This article by Stephen Bayley on Poundbury seems to have been picked up in various places although I can't for the life of me think why.
What does it say that we haven't heard a thousand times before? Are there any prejudices it doesn't pander to? In what way does it represent an insightful, original or interesting take on the place? Instead we are given the same old stuff about fakes and shams and pastiche.
All the cliche's are here present and correct:
It isn't honest. Oh for f*cks sake. Buildings can't be dishonest. They aren't people. They don't lie. This conflation of aesthetics with ethics is puerile. Where is the dishonesty in a brick building that looks like a traditional brick building? Truth to materials and honest detailing are part of the ideological rhetoric of Modernism and not actually fact.
It is authoritarian. Why? Above and beyond a slightly weird sense that everything is too perfect and too well maintained, what exactly is the authoritarian regime in operation in Poundbury? How does this differ from the acceptable model villages of Bournville etc.?
It is "Grimly cute". I quite like the sound of this but the article simply assumes that I won't. This is symptomatic of the stifling nature of most architectural criticism which says that I must be a heretic if I don't like the right things for the right reasons. If the term grimly cute were used in a review of an art exhibition it wouldn't be clear whether they meant it was good or bad. In architecture such ambiguity is viewed as aesthetic deviancy.
Similarly he writes:
What can be said about a presiding intelligence that demands central-heating flues be disguised by cast concrete gargoyles?I don't know but they sound fabulous. Can I have one?
A few years ago the BBC ran a dreadful programme called Demolition* in which people could nominate the places they would like destroyed. Poundbury was one, predictably along with a number of Brutalist housing estates. The programme makers interviewed an appallingly smug character in his swish London home recounting how he would like to bulldoze Poundbury himself, a look of sadistic joy in his maniacal eyes. All this simply because it didn't meet his second hand aeshetic prejudices.
It is possible to write about Poundbury, even to write about it critically, and say something interesting, but the kind of literal, narrowly ideologial criticism of Bayley's article seems simply derivative and hopelessly myopic. And, apart from anything else, it's just too easy. Wouldn't it be more interesting to talk about Poundbury without this ideological baggage? To actually look at it and leave aside the hollow moralism? For a change. As a way of keeping things interesting.
* Brilliant concept. Maybe they should do a new series in which people could nominate which books they would like to burn.