Two exemplary buildings are chosen by Ray Phillips, one an elegant Weimar beauty, the other a confused Catalan concoction
The 1929 German Pavilion in Barcelona by Mies van der Rohe is a wonder because it was so far ahead of its time, and it is still astoundingly modern today. Mies coined the phrase "less is more", and the pavilion personifies this. An economy of effort results in graceful simplicity and timeless appeal. The design principle "maximum thought, followed by minimum effort" is hugely relevant to architects today. Simplicity is difficult to achieve, particularly with a huge palette of materials to choose from. But like the great artists, Mies combined distraction and functionality to produce a coherent entity that would stand the test of time and delight future generations.
However, I really dislike the Scottish parliament building in Edinburgh. It's a pretentious design smorgasborg. Too rich and fussy, it involves an over-elaborate plethora of design styles. It's decorated like the gingerbread cottage in Hansel and Gretel, and in design terms it has the same outrageous calorie count. Where's the simplicity? The coherence? In many instances your eyes flit around, struggling to find a focus.
I have no problem with the building being abstract and breathtaking in places, but when does a master chef ever feel the need to put 150 ingredients in a main course?
Ray Phillips is director of architecture at Atkins