Dear Professor, thank you for accepting the
interview for the Czech magazine Stavba.
With the passing of time, we can talk
about your book Making Dystopia and
context. Could you please tell us the story
of how your book came about and what ma-
de you write it?
It is also very nice to see you again.
It's great to be here on this occasion and
thank you for making this interview hap-
pen, which I look forward to. As for the ori-
gins and inspiration of my book Making Dys-
topia, it was linked to writing the Ox-
ford Dictionary of Architecture. When I was
working on that book with my colleague Su-
san Wilson for Oxford University Press,
she told me: You know, in all biographies of
20th-century architects, and in the various
movements linked to Modernism, there's re-
ference to various issues of these people and
movements. She implied there might be
another book in there somewhere. I thought
about it and suggested it to the commissio-
ning editor at Oxford University Press. He
felt it was a very good idea, so I took it on and
started writing the book in 2014. It came out
in 2018 and I think it really helped to consoli-
date all my thoughts about what was wro-
ng. Making Dystopia was actually Susan
Wilson's idea.
How are you satisfy with Czech version of
book we have in front of us?
I am very grateful to my Czech colleagues
for their kind work and for putting this toge-
ther. It's really quite a faithful translation, alt-
hough obviously I'm not very familiar with
Czech, so I can't comment on the quality of
the prose!
What was your most surprising response after
the book's release?
The truth is, I was not surprised at all,
because Modernists and their critics didn't
answer any of my questions. They simply
insulted me. It was an ad hominem insult,
pure and simple, without trying to refu-
te any of my arguments or anything like
that, it's just insulting. That's what totalita-
rians do: they don't engage in a proper argu-
ment. They just stick to their entrenched at-
titudes, regardless of how unsustainable it is.
And that I’m afraid that's what happened. But
of course there were others, more perceptive,
who saw the importance of the book, saw
that it would provoke debate, and many ot-
hers praised what they called as my courage
to attack what was essentially a position of
establishment, indeed establishment, which
I think has no right to be there.
Could you please explain the title of your
book Making Dystopia?
The book is also subtitled The Strange Rise
and Survival of Architectural Barbarism.
I mean that architects (with honest excepti-
ons) decided to ruin environment. In other
words, they creating a dystopia. And I find
it very weird, very strange, very sinister that
this cult of ugliness is gaining more and mo-
re followers, that it is now seen as normal, it
has survived all the criticism, and yet it goes
on and gets worse and worse and more and
more expensive, yet buildings last only a ve-
ry short time and then have to be demolis-
hed. Buildings that don't work, that leak and
that nobody wants to live in are imposed on
the rest of us by dogmatic architects who
think in abstractions and don't actually
care about humanity at all. And I suppo-
se the explanation is, again, very strange,
because I think that what it is is actually
a kind of quasi-religious fundamentalist
cult which brooks no opposition, that is
self-referential. In other words, architects cri-
ticizing and pat each other on the back, award
prizes to those most obscure projects, call
themselves "starchitect" - "star architect", scra-
tch each other's backs when nobody likes the-
ir stuff. For example, there are high level wa-
lkways that are used by thieves, vandals and
criminals, and there is always litter around.
Who should most certainly read this book?
I think one of the problems is that schools
of architecture are not educational instituti-
ons, they're indoctrination centers. People
are indoctrinated. If they don't follow the
latest fashion line approved by Modernists,
they are not eligible. In fact, it is not an edu-
cational facility at all. I think this book should
be read by everyone involved in decision-ma-
king about the built environment: politicians,
urban planners, architects. The trouble is that
they are all so brainwashed to believe the
opposite of what I point out in the book: that
whatever I would consider to be destructive
is actually a kind of mandatory perfection
that should be followed. And it clearly isn't.
But it will continue as before until we com-
pletely change architectural education. And
that means that I really think we have to
set up alternative educational institutions
and get the political support to recognize
that. Modernists are unable to use materials.
They are unable to think, as an example, about
how to put bricks together to make a pattern.
What obstacles were encountered in writing
this book? Did you encounter any difficulties?
I mean, I had some trouble. Unfortuna-
tely, the editor of Oxford University Press,
with whom I got on so well, had a severe stro-
ke, and though he was a young man, he was
quite incapacitated. Some of the people I had
to deal with in the final stages of writing
the book and submitting the pictures and
text to Oxford were not friendly to me or the
book. In fact, it was stuck in the system for
quite some time before it wasnally published.
Fortunately, my original editor returned after
a very long time, and although he was physica-
lly quite damaged, mentally he was fine. And fi-
nally he solved things and book was printed.
