Style Wars debate 12th May report

Style: In defence of....

Westminster University hosted the Future Cities Project Style Wars event on 12th May 2016. Chaired by Alastair Donald, the 5 panel members were brought together to cover an impressively diverse and balanced approach to style. While impossible to cover every style the debate provided balance historically and ideologically.

Tim Abrahams opened the discussions with arguements for High-Tech not only as a movement that escaped the clutches of post modernism but had also created an aesthetic of something quite different.

George Saumarez Smith followed up with a punchy, focused five point plan setting out articulately and clearly why there really could be no comparison to Classicism from other styles and how this style had not only prevailed and had been enriched by 2000 years of evolution but that it could be delivered by people of differing skills and background and transcent the rural/urban divide.

Amin Taha juxtaposed this rich position to try and argue that No Style was preferable and was followed by Victoria Perry on the values of Colonialism, arguing that the style provided a point of reference and identity that is still embraced across the Caribbean.

Elly Ward closed the initial salvo with a strong case that PoMo really covered more than the style of buildings produced through the 1980s and early 1990s and infact picked up some of those styles that had previously been discussed.

With the questions then turned to the floor, an active and lively debate was forthcoming with questions ranging from what would the style be for the 22nd century to how universities approached style. However it was the subsequent focus on how style was taught and the degree certain styles were embraced by these institutions that highlighted the apparent lack of understanding of the key tenants of classicism and indeed Elly Ward acknowledged that she wished not only she knew her five orders better but that her students could have more exposure to this.

The evenings questions were wrapped up by the provocative question of which other style would the panel like to see burnt down. With the worthy case put forward by Amin that no style had no preference the question was largely diplomatically dodged. The ensuing vote that followed on the worthy victor did not and a resounding and overwealming vote for Classicism perhaps demonstrated a change in the winds of architecture. Perhaps we will not be teaching the principles of Alberti in schools but there is certainly a rising interest in the oldest and most wide reaching style, Classicism.

Speaking before the debate George Saumarez Smith said,"I am looking forward to the debate. I'll be defending Classicism against other styles including High-Tech and Post Modernism. I've been promised that this isn't a re-run of the 1980's Style Wars!"

Tim Abrahams, founder, Machine Books on High-Tech
George Saumarez Smith, director, ADAM Architecture on Classicism
Elly Ward, co-Founder, Ordinary Architecture on Post Modernism
Amin Taha, director, Amin Taha Architects on No Style
Victoria Perry, associate, Donald Insall Associates on Colonial Architecture

Chair: Alastair Donald, Future Cities Project