Archive for June, 2009

How the media works part 49a


More from our feed of appeals from journalists.

MEDIA OUTLET: ShortList (personal case study)

MEDIA TYPE: Consumer Press

JOURNALIST: Rachel Lewis (freelancer)

DEADLINE: 10-July-2009 08:00 

QUERY: I’m writing a piece about why it’s harder for smart women to date. I’m looking for an intelligent woman (20s/30s) who can talk about her experience of men being intimidated by her IQ. She might be a high flyer in the City on a six figure salary and/or have a double first from Oxford, for example.

This is a classic of its type.

1. Start with premise: In this case, men don’t like smart women

2. Look for evidence that backs up premise

3. Limit the sorts of people you want to talk about this by age

4. Add one more drop to the ocean of dissatisfaction



The central tenet of Lord Rogers’ complaint about Prince Charles is that he is not an expert on architecture. Presumably he is making reference to the sort of expertise of fellow superstar architect Sir Terry Farrell whose Home Office Building on Marsham Street was opened a few years ago to widespread acclaim in the architectural community and a RIBA Award.

The building has just been named as one of the worst buildings in the country in terms of its performance.

Opinions are like arseholes, says Lord Rogers. Quite.


For me, the most telling remark amongst many in Lord Roger’s diatribe about the Prince of Wales’ intervention in the development of the Chelsea Barracks housing development is this:

“Are we going to have royalty dictating to us modern art? Are we going to have royalty dictating their taste in music? No, because they’re not experts in any of those fields.”

Now of course, we all have opinions about music and art regardless of whether we are experts or not. Doubtless Rogers has his own. He may not like The Beatles, and presumably never felt the need to learn the guitar before forming his view.

The statement is a dead giveaway because architects simply don’t like other people having negative opinions about their work. Certainly they don’t like people who have some influence having those opinions.

Breaking news: Twitter is a bit crap

Well, who would have believed that?

The ‘Designer’ Chair


I watched Zoolander (again) last night. A film made every time the Mugatu character eats up the scenery.

Of course, as a deskhead, I always look over the shoulders of the characters in a film to see what they are sitting on. Sad. Mugatu sits on an Arne Jacobsen Egg chair. It’s over 50 years old but screams DESIGNER, hence its place under his arse. It provides an easy shorthand, is widely recognised even by non-saddos, but its ubiquity and the fact it is easy to find rip-off versions means it can be cliched.

The best British designed building of the last 175 years?

Glasgow School of Art

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Journal has just announced the results of a poll to find the best British designed building of the last 175 years. You can take the results at face value if you like but the interest for me is in looking at what the whole exercise says about the relationship between architects and the rest of us.

The format for deciding the winner was like that for Britain’s Got Talent – a combination of votes by a panel of judges and ‘the public’. Now, when RIBA Journal says ‘the public’, it obviously means people who read RIBA Journal and others who have an interest in architecture. Writing in the Sunday Times over the weekend, the Journal’s editor Hugh Pearman expressed that he was pleasantly surprised that the choice of the overall winner – Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Glasgow School of Art – flew in the face of widespread public distaste for modernism. He made reference to the ongoing tension between the architectural community and Prince Charles about our appetite for modernist buildings.

I thought Hugh Pearman’s comments did achieve some sort of balance but there are issues with the whole exercise. The first is that this is not a public vote (natch) so it doesn’t really tell us anything about where most people stand on the modernist vs. traditionalist debate. Secondly, it highlights an underlying widespread feeling amongst architects that the rest of us should keep our opinions to ourselves because we don’t know what we’re on about.

And finally, as Pearman almost acknowledges, the underlying problem is not really a question of taste or comprehension of any school of thought; it is that the majority of buildings of whatever type range from mediocre to poor, with relatively few successes.

June 2009

Desk Jockey