I think a published book went very well.
What challenges will face next generati-
on of architects if they start collaborate
and learn from your book?
Beauty and Ugliness
in Architecture
Interview with Professor James Stevens Curl took place on 15 May this year in Oslo, where we
met on the occasion of a conference "Beauty and Ugliness in Architecture".
Well, I hope that it will help them to be co-
mmitted to their own decision and to see that
there is an alternative kind of contempora-
ry architecture which may not at all be para-
metricism, deconstructivism or any of these
isms, but may in fact be truly rational and
based on reasonable planning, on the use of
materials that are applied with intelligence
and sensitivity.
Someone in a YouTube video piled ordinary
binders on top of each other or just casually
crumpled paper and "created" a final model
of architecture.
And all you have to do is get a computer
to build it. And these are things are built.
It's always a lot more expensive than the
If Modernists claim that traditionalists' cla-
ssical architecture is more costly beca-
use it contains art and ornaments, com pa-
red to unsustainable materials and buildings
of Modernists, aren't these more expensive?
How can buildings that fail as architecture,
that leak, that don't work and that have to
be demolished soon after completion be che-
aper than architecture that lasts and works
in all aspects, and especially as architecture?
Much of of what is being imposed at present
is absolutely not architecture at all.
All these technologies, new appli-
ances new ideas, where will this all go
into the future?
It gets worse: it's madness. It's absolute mad-
ness! So there you have it. I mean, I've foren-
sically dissected the matter. I tried to ex-
plain what happened. I think the whole
mechanism of how buildings are promoted
and the way some architects are made into
deities has gone mad. I think all these things
need to be reviewed and changed. We cannot
continue the way we are doing it.
Prof., Dr., DiplArch, DipTP, PhD.
is a highly respected British architect, ar-
chitectural historian, painter and desig-
ner who published dozens of books and
hundreds of articles on architecture, land-
scape architecture, urbanism and classical
tradition. He studied architecture at Ox-
ford, was for a time editor of architec-
tural journal Survey of London, and has
worked in both the private and public
sectors. He served the Scottish Commi-
ttee for European Architectural Heri-
tage Year (EAHY) in 1975 and worked
full-time in academia from 1978-1998.
He is a Fellow of the Royal Irish Aca-
demy (MRIA), the Royal Incorporation of
Architects in Scotland (FRIAS), Society of An-
tiquaries of London (FSA) and received nu-
merous awards and honours, including the
British Academy President's Medal for “dis-
tinguished services to humanities“, which
recognised his “contribution to wider study
of architectural history in the UK and Ire-
land“, and the Arthur Ross Award for Excel-
lence in Classical Tradition (History and Wri-
ting), awarded by the Institute of Classical
Architecture and Art (ICAA) in the USA. In
1991–1992 and 2001-2002 he was twice
Visiting Fellow at Peterhouse, University
of Cambridge. His pioneering book, The
Art and Architecture of Freemasonry
(1991), won the 1992 Sir Banister Fletcher
Cenu Sira Banistera Fletchera jako nejlepší
Prize for the best book of the year on
architecture and visual arts. He has publis-
hed extensively on classical, Gothic, Geor-
gian, Victorian and funerary architectu-
re, and has written a comprehensive study,
The Egyptian Revival (2005). He is co-aut-
hor of the Oxford Dictionary of Architecture
and a passionate critic of modernism, as cle-
arly expressed in his book Making Dysto-
pia: The Strange Rise and Survival of
Architectural Barbarism. He has lectured in
many places including Antwerp, Arma-
gh, Belfast, Birmingham, Brighton, Dublin,
Bologna, Boston MA, Bristol, Cambridge,
Chesterfield, Coimbra, Coleraine, Denver CO,
Edinburgh, Ghent, Glasgow, Den Haag,
Halifax NS Canada, Leicester, London, Lon-
derry, Manchester, Monaghan, Montreal,
New Orleans, New York, Norwich, Oxford,
Paris, (Louvre), St Andrews, Schwetzingen,
Seville, Shefeld, Southampton, Stamford,
Washington DC and York. His most
recently published books include The Art
and Architecture of Freemasonry: Ar-
chitecture, Symbols and Influences and
English Victorian Churches: Architecture,
Faith and Revival, both 2022. He is cu-
rrently working on a major book on
classical architecture.
James Stevens Curl, portrait oil painting from 2020,
autor: Jeffrey Morgan
Schools of architecture are subsidised by
public funds. In reality, however, the re
sults fall far short of expectations.
