The 44 Lectures has been described by Owen Hopkins, Exhibitions Curator to the Soane Museum as "arguably the most original thinking in British Architecture". Rowan Moore in his brilliant and penetrating Observer newspaper essay (unquestionably the smartest of the many composed about my work - I call it "being Rumbled by Rowan"), remarks, in its conclusions, that "Outram's position is singular and out of the mainstream".
AN "IMPOSSIBLE" PROJECT.
I would suggest, in explanation, that I seem to be the only "architectural thinker" who, since 1960, has NOT been trying to invent a 'Modernity' which rejects its patermity in what 'Modernists' denigrate as "the Past". I have merely worked to continue the powers of Architecture, "as found" in its 9,000-year history, into the "now" and beyond the "now" into the future. Beyond even this I also seem to be a rarity in being a "practitioner-thinker" ('Modernity considers this marriage impossible!), who has "scripted" an entirely totalised theorisation of the Medium in both logos and ikon from a shower room to a city.
UNSOUGHT AND SURPRISIING (to me), "PROOFS OF SUCCESS".
The proofs of my success range from the judgement of my amiable tutor the Princeton Architectural Dean Emeritus Bob Maxwell when he wrote of the Judge Institute, in 1997, "Outram has broken the taboos of Modernism... he has invented a Sixth Order, an act of Architectural terrorism". Then the Italian Critic, Fulvio Irace, writing in 1996 of the same building, pronounced it "at the same time both archaic and hyper-modern". Then, finally, in 1998, the Dean of the Faculty of Architecture, at Rice University, placed Duncan Hall, named after Jimmy Carter's Secretary for Defence and then Energy, under a fatwa. Dean Lerup advised his Freshmen not to enter its ricly polychromed symbolic interior for fear of being corrupted. Of what I remain unsure. But one can only assume it was "Architecture" (as-such and uncorrupted by the journalistic ambitions of such as Reyner Banham).
A CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER.
Yet I will protest that I had no ambition for critics, both amiable and less so, to pronounce me such a danger to my Profession. I had, while practising it between 1962, when I qualified and 2009, when I retired, made of point of never engaging in verbal controversy. I allowed others to speak for me. My person was not my physical being. I spoke only through the work of JOA, my bureau. An Architect's Clients tend to be either powerful or wealthy or both. They prefer Consultants that remain discreet. The Rausing Family were generous enough to allow Architectural critiques of their house at Wadhurst Park providing that their name was not published. I kept happily to this restraint until they themselves allowed Clive Aslet's excellent essay to reveal it to the readers of Country Life! Today, now that I am retired and all my buildings that remain undefaced and still erect are passing, one by one, under the jurisdiction of Historic England, I allow myself to speak out. Yet it has not been I, the so-called solitary warrior for the cause of the 9,000 years of a "metaphysical" Architecture that has so ruined the Medium of Architecture and its Profession that our name has even passed out of the currency of the contracts drawn up by the building industry. For we are now titled merely "The Principal Designer". A nice tutu anyone?
RATHER ORDINARY, REALLY.
A very long time ago, in 1954 to be exact, like any young man in search of some ambition to which one might give one's adolescent loyalty, I read "Vers une Architecture" in Winnipeg's Public Library. It helped persuade me to become 'an Architect'. In 1956 I was bewitched by La Serenissima's Il Redentore on my first vacation after beginning to study Architecture. I was equally inspired, on that journey, by the genius of the marvellous charlatan Corbusier's Ronchamps and his as-yet-in-construction monastery at La Tourette. My education was completed by talking to cleverer and better-read students than myself. None of these events are markedly "original". Arthur Korn, one of my Tutors at the Architectural Association, called me "stubborn and wilful". My own problem was that I never understood a word that he said. Arthur overflowed with continental metaphysics, a subject pointedly excluded from my own English military-school education. One thing has merely led to another, as is the case in the lives of ordinary men and women. We are all subject to the accidents of fate.
REFUGEES IN LONDON
I hung out my own Architectural Consultancy shingle because my family became refugees, in 1974, as the result of one of the smaller wars of recent years. I was fortunate in that our refuge was located in Central London. I was also fortunate in that there were family relations, who, seeing our plight, could give my nascent practice the personal and private commissions without which no individual Architect can emerge from a giant and largely anonymous industry devoted to the investment of gigantic sums of capital.
AN "EXTRA-PROFESSIONAL" PRACTITIONER?
It is possible that the "originality" is due to these peculiar circumstances. For the emergence and definition of my bureau's work was never and has seldom since been due to the approval of my Professional Peers. The work has been mainly supported by Clients and Critics who wanted an Architecture that did NOT conform to the Professional mainstream. My work was never any sort of "act of rebellion". I merely pursued, without any deviations on my own part, certain directions that became clear to me at the end of the extended period of study pursued by all Architects. This was somewhat exactly in 1961: some 57 years ago.
SIMULTANEOUS "SCRIPTING" - FOR BOTH HEMISPHERES.
The 44 Lectures are a thousand pages and three thousand graphics, all in colour (including the text) that record what I know about this "direction". I scripted them between 1998 and 2015. They are long because they are mediated in both iconic as well as textual form. The mind of the Architect is closer to image than text. The Architect reasons with text, pursues the mental force of an image and builds what is, all too often, a thing that has neither reason nor imaginary virtue. To escape from these failures, which are now so extreme as to have led to the official demise of both the Profession and the Medium it purports to master, it has been necessary to describe my 'novel' understandings in both their physical as well as their metaphysical states.
A POLITICO-ECONOMIC "CHURNING".
