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In Battersea

Owen Hatherley, 2 February 2023

... My​ father lived in West London in the late 1950s and early 1960s, a time when, on high ground, Battersea power station dominated the skyline. These days he travels regularly along the Southampton-Waterloo line, originally the South Western Railway. Where the line’s depot once stood at Nine Elms, there is a chaos of luxury investment vehicles, towers sprouting in every available space and wrapping around the power station itself ...

The Socialist Lavatory League

Owen Hatherley: Public Conveniences, 9 May 2019

No Place to Go: How Public Toilets Fail Our Private Needs 
by Lezlie Lowe.
Coach House, 220 pp., £12.95, September 2018, 978 1 55245 370 4
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... The Jubilee Line​ used to be one of the better London Underground lines to travel on if, like me, you have Crohn’s disease. When the line was extended in the late 1990s, some of the new stations – Stratford, Canada Water, North Greenwich – were equipped with toilets, a great rarity on the Tube. They weren’t very nice, but if you’re liable to need the loo frequently and urgently when you’re out and about, it’s nice to know that you’re provided for ...

Who will stop them?

Owen Hatherley: The Neo-Elite, 23 October 2014

The Establishment and How They Get Away with It 
by Owen Jones.
Allen Lane, 335 pp., £16.99, September 2014, 978 1 84614 719 7
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... Part​ of what makes Owen Jones such a phenomenally successful figure by left-of-Labour standards is his ability to be several things at once. He is both insider, reporting back to ‘us’ about what ‘they’ think, and outsider, as shocked and angry about it as ‘we’ might be. He was brought up in Sheffield, Falkirk and Stockport and speaks in a sharp Mancunian accent, but he is also an Oxford graduate, with all the connections that can entail ...

One Click at a Time

Owen Hatherley, 30 June 2016

PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future 
by Paul Mason.
Allen Lane, 368 pp., £8.99, June 2016, 978 0 14 197529 0
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Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World without Work 
by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams.
Verso, 256 pp., £12.99, October 2015, 978 1 78478 096 8
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... In thinking about how we got here, Srnicek and Williams – like so many recent writers, from Owen Jones to Mark Fisher to Philip Mirowski – lay great stress on the think-tanks (the Mont Pelerin Society and the like) that had their solutions ready when Keynesianism faltered in the mid-1970s. The ‘folk politics’ of Climate Camps, single-issue ...


Owen Hatherley: Nye Bevan, 7 May 2015

Nye: The Political Life of Aneurin Bevan 
by Nicklaus Thomas-Symonds.
I.B. Tauris, 316 pp., £25, October 2014, 978 1 78076 209 8
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... When​ the Health and Social Care Bill was passed into law at the start of 2012, it elicited one of those usually impotent hashtag campaigns seen so often on Twitter, where – the notion is – thousands of people using the same tag manifest the strength of the collective will. An earlier and very popular hashtag, #welovetheNHS, had been started in response to the claim by opponents of Obama’s ‘public option’ in US healthcare that the NHS was a widely hated basket case ...

Joe, Jerry and Bomber Blair

Owen Hatherley: Jonathan Meades, 7 March 2013

Museum without Walls 
by Jonathan Meades.
Unbound, 446 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 1 908717 18 4
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... Jonathan Meades, for the last thirty years Britain’s most consistently surprising and informative writer on the built environment, has finally published a book on the subject. A volume did appear in 1988 – English Extremists, written with Deyan Sudjic and Peter Cook, celebrating the postmodern architects Campbell Zogolovitch Wilson Gough – but since then his medium has been television ...

Serried Yuppiedromes

Owen Hatherley: What happened to London?, 21 August 2014

Guide to the Architecture of London 
by Edward Jones and Christopher Woodward.
Phoenix, 511 pp., £16.99, July 2013, 978 1 78022 493 0
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... sheltered housing in Streatham are missing. As for the gloriously aggressive, tasteless work of Owen Luder, such as Eros House and the Catford Centre, one shudders to think what the authors might have made of it. In this they are again products of their time; critics who are too young to have seen these being built can be much more complimentary, as Tom ...

Amerikanist Dreams

Owen Hatherley, 21 October 2021

Building a New World: Amerikanizm in Russian Architecture 
by Jean-Louis Cohen.
Yale, 544 pp., £30, September 2020, 978 0 300 24815 9
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Moscow Monumental: Soviet Skyscrapers and Urban Life in Stalin’s Capital 
by Katherine Zubovich.
Princeton, 280 pp., £34, January, 978 0 691 17890 5
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... The Red Gate tower in Moscow, designed by 
Alexei Nikolayevich Dushkin and completed in 1953. One of the more intriguing​ recent conspiracy theories centres on the putative suppression of a global ‘Tartarian Empire’, which, before it was destroyed either by the world wars or by a tidal wave of mud, went in for an opulent, gigantist architecture of domes and spires, encompassing everything from St Paul’s in London to St Basil’s in Moscow ...

