"Contemporary buildings celebrate openness, light and free-flowing movement," says the President of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in the March 2017 issue of the Institute’s journal. This is what at my school we call an "announcement", rather than a statement of fact. Indeed, all architects and architecture students hear these words all the time. But are they true? Should they be? There’s no historical justification for the assertion that buildings should “celebrate” any kind of openness, or indeed any kind of cheerful feeling. Erik Gunnar’s Asplund’s upbeat extension to the court house in Gothenburg was astonishing because it was the first major building of its type to be like this: previously court houses were designed to be heavy, stifling, possibly even depressing or puzzling. Many buildings were: some obviously so, such as mortuary chapels and grottoes. Freemasons’ lodges were intended to be enigmatic so that masons and not intruders could comprehend them.
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