A certain novelty is occasionally required to survive the vagaries of circumstance. Hegel's Warrior Class and the marvellous cities they built to manifest themselves have ruled civilised history since its very ancient beginnings. WWI saw the beginning of its demise. Its disappearance from History was cemented by the dropping of the "Gadget" (as the first atomic bomb was christened), at the end of WWII. Its replacement by American "Consumerism", and the dispersed suburbia that is that polity's "ontic constitution", was the phenomenon of my own lifetime. This has recently been undermined, at least in the territories of its origin and recent adoption in the USA and Europe, by the rise of Asia. The millions of the white and blue-collar classes of the West have had their livelihoods and raison d'etre taken away from them by the rather more fertile billions of Asia. This late-20C version of prosperity is not going to return to the Anglo-American suburbs or, as they call them in England, "villages".
The 44 Lectures responds to this widely-recognised event by proposing a development of the Consumerist focus on the individual home as the theatre of all human satisfactions. The Lectures propose a place for the industrial uses now being erased by speculation in domestic usage and a drastic reduction to all the extravagant symptoms of suburban excess - such as commuting and the glut of 'packaging'. Yet the 44 Lectures do not propose a curb on the high level of economic turnover from which states derive their fiscal supports. They merely describe different methods by which this economic "churning" may be achieved. It is the 'Architecture' of these methods which the 44 Lectures examines, theorises, works-through and ultimately proposes.
The "44 LECTURES" can, at the present time, only be obtained by subscribing to the JOA Internet Course titled "The War of the Arts of Peace".
The course was launched for the academic year 2017-'18. It attracted only two Students, one of whom was more of a Client of Architects rather than an Architect himself. Both of these Students were part-time and received the Course Materials on loan so that they could study them in order to decide whether, finally, to enrol for the full £44,000.00 course.
THE ADVICE OF DR. BEECHING.
This was a tenfold increase on the price for which they were first advertised in 2015. I took heed of the advice of Dr. Richard Beeching, who, while closing, in 1963, over half of Britain's railway stations remarked "ideas are cheap in Britain". The 44 Lectures are, it would seem, unique. So they should be expsensive, even very expensive. Money has been, for the centuries of her unprecedently gigantic empire, the special expertise of Britain. These islands have never properly understood Architecture. I offer such an understanding. It is proper therefore that it be recognised as only the Britiish know how: by paying for it.
These two potential students paid between 0.5 % - 1% (plus postage) of the total fee so as to receive the Course Materials on loan. This payment would be set off against the total fee if the Student decided to pursue a full enrolment. This decision is, for the Student, sine die. However, Mr. Outram does turn 84 in June 2018.
A DIRECT E-MAIL link to the Course is available in which payment of the 0.5 - 1 % non-returnable Retainer and shipment of the "44 Lectures: Course Material can be negotiated.
Excerpts from the 44 Lectures are used to illustrate certain aspects of Architectural philosophy on the following web-sites. Fragments of the 44 Lectures can be accessed in a sketchy and disjointed way without any payment on the following:
THE SOANE MUSEUM'S EXHIBITION.
These 44 Lectures can be seen and physically handled in the Soane Museum as part of the Exhibition on British Post-Modern Architecture. The exhibition runs from from 16th May until 27th August 2018.
A REQUIEM FOR HARP THE MARTYR TO MODERNISM.
I gave a talk at the Soane on Saturday May 26th in which I accepted the focus of the Soane’s billing on the demolition of Harp Heating just before it could be “Listed” for preservation by Historic England. This event has even been canonised by the 20C Society as one of the “ten most regretted demolitions of the twentieth (sic) century”. Clio, daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyne, Goddess of Memory, needs her heroes and martyrs to empassion the lyre of History - even of such a seemingly material subject as Architecture. It is perhaps useful here to recall that the listing of a building is primarily for its "historic" status rather than its aesthetic virtues. Harp was, in some of its "parts", curiously proportioned!
"IT'S ALL THE SAME".
The other subject ‘billed’ were the 44 Lectures themselves. Putting these together with Harp Heating led me to screen the drawings from 1961 and 1972 in which I proved a continuity between the 9,000 years of Architecture’s “as found” evidences and the arrogantly autocthonous ambitions of ‘Modernism’. These researches then proved the existence of an extrinsic category of semantic motifs, like the wires of stringbag biplanes in Fuller’s Mark One Dymaxion house, or the ship’s prow and monoplane wing of Ronchampa. The purpose of these was to iconise the ‘Modernity’ of their works. "Modernity" here being a 'modern look". Yet what is 'Modernity' etymologically? It is merely to be fashionable or to be ‘a la mode’. In fact these extrinsic semantics were little more than the "styling" which was employed by commerce to shift the waves of emphemeral goods that powered the Post-WWII "Consumerist State".
HERE ONE DAY AND GONE THE NEXT IS NOT A "CITY".
So what is it to be "Moderna", to be "of the moment"? Is it just to be styled-up with a ship's prow, a monoplane's wings or a biplanes wires - or even a rocket up one's polar axis? Ships are scrapped after a few decades, aircraft are continuously reconstituted. As for rockets - they have a life of a few minutes before becoming space-trash. I was already an aircraft pilot at nineteen. I had sailed, when twelve years old, from Bombay to Southampton on an ocean liner. Machines I knew. I loved them - perhaps all too well. But, by my mid-twenties, after five happy student years of cooking-up two to three "moderna" designs a year they already bored me.
THE "SPACE OF TIME".
