Normal…or Just Mediocre?

An interesting piece in BD this week by Owen Hatherley in their ‘Opinion’ slot, touching on the special/normal issue that I’ve come back to repeatedly on Ruralise (start here if you’re interested). ‘Every generation’ Hatherley notes ‘ manages to get very angry about its own standard of not-very-goodness’, citing the scorn heaped upon house-builders’ ‘bypass-Tudor’ by critics in the 30s and mass-produced system-built flats in the 60s.

The main focus of Hatherley’s own scorn in the article is the nineties and noughties’ ‘fifth-rate blocks of flats’ dressed up in ‘slatted wood and bar-code facades…each thinking of itself as a little icon’. Why couldn’t we emulate the elegant ‘mediocrity’ of the Georgian and Victorian terraces of north London asks Hatherley – ‘coherent mediocrity, well-proportioned mediocrity…mediocrity with nice high windows’.

‘Cities are defined by how good their boring buildings are, how interesting their standard of mediocrity’, he concludes.

I’m not sure I like the choice of the word ‘mediocrity’ – it seems so judgemental; but substitute ‘normal’ for mediocre, and perhaps think of ‘Barratt houses’ in place of Hatherley’s wanna-be-iconic apartment buildings and it’s a very Ruralise sentiment.

PS: Hatherley’s piece reminded me of one by Ed Hollis in the same BD slot on 17th June. I wrote about that here.

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