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Timothy Brittain-Catlin

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Architecture Is Moving Into a Realm Where History Plays as Much a Part as Medium

In this essay British architect and academic Dr. Timothy Brittain-Catlin presents the work of Space Popular, an emerging practice exploring the meaning of and methods behind deploying virtual reality techniques in the architectural design process.

Architectural practice, especially in the UK, is moving fast into a realm where history plays as much a part as medium. But the ways in which architects work have been transformed entirely from those of the past, generating a fundamental conflict: how in practice does design through virtual reality use history? In the earliest days of fly-throughs we all realised that we could show our work to clients in a way that even the least plan-literate could understand. We could develop details three-dimensionally and from different angles, even representing different times of day. But what next? How do we engage historical knowledge and experience of buildings?

"Hallo Darkness!" Why Not All Buildings Need To Be Cheerful All Of The Time

In a world in which the "happy" architectural image feels all-pervasive, the British architect and academic Dr. Timothy Brittain-Catlin reveals its darker side suggesting why, and how, we might come to celebrate it. You can read Brittain-Catlin's essays on British postmodernism here, and on colorful architecture, here.

"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?

From Pastel Pink to Pastel Blue: Why Colorful Architecture is Nothing New

In this essay by the British architect and academic Dr. Timothy Brittain-Catlin, the fascinating journey that color has taken throughout history to the present day—oscillating between religious virtuosity and puritan fear—is unpicked and explained. You can read Brittain-Catlin's essay on British postmodernism, here.

Like blushing virgins, the better architecture students of about ten years ago started to use coy colors in their drawings: pastel pink, pastel blue, pastel green; quite a lot of grey, some gold: a little like the least-bad wrapping paper from a high street store. Now step back and look at a real colored building – William Butterfield’s All Saints’ Church, Margaret Street, London, or Keble College, Oxford, or the interior of A.W.N. Pugin’s church of St. Giles in Cheadle, UK. They blow you away with blasts of unabashed, rich color covering every square millimetre of the space.

Understanding British Postmodernism (Hint: It’s Not What You Thought)

In this essay by the British architect and academic Dr. Timothy Brittain-Catlin, the very notion of British postmodernism—today often referred to as intimately tied to the work of James Stirling and the the thinking of Charles Jencks—is held to the light. Its true origins, he argues, are more historically rooted.

I grew up in a beautiful late Victorian terrace with ornamental brickwork, shaped ‘Dutch’ gables and pretty arts and crafts stained glass windows – and so I didn’t think then, and I don’t think now, that I had much to learn from Las Vegas. It turns out that I wasn’t the only one. Of British architects who made their names as postmodernists in the 1980s, not a single one would say now that they owed much to Robert Venturi, the American architect widely considered to be a grandfather of movement.

Mercers’ House, Essex Road, Highbury, London, by John Melvin (1992), photographed by Martin Charles. Doctors’ Surgery frontage to Mitchison Road. Image © John Melvin Mercers’ House, Essex Road, Highbury, London, by John Melvin (1992), photographed by Martin Charles. Image © John Melvin Epping Forest Civic Offices, by Richard Reid (1984-90). Axonometric by Richard Reid. Image © Richard Reid & Associates Mercers’ House, Essex Road, Highbury, London, by John Melvin (1992), photographed by Martin Charles. Image © John Melvin + 6