Saturday, June 26, 2010

Miscellany #1217

Some essays, blogs and things elsewhere, and some appearances hither and thither:
I'm mostly not in London for the London Festival of Architecture, but if you go to the Foldaway Bookshop, a temporary shop on Heddon St, just off Regent St, you should - I say should, as I've not had the chance to go there - find a selection of books selected by me, and O Lucky Man should be playing in the background somewhere, which is also my fault. The books in question, by Ian Nairn and Catherine Cooke, are out of print, so it's well worth attempting to snap them up. If they managed to order them in...

I also have an essay, on the subject of the commercial Brutalism of Owen Luder, the Halifax HQ and John Brunton, in the catalogue for The Stones of Menace - which takes place in a Brutalist post-war church in Bow which was a big favourite of the aforementioned Nairn; there's a short extract from A Guide to the New Ruins in the excellent first issue of Sheffield architectural zine 5seventy3.

Anyone reading this in Maastricht and Ljubljana is in luck: as I'm giving two talks at the Jan Van Eyck Academy in the former, one on aforementioned new ruins, and the other is a paper on the architecture and urbanism of the Yugoslavian 'black wave' of the '60s, as part of Surfing the Black, a conference which should prove to be very interesting indeed on this unforgivably overlooked area of '60s cinema; then after that I'll be in Slovenia, speaking at the Workers and Punks University's art theory school, where I'll be defending the attempt to destroy art in the 1920s, just after Entschwindet on iron, glass and failure. Then on returning I'll be being vaguely technocratic at Marxism 2010, on Monday 5th July. After that I will have a long lie down.

Elsewhere: go read Minus the Shooting, as regardless of your esteem for football or otherwise, its many and varied qualities are proof of the continued fine health of the blogosphere. I haven't yet written an obligatory world cup post - in the extremely unlikely event I have time to write it, it'll either spin off from the perfect phrase 'PFI football', or it'll be on the fact that, only really watching World Cups or European Championships (I gave up on watching club football after practically getting hypothermia watching Southampton and QPR play a goalless draw at the Dell sometime in the mid-1990s, and never really looked back), I've never seen the allegedly mighty footballers of England actually play a good game of football; and without that knowledge, the actual talents of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard or John Terry seem a bizarre confidence trick in which all assent; or about the love for Joe Cole as potential silky-skilled saviour as an attempt to atone for England's greatest post-1990 sin, its spurning of Matthew Le Tissier. Who, incidentally, was able to take penalty kicks without it becoming a psychodrama.

Finally, there's now a Zero Books website, finally, where the plan for world domination can be seen progressing apace. One of the most interesting of the forthcoming is Alberto Toscano and Jeff Kinkle's Cartographies of the Absolute, which has its own blog.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Don't Play the Step Game

Just look at the scene above. It's gorgeous, isn't it? If I'd taken it in monochrome (and was a better photographer), I could have pretended it was an out-take from, say, Maraid's Dad's Architecture Photos - a vision of idyllic postwar Albion, with rolling grassland, pretty of planting all around, and studious youth louchely reclining, presumably reading Pelican paperbacks. This landscape is round the corner from one of the five places where I grew up (this one through the decidedly formative ages of 12-16). I'd love to say that it is what formed my tastes, but it would be a fib.

This is Southampton University, a Russell Group research giant which just happens to be adjacent to a large council estate, more of which later. The University arose out of several additive stages; an early one in red brick in the 1930s, designed by the delightfully named local firm of Gutteridge and Gutteridge, with Giles Gilbert Scott as 'advisor'; concrete, stone and tile designed in the 60s by Basil Spence, with locals Ronald Sims; then a more recent New Labour-era unplanned accretion by Rick Mather, Nick Grimshaw and various nonentities. Even the latter is immeasurably better than anything recent in the city itself, but oddly, in my extensive writings on the place, I never talk of the university. It doesn't seem part of Southampton, at least as I think of it. I'm aware this makes no sense whatsoever.

I'm really not trying for pathos or the prolier-than-thou here, I swear - but there always seemed to be a kind of invisible block around this place, an aura of 'not for you' when I lived next door; this combined with the fact that I was usually too scared to walk up Burgess Road for other reasons. Since then I've avoided the place completely, except to occasionally observe bits of it from my Mum's car on the way to somewhere else. The only time I've ever properly walked through it is on the day I graduated from school in 1997, and my main memory then is of how American the open informality of the campus seemed, not resembling anything I'd seen in England; I got a bus to see Kenickie play live here about a year later, but remember nothing of the associated architecture. Until this visit, I hadn't even visited the John Hansard Gallery. So, the University gets only the most cursory mention in the 51 pages devoted to Southampton in The Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain, as does the adjacent estate. This post should be considered a pre-emptive footnote to said book, as it's now too late to incorporate my observations of these two places into the chapter.

