Monday, November 23, 2009

What I Did This Autumn

Apparent on-line inactivity should not be taken for slothfulness. I have been busy. Honestly. I can be found, for example, reviewing Paul Barker's book The Freedoms of Suburbia in the current issue of Architecture Today. This is a book that has been reviewed pretty extensively in both the architectural and mainstream press so my piece is hardly new but it manages to be - unexpectedly - more critical than some others.

Although I'm generally pretty positive about the joys of suburbia, I was concerned by both a knee-jerk anti-modernism in Barker's book (a bit rich coming from someone complaining about aesthetic prejudice) and a strain of free-market libertarianism which dismisses any form of social policy or politically informed housing policy. "Politically informed housing policy" is a phrase likely to send a chill into Paul Barker's heart I imagine. Nonetheless I don't regard suburbia as some kind of natural phenomena - the unperverted manifestation of people's desires - as many of its apologists do. It is however pretty good at reconciling a number of competing desires that people seem to have. Its loose, relatively unplanned form also allows elements of the unexpected to occur which is one reason why architects, with their fetish for form and control freakishness, don't like it.

Anyway, it's all there in the review which is short but pithy! It's not to be found online unfortunately (pointless link here) so you will either have to buy a copy or, alternatively, study for seven years to become a registered architect and get a free subscription. Either way, the issue is well worth buying for the extended essay on the reconstruction of Berlin by Doug Clelland.

Also this month I'm in Icon reviewing James Wines' recent lecture at the Barbican and wearing a pair of silly sunglasses. That's me not James Wines. He's the guy with the big beard. This is something of a split jury review too as Wines is a bit of a hero of mine, albeit one whose recent work lacks the punch of his early stuff.

Finally, on Thursday I'm giving a lecture at the University of Portsmouth School of Architecture. If you live there and you read this (what are the chances?) come along.

(Illustration: George Shaw: What I Did This Summer. Via)


Rob said...

My God. That image. The universe just aligned itself perfectly for a brief moment.

I first saw that image in 2006. It was the opening slide at a very good lecture on suburbia by Wayne Hemingway. I wrote to the AJ about it at the time:

I had no idea where it came from. I thought it was his. It stayed with me ever since though and it was exactly this image I was thinking of when I made this drawing for a housing scheme I just got planning approval on last week for Birmingham City Council's new Municipal Housing Trust.

Then I rock up here (read more great thoughts on suburbia) and discover the source was an exhibition - in Birmingham. Which I probably went to.

I need to go an lie down.

Charles Holland said...

Hi Rob, I've had a few moments like that on t'internet, moments when something seems to link up lots of dispirate thoughts. Mind you, I'm slightly concerned to be using the same images as Mr Hemingway!

The link to your flickr site didn't work btw..

Rob said...

Try this.

You shouldn't be worried about the Hemingway connection. Although much of our profession got a bit upset about him appearing on the scene, the couple of lectures of his I saw at the time showed genuine interest and considered thinking over suburban design.

Looking forward to seeing your Walsall housing project. I was reassured to see that we're both in the habit of rather optimistically drawing little flat porches without much in the way of support :)

Porches are tricky.