Wild and Tattered Kingdom

Owen Hatherley: Fassbinder and His Friends, 29 June 2023

Fassbinder Thousands of Mirrors 
by Ian Penman.
Fitzcarraldo, 185 pp., £12.99, April, 978 1 80427 042 4
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... When​ asked in 1974, halfway through his too-brief career, whether he thought films ought to be critical rather than affirmative, Rainer Werner Fassbinder replied that ‘the best thing’ he could imagine ‘would be to create a union between something as beautiful and powerful and wonderful as the Hollywood film and a criticism of the status quo ...

Strange, Angry Objects

Owen Hatherley: The Brutalist Decades, 17 November 2016

A3: Threads and Connections 
by Peter Ahrends.
Right Angle, 128 pp., £18, December 2015, 978 0 9532848 9 4
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Raw Concrete: The Beauty of Brutalism 
by Barnabas Calder.
Heinemann, 416 pp., £25, April 2016, 978 0 434 02244 1
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Space, Hope and Brutalism: English Architecture 1945-75 
by Elain Harwood.
Yale, 512 pp., £60, September 2015, 978 0 300 20446 9
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Concrete Concept: Brutalist Buildings around the World 
by Christopher Beanland.
Frances Lincoln, 192 pp., £18, February 2016, 978 0 7112 3764 3
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This Brutal World 
by Peter Chadwick.
Phaidon, 224 pp., £29.95, April 2016, 978 0 7148 7108 0
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Modern Forms: A Subjective Atlas of 20th-Century Architecture 
by Nicolas Grospierre.
Prestel, 224 pp., £29.99, February 2016, 978 3 7913 8229 6
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Modernist Estates: The Buildings and the People Who Live in Them 
by Stefi Orazi.
Frances Lincoln, 192 pp., £25, September 2015, 978 0 7112 3675 2
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Architecture an Inspiration 
by Ivor Smith.
Troubador, 224 pp., £24.95, November 2014, 978 1 78462 069 1
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... Square Car Park and the Dunston Rocket, both in Gateshead, both designed by Rodney Gordon for Owen Luder Architects. House of Ritual Services, Vilnius He heard Joy Division, and realised that this brutal world was the landscape they were describing: ‘On the tenth floor, down the back stairs, it’s a no-man’s-land’. Pop quotations are attached ...

No Mythology, No Ghosts

Owen Hatherley: Second City?, 3 November 2022

Second City: Birmingham and the Forging of Modern Britain 
by Richard Vinen.
Allen Lane, 545 pp., £25, September 2022, 978 0 241 45453 4
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... For​ at least a thousand years, London has been England’s first city. The unofficial title of ‘second city’ has changed hands many times. York, Norwich, Bristol, Manchester and Liverpool have all taken a turn. Since the First World War, Birmingham has generally been considered the UK’s second city. It became the second most populous city in England in 1911, and in Britain forty years later, overtaking Glasgow ...

Where are all the people?

Owen Hatherley: Jane Jacobs, 27 July 2017

Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs 
by Robert Kanigel.
Knopf, 512 pp., £34, September 2016, 978 0 307 96190 7
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Vital Little Plans: The Short Works of Jane Jacobs 
edited by Samuel Zipp and Nathan Storring.
Random House, 544 pp., £16.99, October 2016, 978 0 399 58960 7
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... In Enrica Colusso​ ’s film Home Sweet Home, about the recently ‘decanted’ Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle, southeast London, a town planner explains why nearly all the buildings around him – a large council estate and a covered shopping centre – have to be demolished. They’re not real streets, he says. They’re monocultures – allowing for just one type of thing, housing here, shopping there – and worse than that, they’re mono-tenure, one gigantic ‘project’ of poor people put in one place ...

It hits in the gut

Will Self, 8 March 2012

Militant Modernism 
by Owen Hatherley.
Zero, 146 pp., £9.99, April 2009, 978 1 84694 176 4
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A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain 
by Owen Hatherley.
Verso, 371 pp., £9.99, July 2011, 978 1 84467 700 9
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... Architecture,’ Owen Hatherley states in his essay ‘The Brutishness of British Modernism’, ‘unlike the other arts, can’t be ignored, can’t be passively consumed, not if you have to live in it.’ His published writings thus far have been a stinging lash across the back of current architectural criticism – a necessary corrective to its supine state ...

Almost Lovable

Sheila Fitzpatrick: What Stalin Built, 30 July 2015

Landscapes of Communism: A History through Buildings 
by Owen Hatherley.
Allen Lane, 613 pp., £25, June 2015, 978 1 84614 768 5
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... Soviet Union, but who knows in what spirit of Stalinist nostalgia people read it these days. Now, Owen Hatherley tells us, the Poles actually like their Palace of Culture. Moscow State University in its heyday (c.1953). I’ve noticed before the strange tendency of hateful buildings to become almost lovable after the passage of decades. Not all of ...

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