I have often wondered what makes an architect fashionable?

On our travels last year we viewed the work of two very different architects – the cathedral at Coventry by Basil Spence, and Holmwood House, Glasgow by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson.

I tend to be very critical of architects. The works of Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles Renee Macintosh are beautiful and original and I am prepared to acknowledge this in their favour, I would gladly view their work wherever this is possible. Yet I would never have hired either of them as an architect (supposing that this had ever been possible) because their houses are built too strongly in their own image and not that of the buyer.

Although I have already indicated that I did not think Coventry Cathedral was well adapted to its purpose (which is what exactly? To illuminate feelings in the visitor of obedience to the god worshipped?) it was an original and interesting building.

This cannot be said of any of the majority of the buildings of Thomson. I thought his Holmwood House in Cathcart, Glasgow, exhibited some of the worst faults of his trade. The outside appearance of the house is messsy and complicated. Within, the main entertaining rooms are designed to impress, but behind them the family accommodation is poky and dark. When you enter the house you are confronted, straight before you by a glass door giving a clear view of the Victorian throne in a lavatory, and you wonder if Thomson is taking the proverbial?

Plastered on top of this sorry skeleton are ‘Greek’ detals, such as a pointless cupola over the stairwell, fresco type details of doubtful taste and/or authenticity, and adornments such as the key symbol which also graces some of the exteriors of his tenements. None of these details could be said to meld together into an attractive whole.

Surely the first purpose of an architect is to design a building fit for purpose; only after that do you want it to be practical, comfortable, safe and visually rewarding.

Maybe of course the owners of Thomson houses were only interested in impressing others with their wealth and culture, and were indifferent to the needs of their family and household and to any appeals for privacy and comfort – in which case it would appear that Alexander ‘ Greek’ Thomson was definitely the architect for them1 for its purpose? And then after that, you want it to be comfortable and visually pleasing, viewed from both within and without.

Maybe of course, the owners of the houses were only interested in impressing others with their wealth and culture and were not at all troubled by consideration of the interests and well being of their family and housrhold.     In which case Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson is probably the best architect for them!

About adhocannie
I am a good natured woman with a long memory and a swift tongue. I like loooking at things and thinking about them. Also food, clothes, travel, reading, sewing. I try to see the ridiculous in things, but sobriety of reflection keeps edgting in. I have husband, children, grandchildren, friends... I feel rich in things that matter. I am a happy exile. I like writing. I do not like talking about me (though I do.). You willl be much more interesting.

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