SHIFTS exploration of the socio-economic forces shaping the built environment, was given a very British riposte, from celebrated writer, acerbic commentator, and political aestheticist, Owen Hatherley. Hatherley's forthcoming book, A New Kind of Bleak: Journeys Through Urban Britain, is published by Verso on 2 July 2012.
"I’d often idly wonder when the riots would come: when the situation of organic delis next to pound shops, of crumbling maisonettes next to furiously speculated-on Victoriana, of artists shipped into architect-designed Brutalist towers to make them safe for Regeneration, of endless boosterist self-congratulation, would finally collapse in on itself… What I don’t understand is how absolutely anyone in any large British city could possible be shocked by all this. This is urban Britain, and though the cuts have made it worse, the damage was done long before."
- Owen Hatherley, A New Kind of Bleak
Owen Hatherley investigates the fate of British cities in the desolate new world of savage public-sector cuts, the withdrawal of government funding and the abdication of the Welfare State, asking: What happens when ruination overtakes regeneration?
Tackling localism, the 'Big Society' and the putative replacement of the state with charity and voluntarism, he illustrates and critiques this changing landscape through a journey across Britain from Aberdeen to Plymouth, from Croydon to Belfast, illuminating the latent significance of schemes such as The Shard and the 2012 Olympic site. A New Kind of Bleak finds a landscape left to rot – and discovers strange and potentially radical things growing in the wasteland.
The conversation was chaired by Fran Tonkiss, Director of the Cities Programme at the London School of Economics. Tonkiss' next book, on Cities by Design, is forthcoming in 2013 with Polity Press.