Denys Lasdun: modernism deeply dyed

Denys Lasdun. Royal College of Physicians, London, 1960

Lasdun felt his best building was the 1960 Royal College of Physicians, set into the Georgian terraces of Regent's Park, London.  We don't get this kind of outside space anymore, noir-ish, uncompromising, heroic: terraces for the dark life of the soul.  Instead, having looked at an archive of drawings over the last year of contemporary civic public space proposals, according to the renderings, we must all gaily trip through our cities in full colour, casual clothes, balloons flying, children laughing.  

The public spaces of modernism were adult spaces. They weren't spaces of power but of public access, and that was, given the history of European property ownership and display, a serious business.  History wasn't interesting – it had caused two ghastly wars and in the 1960s the tall capacious houses of Regent's Park were likely to either be offices or carved up into a dozen cheap bedsits.  The bones of the elegant curved terrace could be honoured, but not much else.  

Denys Lasdun's son, James, seen below in an excerpt from a talk at the New York Writers Institute in 2009, speaks about the fierceness of the modernist tenets he grew up with.  Ironically, especially when he says that postmodernism was anathema to Denys Lasdun, James has recently published a book, Give Me Everything You Have, on the ultimate postmodern crime: he has been cyber-stalked since 2006 by a student he once taught at NYU.