Lecture: Escape from Ugly Valley
Ugly Valley is a place bounded by temporality. The phrase describes a dip in the sine curve of a building's popularity that generally occurs about 40-60 years into its history. Such a downturn is dangerous because it represents the vulnerable period in which many works of architecture are destroyed because their original use value has expired, and their styles have fallen out of public favor.
This talk discusses how the boundaries of the Ugly Valley are formed by taste and language. “Monstrosity” appears to be a favorite word for those who wish to bully and belittle architecture into obscurity and, in the more alarming cases, onto a demolition list. We need not look hard to remind ourselves that the term has been used by previous generations to describe Victorian architecture, French Second Empire buildings, and many other styles seen as outmoded within a half-generation of their heyday. Today, the same language is used to deride significant examples of Brutalism, Late Modernism, and Postmodernism. Because these periods are currently subject to fickle judgement, it is important to reframe the criteria for how they are valued. By reframing architectural works stuck in the Ugly Valley around issues of time, process, and obsolescence the panelists are not longing for a more authentic or autonomous architectural expression—indeed both terms are suspect—but rather are searching for the missing conditions that might redefine or reorient preservation’s relationship to the cultural moment.