More fool me, as in places, the architecture of Southampton University is enough to make you swoon. This is generally considered a lesser Spence work, and seldom gets into the recent books or archives that have accompanied his Wallpaper*-sponsored rehabilitation. From the little I remembered of it, I assumed this was the right judgement, but I was wrong, wrong wrong. The finest of the buildings is both terrifically simple and fiendishly complex, and sums up the virtues of the place. It's a long block which is, I think - Pevsner is oddly confusing here, maybe Lang Rabbie can step in the comments - a Common Room. In some views, like that above, it just floats on the greenery.

It's actually on several levels - walk up some steps and you get a view of the general idyll...

...from either direction, with the rectilinearity and the winding path a perfect contrivance...

...facing the obligatory, and here very elegant enigmatic Hepworthian sculpture.... the point where it finally meets what the New Urbanist dullards would consider a 'street', ie something with cars and shops on it. Here is a pool and another sculpture (again, it's hard to tell from Pevsner what/who exactly). It's extraordinary architecture, an incredibly simple thing morphing into several distinct views, all of them equally striking. Not all of it is this brilliant, but lots of it is...

There are a few towers dotted around the campus, and at Hyde Park Barracks Spence proved to be an extremely underrated designer of tall buildings; but the best of them isn't by Spence at all, but by the obscure Bournemouth architect Ronald Sims. Again, this is something I had seen a few times at a distance and thought might be vaguely interesting but never bothered to see properly, up close, as a pedestrian; but as soon as I surveyed the prospect below, there was again a reflux of astonishment.

With all its outgrowths of stairs and multiple levels I'm amazed it's still preserved - I suspect this complex is a disabled access nightmare, and Mathematics surely has the occasional student in a wheelchair. That aside, it's shudderingly dramatic, sculptural architecture, its concrete bristling with tempting tactility, alongside the Brutalist wet dream of a staircase which leads to a raised plaza on the third floor. Gobsmacking.

One building I remember both from being driven past it and from it being on the cover of the Pevsner Hampshire and the Isle of Wight volume is Spence's Nuffield Theatre, copper on brick. Again, looking properly at the thing reveals all sorts of drama and ambition - I'm not usually one for details, but the moment here where the copper façade opens out to form a doorway is a delight...the fencing is worrying, though - none of the University buildings are listed, and this being Southampton, there's surely an imperative to smash it up and shove something appalling in its place. But as said, this doesn't feel like Southampton to me. Not even student Southampton - it doesn't connect up with the lumpen boozy studentville of Portswood and Bevois Valley, nor the appalling vernacular student flats in the centre of town. It feels like a complete enclave, and most of the buildings seem to be remarkably well looked-after; it certainly hasn't had an influence on the buildings around it.

Another building I actually remember, and which actually has suffered slightly from the ravages of time, is the Faraday Tower - Spence again, a simple ribbon-windowed tower of laboratories veering towards midcentury conformity, but for its one extraordinary feature -it boasts, for reasons I could never work out, a three-storey cantilever to make it glare out especially bizarrely on the suburbia around. This at least is facing either a drastic façading or demolition. It once featured on a stamp. It gets extra Ghost Box points for apparently having an unused Reactor in the basement.

The recent buildings are nothing special, but if I saw them in the centre of town I'd be quite pleased - they at least seem like modern architecture of some (unspectacular) kind, and they pay some sort of recognition to Spence et al rather than trying to sweep their work away in favour of Proper Streets. It seems Russell Group Universities can get away with being marginally ambitious and civilised, without a Management Consultant in the background telling them to fire everyone and hire Capita.

The earlier, '30s Gutteridge/Scott parts of the place are not especially interesting, competent examples of Scott's Moderne/Gothic/Brick Expressionist mannerism. Pevsner/David Lloyd compare one of their buildings here to Charles Rennie Mackintosh, which suggests they'd hit the booze even more heavily than Nairn. This one has a top anticontextual entrance, presumably added by Spence in the '60s.

