The Curve Index. It’s ridiculous to contend that modern buildings shun curves. Every building has curves. They have still not devised a method for taking to waste from the toilet bowl to the exhaust pipes without using a curved pipe. So every building still scores at least 0.05% on the curve index. It’s just that where I live, curves are often used used to corner buildings and it looks nice.
4. The Flat Earth maxim. The earth is not flat, and the basic proof is the sun goes down at night. For sometime, we’ve had to cope with living when the sun goes down. So what does a building look like at night?
5. The Play School maxim. Even BBCtv children’s Play School had a choice of 3 windows. Walls can do more than create a boundary, hold up floors, a roof and some windows. Detail and Decoration. So much to play with, regarding materials. So why don’t they? And what happened to the golden ratio?
6. The Tax Offices maxim. Green architecture and Green building technology often brings interest. Take our 1990’s tax offices. I was pleased for myself and for passengers when we got rid of the bottles necks to the western approaches to Nottingham Midland station, but its upside was that when you were stuck outside the station, you can take in the beauty of the tax offices. Solar chimneys for staircases; glass panels for reflection.
7. There is no number 7.
8. The Fabric First maxim might also need re-numbering. Forthcoming briefings may well be exploring consideration of a building’s depth as to whether it can be green. And it would be quite nice to have an energy statement for a building at least alongside the submission of the plans or a proposal. So fabric third?
But as in thermodynamics, these things can all overlook the obvious. In thermodynamics, the incredibly challenging concept of entropy was defined in the second law, before physicist realised they’d forgotten the basics. That heat flows from a hotter body to a cooler body. The zeroth law.
For our zeroth maxim, we might be forgiven for only adopting it last Monday, but it is this. We have to be carbon neutral. Planning laws and frameworks might not back us up. But it’s the challenge we have set ourselves in Nottingham, and hopefully, you can help us work it out.
You might be shocked that in a discipline that takes you 7 years to be qualified, I have tried to reduce the subject to 8 lines to fit on the back of a pledge card, and 8 glib lines at that. But I’m very New Labour. And sometimes, perhaps, simple tests can help.