Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Culture & Science



Posting hiatus caused by finishing work (more or less) on A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain, followed by nine days of glorious sunshine and hospitality in Warszawa. After I get over the immediate crushing depression that always attends returning to England after a stay in a more civilised country - and the never-lessening shock of Luton Airport, a Children of Men dystopia of winding queues, malfunctioning machinery, thuggish posters (ASYLUM! ASSAULTS! UK BORDER!) shabby non-architecture and, hanging over the queue, several flickering television screens with broken-english subtitles which, this morning, featured at first sight Tony Blair on Sky News, in front of a sign reading 'A Future Fair' - a Warsaw post will ensue.

Also, next week I shall be in St Petersburg and (erk) Moscow, for the first time. I have a fairly good idea what I want to see when there - ie, the '20s buildings I've written about innumerable times and not seen, amongst other things - but if anyone has any suggestions, ideas, warnings and so forth, please let me know in the comments below.

Also also, it may or may not have escaped attention that I was in the Guardian last week, singing the praises of the conurbation. I'm not reading the comments for fairly obvious reasons, so please do let me know if there's any good ones. I'm also involved in another Guardian-related thing which should be up at the end of the week, and which I'm awaiting with some trepidation. You will also, if you like, get to look at my big nose and effeminate hand gestures later in April, at the South Bank's Ether do, where I will be in a dialogue of some description with Will Montgomery with reference to the sound of the Elephant & Castle; and at the Glasgow Association of Art Historians conference, which is on the appropriate topic of The Modernist Turn: Counter/Other/Alter/Meta Modernisms in Art History and Practice'

50 Comments:

Blogger jessica said...

Novosmolenskaya Naberezhnaya on Vasileostrovskaya - one one side the kilometre long house, on the other, the houses on chicken legs. Not far from this is the Pribaltiskaya, though I don't think it's called that anymore.

9:09 pm  
OpenID uptothehouse said...

"I'm not keen on Owen Hatherley. He slagged off Leeds's recent architecture in the Architectural journal while having the cheek to come from Southampton with its ridiculous West Quay shopping centre. He's slightly younger than me, but has written a few books and is a regular contributor to various newspapares and magazines. Who does he know?"

I was wondering whose fault West Quay was. How dare you!

10:53 pm  
Blogger Lang Rabbie said...

In Lenigrad - sorry - Peter:

Even these days it is best not to get too close to the Bolshoy Dom on Liteyny Prospekt to photograph its architecture.

And if the icy wind is blowing in from the Neva and you have a spare couple of hours, I strongly recommend that you spend the time on a second visit to the Hermitage to revel in the astonishing items in that collection rather than taking a metro trek for a completist expedition to track down the furthest flung of Gegello and Krichevsky's constructivist era works. IMHO it ain't worth the effort - some of their Workers' Classical era stuff is more interesting!

11:04 pm  
Blogger Alex Niven said...

Make sure to check out the Mayakovsky museum in Moscow. It's a belter.

And the metro stations of course ...

9:26 am  
Anonymous laura said...

Hello,
I am commenting re your video on today's Guardian website. Admittedly there has been a lot of hurried and ill thought through development in Manchester since the 96 bombing, but I would be interested to know how you think this could have been avoided, and what kind of approach would've been preferable?

Your video almost seems to imply that the soul of Manchester would've been left more in tact if market st and the old warehouses had been left to crumble and people left to rot in substandard 60s housing.

I would also disagree that some of the brash new buildings are at odds with Manchester's historic and creative legacy. The civic pride and new money that built the town hall, library and red brick mansions of south Manchester are just as much a part of the city's vibrant heritage as the suffering in the cotton mills or the music of the 80s/90s.

2:58 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

Hello Laura,

In answer to your question, I'd say more things like Homes for Change in Hulme, and less buy-to-let tat, would have made a lot of difference - places with some genuine originality and input from their (council) tenants, rather than moneyspinning blocks and conversions for young professionals. Also, some council towers have been renovated, some very well - but I don't see why they needed to be let to more 'aspirational' tenants in the process. Or rather I do see why, in that in order to keep itself going after it was deindustrialised, the city needed to conjure a property boom - and, unlike Leeds or Sheffield or Liverpool, it has done this with a certain panache, which makes it a more interesting target. Finally, I don't think the new Mancunia is contrary to its history, not at all - there's a very definite line from Manchester Liberalism to New Labour neoliberalism. It's not called the Free Trade Hall for nothing.

Thanks for the Russia recommendations - do keep them coming...

3:08 pm  
Anonymous laura said...

Thanks for the feedback Owen, interesting stuff. As you say, the redevelopment has brought much needed money and purpose to Manchester. And like it or not, the influx of young professionals has brought new blood, energy and more money to the city. However it is sad to see so many new buildings now left empty, and I agree about the social housing problem - it's not until you leave the city centre that you realise how ghettoised Manchester is and how much inequality remains...

3:27 pm  
Anonymous article said...

It's a great city. Did you go to the technical museum in the Warsaw palace of culture? It's a truly amazing, massive surreal aggregation of machine parts, half broken experiments, very surly attendants, washing machines, early mobile phones, model coal mines and more in Stalin-classical rooms. And it proudly claims in one room that the Polish cracked all the enigma codes, and the British were just lying. All this whilst they pump slavic pop from the radio. So good I've been twice.

Nice comparison to Castle Market there, though I'm still confused as to how a lot of the vendors under Centralna can survive by apparently just selling romantic fiction and muscle building products.

11:52 pm  
Anonymous FintonStack said...

The comments mostly consisted of Paul Kingsnorth deliberately reducing environmentalism to his aesthetic prejudices (watermeadows, stars, and not having to look at wind turbines or other people's laptops, and bugger the consequences for humanity), and launching ad hominym attacks on anyone who dare disagree.

I was quite disappointed you didn't pop up to give him a sound thrashing.

1:33 pm  
Anonymous Jacques Ritchie said...

'Homes for Change/Work' - your only example of what you would do differently was FUNDED by City Challenge and EU's Development Fund. Not to mention the Guinness Trust -'industrial philanthropists'.

I assume you know about these agencies; their values/aims and neo-liberal funding & structure??

7:05 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

Well yes, Jacques, I do know, and I'm also aware that the Guinness Trust have been in frequent conflict with the Homes/Work for Change co-operative. But I do think that an urban housing co-operative, one which doesn't try to pretend it's in the outskirts of Basingstoke (unlike, say, a co-op like Eldonian Village in Liverpool) and whose design is closely determined and overlooked by the co-operators is a fragment of how things could have been differently, yes. It's all a bit crusty for my personal tastes, and it's currently politically compromised, but the point still stands.

I also think pointing to an existing place in Manchester is a better argumentative approach than saying that what Manchester needs right now is the proletarian revolution. I may well think that and argue for it elsewhere, but alas it doesn't get us anywhere at present.

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