Practically at the exact same time that this redbrick University was being built at the edge of Southampton Common, Southampton City Council designed its own greenfield enclave, the Flower Estate, as given meaningless roots-flexing namechecking by me on this blog on a few occasions, to the entirely nonplussed reaction of readers unfamiliar with Southampton. This bit of the pavement is the best clue to the age of the place.

I was walking round here with Pyzikówna, and given what I remember of it, I was immediately obnoxiously paranoid - 'don't speak too loudly, don't draw any attention to us'. The first view of the estate from Burgess Road confirmed to stereotype - incredibly cheap-looking grey harling, the slurry slathered onto the brick presumably part of the 'vernacular' in the far North or parts of Scotland, but looking utterly bizarre on the south coast, particularly on this sunny day - with a car parked on the 'front garden'. Most of the Flower Estate is made up of '30s semis, presumably gesturing at Letchworth and the Garden Cities, but resembling more precisely Wythenshawe, Becontree or its Sheffield namesake. Certainly this place doesn't feel like The South as it's commonly understood - it's Rita Sue and Bob Too territory. But there's only a little more stereotypical unpleasantness in this post, although this time fairly temporary....

The irony is that nobody gave us a funny look, nobody seemed at all bothered by our presence there, and certainly nobody remembered me from 13 years ago. On a walk a few months earlier in Warsaw, I'd been less than shocked by the alleged inhumanity of the place where she grew up, and this was her opportunity to return the favour, which she most certainly did. I suppose in either case, the architecture is not really the reason why they were horrible places to grow up. The Flower Estate is made up of a couple of building types - the semis and a few half-terraces, always interrupted to stop 'monotony' (i.e, any coherence or structure) and it is built into a rather lovely valley, whose contours it doesn't bother to do anything remotely interesting with, preferring to loop round and round wanly, without variation or drama; after seeing what Basil Spence could do with a slope just round the corner, the lack of wit or imagination is even more glaring.

Neville Chamberlain, under whom lots of these places were built, claimed that every one of them turned a potential proletarian 'revolutionary' into a 'citizen'. There's no pubs, needless to say, excepting a giant developer's Tudor roadhouse on the estate's edges which is now a McDonalds; there's a school, and a church, and not far away, the Ford Transit factory, which you can see below, the giant windowless white box nearly merging into the sky over Daisy Dip - the admittedly impressive park which is at the estate's centre, attempting to make up for the fact that there are no trees elsewhere in this 'garden suburb'. Basically, this estate represented everything the designers of social housing between the 40s and 70s tried not to do, and - at least on aesthetic grounds - I think they were entirely correct in their scorn.

Unlike the University, though, one part of the estate actually is listed - the aforementioned church, designed in 1933 by N.F Cachemaille-Day, an interwar ecclesiastical architect who, unlike the estate itself, was deeply continental in his architectural affiliations. So it's odd to see him doing something so insufferably English, resorting to something Betjeman might write a poem about - a diminutive Castle Keep to tower over the ersatz village.

So it's not apocalyptic, there's no burning cars to be seen, and no skinheads (they are there in the Estate's presence on Google Streetview, amusingly enough) at least not on this particular day. I don't think the lack of intimidation is because the place has changed that much, but because nobody knows who I am here anymore - everybody knowing who you are is a deeply overrated virtue, something nostalgically longed for in Hoggart-world, but when you're a teenager with funny hair who is useless in a scrap, it's a horrible thing. 'Community' here, as I remember it, proceeded via exclusion and negation - we are x, you are not, so fuck you. No doubt the same effect could have been replicated somewhere more architecturally ambitious, but I'm not entirely sure - there's something about the smallness and meanness of the place which seems to encourage small-mindedness. It might imitate the more generous vernacular cottages of Letchworth or wherever, but look at the shabbiness and parsimony of the proportions, the windows that are no more spacious than those in a back-to-back and much less so than in the Edwardian terraces up the road, the pretentious little details around the all seems so patronising - here you go, here's your little house, little person.

For what it's worth, I lived in the white house in the terrace above. We weren't council tenants - that would come later - but were living in one of the houses that someone had bought on Right to Buy and then sold off. Accordingly, although we were paying less than we would to live practically anywhere else in town on the open market, we were paying considerably more than our next-door neighbours, something presumably compensated for by the clean whitewash - perhaps this bit of desperate aesthetic distinguishing indulged in by our landlord had subliminally influenced everyone to think I thought I was above everyone else, who knows...I have stories I could tell about this place, about impetigo spread as a pestilent game of 'it', about 30-year old skinheads threatening violence upon 13 year-olds for playing loud music, other stories rather less amusing; but I won't. The only bit of real menace or weirdness I could garner from this brief early summer visit was this bit of graffiti.

