Modern Buildings In Britain

Jonathan Meades at Literary Review:

Owen Hatherley blithely claims that this massive tour de force is ‘a guide to the place … you’re visiting, or a place you want to visit’. Pull the other one, squire. The notion of Owen Hatherley, Tripadvisor, is sheerly preposterous, though it may appeal to a tremulous publisher figuring out how to market this behemoth. He is really a polemicist, ready to take issue with anyone, including himself. His insistent invitations to look are heavy with allusions, catholic comparisons and quiet asides. The result of his tireless labour is an oblique, partial, lopsided survey of Britain throughout the long modernist century; and no matter what a platoon of celluloid collars and triple-breasted waistcoats may have wished for, modernism did triumph, in many guises. Its variety goes unnoticed by its antagonists, who have no ability to discern the kinship of much modernist architecture to its medieval and Victorian precursors. What they do have, in abundance, is torpid prejudice. This approximate gazetteer will not convince the obstinate to change their minds. But that really is not its point. It is a gorgeous treat for the already converted and, maybe, for those impaled on the spikes of equivocation. Hatherley’s only historical blunder is to describe Art Nouveau as ‘a mechanized sub-species of the Arts and Crafts’. The latter was pretty much exclusively English; the former was its flashy contemporary in places such as Belgium, Catalonia and Nancy. They hardly infected each other.

more here.