Tyranny of Context

OISE Cambridge

Cambridge is not, on the whole, a city which respects context.

When in the late 1950s Queens’ College required a new building to house graduate and undergraduate students, it commissioned, not a building in keeping with the medieval, Jacobean and Victorian courts which surrounded it, but a building designed by Basil Spence in the new Brutalist style, named after one the college’s great alumni, Erasmus of Rotterdam.

erasmus-building

The Erasmus Building stands now on the backs between the Mathematical Bridge and King’s College Chapel, to the puzzlement of punters and the delight of architectural aficionados – for what the building demonstrates is that Cambridge University, to repeat, is not in thrall to the tyranny of context. It does not, on the whole, erect buildings in supposed keeping with the architecture that surrounds it.

None of this is to say that all architecture which disrespects context is excellent: many architectural developments…

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