I mean the so-called "star architects" of
the original deities of modernism, Le Cor-
busier, Gropius, Miës van der Rohe
. I think
it would be correct to call them all full Hub-
ris, but in the end after Hubris there is the
Nemesis, the goddess of revenge. And I
think we will see revenge because these buil-
dings will fail.
Blobism is in fashion today.
Yes. Of course. That is correct. It's terrible.
It is absolutely horrible! I think it gets
even worse. You can imagine that back in fifti-
es, sixties and seventies the buildings were
pretty bad, but Oh, my God!, I think it's go-
ne mad now.
So would you support the idea that
there might be an alternative in schools
of architecture?
Unfortunately, I think that most architectu-
re schools are currently unable to educate
their students to think. Because the techni-
ques are all based on terror, bullying and
brainwashing. That's not education.
How about splitting these schools in half?
Most of them have cancelled history classes.
Personally, I think the people who run archi-
tecture schools are intellectually very weak.
And they simply follow party lines. They are
like gauleiters or commissars. No profession
is as politicized as architecture.
What about sculpture and arts and crafts
that come with architecture?
Not coming. It's no longer coming.
Can you please explain how adopting me-
tric system led to the dehumanization of
Metric system is based on dividing distance
from the North Pole to the equator into milli-
ons of meters. Now, instead of being ba-
sed on a foot divided by twelve, with sub-
divisions of each twelve, which by the way
can be divided by three as well as by two,
a more rigid abstraction of the metric sys-
tem cannot be divided exactly by three. You
can split any size, even a fairly small size,
into three in the imperial system, but you
can't do it in metric system, not exactly,
without having repeating decimals. Met-
ric system is another manifestation of dehu-
manization and abstraction. And Modernism
is full of these abstract ideas that never
have anything to do with humans.
Can you describe a relation between small
volume Norwegian wooden column church
outside and large interior?
Well, I think it's because when you look
at the exterior, it's a mixture of very small
things, like porches, sort of a cloister around
them, bits of decoration with dragons and
things like that. It's very complicated, whe-
reas the space inside is quite simple. So I
think it's the amount of geometric shapes
and pieces that are sticking out all over the
place that makes a church feel strangely
small, and then you walk in and it's a
really majestic space inside.
We also visited the Oslo City Cemetery toge-
ther. What was interesting for you?
It was another example of what we call a ga-
rden cemetery, which evolved from an 18
century English garden with several buildi-
ngs. The French then began to create gardens
punctuated by eye-pleasing buildings, often
concerned with memorising.There are, of course,
extensive gardens with mausoleums in England.
And then in the early 19th century, the French
decided to acquire very large plots in suburbs
because of the disastrous state of the cemeteries
in Paris, which were horrendously overcrowded.
And there they created a huge garden ceme-
tery, which they then decorated with monu-
ments for people to
to admire, so that the Père-
Lachaise Cemetery,
actually the father of gar-
den cemetery, was created. The result was that
in the 19
century no metropolis anywhere in
in Europe or America could function without
a new cemetery. And they were often com-
bined with gardens, this being an example.
Oslo's model cemetery is relatively modest: it
is not as grand as, for example, Glasgow's
Necropolis, London's Kensal Green or great
Italian Cimitero Monumentale, such as those in
Milan and Rome. Of course, the Certosa in Bolo-
gna and Staglieno in Genoa.
Could you explain the relations between Eng-
lish Gothic Revival churches and Central Euro-
pean Baroque churches?
I think both need to be seen in the light of the
Counter-Reformation. After the devastation
caused by the Thirty Years' War, there was
an extensive programme of church building
and restoration, particularly in Germany and
central Europe, where whole families of
architects, sculptors, fresco painters, cabi-
netmakers and so on created magnificent mas-
terpieces of Baroque and Rococo churches. And
that included training people to work with
plaster, frescoes, complex geometry of ellipses
and linked ellipses and such. So you had whole
families like Zimmermanns, Dientzenhofers,
Assams, etc. As for the Gothic Revival in Eng-
land, Gothic had to be relearned by architects
and craftsmen after centuries of Classicism.
And there was also a religious revival to
emphasize Catholic traditions within the
Church of England. Almost overnight, people
had to re-train in Gothic ornament, Gothic
colour, Gothic joinery, Gothic sculpture, etc.
Under extreme Protestantism, and after three
centuries of Puritan iconoclasm, few people
knew the purpose of things like sedilia, seats
for the clergy, the piscina where the holy
Hulme Crescents, Manchester, by modernist rm Wilson & Womersley, once the most dysfunctional
housing estate in Europe, demolished.