I wanted a lifespace with the "depth" I found in, for example, Naples. The tight grid of that city was that of Magna Grecia and then the Spanish Bourbons - who left this delicate footprint all over the Americas - including Texas. In Naples I could hear the Roman Legions tramping over the scaly black tufa cobbles. The rentable space that is the commodity we Architects trade is an increasingly scarce resource. The "human lifespace industry" seems determined to make it as dull and boring as possible. We can return to the deeply unpleasant and manipulative reasons for this. But the space I craved was the "deep space" of Time. I felt my Being expand when I was 'present' at these epiphanic enlargements of the temporal horizon. For me there is only one "Year Zero". It is around 12.5 billion years ago. When a living creature dies without issue it brings to a decisive end an individual history that is that long. This temporal horizon could be drawn by either history or fiction. But the more we learn from Science of this 'history' seems, after all, sufficiently strange to be quite "fictive" enough! What stranger story than to be born (some time back admittedly), from a marine worm with light-receptive cells at one end?
CAN "CHURN" MAKE GOOD CITIES BETTER, OR JUST TRASHIER?
If there was to be "churn" at the largest scale of the human lifespace, then it must be a churn for the better. Mere economic "churn" cannot be allowed to go-on reducing our lifespace to "trash" - to use the inimitable denomination of Rem Koolhaas. To reduce our lifespace to to a state of "minimalisation" or to a state of "deconstruction" so that it ends by being so hated by its users that it lends itself more readily to being "churned", is a policy that, while apparaently meeting with little public resistance, is bound to backfire at some point. The wave of Populism at present sweeping through Western politics may indicate the approach of such antipathies.
FROM SANCTIMONIOUS FRAUD TO HONEST METAPHYSICS.
The Public have never liked the impassive face of Welfare Modernism. It smacks of a "this hurts me more than it hurts you" sanctimony. This specious moaning was especially galling when advised by Architects who, almost exclusively, prefer to work-on, to restore and then to inhabit Classically-modelled 19C Terrace houses. These 'Modernist' Architects may not understand the 'workings' of Classicism. But no one has to, or perhaps ever has has to for going-on 2,000 years. We have no certain evidence if even the Ancient Hellenes had theorised their Architecture and City-Design and Ornament up to an efficient level of cognition. Or did the Hellenes just work-it-up and practise it like everyone else? For the evidence is strong that this is what those who succeeded them seem to have done! My own researches had concluded that one of these 'workings' included manifesting the “Four Figures” common to the 9,000 years of my Medium. This "working", as professional project succeeded professional project, grew to include more and more of the tabooed metaphysics of the human lifespace. But if that was what "worked" for us its inventors, renters and users then that was what JOA was going to do.
BUILDING-OUT THE METAPHYSICAL.
I was fortunate here, as being a practising Architect, I needed no funding from Academic Boards of my "peers", with their oppressively sub-literate cult of a "New Architecture" that owed nothing to "the past". As the acutely honest Architectural Critic Roman Moore wrote in his Observer newpaper review:
"A building, for Outram, should be “metaphysical”. Which, if it sounds remote from contemporary ways of discussing architecture, is unquestionably how it was considered for most of what Outram calls “the 9,000 year history of architecture”.
A GOOD JOKE CANONISED BY THE F.T.
My Soane lecture then screened-up my first big competiton entry, which the F.T. Architectural correspondent of 1973 published as a “joke”. I followed this with JOA’s first large projects at Poyle and Kensal Road before arriving at Swanley in S.E. London, the site for Harp Heating. The Reader can find here how we transformed the physically insubstantial sub-Corbusian blocks that Geoffrey Granter, the owner of Harp had acquired along with the huge Warehouse that was his main purchase. Harp, designed and built between 1981 and 1983 was more than the beginning of this long struggle against my own natural ignorance - and the "taboos of Modernism". But it was most certainly not the end!
TO DIE AN HEROIC DEATH IS TO LIVE FOR EVER!.
Harp is now listed by the 20C Society as one of the ten most regretted demolitions of the 20C. The Modernists said that it was only the headquarters of a Central Heating company and should not outshine the public buildings of the Welfare State. Yet a Plumber who collared me there said:
"You the Architect then? Gas Jets, very clever for a central heating company- very Art Deco".
THE PERFECT UNDERSTANDING OF A "PLUMBER-POPULIST".
What could I reply? It was the cleverest thing anyone said about it. Cleverer and shorter and wittier than the laboured agonising of the so-called "Architectural Critics" who had refused Harp the canonic status of being an obvious, cheap and mechanically cute way of putting a friendly face onto the sub-Corbusian hen-coops of Welfare. But the Modernists are Honourable Men. For only Honourable Men would bin an entry for the top prize of the day: the F.T. Industrial Award, before Lord Gibson had entered the room. I was one of the F.T. Jurors for four years. I knew that the task of the Architect Jurors was to save Gibson the pain of surveying the trash that sometimes tried to 'crash' his august tastes. So I had it from the mouth of the great man himself that he had never seen the photos of Harp's "flaming capitals". Gibson had a sharp eye. He was not the man to forget.
DOOMED TO DULLNESS AND UGLINESS.
No! The lesson of the rejection of the colourful 'flowering; of Harp's sturdy 'Ordine' is that the British Establishment is never going to allow the British Public a "public realm" that will give them any "pleasure". This is confirmed, by the forty years of my work before final success in Houston, Texas. It was confirmed by the the cowardly rejection of the fully-funded semi-public Judge interior, paid for by the wife of the Richest man in Britain. Confirmed also by the point-blank refusal of Cambridge University to learn, or even discourse with the amiable and erudite Architecture of the previous 200 years of the Judge building itself. The 2018 extension to the Judge is perfectly savage in its compulsively mechanical precision and abject Architectural subliteracy.
ITS NOT THE CLIMATE THAT'S SO BLOODY AWFUL.
