Wednesday, 18 December 2013

FAT: End of an Era

The end of architectural practise FAT is poignant, at least to me. Starting out as a revolutionary multidisciplinary practise a la mode (c1990?) they grew to produce proper buildings; 'bad, but in a good way' (or vice versa, it hardly matters) as Robert Venturi espoused, and with buildings rather more rich than his. One thing that sticks in the FAT oeuvre is the grandiose, thin, ornament; they never did anything as difficult to like as the intentional (?) dullness of some of Venturi's stuff.
Perhaps their exuberance has just run it's course, dried out, but was it exuberance? What was it? I'm not exactly sure. Venturi I rank as a total American, in the American tradition from Thomas Jefferson, but over here Postmodernism didn't quite take. Jencks took five editions of the 'The Language of Postmodern Architecture' to return to a predictable cover shot of neoclassicism. Always back to the manor with us. Although, of course, there is FAT buddy Piers Gough in the mix.
No doubt all of this will be chewed over with anecdote at the AR Christmas party this Friday.
The point of mentioning Jencks is to celebrate a superficial correlation. Jencks made postmodernism in architecture of course, but I know FAT weren't about that even if they look it, at least not at the start, but they became that, somehow, somehow they became the look of Jencks' more freestyle postmodernism thirty years on.
I shared a flat with Sean in our most brilliant and difficult times; piss poor and straight out of diploma. I got to know Sam just a little via the AA. Sean's diploma project was a giant vagina drawn across Trellick Tower. Sam is the son of a judge famous in one of those sixties obscenity trials (I think it's one that benefited us all incidentally) Charles I don't really know. In the beginning it was bus shelters and squabbles: Kevin Rowbotham and Nick Clear started FAT I think, then there was Clive Sall (not forgetting loads of others) who acrimoniously split to call himself FAT International for a lecture at SCI ARC; it was all a bit of a shit storm. Eventually even Sean found that vaginas were a tough aesthetic to work with, and what you see above is active minds by necessity turned to convention. Not without fun of course; fun is one of those funny words that means worse in the diminutive: 'a little bit of fun' generally spells disaster, lots of fun you might just get away with.
Well anyway, it's all over now, and just as vaginas are coming back in.

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