Having tickled its supercharger for the last time and sold my beloved Mini in preparation for a move to London a couple of years ago, the exhilaration that I treasured so dear, has been retired if only temporarily; Or maybe not.
I have to be realistic, with over three years left of my training in London, even if I only work in the city for a further couple of years post this time, it is wholly possible that I could already have owned my last internal combustion engine. My younger brother’s generation and his potential future children are destined to experience electric vehicles or worse, maybe even just the currently USA tested self driving utility vehicles. The passion I adore so rigorously with fellow automobile lovers is outdated and frowned upon in today’s responsible world. My generation marks the last of the petrol heads.
This realisation may sound far-fetched, or maybe remind you of iconic films such as Brazil a ‘future utopia’, but it shouldn’t, at least not in the context of how so many elements of the modern world are evolving, when such a film suddenly looks less utopian and more ‘normal’ every day.
You only have to glance at the Architectural news recently to digest several ‘brutal’ interventions with regard an architectural style that should be cherished as an exemplary example of great British architecture. Our changing world is justified in a similar vein regardless of its context – “striking a balance between the preservation of original design intent, features and character, with the need to safeguard the future” a typical quote from a company like Nissan, justifying the inevitable demise of the traditional automobile experience. Except the quote is not from Nissan, it is from DSDHA architects and is referring to their controversial amendments to Peter and Alison Smithson’s grade II* listed ‘Economist tower’ in London SW1.
Similar public battles are taking place with buildings such as ‘Southampton university – Highfield campus’, ‘Trinity college – University of Oxford’, ‘Student union – Durham university’ and the ‘North campus – University of Manchester’. As writer Jonathan Meades exclaims “The Brutalist period was one of those rare periods when British architecture abandoned its habitual stance of offensively inoffensive and ‘good manners” and I for one, think that, if as the modern world would have us believe, this freedom in architecture has made way for sense, sensibility and most importantly efficiency; it is a real shame.
I read an article recently regarding an auto enthusiast that had been forced to hang up the keys of his 1991 Porsche 911 Turbo due to escalating costs and unsuitability of such a machine in today’s world of climate taxes and responsibility. Below is an extract of just how he feels about being in such a scenario.
“I envision the day in the near future where I take back the keys to my 911, the keys my family appropriated from me to protect me from myself. I’ll lead a chase through a dystopian city zig zagging around auto piloted electric machines. I imagine an equally stale populace, deprived of sensory input for their own protection. The sounds and smells of an antiquated combustion engine would rapture off glass buildings. It would probably end in jail time, but at that point, what difference would it make?”
There is a possibility that I am not actually scared of the internal combustion engines death or the demise of architectural styles such as ‘brutalism’ in society, but that I am instead afraid of losing what I cherish the most. I hope that one day when I visit my client in his 40sqm studio flat in central London (otherwise known as Hemel Hempstead) that I get the opportunity to arrive smelling of a selfish stench of melting brake pads and 911 exhaust fumes, before walking my client through our design on his VR headset showing him my modern adaptation of ‘brutalism’ and hell, as my earlier referenced article put it, “Maybe us old guys will inspire the young enthusiasts and they’ll do things with the new generation of cars we’ve never dreamed of.”