Britain's public places, that is the island's open-to-the-sky spaces, are, when compared to those of many other countries', not entirely uncomfortable. At least they are not Tropically hot, or Artic-ally cold. Britain's streets are, it is true, as often as not wet, windy and rather dark. But these are qualites which are not impossible to ameliorate with an urbane microclimate, lighting and heating - even floor-heating. Yet I have fully experienced many harsh and damaging confirmations that, without an extraordinary change in British culture, even these adversely 'natural' qualities will always, as they have been since WWII, be reinforced by ugly, dull buildings, miserably confused and chaotic spaces and no attempt, no attempt whatever to appeal to easily-accessed human pleasures, channels of communication and the understandings that can be derived from them. Anglo-America and all those who follow her exemplar, will find that their 'public realm' is doomed to the very deliberate, calculated, cruel and cynical dullness of "Modernism".
THE "INDOOR CONSUMER" IS THE FISCAL SUPPORT OF ANGLO-AMERICA.
The reason for these "taboos", so perceptively discerned by Bob Maxwell, is that the power of Consumerist States is derived from driving their citizens indoors as often as possible. For, whereas the public areas, especially of Europe's splendid 19c boulevards and parks are free, everything indoors, especially in the gigantic suburbia built since WWII, must be paid for. No interior can be entered until someone - aka. the "Householder", is paying for rent, heating, cooling, electricity, gas, petrol, multiple vehicle maintenances, insurances etc., etc. Even the indoor entertainments, especially if technically sophisticated rather than mere book-readings, cards or other old-fashioned games, will all generate tax revenues for the State. It is the cult of Amglo-American 'Privacy' that fuels the gigantic power of the Anglo-American military-industrial hegemony.
HOW CAN THE "PARADIGMATIC MEDIUM OF CIVILISATION" PAY TAXES?
What is the city now as the Theatre of Being that it used to be when it served to display the Aristocracies of Europe and their dynastic political systems? These beautiful cities were inherited by the Plutocracy of the 19C . They used them to display their new Class in much the same way but with a less cultivated taste. Today their only plausible employment could be as an Arendtian "space of appearances" for the "Generality". But do the Generality have the desire to "appear"? Seventy years of post-WWII sub-urbanity has cowed and conditioned them with such an ontic constitution of privacy that they may now prefer to "hide at home" and exchange the 'virtual' for the real. It would seem, on the surface, that the "Modernised" populations of the West prefer the ontic triviality of mechanically mediated fakery to a life of authentically real experiences. But is this certain? Does anyone know what is going-on 'underneath' the shiny surface of dispersed, privatised suburbanism?
BRING SOME "LIGHT"!
The exhibition is only three rooms so Museum Fatigue is not on the Programme! Bring a torch if it is overcast. The original Act of Parliament is rigorously enforced. The museum's own lighting is dim to put it mildly. Bright sunlight is helpful if anything much is to be actually visible. I speak personally as my eyesight at 83 is not what it used to be. Others, of a more Romantic persuasion might describe the Soane's illumination as that "superluminous gloom (described by Dionysius the Pseudo-Aeropagite), from which emerges all that is ineffable and impalpable". But then the attraction of the Soane is partly that its contents, being mainly what I call "pragmalects" (things that tell as story), are rendered more poetical by being shadowed. Soane, of course, built in the days when, during the six months of the London Winter, the pea-souper fogs from thousands of fires pretty well blotted out the sun. He responded to this with his unique daylighting devices and mirrors. But the new enlargement of the Soane's Exhibitions capacity are, so one might say, still "feeling their way".
"THE SUICIDE OF PROGRESS".
Nothing is more shadowy than this strange revival of the hated "Post-Modernism". How many times must Modernism die for its putative successor to resurrect? Nothing, however, can be clearer than the fact that it has been Architects and especially the Academical Theoreticians of our dear medium, who have been the bitterest enemies of Architecture for some seventy years. They adopted the "je suis contre" comedies of Corbusier. They refused to study the history of their Medium prior to the year 1900. They believed that this "innocent" ignorance would liberate building technology from Architecture. They believed that this "freeedom" would make it easier to satisfy the demands of the Sixth Estate, the Generality of the People. This "proletarian honesty" was driven home with featureless walls, no cornices, no mouldings, no 'Orders', no pediments, no socles, dumbly unframed dummy windows ("That's really dumb" is Frank Gehry's ultimate compliment), and a total absence of "scripted surface". This deliberate ugliness and cultivated stupidity have direcly caused the death of both the Profession and the Medium it purports to master. How can one not conclude that Architecture has been killed by the fellow-travelling pseudo-Marxist cowardice and the unimaginative ignorance of the Leaders of a once-great Profession.
'MODERNISM' AS THE MEANS TO DESTROY 'EMPOWERMENT'.
Killed by such as the illustrious and trumpeted Dr. Leslie Martin who, in the 1960s, turned a decent but amateurish (The British Establishment never, ever, took Architecture seriously during the Empire) Cambridge BA into the endless farce of "Architecture as a branch of Mathematics". Oxford breeds more Prime Ministers. Oxford always knew Architecture didn't matter. Oxford never even had a Faculty in the "paradigmatic medium of civilisation" (L.B.Alberti 15C Italy). Cambridge has taken all Britain's cleverest young Architectural neophytes and wasted their energies for sixty years in its aniconic paranoias and computational futilities.
THE BODY AS THE DOOR TO "BEING".
I never, ever, because of this knowledge, and this understanding, had need, from the day of my graduation in 1961, to torture the body of a building in pursuit of some merely 'Modernist' (aka. fashionable), ambition. The body of a building is like that of any organism. If it is deformed to the point of damage, it dies. We have the example, tellingly described by Marcus Fairs, of Dame Zaha Hadid. The Architectural Order is like the body of a dancer, it animates the mere flesh of a building to the point at which it "tells a story". It tells, more or less, just like that of a human dancer, always the same story. But what is more to the point is that this simple but powerful syntax is able then to 'cargo', to 'carry' and to 'project' ideas of a far more exotic and diverse semantic.
