Good design, like good art is not a matter of taste – according to the sculptor Anish Kapoor.
Writing in the tastefully produced magazine of The National Trust, Kapoor takes a subtle dig at the Trust’s predominantly middle-class membership by suggesting that it is time the British ‘powers that be’ (i.e. Prince Charles & his ilk?) developed the aesthetic equipment to be able to know the difference. And, that until they do, design in this country – architecture in particular – will continue to be judged good or bad in terms that are based on the most banal questions of taste.
Kapoor suggests that our inability to view contemporary design in terms of style and with an open mind to how it relates to life now, not to life as it was in the past, is due to a surprising lack of confidence we British have in our own culture.
I think Anish Kapoor is right, but I don’t know when or how as a nation we grew so timorous as to fear our identity cannot withstand, let alone rejoice in, the so-called shock of the new. The cultural history, which defines us and which we so venerate, is rich. But it is rich precisely because our ancestors were innovative and daring artists, architects and engineers – designing to meet the needs of their time, as we should design to meet the needs of today; with an eye on the future.