It's pretty clear and assertive in making its case. According to Google, the Step Game is a game for autistic children. The site says it 'teaches autistic children how to give and understand directions. Stand on the bottom of a staircase with your child and give the first command. You can mix up the commands to involve your child's favorite activity such as "twirl step," "bark like a dog step," or "high five step." You and your child will perform the command, then go to the next step. Celebrate when you reach the top of the stairs then race down to the bottom and switch roles with your child and let her come up with the commands this time.'

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Line Never Stops

A post in which I basically just quote from Working For Ford by Huw Beynon. This was a chance purchase in a Glasgow bookshop a few months ago (the bookseller previously mentioned here was a big fan). It is the best book I've read in a very long time, a brilliantly ambitious survey both of Ford and Fordism and its particular application to Halewood in Merseyside in the late 1960s and early '70s; it moves from the abstract and structural to the bitterly concrete with an ease you seldom get with Marxist writers today (Mike Davis certainly, a few other exceptions...Ivor Southwood's forthcoming Non-Stop Inertia for Zero among them..but nonetheless. I presume there's someone somewhere doing something similar in Shenzhen? ). You should all go and read it, but it's especially interesting if read today with certain recent developments in mind. Firstly, the 'end' of Fordism soon after he wrote it; the representation since then of the hard union politics Beynon writes about as something macho and self-defeating; and the partly justified nostalgia for the Fordist era most eloquently represented by Judt. We find here on the one hand a kind of organisation which has ended, partly for better, partly for worse, and also something which has continued in the most malign fashion.

'I can see the time when the bomb goes up, you know. I can see myself leading the lads off my section and just destroying this place. I can see that happening. But you've got to cope with the plant as it is now, you've got to come in every day and represent the lads...sometimes I think 'what the hell are you doing? You're just doing management's job.'
Halewood shop steward

Rather than a 'settlement' that could have gone on indefinitely, the book depicts the era of Fordism and social democracy as a war of attrition, in which one side was absolutely bound to eventually win over the other. One of the Halewood shop stewards interviewed in the book comments ''You don't go in there and say 'this is a bloody war and if we don't get it we're going to smash you.' We don't say that but I think we ought to now and again. Because it is a bloody war.' The sense of explosive tension is palpable throughout the book, the sense that something is absolutely bound to give way. The book features some of the most vivid descriptions of Fordist work outside of Celine - 'working in a car plant', writes Beynon, 'involves coming to terms with the assembly line. 'The line never stops', you are told. Why not? '...don't ask. It never stops.'' While Ford or Taylor may have considered this suitable work for an illiterate and unthinking proletariat, here the Ford workers have to force themselves to temporarily become the automaton demanded by the Taylorist method - ''when I'm here my mind's a blank. I make it go blank.' They all say that. They all tell the story about the man who left Ford to work in a sweet factory where he had to divide up the reds from the blues, but left because he couldn't take the decision making. Or the country lad who couldn't believe that he had to work on every car: 'oh no. I've done my car. That one down there. A green one it was'.

Beynon also uncovers how the temporary settlement between the unions and the automobile manufacturers emerged in 1930s America precisely through each side agreeing to compromise - but what they actually compromise over reveals something instructive. He quotes a GM executive, who explains that the company has no quarrel with unions as long as they don't 'invade basic management prerogatives'. Earlier, 'our right to determine production schedules, set work standards and to discipline workers were all suddenly called into is easy to understand why it seemed to some corporate officials as though the union might one day virtually be in control of our operations'. But as soon as the AFL-CIO - and later the TUC - made quite clear that pay and conditions were their concern rather than any Syndicalist extremism, they calmed down and institutionalised the union. The fact that the militancy of the '70s led to a new hostility to the very idea of partnership with unions is telling - they were fine as long as they knew their place. So any intervention into, say, the use of Taylorism would be considered stepping on management's toes - 'they decide on their measured day how fast we will work...they've agreed to have a built-in allowance of six minutes for going to the toilet, blowing your nose and that. It takes you six minutes to get your trousers down'. As in the assembly line, so in the call centre.