THE DELIBERATE DENIAL OF THE GENERALITY.
It is by forbidding both the Ordine, as well as the "Surface-scripting" that it is capable of projecting, that Modernism effects the alienation of the Public from their rightful state of Being - which is to KNOW that they are at home, familiar and 'empowered' in and by their true lifespace, THEIR CITY. More horrible even than this, however, is that the deformation of the body of a building, which is universally practised all over the world today, ensures that the marvellous alchemy of the Ordine, and its flowering into the scripting of any idea one pleases to inscribe, is blocked, destroyed and killed. This is the crime of Aniconic Modernism - the "style" of the Age of Trash to which Koolhaas refers. This is the "taboo" to which my Tutor referred.
DELIBERATE, INSTITUIONALISED, "HEROIC", PROUD, VICIOUS IGNORANCE.
Having established these 'understandings' did not solve any problems for me. The tide was everywhere running against them. I could set my course. But there was no landfall in sight! I worked for twelve years in both the Public and Private sectors, always for big firms on big projects. I finally decided that Britain, even London, was not for me. I had only been 'at home' for twenty-eight of my forty years. But it was enough. I prepared to leave, almost certainly for good. Then, as I already reported. We all became "refugees and I founded JOA. I had no choice but to "take up arms" against what my final Tutor, the generous and erudite Bob Maxwell, later the Dean of Princeton's Architecture, called "The taboos of Modernism". It was not until I read his generous critique of my only large British building, the Judge Business School for Cambridge University, that I recalled the words of "Headmaster" (today he would be called a Dean), John S. Walkden. These were spoken to me (and my equally ignorant freshmen), in September 1955, at the first hour, of the first day, of the first term of our studies in the Department of Architecture of the Central London ('Regent Street"), Polytechnic.
THE ORACLE OF THE POLY SPEAKS .
Walkden told us, 63 years ago, and in a suitably incomprehensible and oracular manner, that the Architecture to which we would be trained was to be illiterate, without the need for book-learning, and devoid of any of the mystery and prestige that had accumulated to it through the employment of its ancient skills. Of course we did not know what he was talking about. So it all meant nothing to us. It was nothing to us that the Polytechnic, unlike Cambridge, London University and the Architectural Association, had no Reading List . It was nothing to us that the first thing we were told to do was to collect rubbish from the streets and make a composition that we would then accurately reproduce in Paint.
"HE WAS A GOOD PAINTER. NOW HE IS ONLY A GENIUS". (Braque (rather foolishly - for he WAS a genius!), of Picasso).
We learned how to draw and paint with all the skills accruing to a whole year of practice. But to what end? We were iconic illiterates serving an iconically illiterate lifespace-design culture. Contemporary students are more sanguine. They know that everyone, today, can knock out production drawings on a lap-top. So why learn to draw at all? There is nothing to learn from an illiterate medium. So there is nothing to teach. Post-WWII Architectural pedagogy, for seventy years, has been a sort of child-minding while their hormone-powered adolescent revolutionaries expend their youthful energies without any harmful consequences. One goes, today, to the best of the best Architectural Academies only to learn "How to be a Genius".
RUINED BY READING.
When Mr. Harrington, my Frst Year Master learnt, at our 1956 end-of-year Party, that I had begun his course after reading ALL the titles in the lists of these other, rival schools, he gazed on me appalled as if I was a 'fallen woman'. My "innocence" had been soiled by a premature literacy - not that Giedion's "Space, Time and Architecture" could be called a "dirty book." But I had been rendered incapable of the Pure Faith required to build the Honest Hovels of the Welfare State.
FROM TRASH TO TECH.
These "Design Methods" were termed the "Bauhaus Method". So it was nothing to us Architectural Illiterates that the first construction we were taught was the entirely irrational and contingent chaos of building the cheapest houses possible. It was a technology of debris, bricolage and trash that had fallen, if not out of a 'black-market' lorry, then out of the waste-products of industries devoted to other , more ambitious ends. Anything would do from bits of crinkly tin to moulded plastic, bubbles of glass to chewed-up newsprint. From this, we (and I include myself as one its Pioneers - especially fingered by Peter Cook himself), invented the peculiarly British cult of "High-Tech".
PSEUDO-PROLETARIANS!.."TO THE BARRICADES"!
This was an Architecture so sub-literate, and so proud of its pseudo-proletarian credentials, that its greatest monument presents the street with a facade of expensively metal-clad toilets, and with exposed, external, all-glass elevators costing, today, £500,000 each. Its plan is so inflexible that it can never be changed - even though trumpeted, at the time, as of ultimate flexibility and supplied with built-in cranes to give the idea effect. I mean, of course, the Grade One Listed, Lloyds of London.
A GREAT METALLIC MONSTER.
Yet what does this marvellously-crafted white elephant now resemble if it is not one of those giant metallic monsters called "transformers". Lloyds looms over the City of London, a "veray parfait and not so gentil knight", ready to whirr and clank into action. What is this Monster to terrorise is it is not those who threaten the ancient and inviolable right to property and to the Dividends that legally-invested Capital has the right to receive? These are the values on which the whole 300-year history of the British Empire was built. These are the values which remain embedded, deep with the island 'ontos' today - and perhaps for ever. And perhaps why not - if it can be used to a civilised purpose?
A VERY BRITISH SOCIALISM.
