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Owen Hatherley

Författare till A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain

22+ verk 759 medlemmar 17 recensioner

Om författaren

Inkluderar namnet: Owen Hatherley (Author)

Foto taget av: Verso Books

Verk av Owen Hatherley

A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain (2010) 126 exemplar, 7 recensioner
The Ministry of Nostalgia (2016) 96 exemplar, 2 recensioner
Militant Modernism (2009) 95 exemplar, 2 recensioner
A New Kind of Bleak: Journeys Through Urban Britain (2012) 55 exemplar, 2 recensioner
Soviet Bus Stops Volume II (2017) 50 exemplar
Trans-Europe Express: Tours of a Lost Continent (2018) 44 exemplar, 1 recension
Soviet Metro Stations (2019) 33 exemplar, 1 recension
Uncommon (1635) 32 exemplar
The Alternative Guide to the London Boroughs (2020) 17 exemplar, 1 recension

Associerade verk

Nairn's Towns (2013) — Inledning, vissa utgåvor32 exemplar, 1 recension


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Sometimes the descriptions it gives aren't detailed enough without photos to give you a good feel for the buildings talked about, which is a bit frustrating. Like these buildings have so much more of an impact with actual decent photos and then you could let the photos do the talking for some of it

Also way too much use of "neoliberalism" in the introduction and I don't understand half the architecture shit so it's like only half interesting to me but hopefully I'll pick it up more as I go along. Sometimes he's really good at conjuring up an atmosphere and sometimes the architecture stuff I half understand and it makes sense to me and I agree.

Almost feels like a tour of britain where he shits on all buildings except suddenly they'll be one he likes because it's brutalist or whatever and then it's good even though there's no clear distinction of how it effects social environment etc

Also they go on about how good the Nottingham Contemporary is but it's a few shipping containers as a building. Didn't realise it was so easy to be an architect, apparently if I slap a few ugly shipping containers down I'm being "daringly minimalist"

Gonna pause it for now, it has that sort of tone that's all culture and very little politics but in a patronising tone that almost talks down about architecture that's really hard to explain and I probably sound dumb. I dunno I just don't like it much. Not enough about social environment and this sense that everything that matters is aesthetics of a kind. Also at one point there's a reference to "lumpen" as an almost insult which rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe I'll like it more some other time
… (mer)
tombomp | 6 andra recensioner | Oct 31, 2023 |
I have long liked Owen Hatherley because his appreciation of architecture is so far above and beyond mine. He can look at a building, a neighborhood or a city and see history, politics, economics, culture and fit, where I am dumbly fascinated by the look and feel. His latest book, Clean Living Under Difficult Circumstances, appears to be more of his great analysis, but it turns out that architecture is just a small part of it.

Hatherley is a blogger in England, so he writes at length on whatever he feels like. And he feels like pop music and pop culture, and particularly how his leftist views explore their meanings. The book is a collection of his blog essays, neatly grouped by subject, with an introduction to each group. Underlying everything is modernism.

He took his title from a most obscure source, what “the Who’s manager, Peter Meaden meant in 1975 when he was asked for retrospective definition of Mod, short for modernism. ‘Modism, mod living, is an aphorism for clean living under difficult circumstances.’ For the Mods, working-class London aesthetes of the sixties boom, that meant dressing up in Italian clothes, listening to American jazz and soul and watching French films, but beyond that it meant an ethos of modernity as a consciously chosen way of life.”

So his appreciation of music, at least as obscure, concentrates on British bands (focusing on pre-Elvis pop), most of which American readers will have never come across. If only because he does a lot of listing and name dropping without insight. Similarly, his essay on English towns is so detailed that readers would really have to have visited them beforehand to get the full impact. To that extent, the book is too local for most non-Brits.

Where he really shines is in the essays on global architecture. He has finely attuned and incisive appreciations of architects. He knows the firms, their commissions, and of course their stars. His longest efforts here are on Moshe Safdie and Zaha Hadid, both of whom are Middle Eastern, which is not the typical focus.

They are also as different as night and day. Safdie is famous for his flat roof boxes, assembled seemingly precariously, and affording residents far more perceived privacy than any block of flats. Hadid never met an angle she didn’t like, pointing out there are 360 to choose from. Her sweeping visions are exceptionally dramatic. Hatherley’s appreciation goes far deeper, of course, connecting the world and building context where it is not readily apparent. Including politics and the politics of architecture.

Hatherley’s approach always is for the modern. He finds it in 1920s public housing, which in Europe is meant for the comfort, benefit and longevity of the residents. In the USA, it is meant as minimalist stopgap, as government does not want to favor anyone with a worthwhile home. So (mostly northern) European public housing is a most involved subject, and various examples have rich histories and significance in their countries. Public housing there is often iconic and desirable.

