The Age of Spectacle

CoverJonathan Meades at Literary Review:

Cities of spectacle are becoming this young century’s norm. The bling school of architecture is a global nostrum. Take Pekka Korpinen, until recently deputy mayor of Helsinki. He would like to see an example of jaw-dropping architecture in that city. Is the man blind? Has he not noticed Lars Sonck’s magnificent work? Ah, he wants something jaw-dropping and new. Unimaginative local politicians, borderline-criminal elected mayors, vain ‘philanthropists’, thick Rotarians, optimistic local-enterprise partnerships and regional development agencies determinedly assume that non-orthogonal, sculpturally outré new buildings will foster regeneration (whatever that is). If it worked in Bilbao it’ll work in Lille, Bremen and Malmö. But has it worked in Bilbao? Gehry reels off statistics to demonstrate the supposed benefits to the city of his creation but quite neglects to mention the considerable increase in poverty there since the museum was opened and the consequently greater dependence on income assistance. Dyckhoff doesn’t challenge him.

In an interesting early chapter, Dyckhoff traces the history of the idea of ‘gentrification’ and its stuttering progress over half a century. The term was coined in 1964 by the sociologist Ruth Glass. She observed at first hand the phenomenon of inner London being slowly rebourgeoised. She ascribed this shift to the coming of age of a generation of people, then in their late twenties and early thirties, who shunned the anti-urban bias of their parents and grandparents. These were often people who worked in what was not yet called the media: their just-about fictional analogues were the characters of Mark Boxer and Peter Preston’s ‘The String-Alongs’.

more here.