'Rightness in mechanics, rightness in morals are basically the same thing and cannot rest apart'.
Henry Ford

In Americanism and Fordism, a rather odd, intriguing and occasionally disturbing partial celebration of what was then the most advanced form of capitalism, Antonio Gramsci praises the moral discipline created by the Taylor system and Ford's sponsorship of the nuclear family, leading to a stability and sobriety which is politically useful for the proletariat itself, as it finds itself able to attack from a position where everyday life is no longer a chaotic struggle. But activism of this sort is usually remembered as a very macho thing indeed, where women were either considered peripheral or an active impediment to militancy. Beynon depicts the women workers at some of the plants as some of the most militant unionists, but for the shop stewards 'the wife' is usually a distrusting figure in the background, for fairly obvious reasons - 'one senior steward claimed to have never had a Sunday dinner with his family since he took up with the union (....) The fact that trade union activity is voluntarily undertaken for other people's benefit does cause strain in a society where self advancement and self interest are the dominant values. 'You've got to have a very understanding wife in this game''.

"No man who owns his own house and lot can be a communist,"
William Levitt

Now that the few workers who could agree with the Halewood worker quoted as saying 'you need two weeks to call it a real strike' can be found in fairly 'feminised' jobs rather than heavy industry, this seems a relic - but what is more interesting is the suspicion the Halewood stewards have of domesticity - not in terms of 'the wife' in the background, but through a deep distrust of the incipient 'property-owning democracy', recognising that it's a form of transparent and dangerous bribery - and it's here that the book is at its most prescient, where it shows Ford using subtler strategies than beatings or sackings. One steward comments - 'you see what happens to supervisors. They get made up, earn a lot more money and then the company starts encouraging them to buy a house, to get a car on the company's scheme. I know this for a fact. Then when they're up to their neck in debt they put the screws on them, and they've got no chance. A shop steward should never be in that position, where he can't afford to go on strike pay. I'd never buy a house when I was a shop steward. I don't think any steward should.' What has happened since is that most of the population fell for it, with catastrophic levels of household debt coinciding, surprise surprise, with low levels of strikes and high levels of exploitation.

The disdain for the domestic here leads to one of the book's most apposite passages: 'the middle classes are afraid of 'falling on hard times', of falling into the working class, but even more afraid of the working class rising up to challenge their rightful place in the sun. In coping with this, they have tended to interpret the working class through their own, specifically middle class, images. They find the 'warmth' of working class communities attractive. Homely workers are nice. It's when this 'warmth' comes on to the streets that it causes problems'. Over the last few decades it's this Uses of Literacy version of the working class that has dominated the media - a friendly, simple people, whose placid lives were upended by town planning and immigration, who only occasionally converge with the force that scared the middle classes witless in the 1970s. Finally, Working for Ford reminds that the process of decentring industry, moving it to the peripheries and the areas where abuses could not be seen, was something practised by Ford long before Post-Fordism took it and ran with it. Halewood was built in the first place because, with its history of casual labour on the Docks, its workers were considered easily exploited, unlike the unionised workers at their Dagenham plant. The book profiles the hyper-exploitation of these early days at Halewood, before unions instituted some sort of order. One worker claims 'I didn't have any relations with my wife for months. Now that's not right is it? No work should be that hard! They wouldn't stop that fucking line. You could be dying and they wouldn't stop it.' It hasn't stopped yet.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

In the Distance

There are two new posts on the way, but as a placeholder to force me to write the bloody things, here's some relevant links. One will be on the subject of Huw Benyon's brilliant chronicle of '70s industrial militancy Working for Ford, more specifically on what is current and not-current in his analysis of Fordism at its zenith; as a pointer to what happens next, and our failure to get to grips with it, read Kosmograd on the uselessness of Jane Jacobs for an analysis of Foxconn City (and Len on recent Chinese strikes). The other post is on, with what some may find crushing inevitability, the subject of Basil Spence's Southampton University and the Flower Estate that adjoins it, because I had a walk round both recently for the first time in around 15 years, and I might have some new things to say about the experience. Advance chippiness warning. A more lyrical evocation of Sotonian bitterness can be found on the excellent, and until recently unknown to me Nonism website.

Also occuring this week: two public things. There's a roundtable discussion of Footsteps, or more specifically 'the role of footsteps in reconstructing moments in the cultural history of particular parts of cities, will take place from 3-5pm on Tuesday 15th June in Room 101, 30 Russell Square. Speakers include Marshall Berman, Ardis Butterfield, Henderson Downing, Owen Hatherley, Victoria McNeile and Mica Nava.' I'll be talking about commuting, probably. I'll also be talking to Tom McDonough about The Situationists and the City at the ICA on the 16th. I presume we'll be slightly kinder than this.


