The decorative, anti-modernist efforts of Goodhart-Rendel excite Alan Powers but the patterned facade of the Blue Fin Building is a damp squib
As a student, I discovered Harry Stuart Goodhart-Rendel, one of the refusers of modern architecture. He thought structural rationalism and decoration were not incompatible, as reflected in his design for Westminster Kingsway College in Vincent Square, central London, completed in 1957. The Buildings of England series called it “decorative, eclectic and yet free of archness”, an acute appraisal, since one of the architect’s quarrels with modernism was its tendency to over-dramatise forms.
In place of a glass curtain wall, he put yellow stock-brick that revealed the steel frame beneath, and emphasised non-load-bearing panels with coloured brick. The mixture is fresh, and limits solar gain.
For my blunder I have chosen the Blue Fin Building on Southwark Street, designed by Allies and Morrison. The building’s name suggests shark-infested waters, but this is more like an unwieldy school of sardines, decorated with irregular, trivial clip-ons that don’t even function as brise-soleils. It exposes the low expectations of facade design today.
Friends assure me it’s agreeable to work in – perhaps because you can’t see it from inside.
Alan Powers is professor of architecture at Greenwich university and chairman of the Twentieth Century Society