Last Night's TV: The Secret Life of Buildings/Channel 4
One Man Walking/Channel 4
Great Thinkers: In Their Own Words/BBC4
Tuesday 16 August 2011
If the cover star of the current issue of the Radio Times happened to be watching the box last night, he doubtless enjoyed what he saw. The Secret Life of Buildings was right up Prince Charles's avenue, with the architectural critic Tom Dyckhoff skewering a variety of extravagant modern buildings for being soulless novelties rather than functional spaces. Top of his hate list, the building that he thinks made it acceptable for architects around the world to indulge their fantasies at the expense of what actually works, was Frank Gehry's famously outlandish Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Dyckhoff thinks that "architects have forgotten the purpose of social buildings" and that "the Bilbao effect" has produced an epidemic of Guggenheim clones, turning this memory lapse practically into a credo.
To his credit he went to Los Angeles to confront Gehry himself with this charge, and unsurprisingly got short shrift, the illustrious architect insisting that "one pishy little building in Bilbao" was hardly going to change the world, although it was Dyckhoff's contention that it has done just that. A little disingenuously, he also took us to La Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, "one of the most beautiful buildings on Earth", to show how a structure can combine grace, meaning, form and function. I love La Sainte-Chapelle too, and have often wished for a megaphone as the crowds of tourists tramp past it, not even aware it's there, as they head on to gawp at Notre Dame, but to use it as a measure of comparison is rather like suggesting that modern composers simply aren't in the same league as Beethoven. The greater challenge would be to explain why some modern buildings are every bit as worthy as La Sainte-Chapelle.
Still, Dyckhoff stuck resolutely to his task, enthusiastically dissing Zaha Hadid's Chanel Art Pavilion (although not in front of the formidable Hadid herself) and Rem Koolhaas's Casa da Música in Porto. The former was commissioned by the designer Karl Lagerfeld, who played perfectly into Dyckhoff's hands by opining during a busy reception that he was sorry there were so many people there, as "it looks better with nobody". As for the frankly weird Casa da Música, Dyckhoff found a psychiatrist specialising in the effects on human beings of their environments to declare it "psychotic", a building that seems playful but in fact kindles anxiety in those using it.
This was the crux of Dyckhoff's argument. He deliberately targeted buildings designed for leisure purposes, to show us how adult play spaces are so often dysfunctional. His example closer to home was Wembley Stadium, reconstructed at eye-watering expense and yet with the needs of the ordinary football fan relegated below the demands of the so-called prawn-sandwich brigade. Amen to that, though I write as one who would be delighted to find a simple prawn sandwich at Wembley, rather than the £18.50 seafood platter.
Anyway, for all the flaws in Dyckhoff's case, hats off to Channel 4 for giving him a soapbox. And hats off even further for One Man Walking, the latest outing in the Street Summer series that, of course, was commissioned before violence erupted on our summer streets, though in a way last night's short film about the dance form krump was remarkably timely. I'm still not sure what krump is, but I enjoyed the troupe's version of a mugging, of agitation in a cashpoint queue, and of a young Asian man putting the wind up people at a bus stop by putting down his rucksack and then walking away. We don't need reminders right now of how edgy our streets are, but it was nice to see that edginess can be represented by art; I get a sense that Channel 4 has re-embraced its founding remit to "foster the new and experimental". There were times during the Big Brother years when it seemed to have disappeared down the Horseferry Road plughole.
Lord Reith, who gave the BBC its remit to inform, educate and entertain, popped up in Great Thinkers: In Their Own Words, looking disconcertingly like Private Frazer from Dad's Army. The last programme in this engrossing series was subtitled "The Culture Wars", a reference to the democratisation of culture following the foundation of the BBC in 1922, and the hostility that provoked, notably from the king of intellectual snobbery F R Leavis, who considered the cultural life of the working classes to be "nothing but emptiness that has to be filled with drink, sex, eating, background music and what the papers and the telly supply". His ghost must be suitably outraged that it is now the despised telly keeping his memory alive.
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face death penalty
- 2 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 3 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 Spiritual leader allegedly manipulated 400 men into removing testicles to be 'closer to God'
Poldark star Heida Reed says show is not that racy: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
Broadchurch series 3: David Tennant and Olivia Colman to return for third season, ITV confirms
Harris' List of Covent Garden Ladies: Georgian guide to London sex workers acquired by Wellcome Collection
House of Cards season 3: Claire Underwood is based on an eagle, says Robin Wright
Game of Thrones season 5 spoilers: What we can expect according to George RR Martin's books
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut