Terry Farrell between the gates (Part 1)

Kolakowski, Marcin Mateusz (1999) Terry Farrell between the gates (Part 1). Architektura & Biznes, 82 (5). pp. 12-16. ISSN 1230-1817

Terry Farrell Between the Gates (Part 1) [A&B1999/5]

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Between the gates (Part 1)
Terry Farrell is one of the five great British architects alongside Foster, Rogers, Grimshaw, and Hopkins. Born in 1938, he has several dozen prestigious buildings all over the world to his name, and in a way, his work can be considered an antithesis to the projects completed by the other four giants. This son of a Newcastle postman emphasises strong class division, which he experienced himself. “Architecture should create a bridge between the classes,” this has always been his motto. He was the first in his family to go to the university. Owing to an award he was granted, along with two of great competitors, he went to college in America. In the 1960s, American theory undermined the architectural axioms much more than European theory. What stemmed out of that dispute was high-tech and Postmodernism.
After he came back from the US, he set up a practice with Grimshaw in 1965. For 15 years, they created projects which had hardly anything to do with Modernism. In the first stage of their work, they designed a dormitory for 200 students in a redeveloped Anglican church. The design concept was noteworthy for creating possibilities of adjusting the functions to the changing needs of their users. In the Mausel Housing project of 1972, despite the national emphasis still being on cheap housebuilding, the diversified and colourful facades made a statement that “economical” was not necessarily the synonym of “expressionless.”
In the late 1970s, the cooperation was becoming increasingly difficult, as the growing number of clients made the gap between the technological skin and the humanistic contents bigger and bigger. Then, Britain entered the Thatcherite era, when the wealthy minority built more banks in which the majority could become debtors. Despite the growing poverty of the working class (or perhaps due to that), a building boom began, and the dolce vita provided a good ground for fashion and style, or rather the fashion of style. This, at least partly, was the reason for the dissolution of the Farrell/Grimshaw Partnership and the rise of Terry Farrell & Co. Owing to the increasingly interesting orders, he started moving away from housing towards large-scale projects. His principles, however, remained the same and he continued to believe in the potential of technology, as far as it served to achieve the context and usefulness of the building. He rejected the cool high-tech stylistics. The ideas he brought from America had finally matured enough to be transplanted onto the British soil. The main tenets of his design work were then formulated: historic continuation, pedestrian priority in urban spaces, and infusing life into the traditional forms of activity within a city.
Fascinated by history, Farrell naturally started contacts with Charles Jencks, reputed to have coined the term “architectural Postmodernism.” In 1982, they redeveloped a house at Lansdowne Walk in London. Then Farrell became involved in the SAVE organisation which tried to protect whole parts of London from being “clean swept” for redevelopment. Cooperating with the inhabitants of the Comyn Ching block, Farrell proposed a courtyard in the inner triangle to retain as much of the character of the original built area as possible. The Postmodernist virtue of diversified development was successful, not only during the competition, but also in practice. Comyn Ching set an example for numerous British architects whose projects provided counterbalance for Modernism and were also surprisingly cost-effective.
In the 1980s, Farrell was commissioned to design the most prestigious buildings in London. MI6, Embankment Place, and Alban Gate received high-profile locations in the centre of London, by the river Thames. What changed was the scale and complexity of his projects, from which he was trying to run away towards simplified solutions. Both in terms of form and structure, he presented an alternative for minimalism. For many reasons, Alban Gate could be considered a pioneer project. It was the first time that a decision was made to erect a huge office building above a major urban thoroughfare. It is a gate not only metaphorically, but also literally—it is through this gate that you can drive into the City of London. In it, Farrell has translated the medieval idea of a town gate into the language of contemporary architecture.
Embankment Place is also a kind of gate: pedestrian routes at two levels link the Hungerford Bridge with Covent Garden. Vertically, this huge project links the underground railway with the Charing Cross station and, higher still, with commercial and office spaces. This hybrid of func¬tions, with pedestrian routes as life-giving arteries, was to create a living organism and a characteristic dominant element on the bank of the Thames.
Acclaimed, awarded and admired in the late 1980s, he has since found it difficult to skip the trap he had earlier accused the Modernists of—the trap of style. He became synonymous with historic detail, although that was never the essence of his work. Rogers’ victory in the Lloyd's of London competition in 1990 was a blow to him, as Rogers’ building embodied all that Farrell had ever fought against: it destroyed the historic atmosphere of that part of the city. It seems that the contrast and continuation in the work of the Postmodernists of the 1980s and 1990s was deeper than just the facades. The next part of this presentation will discuss the recent work of Terry Farrell who is now facing the new millennium...

Subjects:K Architecture, Building and Planning > K200 Building
K Architecture, Building and Planning > K110 Architectural Design Theory
K Architecture, Building and Planning > K210 Building Technology
K Architecture, Building and Planning > K100 Architecture
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Architecture & Design > School of Architecture & Design (Architecture)
ID Code:18023
Deposited On:29 Jul 2015 13:25

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