Tuesday, February 24, 2009

'What you are now we used to be, what we are now you will be'

Three pieces on architecture, of varying quality. A review of Stern's Philip Johnson Tapes (I'm not a fan, had you guessed? A reluctant admiration for sheer chutzpah is about as far as I'll go) in Icon, a column on the contrasts between Thamesmead 2000s and Thamesmead 1960s in BD; and a report on the state of university architecture (page 59) in the Clare Market Review, one-time LSE journal of belles-lettres rejuvenated to impressive effect by editor Daniel Yates. Note that in the latter, the pull quote is actually me quoting from Murphy's spectacular excoriation of Make's Nottingham Campus* - and outclassing me in a similar manner, East London's finest Beckettian architect writes up the Thamesmead walk that inspired the above quick BD feuilleton to impressive effect - though most likely we will both be outclassed by the other walker, the Savage Messiah herself, who seemed to have suddenly walked into one of her most dystopian zines, with all the post-apocalyptic undergrowth, rotting concrete and haunted grey pallor already in place, and ending with an astoundingly smug poster she'd already used for an image.

I still can't really believe we actually saw all of those things: the empty warehouses, the trolleys in trees, the bottle of Lambrini on the Tor, the horses by the tower blocks, the sheer quantity of waste and ruin, but here at least is the photographic evidence. I have a distinct feeling that what we saw there will be what we will see everywhere very soon - Thamesmead, West and East, looks like the future again, but not in the manner intended. Still, this is only the most obvious example of the eerie, desolate calm (possibly before quite a storm) that seems to have descended upon Bankrupt/Broken (delete according to politics) Britain. This can be seen with particular elegance in I.T's photo essay from her clearly much needed weekend holiday in Hastings and Bexhill - the remnants of wildly overambitious 1930s seaside Modernism, empty streets and derelict shops. 'If I ran an arcade, I would call it 'The Accursed Share'.' Me, I suggest we embrace the desolation (infinitely preferable to the frantic money-grubbing of the defunct boom, with its idolatory of the rich and its elevation of property and speculation to a national raison d'etre, and its slum's-got-so-much-soul fetish for the 'edgy'). Rather, we should all move to Milton Keynes to shelter in its portes cocheres, create a revolutionary art in its underpasses, and barricade its grid roads against the authorities, and I shall be arguing this at length (or something not dissimilar) in a couple of weeks.

* As should be mentioned at all times in conjunction with the University of Nottingham - Hicham Yezza is still likely to be forced out of the country, due eventually to the petty snooping of some scumbag somewhere in the University combined with the unscrupulous thuggery of the Blairite security state. The campaign is still here.


Anonymous roger said...

I'm an active Philip Johnson hater. I worked in one of his buildings - the chemistry building at yale. It was a sixties building. Johnson had obviously been impressed with the way dog turds can come out and sorta pile up, and resolved to use the same brick log look on the tower I was stationed in. It was a nice, windmaking apoco-place, and surely created depression and sadness in the generations of secretaries and grad students assigned to work there. A boot stamping on a human face forever is nothing compared to working in 14 stories of dog turds.

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