Classic architecture is ailing and architects have forgotten the skills of old, says local urban designer Malcolm Mackay.
“The current generation of architects have lost their way, they’ve lost their training: They just put stuff together and hope it looks okay,” the Mt Hawthorn local says.
“Sometimes it does, and more than often it doesn’t.”
He’s seeking to revive what he regards as a near-dead art form with his exhibition of hand-drawn designs inspired by classic architecture the world over.
“It all started with an epiphany that I had in Adelaide a couple of years ago: Adelaide has a fantastic collection of old buildings because it hasn’t had as much development as Perth.
“I thought ‘not only is this beautiful, but there’s not many people around who can do this any more.
“Up until the early 1900s, proportion, elegance and doing things beautifully was a major preoccupation.
“In the olden days the buildings had a lot more richness to them, the ornamentation and the details made them great to look at.”
Mackay, who sees his fair share of designs by sitting on development assessment panels that oversee approval of big projects in Perth, says it’s a myth the old-style ornamentations are prohibitively expensive.
“They only account for 12 to 15 per cent of the building cost.”
As to why architects have lost their way: “Sometimes it’s developer pressure to make it as cheap as possible, but I think it’s actually a cultural thing.
“Architects moved into a modernist phase in the ‘20s or ‘30s and they just got stuck there and never came back”. It’s a phase he characterises as, “very stripped down, steel, glass, concrete, no ornamentation, rectangles and boxes”.
Mackay says the community feels, “an element of frustration and disappointment with what architects do” but he thinks they should speak up about what they want to see in new developments.
“I’d love to see architects and the community talking to each other again, and for architects to discover what it is that turns the community on and get back into that space again.
“That’s the message I’m trying to send out: Not all is lost, not all architects are into boring buildings, we can do it differently.
‘There’s a lot of apathy, people get ground down. You may only be one voice, but if everybody decides to speak out you would get a groundswell of opinion.”
Malcolm Mackay’s The Forgotten Art of Architecture is at Linton & Kay Galleries, level 1/137 St Georges Terrace from November 24 to December 12.
by DAVID BELL