I got to 'review' the East London Line extension in BD, which was a very enjoyable task, despite the slightly depressing nature of most of the architecture - mainly because of some things which could either be only touched upon or not mentioned at all in the review. The first of them is the spaciousness of the trains themselves, wonderful open-plan things without internal doors, picked out in yellow and orange and with lovely and unashamedly retromodernist seats. They haven't quite attained a level of full civilisation to the extent of installing toilets at each end, but steps in the right, as opposed to the horrendously wrong direction have been made, which is rare and good.

The other thing is the maintenance spaces in New Cross Gate, which I got to mention, only mention, in BD at the end, as an example of architecture with the drama the stations themselves largely avoid in the service of flogging air rights to Barratt Homes.

They're quite motley, and were regarded as such by the depot's staff, or at least those I spoke to. What you can see above is the atrium of the Operational Buildings Complex, the space where TfL, LOROL and the RMT can all meet in the middle and try and work out what the other is doing. There's a strange mixture here of an architecture of display and concealment, where very cheaply detailed buildings play at being 'iconic' and genuinely breathtaking spaces refuse to signal themselves to the passer-by. The Operational Buildings Complex looks like this on the outside. I like the antennae especially:

...and had incurred some ire already from some in there. 'They've given us a triangular building for a square function'. Apparently they'd 'nearly made the architects cry' a few days earlier. Mind you, they were very keen to show me just how heavy the door to the control room is, and it was enough to nearly knock over my not-as-thin-as-it-used-to-be frame. The two linked sheds for Wheel Lathe and Heavy Cleaning are what I noticed at first from the train, and what made me decide to try and get in here in the first place.

They clearly want to be part of a rather more expensive and prestigious scheme, with their sub-Zaha formalism. Inside was the place where they scrape off the bodies. No, really, this is pretty much how they describe it.

But upstairs was security, detailed in plastic and MDF. Here, a spotty, animated adolescent boy had before him an enormous bank of surveillance software, which he was clearly loving. 'I am adamant that no-one is going to mess with my depot.' Every single inch of the place was covered - as well it might be, as even passengers are supposed to be encouraged by the East London Line's response to This Time Of Heightened Security, with leaflets on the benefits of CCTV filed next to the new train timetables. But I'd never seen before just how advanced this technology had become - he could click a few times and get a close-up on a depot worker's face as he had a crafty fag half-a-mile away. It all felt very unreal, although Bobby said to me afterwards that it makes perfect sense to give such a job to a youth, to someone who was used to playing video games. He kindly walked me back to New Cross Gate station after I was done, and asked me lots of questions about my job. 'Sorry, I'm a bit nosey'. Which I suppose comes in useful in that line of work.

The Maintenance Depot really is a stunning thing, however. A top lit and not particularly big Big Shed, my aesthetic pleasure in it was probably not because I took it as the unpretentious industrial structure it is, but because a top lit glass shed with trains in immediately looks to me like a railway shed, and here I immediately compare it to the appallingly shoddy sheds of the line itself and find them distinctly lacking. Viz the following contrast between the interior of Dalston Junction and the interior of the Maintenance Depot.

The sad thing about this is not merely the ignorance of the huge amount of precedents for beautiful tube stations, the fact it erroneously suggests that some 150 years after the Underground railway was invented in London nothing much has happened since. If it is, as E&V points out, the 19th century all over again today, with an eclectic aesthetics and an industrial non-aesthetics at total variance with each other, then it's telling how the 'architectural' public space of Dalston Junction is utterly miserable and the unshowy industrial space of the Maintenance Depot's shop floor is thrilling, airy, exciting - if it reminds me of anything recent then it's the Hauptbahnhof in Berlin, certainly not anything in the UK. So maybe we should be looking to the sheds for interest rather than the architects who dress them up on the outside. Another contrast - inside and outside.

It's clear that the architects have done as much as possible not to express the industrial drama inside. In his forthcoming Architecture of Failure, Murphy outlines how the Crystal Palace and the Victorian railway sheds have become the positivist foundation for all that is drab and apolitical in British architecture; but when it comes to actually designing new railway stations, we get this, or we get the ELL extension. It would lead you to statements about the inadequacy of British architects to live up to their past - or it would, if they hadn't been capable of this only ten years ago.