Where’s the “beauty” beef?

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The public was asked to choose from these four actual buildings. (Beatus Est)

A couple of days ago, aware that I’ve been going around telling people that the public prefers traditional to modern architecture by huge margins, my dear mother-in-law, Agnes, asked me a good question: “Where’s the beef?”

There is a lot of evidence, and I am compiling it for her, but here’s one classicist’s reply to a modernist critic’s response to a survey that pointed out (what seems to me to be) the obvious. Commissioned in 2008 by ADAM Architects and the Traditional Architecture Group, in London, the survey showed four buildings – two traditional and two modernist – and found that of 1,042 members of the public asked which they’d rather have near their homes, three-quarters preferred the traditional buildings.

This brought on Jonathan Glancey’s critique of the survey in The Guardian and the reply to it from Erik Bootsma (whom I met on a trip to D.C. a while back) on his blog Beatus Est. His reply is entitled “When a Survey Shows Britons Prefer Classicism, Architects Attack!” (Unfortunately, neither Glancey’s piece nor the study itself are still available online.)

After describing the survey, Bootsma begins his response to Glancey :

Much to the surprise of the architectural establishment (but to neither Adam nor myself) the public preferred the traditional schemes by a three to one ratio. Predictably, though, the architectural press and heads of the prestigious architecture organizations in Great Britain used the survey as a launchpad for their invective against traditional architecture and ultimately on the public at large.

Bootsma goes on to tag Glancey’s unfair rhetorical thrusts and his clear disdain for the public. It’s a fine read. I wish I’d written it myself!

Back with more soon, Mom!


By the way, my next lecture – during which I will claim, yet again, that the public prefers traditional to modernist architecture by overwhelming margins – will be next Thursday, Oct. 12, at the Lippitt House, corner of Hope & Angell. Sponsored by Preserve Rhode Island, the event begins with a reception for the author at 6:30 p.m. and an illustrated lecture at 7 p.m. It is free for PRI members and $5 for the public. This will be my last scheduled public appearance until the Johnston Historical Society hosts me on Feb. 28, 2018.

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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