The Street Aesthetic

There was a lorry in town with a red phone box on the back, stolen from the street. (A K6, I think, for those who are interested. Also known as the Jubilee type.)

The man removing said box was quite knowledgeable about them. Said he’d like one himself. And that the one that had been removed would most likely be refurbished and then reinstalled somewhere else.

New street furniture is so dull, and I simply can’t imagine it capturing the emotions in the same way. Sure, Alec Clifton Taylor was emotional about concrete lamp posts, but that was in terms of hatred, nothing more. And it must have been about 20 years ago, at the very least.

Modern technique seems so often to be to remove the detail, to the extent that there is frequently no room left for the expression of anything more than a purely functional design. It seems amazing that so few people notice the reduction and cultural homogenisation of their environment. New phone boxes are based on a US design – gone are the glory days of a GPO competition. Clifton Taylor would no doubt applaud the removal of concrete lamp posts, yet be appalled by their ever blander replacement. No room now for the weathering and bedding in afforded to the concrete design, or to the fantastic wrought struts of the Victorians.

The environment about us is bastardised by the removal of the familiar and the well made, and its replacement with designs whose only appeal is that of cost. The value of the aesthetic is lost, as pavements are blocked with badly placed steel posts and advertising boards. Worse still, the long term sense of cobbles or blocks that weather well and can be relaid when works are required is thrown out for the convenience of tarmac, smoothing over everything for the two weeks before cracks appear or it is torn up to replace a leaking main.

I blame that attitude that says that a car is simply for getting from A to B. That’s no more true than clothes are simply to keep us warm, or TV is to stop us from thinking. Sure, it may be true for some, but it willfully ignores the benefits of a well designed environment.

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