The Bilbao Guggenheim has a lot to answer for. Its remarkable, undeniable success generated two dubious notions. The first is that what every down-on-its-luck, post-industrial city needs is an ‘iconic’ building. The second is that the quickest way to regenerate that same post-industrial city is to spend big on arts-heritage projects.
There are some who say that like ancient Rome, Sheffield was built on seven hills. Whatever the truth of that claim, none of the seven hills of Rome has anything like the Park Hill estate surmounting its brow.
Brutalist architecture mostly leaves me cold or repulsed but I’ve always had a liking, verging on an affection, for the Barbican Estate, perhaps because I worked there for six years and got to know its vastness, its labyrinths, and its hidden byways. I’ve always thought that if there was one structure in London that would survive nuclear war or natural catastrophe it would be the Barbican.
If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace. (The Poetics of Space – Gaston Bachelard)