He contrasts the efforts in Vienna with nearby Budapest, revealing a great deal about both. Their politics, their policies, and their choices of architects all add great depth everyone who simply visits misses completely. (However, I did not like his one paragraph total dismissal of Friedensreich Hundertwasser, a designer I really appreciate, who added immense character to blocks of flats in Vienna, now national treasures in Austria).

Modernist of course is not a fixed term: “The modernists of the 1920s attempted wherever possible to avoid the term, preferring the neutral and technocratic Neues Bauen or constructivism; when these were dubbed The international Style by critic Henry-Russell Hitchcock and fascist activist Philip Johnson, it was as a deliberate attempt to celebrate the finer thing, to hold up villas and ‘an architecture style’ against the ‘fanatical functionalists’ who wanted to build for ‘some proletarian superman of the future’. The high-tech generation who are essentially today’s architectural elders, Norman Foster, Richard Rogers et al., always disdained the notions of style, claiming ever less convincingly to be above such fripperies, as a means of communication with the public – which is lucky, their work emerging from solely technological imperatives. Schumacher claims he will use style as a means of communicating with the public, which is lucky as he was never likely to do so with his prose.” In this intricate picture, he manages to label American icon Philip Johnson a fascist while examining the foundations of modernism. This is not Architecture 101.

I would also point out his quoted paragraph above contains only two sentences. His sentences tend to be longer than my paragraphs, and his paragraphs can exceed a page. This can lead readers to skim. His paragraphs can be unending rants. I found myself fighting the urge to skim, too, looking for some kind of break.

He comes by his insights from a deep love of cities. His list of favorites is far from anyone’s top ten, and he explains why in an essay of Warsaw, one of his faves:
“There are usually certain common things getting me excited. Dramatic topography, unashamed modernity, space and scope, a history of struggle that avoids the stultifying museumification that afflicts conventionally attractive cities, an anti-classical urban montage of things that shouldn’t really fit, being thrown and meshed together. All these are part of what makes a city fascinating (to me).”

There is an essay on the current fad for Brutalism in architecture. Rough dull concrete, dangerous jutting points, and pillbox bomb shelters are what I’m accustomed to seeing in brutalist appreciations. I have long thought it to be cold, ugly and inefficient, but apparently it has been extremely popular the world over. Governments seem to love it for their offices and facilities, even if the public (and the workers in them) despise them. There are far more examples of it than I ever feared. And now, sadly, they are old enough to be heritage buildings, preserved (far too expensively) by law.

And it’s not just me; everyone’s a critic: “Maidin’s Birmingham Central Library was designed using the golden section – is nevertheless connected by Prince Charles to bad things, in this case a place that ‘looks like somewhere that books are burned, not read.’” So the competition for analysis is fierce, if unqualified.

A remarkably long and detailed essay on public toilets manages to complement his efforts on architecture. He is no outside observer. As a Crohn’s Disease sufferer, his need of public facilities is greater than most, and their provision, if any, tends to be pathetic. In far too many cities, the needy must go into a store or business and practically beg to use the employee bathroom. They do not often succeed. This essay, The Socialist Lavatory League, could be published anywhere, and probably should be.

There is an essay on the sainted urbanist Jane Jacobs, and how wrong she was about so many things. And how she turned to neoliberalism, something a New Yorker would find impossible to believe let alone understand. But he makes the case in his usual thorough and thoughtful way, pilling no punches, but leaning left, as ever.

I do love some of his carefully curated essay titles. The New and Closed Libraries of Britain could be a tourism guide if it weren’t so unfortunately worrying. Edinburgh’s Golden Turds would attract any eyeball. My Kind of Town – Warszawa mixes oil and water. Altogether, a totally different kind of book.

David Wineberg
… (mer)
1 rösta
DavidWineberg | Jun 22, 2021 |
I don't often give 5 stars. This one gets it for a number of reasons. First it was written recently and I love the raw feel that comes because the writer is living in the same world and same 'interesting' times as I do. Secondly I hear a lifetime's passion for the built environment - way beyond me of course - he reads buildings with an insider's vocabulary and a feeling for the way it all happened that surely must come from living and working in the business for decades and not from learning about it second hand. Thirdly the anger. Very entertaining in the sense that you have to laugh or you would be crying forever, especially with our own town about to be gutted by the greedy developers. And lastly leaving me itching to get out there into the towns and cities with my eyes wide open to try and see for myself. I will never have the knowledge and experience to see places with the author's eyes but I am inspired to look around me in a new and richer way and even if I have to be angry at a lot of what I see it's not worth missing the experience.… (mer)
Ma_Washigeri | 1 annan recension | Jan 23, 2021 |


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