Chapter 1 of 24
Colin Stansfield Smith
What local government has offered to me is the opportunity to develop work in a rather special way. Hampshire has been kind to me. When I first arrived in local government in 1971 one could still remember the successes of Hertfordshire's schools. And I think that was the basis on which social architecture had become extremely plausible.
Hampshire was in the wake of all that thinking associated with the design of school building, and they used a system called SCOLA (SCOLA is the abbreviation for the Second Consortia of Local Authorities). It was also a system that tried to be all things to all men. It was a way of representing a social cause which was egalitarian.
What the end of the 20th century seems to have forgotten is a question of civic pride. It's forgotten also that the middle of the century was a caring tradition, a caring tradition that was started with Aalto and was carried on by a whole series of great European architects - people like Hertzberger, Aldo van Eyck - and we now have a form of architecture which, although pretending to be individual, is, to the larger part, something which could almost be seen as self indulgent. Our architecture cannot be self indulgent; I don't think there's ever been a time when the theory of architecture has been so distanced from the practice of architecture. I think the 19th century and the 20th century almost run in parallel in this respect, in the way that the 19th century was about style but it also had this engineering tradition behind it, that sort of functional tradition which has carried through as a form of modernism through the whole of the 20th century.
I remain a Modernist. I make a different claim to Modernism than I did say 30 years ago, because my Modernism is about ideas and it's about problem solving.
Our architecture in Hampshire has been about themes. When I first started, what existed was a set of systems, a set of methodologies which produced awful homogenised uniform architecture. It created an alienated public estate. And it's really been a reaction against what existed in Hampshire because, as a County Architect, I've also got a management responsibility for an estate. So in some senses I look at buildings in a rather different way than a private practitioner. I have to live with what I design. It also makes me very much more concerned with the relevance and the responsibility with what we do.
As a Professor of a school of architecture I teach what I call the three R's. In fact there are four, but the three R's that I represent are "Relevance", and all the ideas that I try to project within the context of the scheme have got to be "Responsible". The third R is the one that I think is very special to architects, who have a driving ambition and aspiration, and it's "Rigour", and rigour possibly demonstrates the commitment and that caring tradition that I feel all social cause architecture ought to represent.