So why? Why this strange "training". Why set it about with so many prohibitions and taboos? Why no History? Why no Decoration? Why no learning from not only "The Past", but what ordinay people actually built, used to build and gave good reasons for building? The clue is to be found in the more idiotic prononcements of the "ideologically sound" metaphysicians of the Post-War world. Let me quote the August Critic Herbert Read. He proposed that "In the back of every dying democracy sticks a Doric Column". In short, Architecture, real, heavy duty Architecture, the stuff with Orders, Ornament, Statues and all the trimmings leads you straight into the Concentration Camp and the Gulag. Architecture will lead you straight down into Hell.
THE EMPIRE'S VERY LAST "SUBJECT PEOPLES'...OUR OWN SELVES!
John Walkden was an old, pre-WWII Architect who knew how brilliant it was to have fun with "The Orders" in the way that one can find, here and there, in rather obscure corners of buildings, the Edwardian Architects had had. He knew how such 'passages' can raise the human spirit in those that can "read" what the Architect was composing - exactly like music. He was warning us that no such pleasures were to be ours. More seriously, and here is the "Crime of the Century" for which Post-WWII Repatriated Imperial Mandarins like Percy Johnson-Marshall and Walter Bor should rot in Hell for ever, neither was the Public that had given the Attlee administration a majority bigger than all the other Parties added together!
SOCIALISM'S SECOND-RATE AMERICAN SUBURBIA.
Who voted for the Ontic Desert prescribed by the (Summer of 1947!), "The Redevelopment of Central Areas". Who even wrote this devastating book, issued by HMSO to all Planning Authorities, in which the only lesson drawn from History was how Los Angeles demolished whole city-blocks to turn them into parking lots? I joined an exclusive Dining club, of which Lutyens had been a member, called FABS: the "Foreign Architectural Book Society", solely in order to discover its Authors. I failed and resigned. Who voted, in 1945, to expel ("decant" was the official term), all living and working OUT of Britain's Cities into "Industrial Areas" and "Housing Estates"? Who voted to turn Britain's hard-working savvy, proud urbanites into second-rate Saturday Evening Post suburban hayseeds? Who voted NOT to re-build their bombed ruins as Theatres for the final Reification of the Generality who had fought and died for this 'right'( promised to them by "History"), in two terrible world wars? Who voted to rebuild Britain's Cities as Victor Gruen drive-in shopping centres walled-off by huge motorways and invested against pedestrian access by multi-storey car park 'flak towers'? Who voted to educate their new Architects as subliterate swine freed from every intelligence and example (let alone "theoria"), offered from the 9,000 years of Architecture's history?
GLADLY RCEIVED BY THE PULVERISED CONSERVATIVES!
This ontic fantasy was the work of the Attlee Labour Landslide Government. Bulganin and Kruschev, on their State visit in 1956, dined happily with the Queen and Anthony Eden's Conservatives. It was the Gaitskellite Socialists that they could not stand and with whom they picked some furious quarrels. This Transatlantic love-in was then gleefully extended and cemented by the political right who could not believe their luck. The most powerful Leftist administration in Britain's history had decided that the model of a Socialist Britain would be the good 'ol USA, every Capitalist's paradise. Who can say that this is not so when one surveys the unlikely passion of Prime Minister Tony Blair for President Dubya Bush?
MY OWN 'SARTREAN' PROJECT (every man should have one).
As for me, I had solved the problem, back in 1961, of how to assimilate the so-called "Modern Movement", to the 9,000 years of the history of my medium. The probem for me was never, as it has been for my Peers, of how to invent a "New" Architecture that owes nothing to its history, but merely how to "Modernise" the "Paradigmatic Medium of Civilisation". How do I make it affordable? How do I build it with steel and concrete and corrugated metal - rather then vast chunks of chiselled rock? How, in any case, does it actually work - I mean work metaphysically, that is to say with our whole "Being"?
9000 YEARS OF PRACTICE WITHOUT THEORY??
No one has ever successfully "theorised" this ancient phenomenon, and certainly not in anything translated into English, the global tongue. Vitruvius began by proudly announcing that he had cut all the "Long Greek words" out of his text. That was a pity as the charnel-house of history has left us virtually nothing written on Architecture by the inventors of the Parthenon. We have much more from the far older, but more alien, minds of Egypt and India. Vitruvius had followed Julius Caesar into Gaul. Military Engineering was part of every Architect's stock in trade. One built walls to deny the enemy access to water and fodder, to capture small hillocks and for all sorts of minor advantages. Most Architect's texts are designed merely to attract commissions. Beyond that one finds a few "How-to" manuals. Nothing persuasive has every been written about how all of these things actually join together in the Architect's being, his eye, his hand and so on to make "Architecture".
AND NOW THE TABOO ON DECORATION.
Beyond that again is the tabooed subject of Decoration - or as I term it "Iconic Engineering", or " surface-scripting". Painted chambers, as Jimmy Mellart proved in Catal Huyuk, were the original of the (pre-literate), metaphysical in Architecrure and therefore of its textual, musical and ritual culture. All of that, yes ALL of it, has been absolutely, totally and completely suppressed for the last seventy years - ever since the horrors of WWII. The entire living population of Architects and their several generations previous are TOTALLY IGNORANT of this. is it any wonder that the profvession and the Medium it pretends to practice has now DISAPPEARED? It has crumbled rotted and crashed because it refused to build (in fact merely to re-build), upon its own, ancient and wholly secure foundations.
PROOF OF SUCCESS: ANATHEMISED BY THE ACADEMICS.
