TEras #8: Architectural Ugliness

A Summary

When I had a solitary day out through my first week in Brisbane, I always asked myself: “How can this city be so monochrome?” (Aside from my question about why they built enormous infrastructure for this little population). Actually I was amazed by the fact that building regulation can control the material and color use in the city. At the time, I expected that the building tone, form, and shape will be in ‘western style’ since Australia is a commonwealth country, so I didn’t expect it to be ultimately unique.

Now, enrolling in a studio titled “Brisbane Ugliness”, I am forced to read several readings related to Australian Ugliness. I have to agree that Brisbane can be considered as one of Featurist cities, with skin-deep unique-ness which shapes Brisbane identity in its urban planning and building design. (Which lead me to ask: how about Bandung? Luckily we are so rich with regional archipelago.) But I also think, why is it matter so much?

What is Ugliness?

The term ‘Ugly’ can be an opposite of ‘Beauty’, but not always. While beauty is something that we are truly familiar with, the definition of ugly is rarely spoken. Even the word ‘Ugly’ itself is rarely said in civilized society. It’s a mean word.

Referring to a book titled “On Ugliness”, ugly is: repellent, horrible, horrendous, disgusting, disagreeable, grotesque, abominable, repulsive, odious, indecent, foul, dirty, obscene, repugnant, frightening, abject, monstrous, horrid, horrifying, unpleasant, terrible, terrifying, frightful, nightmarish, revolting, sickening, foetid, fearsome, ignoble, ungainly, tiresome, offensive, deformed, and disfigured (Eco & McEwen, 2011). In some part of the book, term ‘ugly’ also related with meaningless, barbarous, nauseating, lacking of integrity, shameful, disharmony, and disproportioned. But there is also underlined point that the beauty and ugliness are relative to different times and cultures (Eco & McEwen, 2011).

Term ‘Ugly’ which discussed in Australian architectural context can be seen in this quotation:
“The Ugliness I mean is skin deep. For the things that make Australian people, society, and culture in some way different from others in the modern world are only skin deep. But skin is as important as its admirers like to make it, and Australians make much of it. This is a country of many colorful, patterned, plastic veneers, of brick-veneer villas, and the White Australia Policy.” (Boyd, 1968)

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover, Essential Identity

My reaction after reading all this ‘ugliness’ stuff is: I don’t care. I bet many people will think the same. I don’t understand why the ‘ugliness’ and ‘beauty’ really matters as long as people in the city are happy and the city is prosperous and livable, and they do have character and identity. 

I have an argument which is based on a common idiom “Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover”. So even if the cultural identity of Australian is so-called only skin-deep, that’s fine for me. When I walk through the long shady corridor between Queensland Museum and Queensland Art Gallery, for example, I feel safe because of the presence of Collector’s Café at the end of the journey. It is a similar situation with the happy feelings that I have when I hang out with people who makes me forget to check my android. It’s not about the skin. It doesn’t mean that I hate make up either. I enjoy every time people dressed up and be pretty. But I don’t consider this as an essential matter related to identity. What matters for me is the quality of spaces and how they percieved as places, but the question is (as in the studio) how will they take form then?



Coffee Cup #34: Sign

Last night, seeing facebook newsfeed and people timelines were filled with news and donation advertisement to help GAZA (with #prayforgaza), I suddenly realized that probably our world is in a very old age.

I have to say here that I've ever read a book about Kiamah (which is now blacklisted because it contains many dhoif hadists) but I have to ignore the detail in the book and stick with news from Rasulullah SAW. So I will quote this hadist:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Near the establishment of the Hour there will be days during which Religious ignorance will spread, knowledge will be taken away (vanish) and there will be much Al-Harj, and Al- Harj means killing."
حَدَّثَنَا عُبَيْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ مُوسَى، عَنِ الأَعْمَشِ، عَنْ شَقِيقٍ، قَالَ كُنْتُ مَعَ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ وَأَبِي مُوسَى فَقَالاَ قَالَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ "‏ إِنَّ بَيْنَ يَدَىِ السَّاعَةِ لأَيَّامًا يَنْزِلُ فِيهَا الْجَهْلُ، وَيُرْفَعُ فِيهَا الْعِلْمُ، وَيَكْثُرُ فِيهَا الْهَرْجُ، وَالْهَرْجُ الْقَتْلُ ‏"‏‏.‏

Reference : Sahih al-Bukhari 7062, 7063
In-book reference : Book 92, Hadith 14
USC-MSA web (English) reference : Vol. 9, Book 88, Hadith 184
  (deprecated numbering scheme)

and this one as well:

Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "The Hour will not be established (1) till two big groups fight each other whereupon there will be a great number of casualties on both sides and they will be following one and the same religious doctrine, (2) till about thirty Dajjals (liars) appear, and each one of them will claim that he is Allah's Messenger (ﷺ), (3) till the religious knowledge is taken away (by the death of Religious scholars) (4) earthquakes will increase in number (5) time will pass quickly, (6) afflictions will appear, (7) Al-Harj, (i.e., killing) will increase, (8) till wealth will be in abundance ---- so abundant that a wealthy person will worry lest nobody should accept his Zakat, and whenever he will present it to someone, that person (to whom it will be offered) will say, 'I am not in need of it, (9) till the people compete with one another in constructing high buildings, (10) till a man when passing by a grave of someone will say, 'Would that I were in his place (11) and till the sun rises from the West. So when the sun will rise and the people will see it (rising from the West) they will all believe (embrace Islam) but that will be the time when: (As Allah said,) 'No good will it do to a soul to believe then, if it believed not before, nor earned good (by deeds of righteousness) through its Faith.' (6.158) And the Hour will be established while two men spreading a garment in front of them but they will not be able to sell it, nor fold it up; and the Hour will be established when a man has milked his she-camel and has taken away the milk but he will not be able to drink it; and the Hour will be established before a man repairing a tank (for his livestock) is able to water (his animals) in it; and the Hour will be established when a person has raised a morsel (of food) to his mouth but will not be able to eat it."
حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو الْيَمَانِ، أَخْبَرَنَا شُعَيْبٌ، حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو الزِّنَادِ، عَنْ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ "‏ لاَ تَقُومُ السَّاعَةُ حَتَّى تَقْتَتِلَ فِئَتَانِ عَظِيمَتَانِ، يَكُونُ بَيْنَهُمَا مَقْتَلَةٌ عَظِيمَةٌ، دَعْوَتُهُمَا وَاحِدَةٌ، وَحَتَّى يُبْعَثَ دَجَّالُونَ كَذَّابُونَ، قَرِيبٌ مِنْ ثَلاَثِينَ، كُلُّهُمْ يَزْعُمُ أَنَّهُ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ، وَحَتَّى يُقْبَضَ الْعِلْمُ، وَتَكْثُرَ الزَّلاَزِلُ، وَيَتَقَارَبَ الزَّمَانُ، وَتَظْهَرَ الْفِتَنُ، وَيَكْثُرَ الْهَرْجُ وَهْوَ الْقَتْلُ، وَحَتَّى يَكْثُرَ فِيكُمُ الْمَالُ فَيَفِيضَ، حَتَّى يُهِمَّ رَبَّ الْمَالِ مَنْ يَقْبَلُ صَدَقَتَهُ، وَحَتَّى يَعْرِضَهُ فَيَقُولَ الَّذِي يَعْرِضُهُ عَلَيْهِ لاَ أَرَبَ لِي بِهِ‏.‏ وَحَتَّى يَتَطَاوَلَ النَّاسُ فِي الْبُنْيَانِ، وَحَتَّى يَمُرَّ الرَّجُلُ بِقَبْرِ الرَّجُلِ فَيَقُولُ يَا لَيْتَنِي مَكَانَهُ‏.‏ وَحَتَّى تَطْلُعَ الشَّمْسُ مِنْ مَغْرِبِهَا، فَإِذَا طَلَعَتْ وَرَآهَا النَّاسُ ـ يَعْنِي ـ آمَنُوا أَجْمَعُونَ، فَذَلِكَ حِينَ لاَ يَنْفَعُ نَفْسًا إِيمَانُهَا لَمْ تَكُنْ آمَنَتْ مِنْ قَبْلُ، أَوْ كَسَبَتْ فِي إِيمَانِهَا خَيْرًا، وَلَتَقُومَنَّ السَّاعَةُ وَقَدْ نَشَرَ الرَّجُلاَنِ ثَوْبَهُمَا بَيْنَهُمَا، فَلاَ يَتَبَايَعَانِهِ وَلاَ يَطْوِيَانِهِ، وَلَتَقُومَنَّ السَّاعَةُ وَقَدِ انْصَرَفَ الرَّجُلُ بِلَبَنِ لِقْحَتِهِ فَلاَ يَطْعَمُهُ، وَلَتَقُومَنَّ السَّاعَةُ وَهْوَ يُلِيطُ حَوْضَهُ فَلاَ يَسْقِي فِيهِ، وَلَتَقُومَنَّ السَّاعَةُ وَقَدْ رَفَعَ أُكْلَتَهُ إِلَى فِيهِ فَلاَ يَطْعَمُهَا ‏"‏‏.‏

Reference : Sahih al-Bukhari 7121
In-book reference : Book 92, Hadith 68
USC-MSA web (English) reference : Vol. 9, Book 88, Hadith 237
  (deprecated numbering scheme)

I will not give my oppinion on this matter. Just a reminder and a prayer: may Allah give us (religious) knowledge and take the ignorance (and protect us from fitnah), even when all the world is going to opposite direction.


BNE, 2014


A Lonely Beach

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