British Transport Minister John Hayes’s remarks about beauty and transit infrastructure were quoted on Tuesday in “Sic transit beautiful? Not!” It is brilliant, but I had intended to post instead the full text of “Hayes’s speech on beauty,” a different oration, in which he states the case for beauty in an era of nihilism. He notably asserts here that “most of what has been built in my lifetime could be demolished without aesthetic cost.”
How true. If anything, Hayes understates the case. But he certainly was not channeling Frank Gehry, who in 2014 shouted to a press gaggle in Spain that “98 percent of what gets built today is shit.” What Gehry had in mind was that 98 percent of what is built today is not by Frank Gehry.
So read Hayes’s speech in its entirety. Here are a couple of juicy passages:
This brings me to the third and final misconception that I want to challenge, that beauty belongs somehow to the past. For it is often considered, sometimes unthinkingly, that it is no longer possible to build beautiful buildings.
This is perhaps why increasing regard is given to the beautiful places and buildings that have survived intact. We have somehow, rather depressingly, come to believe that the supply of beauty is both finite and exhausted. This is perhaps because people assume that it must be somehow dated or even kitsch to build according to the principles of classical architecture. Or because they assume that beauty comes at too high a price, and must be sacrificed for the sake of utility.
Both of these conceptions are false. … There are no good reasons why we cannot continue to build beautiful buildings and public infrastructure.
That is what I have undertaken to achieve as a Minister of State at the Department for Transport. To make it an uplifting experience to navigate the roads, stations and other public infrastructure in our country. We spend so much of our time traveling – to work, to see friends and family. We must not resign ourselves to being miserable as we get from place to place.
A doff of the cap to Robert Orr for alerting me to Hayes’s latest oration.