It took me and my gallant succession of Clients, Builders Architects and Consultants, around 31,500 days and nights, that is from 1961 to 1997, to finally 'prove', by actual demonstration, that Architecture, the total Medium, could be wholly and completely Modernised - yes all of it Decoration, Symbolism, everything. I knew that I had succeeded when the Faculty of Architecture at Rice University, led by Dean Lars Lerup (later voted "Swedish-American of the Year"), to issue a fatwa to its Freshmen that the interior of Duncan Hall, Faculty of Computational Engineering should not be entered for fear of irreparable damage to their "Modernism". I thought of Lady Bracknell and her solicitude for "Natural Ignorance"..."like a tropical fruit, touch it and the bloom is gone".
RESCUED BY THE "LAITY".
But Rice's newly-installed President Malcolm Gillis was made of sterner stuff. He knew of the delicate spirits of his Architectural Faculty and the need to protect them from such horrors as a "Sixth Order" with its cargo of epiphanic reifications mediated by giant iconolect-splattered graphics! He also knew what Josephine Abercrombie, his Chairman of the Building and Grounds Committee and all of her Millionaire Members, thought of Larry and his Deconstructivists. He knew that the customary valedictory address to my Faculty Peers had been tabooed. So he kindly gave me a Public Lecture platform to talk to the whole Town and Gown of Houston. What further proof was required that I had reached the end of my long, long journey?
THE LAST LAP: A GENERAL THEORISATION.
So it was then, in 1998, that I sat down to "theorise" WHAT I had done. I knew that "it HAD been done". Now I needed to stand back and try to "understand" it well enough to persuade my peers, and especially those Architectural Academics who so hated to see their own Medium brought back from the death to which they had consigned it, way back in the middle of the 20C.
IF AT FIRST YOU FAIL.
Somewhat to my surprise I found this "theorisation" very difficult. It felt like Augustine of Hippo, who said "I know what 'Time' is. But when I am asked to explain it, I find that I cannot". I wrote 600,000 words in six months. That was easy. They just poured out. Then, of course, I thought "now for some illustrations". It took me six months to illustrate just one of my sixteen Chapters, as they were then. My method was rational and laborious. Reading from left to right there was the column of text and then at the spine, the powerful little drawings I call "iconolects". Then, after the spine, there were small photos and finally along the far right-hand edge, larger photos. I tried to keep all of them congruent to each other. It was impossible. I thought at this rate it will take me eight years to finish. Architecture is a slow game, slower even than Cricket. But eight years was ridiculous! No JOA project had ever taken eight years! So I tried ordering the images first and writing the text second in the manner of the slide-fests we Practitioner-Architects call "show and tell". This ran into the sand after only forty pages. All was chaos. So, in 2003, after five years of trying, I just gave up. It could not be done.
HOPE FOR THE SPUR OF A LOUSY JOB.
My firm had shrunk from 24 in 1994 to just five. My input was part-time. I had had a major prostate cancer operation in 2002 that had postponed a big housing project in Holland. Then we received an offer from The Grosvenor Estate. It was to design a tiny building in Preston. It was part of an Urban Renewal-by-Retail Central Area plan conceived by the office of Terry Farrell. I knew that Grosvenor, arguably the most securely-funded Developer in Britain, had their eye on something much, much bigger in Liverpool. For this, the Grosvenor Estate eventually invested over a billion using around twenty firms of good, but not super-great A1 International-level Architects. I thought that, with our record, JOA should at least be capable of performing at this level. Preston had no three-star hotels in its centre. They were all, as Tacitus described the houses of the Teutons, "in a forest, by a stream". Neither could I find, from Google's excellent aerial photos, much of what might have been once a 'city' between the maze of big roads that Preston's "Centre" had become. Keep driving when you see the word "Centre" on a map. anything that calls itself a "Centre" is living the suburban dream. It is not "there".
MAP OUT THE 'JUMPS'.
So I decided that the job offer was below us and in any case it was a hot summer and the railway had expanded and slowed the West Coast trains so much that London-Preston-London could not be done in one day. Besides I liked the early-morning and evening periods in a city. I already knew Rodney Holmes, Grosvenor's Project Director from his work with us in Windsor and his employer Anton Meijer, of the Dutch frm of MAB, for which JOA had built in Den Haag. So I thought how could I persuade Rod to appoint us to a site in Liverpool?
GO OVER ALL THE COURSES YOU HAVE EVER RUN ON...
I thought of the brush-cut "young turks" that had given JOA such trouble in Rosehaugh-Stanhope, Stuart Lipton's ultra-Thatcherite Union-busting firm for whom JOA had designed 200 Queen Victoria Street. I would write something for Grosvenor's version of this Architecturally-illiterate young bully-boy who thought that he was introducing "American Building Methods" to Britain. Bovis, who project-managed for Lipton, did not even know that the Catalogue coding system that they forced all Architects to use was the one used by Sweets Catalogue - from the USA. JOA, fresh from actually building in Houston knew that everything Lipton preached was the purest rubbish. The Building industry in the USA is highly unionised, wonderfully co-operative, saturated with on-site craftsmen (and women) all supplied with on-site machinery of which the British workman can only dream. What Lipton imported was the Continental Class War in which prefebrication is used as a union-busting weapon rather than a means to improved technology. Now with Brexit, we are paying for this political crime.
REMEMBER ALL THE DIRTY TRICKS JOCKEYS PLAY ON EACH OTHER...
I had managed to escape from Lipton's crazed project to destroy the craft building industry, for which he hired, with their willing co-operation, all the top, A1, International firms of Foster, Rogers et. al. (viz. the early, pre-2007 Crash, stages of Olympicopolis). JOA had been taken up by Public Authorities and University Clients. Now, after the stories told about us by the clerks of Cambridge's C.U.E.M.B.S. our home market had been poisoned. One must find work wherever it was offered. JOA was back in the arms of our lovely British Developers who had given us our chance in the first place.
