Ugliness is the Measure of Imperfection
passage of time can have a strange
effect on the perception of design. Sometimes the initially
well-loved can quickly become the staid and cliched, whilst at
other times the widely derided can eventually come to be appreciated decades after its original inception.
Take some of Erno Goldfinger's brutalist creations, such as
Trellick Tower in North Kensington; high rise, reinforced
concrete tower blocks that were despised by most in the
1970s, yet which are now Grade II listed buildings.
There are still other designs, though, that are neither
admired upon their creation nor lauded in later years. The
Austin Allegro is one such design - a car that achieved the
seemingly impossible feat of making its pug-ugly,
assembled-by-uninterested-communists, British Leyland
stablemates appear to be almost Ferrari-like in comparison,
and whose current appeal, even in the rose tinted world of
the classic car bore, is limited only to the truly perverse.
Admitting to an interest in Allegros is like admitting to an
interest in the later works of Cliff Richard - something
that should be revealed only in the company of other, like
minded, inmates of the mental institution.
Porsche's new four door coupe - the Panamera - may not have
the Allegro's 'quadric' (read square with rounded edges)
steering wheel, nor is it likely to be put together with
quite the same disdain for the fundamental principles of
build quality as the British car, but it does share an
important characteristic with the Austin - namely pure,
undisguised, unadulterated ugliness.
It is not even the sort of endearing ugliness, like that of
an Alfa 75, that, after some years, comes to be regarded as
individuality. It is, instead, an ugliness borne of a
complete lack of style, of imagination, of any flair; as if
the car were the product of a couple of hours of playing
around with pictures of 911s in Photoshop on a Friday
But, being serious now, this was not, of course, how the new
Porsche was designed. No - it was designed in the same way
as almost all modern Porsches - by combining the front end
of a 911 with the rear of a car drawn by the chief
designer's five year old son. Or, in the case of the
Cayenne, the front of a 911 and a drawing, by the chief
designer's five year old son, of his house.
There is only one hope for the Panamera - that the current
economic downturn will hit sales to such an extent that it
will quickly and quietly disappear. Porsche could then
concentrate its energies on expanding its design team beyond
the current total of one (part time).
The rather dreadful alternative would be for the Panamera to
be successful. Porsche would then follow its usual policy of
launching a lightly face-lifted model every five years, ad
infinitum. And as the last half a century has seen Porsche
make the once handsome 911 progressively uglier, I can
barely imagine what effect this design philosophy would have
on its bloated and charm-free four door coupe.
One thing is for certain, though - unlike the Trellick
Tower, the Panamera will never be the subject of historical
aesthetic revisionism. It is the Millenium Dome of cars; a
folly of such monumental and unpleasant proportions that it
will forever remain unloved.