Photo from 1995, MEN (Manchester Evening News) Media Archive
vessels were washed after Mass, the lectiona-
ry, etc. It was therefore necessary to explain
their meaning as well, through what called
What are you doing now? Is it a planned book
on classical architecture? What should your
fans look forward to?
Yes, this is a forthcoming new book on classical
architecture. And I should have it ready by
the end of the year. I published a book on
classical architecture in 1992. A second edi-
tion came out in early 2000, published in Lon-
don and New York. Norton Publishing did it,
went out of print for a while, and all the
rights came back to me, so I figured this
book was too good to let it sit. Unfortuna-
tely, the original book wasn't stored on the
computer, but Nicola Willmott Noller, who
has worked with me on some of my other
projects, scanned it, so I'm now working
on those scans, updating the book, adding
scans, updating the book, adding illustra-
tions and other things, and it's turning
out a very comprehensive volume indeed.
So what is your message to today's world
of modernist architecture in terms of the
the princi ples of classical tradition, Gothic
revival, Egyptian revival, Freemasonry, etc.?
I would advise all architects to get an edu-
cation and read up on history and study
precedents. Because if you don't understand
the precedents, and language that you learn
does not express anything, it is meaning-
less. In other words, it is very abstract, it
doesn't mean anything. How can you create
an architecture that has sytnax, has cohe-
rence, or anything else? And I think without
education and without knowledge, we will get
what we deserve. Waste.
Do you think that some of the Modernists
may convert to your side?
Like I said previously, you are now dealing
with this fundamentalist, humorless, quasi-
religious cult. People who have been brain-
washed by extremist, fundamentalist cults
can not be converted easily. And the damage
has already been done.
How did your book fare in Britain and in ot-
her countries and in different social classes?
Too many skilled and semi-skilled British
workers were put on the scrap heap instead
of being retrained in other fields. I think
you're in a potentially dangerous situation,
especially if you're forced to live in places
like dystopic hell holes where unfortunate
inhabitants retaliate by demolishing the
environment they've been thrown into. Pro-
Professions and media are largely contro-
lled by Modernists, so my work has been
doomed by so-called special interest groups
intent on giving us all "more of the same"
or worse, and of course desensitized po-
pulations, affected ted by the accepting
of unacceptable, will hear nothing of my
work, but will simply demolish the suppo-
sed paradise they have been declassed into
in protest. The commentators who have se-
en the point of my book were thinkers, con-
cerned historians and writers who were not
afraid of being ostracized by blishment.
It has been very interesting how several
English writers had no courage, hesitan-
tly opted for neutrality and didn't want to
engage, so afraid were they of rocking vi-
ews of my work were expressed largely out-
side British Isles or by a few independent-
minded people who were not scared off by si
lence,received opinionand „party line of to-
You've had a good review to Making Dystopia
in America, and you also took an adventu-
rous trip there.
After my American marathon, I was com-
pletely exhausted. First I had a long
flight from New York, then a horrible train
ride down to Philadelphia. Terrible. That
scary Pennsylvania Station, which is like
a horrible hell of a rat underground (the
great terminal by McKim, Meade and Whi-
te was destroyed, an act of cultural vanda-
lism, encouraged of course by Gropius, who
was a nobody compared to the great ar-
chitects of the American Beaux-Arts cla-
ssical tradition). From Philadelphia to Wa-
shington, D.C. Then from from Washington,
D.C. to New Orleans. Through floods and
humidity. Then Denver Colorado. Then a
huge cross-country flight from completely
empty landscape. I had a layover in Det-
roit, "which is bad news". Then Boston. And
And then I flew back from Boston air-
port. I spent the day with my dear Czech
friends in the New England countryside,
who of course are perfectly happy the-
re. In America I was received very politely
and warmly everywhere I went, it was really
warm and cordial.
In a moment we will move to conference
venue, where you will make your second
lecture, now on Gothic Revival in England.
I would explain the Gothic Revival from the
from the perspective that it started in the
1930s. In fact, however, it began a little ear-
lier, because the Gothic was already manifest
in the 18th century and even in the 17th cen-
century. Gothic in some places such as Ox-
ford never really died out. It just continued
through the 17th into the 18th century.
I wish you all the best in your tireless work and
thank you so much for giving me this interview.
It was great to meet you. I do hope this con-
versation has been useful.
Thamesmead, London, GKC architects' department, used by Kubrick as a backdrop for his lm
A Clockwork Orange, a district now also largely demolished.
Photograph from 2017, Geoff Brandwood