...AND RIDE LIKE HELL
So I just jumped-in at the "deep end" and knocked-out the first two of my so-called "Lectures". I threw the ideas together like the pages of a tabloid newspaper. I had been destined for journalism (another lucky escape as I do not really like "people". "Things" are my subject!). In any case my father sold our provincial newspapers to the Daily Mail. I printed and bound my all-colour super-chatty forty-page "bullet to the brain" and couriered it round to Mayfair. The Project manager was, in fact, a blonde, as was the Beautiful Receptionist as was the entire Grosvenor Decor - well Beige to be exact. JOA received a raspberry from Rod for not going up to Preston and no acknowledgement of the first forty pages of what turned-out to be the 1000-page "44 Lectures".
OH DEAR! "LOST FOR WORDS" .
Rod came back to me three years later, in February 2007, to ask for 100-metres of Paradise Street shop fronts ...shop fronts only! - no fire escapes, no innards at all - just the magic of the "facade" that had been so long forbidden by the Aniconic Modernists that no one knew how to do one any more. He was going to meet the Queen in nine months and had only just discovered that he had no "istoria" to tell her! I kept designing more and more expensive shop fronts and he kept on slicing off the "surface-scripting" and substituting plate glass. I kept saying to him: "No one has 'shop fronts' any more, its all "Brands" (even fake ones), and self-service. People like to press the flesh. And what happens when the shop moves on? Where is your 'regeneration' if not "tattoed" into the body of the 'City' itself? Rod wanted it all in seven months! It was too late for me, and it was too late for him. Retail Regeneration, even one billion of Grosvenor's best cash, was no substitute for a City with a built-in "text" to justify its "Being". This is the price of the beautiful illiteracy of our architectural culture.
AN UNUSUAL BAROMETER, STORM CLOUDS AHEAD?
JOA received three offers of work just before the Lehman crash. One was for the revival of our £M22 Dutch housing project. One was for this £M8 of shop facades in Liverpool and one from Marit Rausing, the smallest, and the most likely to treat an Architect as he should be treated. I was down to an office of two. So we took the Rausing's and ran with the others until it was obvious they were "false". These "Developer's" want your "name" and nothing much else. But I discovered something else. Developers hire the best Architects when the economy is ready to dive. They hope to secure their investment with a "quality" job. When the "tide is rising...any boat will float". Check with your top Architect friends for the timing of the next crash.
A CLIENT LOST...A BIBLIOLOGY FOUND.
More importantly, at least for me (for John Outram Architects no longer really existed), I had at last found my "bibliology", my smashed-together style to cohere the two cranial hemispheres of image and text. I spent the next eight years "scripting" the three volumes and their 3,000 images. So it took eight years anyway! Then in 2012, my heart gave trouble. It was cured with a de-fibrillator implant. The next two years, until 2014, went in editing, proofing and printing.
TWO MORE JOA'S ARE BORN!
John Outram's Academe (what's in a JOA?) was launched with its three-volumes of "Course Materials" in 2015.
A DIRECT E-MAIL link to the Course is available in which payment of the 0.5 - 1 % non-returnable Retainer and shipment of the "44 Lectures: Course Material can be negotiated.
Then, in 2018, I launched John Outram's Archergon - a "solely metaphysical" consultancy. I doubted if my Island Peers would understand. But then I liked to give my address as "England, London". I have lived in 19C London, mostly within walking-distance of Marble Arch, since 'returning' to my country in 1946. My 1974 Citroen Safari has 70,000 miles on the clock. I have lacked a 'native village' for three generations. The only quality I respect is quality itself. Quality, not ethnicity, is what makes a people noble. Hitler surely taught us that.
We live, today, in "interesting times". The Consumerist model is failing. The billions of Asia have destroyed the livelihoods of the "backbone of the USA". President Donald Trump is the result. This is not going to change back to how it was. Automation and Asian workers are shrinking the employnment possibilities, and therefore the self-respect, of workers with no more ambition than to just live a decent-ish life by doing a decent-ish job. The 44 Lectures proposes that one way out of this is to radically re-build the 21C lifespace so that it guarantees a decent life WHATEVER the jobs that have to be done to support it. While this may not sound very radical, it will be radical when viewed against the lifespaces built in Britain before and after the 20C.
"CARTHAGO DELENDA EST".
Britain's cities built in the 19C are a shambles left over from her furious imperial industrialisation. Those built in the 20C are not cities at all but enormously wasteful suburbs built to force Britons to consume more so as to support the State's taxation stream. They both need to be ploughed into the ground, the dirt incinerated, and "begun again" - as I show for London's Stratford in Lectures 40-44. Britain has no, or virtually no, metaphysical dimension, or tradition in her town-planning culture. So, if such a thing was ever to be both desired and understood by her urban, or one would hope, 'urbane' citizens, the demolition of her existing lifespace would hardly be mourned. Neither the 19C industrial City, nor the 20C suburb is going to be able to support the best sort of life on the reduced incomes of an over-crowded, resource-depleted island on the furthest Northern edge of Eurasia that is no longer the centre of Global Banking and Maritime transportation. They both need the "Carthaginian treatment".
GETTING ON THE RADAR.
Britain's quality of life now depends on major and rapid life-space reconstruction. My contribution to this project is in the last five of my 44 Lectures. No Public resources have been devoted to this subject because the 'subject' simply does not exist on the Establishment radar. One may instance the ludicrous record of the millions spent by Cambridge University's Martin Centre in pursuit of their scientific examinations of the "built environment". The title alone well fits suits the rat's maze that is Britain after its welfare-socialist and cynically fellow-travelling suburbanisation.