ROYAL MAIL STAMPS – WHAT MAKES A DESIGN CLASSIC?

July 17, 2017 3:20 pm | Thought provoking blogs |

It may be more than 30 years since Prince Charles famously referred to contemporary architecture in London as a ‘monstrous carbuncle’, but the architectural community remains incensed by this sweeping generalisation.

London Aquatics Centre

While not all modern buildings are successful, either in the context of their surroundings or as individual pieces of design, many deserve to be celebrated for their vision, their ability to articulate the building’s purpose and their sheer aesthetic contribution to our built environment.

The launch of a special set of stamps by Royal Mail last week does just that, highlighting some examples of forward-focused and aesthetically striking contemporary architecture from across the UK.

The Royal Mail’s press release to launch the stamps talks about a ‘renaissance’ in contemporary architecture over the past 10 years, but are we really in the midst of a renaissance, or are we simply more willing to embrace an approach to designing buildings that focuses on purpose and form without becoming distracted by decorative detail?

What’s immediately noticeable when looking at the full set of ten stamps together – all beautifully shot with stunning architectural photography – is that all the buildings are very different from each other. While our cities may be littered by unimaginative glass towers, our modern landmark buildings are far from homogenous. The architectural influences of the past – classic, gothic, baroque  – regimented the design of swathes of buildings, all laid out to a similar template with shared scale, features and materiality.

The ten buildings featured in the stamp collection – some of which have involved Clare PR clients – are purposely drawn from across the UK to demonstrate that this ‘architectural renaissance’ is far from London-centric; it is national. It is global.

Library of Birmingham

The projects featured are the London Aquatics Centre; the Library of Birmingham; SEC Armadillo, Glasgow; the Scottish Parliament; the Giants’ Causeway Visitor Centre; the National Assembly for Wales; the Eden Project; the Everyman Theatre; the Imperial War Museum North, and the Blavatnik Building (formerly Switch House), Tate Modern, London.

We send far fewer letters than we used to because times have changed and the letter is no longer such an important means of communication.  The ways in which we use buildings have changed too, so we need to actively encourage new approaches to design.

Here’s hoping this new set of stamps will encourage a new outlook on what makes a design classic.

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