Beauty may be in the eye of the gas-holder

As Oliver Letwin might say: discuss. Neither make much intellectual contribution to our current debates.An interest in beauty is bipartisan, as Richard Rogers among others has long proved. I am reminded of John Constable’s observation: ‘I never saw an ugly thing in my life: for let the form of an object be what it may – light, shade, and perspective will always make it beautiful.’ Could this be true of pylons in an area of outstanding natural beauty? It is not impossible for a neo-functionalist to reconcile the idea of aesthetic pleasure with the more formal programmes of most buildings, but the worst aspects of commercial modernism evoked the idea that 1 per cent of a construction budget should be made over to art. He regarded beauty as part of the same coin as sustainability, and thought it should be the guiding principle behind green policy. That the opposition intends to fight the election? Why do intelligent politicians end up spouting demotic drivel? Or the gas-holders now being gleefully demolished? As Charles Jencks has pointed out, looked at historically, this is a woefully low percentage. Could pylons be regarded as art? He also suggested that the better-off had the chance to ‘buy themselves out of ugliness’, creating a form of social injustice. Or the gas-holders now being gleefully demolished?   Ten years ago, Letwin was complaining that, when it came to the value of beauty, poor inner-city areas were not being given the same consideration as parts of the countryside. asks Paul Finch
As I was saying last week, people care about their environment and there may be votes in it. We could do with a few more Oliver Letwins in our political life, and a few less smooth-faced plutocrat Tories who have made money out of photocopiers, or Labour ex-political researchers who have never had a real job. The Egyptians in their grander public buildings were probably 90 per cent art, for example, and this was a reason for opposing the 1 per cent policy – it’s just not enough.Could pylons be regarded as art? This is something Labour needs to think about, given its jittery hold on electoral support. News that a £500 million fund is being created to bury unsightly pylons in areas of outstanding natural beauty is indicative of how an emotional relationship can evoke a political response.

Updated: 13.11.2014 — 23:55