Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Monday November 17 2008

I’m not sure if I like this building, which was one of these, but this picture certainly makes we want to see it in the flesh, if that’s the right word:

image

It’s the headquarters of the Basque Health Department, in Bilbao.  On the face of it, this building is pure bizarreness, pure weirdness, for who knows what reason?  Decorative self-advertisement, presumably.  This is an organisation that wants to draw as much attention to itself as it possibly can.  And much the same would appear to apply to the architects.

More and more, I find myself thinking that this particular sort of modernism would be unendurable if all buildings looked like this.  Such oddities as this only work when placed next to the bland respectabilities of the older buildings nearby, or in this case to which it is attached.  Three such wobblinesses next to each other, and there would be, as it were, no normality to anchor things, no sanity to hang on to.

imageAnother fact about this building interests me also, which becomes very clear when you look at a different photo of it, taken at night, with the internal lights still on.  Suddenly, this building is itself revealed to be, from the oddity point of view, a sheep in wolf’s clothing.  Under that crazy skin there lurks a dull old office blog, with nice vertical walls and blandly rectangular windows.

In the days of sixties and seventies modernism, you could look at a building as it was being built and be reasonably confident that this was going to be it.  This was as pretty as it was ever going to be, and if it looked ugly now, it would stay ugly.  The structure “expressed” itself, unashamedly.  Now, things are very different.  Nowadays, you have no idea what the final effect will be, because nowadays, as likely as not, there will be a whole new surface attached to the outside of the structure, during the final few weeks or even days of construction.  This Bilbao office block takes that tendency to new extremes.