By Owen Hatherley

An anatomy of failed-state Britain, via the writer of A advisor to the recent Ruins of significant Britain.

In A consultant to the hot Ruins of serious Britain, Owen Hatherley skewered New Labour’s architectural legacy in all its witless swagger. Now, within the yr of the Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics, he units out to explain what the Coalition’s altogether diversified method of fiscal mismanagement and civic irresponsibility is doing to the locations the place the British reside.

In a trip that starts off and results in the capital, Hatherley takes us from Plymouth and Brighton to Belfast and Aberdeen, in terms of the eerie urbanism of the Welsh valleys and the much-mocked splendour of modernist Coventry. all over the place outdoors the factitious Southeast, the construction has stopped in cities and towns, which languish as they look ahead to the subsequent bout of self-defeating austerity.

Hatherley writes with unrivalled aggression in regards to the disarray of contemporary Britain, and but this continues to be a e-book approximately chances remembered, approximately not likely successes in the middle of doubtless inexorable failure. For in addition to trash, old and glossy, Hatherley unearths indicators of the hopeful state Britain as soon as used to be and tricks of what it will possibly become.
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In its main room, which is being adapted as a museum, with interactive exhibits on feminism, the health service and trade unionism, there is remade Arts and Crafts furniture (that you can sit on, for once) and a small library stocked with the likes of Friedrich Engels, Mary Wollstonecraft and Sheila Rowbotham. If the rest of the building avoids traditional notions of what trade unionism looks like, here there’s a reminder, and it’s a quietly powerful one. Perhaps this is a project which needed rhetoric and imagery as much as clarity and spaciousness.

From what I could see at UCL, the ten days of hundreds of people sleeping together in one very large room had brought a certain intensity to the proceedings, and had shown how much this was becoming not just a campaign to bring down a singularly grotesque millionaires’ austerity government, but also to imagine a new kind of everyday life. I was invited to speak here about student housing and the awfulness thereof. Afterwards, one of the assembled students said something along the lines of ‘Yes, we know that’s awful, you don’t need to tell us – but we ’re here creating something different, something positive, by ourselves.

All this heated (albeit graphically soft-toned and lower-case) rhetoric has to have some sort of correspondence to how the building actually functions. Given that the organization exists at least in part to fight for better working conditions, it had to be ‘an exemplary working environment’. And here Unison are clearest about the old NALGO building’s limitations. Not only was it dark and lit by artificial light, John Cole also points out that it had ‘no social spaces’. Now, the union ‘wanted large floor plates’ in order to be able to create these areas.

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