Phase 6: The Will to Accept (1966-1980)

Memory Transcendent

Following the catharsis of July 1966, a period of sombre acceptance could be predicted to follow, and this would likely be evidenced in architectural form with black slabs or towers of final mourning. In physiological terms, our gazing eyes, responsive to light levels, would be ready to open wider to, perhaps accept, the black surfaces, rather than close down when faced with the glare of white walls, or become engaged by grey concrete and mud-brown brick as prelude to introspective discourse.

And, as predicted, a passion for black slabs becomes visible.

To put this in context, the form of the black slab was not new. Malevich’s Black Square dates as far back as 1914, and Mies van der Rohe (in contemporaneous letters to his mother, he said he had been traumatised by the war) envisioned a black slab in 1919.

Mies van der Rohe

He finally made it in 1958 with the Seagram Tower on New York’s Park Avenue. Further, in the early 1960s several minimalist sculptors pared down form towards black, geometrically rigid shapes such as Tony Smith with his Black Box and Die. But it was only at the end of the decade that the black slab found popular expression in architecture.

The passion can be sensed most readily in a film of the time, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, made in 1969. The film is a voyage through time, memorial, historical, imaginative, traversing past, present and future, but it ends with a man alone, in bed, pondering a black slab, enigmatic and ever-present.

mel mou 2001b

And if you scanned across the skyscape of London of the time, the view would also provide evidence of the same passion:

Tokyo Marinepentonville road towerevergreen house 2euston towerbastion houseArchway tower