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10th February 2008
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Got to agree with him. That said, as he points out, Manchester has got off pretty lightly compared to many other UK cities. Sounds like an interesting read. Definitely a stocking filler.

MEN.

New book attacks modern Manchester as 'New Labour boom town' that's lost its cultural edge



When people talk about Manchester’s planning mistakes, it is not long before conversation turns to the Hulme Crescents.

The leaky, crime-ridden concrete streets-in-the-sky were finally demolished in the early 1990s, and good riddance, said most.

But Owen Hatherley, Southampton-born academic and author, offers another version of history.

After the families had moved out of the Crescents, a population of alternatives had moved in – many neglecting to pay the city council any rent.

These people enjoyed an eastern European aesthetic, the brutalist architecture chiming perfectly with the chilly emotions of the music produced by the likes of Joy Division and the art films at the local Aaben cinema.

Those bleak crescents had a thriving, independent culture.

More than 20 years later, Manchester has another kind of urban living, and Hatherley for one is not too impressed by it.

His book, A Guide To The New Ruins Of Great Britain portrays Manchester as “a flagship for urban regeneration and immaterial capitalism”. After the financial crash, Manchester can be seen as “the ultimate failure of the very recent past, a mausoleum of Blairism”

“If your benchmark is the rest of the UK, Manchester is doing pretty well in terms of architecture,” says Hatherley. “If your benchmark is the rest of the world, it’s terrible.”

The book casts a despairing eye across a dozen areas of the UK, bemoaning box-like “luxury” flats and an encroaching American-style urban landscape of gated communities and malls.

Dubbing these “new ruins”, he says they “represent everything wrong with New Labour and the Third Way in a built form”. But cuts may mean those cities now being “left to rot”.

“What is about to happen is so worrying, we might look back on New Labour with nostalgia,” Hatherley adds.

Of Manchester, he says the new Civil Justice Centre is a “genuinely striking building”, and Homes For Change in Hulme is “the most interesting housing scheme in contemporary Manchester”.

Mediocre

He says the work of Ian Simpson – architect of Number 1 Deansgate and Urbis – is “undeniably superior to the run of the regeneration mill”, though Simpson’s Beetham Tower he damns with faint praise as the work of “a mediocre architect at the very top of his game”.

But it is the new Manchester beyond the iconic structures for which Hatherley reserves most bile.

“As soon as you get out of the ring road you find some really shoddy stuff,” he says.

“I’m thinking of things like the Green Quarter, Islington Wharf, quite a lot of the stuff in Ancoats, the stuff over the river in Central Salford is incredibly badly-made, incredibly bad architecture. In Salford, the old towers are badly maintained and, in some cases, badly-built, but in most of them you get Parker Morris-sized flats, double-aspect windows, a certain amount of space and light.

“In a recent tower block, you’re quite likely to get single-aspect, the rooms will be much smaller.

“Although it’s not a lot of poor people stacked up together, and so it’s never going to become a sink estate, it terms of what you are living in, you’re living in something worse.”

Hatherley describes life in new “luxury” flats as “barricading oneself into a hermetically sealed, impeccably furnished prison against an outside world seldom seen but assumed to be terrifying”.

But Hatherley’s key criticism is that Manchester now makes property developers, not vital pop music, and the constant harking back to Factory Records, Joy Division and the Smiths begins to resemble Liverpool’s obsession with The Beatles.

“We shouldn’t forget that Joy Division etc ... all this came from a city which probably wasn’t a great deal of fun to live in, but which had low rent, lots of space to rehearse and record.

“In a place with high rents, you’re not going to get good art.

“I think it’s partly the gentrification, partly Oasis, but most of the interesting music that has come out over the last ten or 15 years has come from London, Glasgow and Yorkshire, and Manchester has been nowhere, particularly with dance and electronic music.

“The swaggering, vainglorious machismo of Oasis seems quite similar to the swaggering, vainglorious machismo of Urban Splash and the Beetham Tower and so forth. It’s all about front and it’s all about arrogance.”

So which places on his travels did Hatherley like?

“I’m very keen on Sheffield, Glasgow, weirdly keen on Halifax, though I wouldn’t want to live there. I quite like Bradford. Obviously, I like Greenwich because I live there,” he says.

And which did he hate?

“Leeds is the pits,” he says. “Of the new architecture there is one building that’s quite good – a building at Leeds Met University – but the rest of it ... it’s Manchester without the confidence. They’ve done all the redevelopment but with none of the wit or arrogance. It’s shocking.

» A Guide To The New Ruins Of Great Britain, by Owen Hatherley, is published by Verso at £17.99.
 

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He's a lover of brutalist architecture.

He was on the radio a few days ago going on about how Hulme flats became a home for artists, forgetting to point out that derelict buildings abandoned by those they were actually designed for, often do.

However he does have a point. More a monument to CABEism than Blairism.
 

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Main thing that strikes me from that piece is that the guy has a very poor understanding of Manchester. I won't make any other assumptions about his expertise and motivations in slagging off a place so roundly.
 

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10th February 2008
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
He does have a valid point about the numerous nondescript apartment blocks dotted around the City centre and in the inner city suburbs.(Hulme, Moss Side, etc)

In fact, you could make up one of those guided tours.

"Here we have.................

Dandara Benidrom Spectrum.



You could spend a whole day in the Green Quarter ripping it to pieces. :lol: If only.
 

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i don't see how manchester is the mausoleum of blairism or cabeism when he said himself that its regeneration/new architecture clearly has its only quality and class which more than anything can be attributed to the leadership of the council over the past 20 or so years. unless im missing the point...?
 

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I love the idea of Tom Bloxham and Ian Simpson as the Gallagher brothers of modern architecture. :lol:

I love Manchester, warts and all, but I am not a fan of the Saville inspired post-modernist rubbish that has been used to portray the city in recent years. I think that I will like this book. Thanks for the heads-up.
 

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Spent a day in Leeds recently and agree that there is nothing new to inspire although I have a sneaking suspicion that the author of this book would like the 1968 Woodhouse Lane multi-storey where I parked. The highlight of the trip for me was Cuthbert Broderick's Corn Exchange of 1864, which I had not seen since the restoration. I could look at that ceiling all day. Fantastic.
 

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I might get that. The author is only about 28/29 I think. I can't imagine it being entirely serious but it looks a good read.
 

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I wouldn't waste your money. Hathaway writes occasional features for Building Design magazine. This book seems to be merely a regurgitation of previous diatribes already published in that magazine.

Whilst some of his observations are sound, such as the scourge of supermarket led regeneration and pokey single-aspect investor flats, he's attempted to lend these frankly obvious points some weight by wrapping them up in some sort of pseudo intellectual nonsense about 'Madchester', as only an outsider with little knowledge of the city could.

These issues are national phenomena rather than being a particular feature of regeneration in the north and are more a function of particular models financing, planning and developing schemes in the UK rather than a local culture.

All this isn't to say there isn't an awful lot of mediocre tat built in Manchester and Salford in recent times because there has. Some of it, yes, probably thanks to a more laissez faire approach to planning that you would find elsewhere. But really, I think that's probably as far as you can reasonably go in linking local culture to particular aspects of the city's recent built form.
 

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I was please to see this thread as I'm currently reading the book and have read the chapter on Manchester several times already.

His knowledge of Architecture, Urban Planning, Modernism, post-modernism and modern politics is very solid. He even has a thorough understanding of the Situationists which he references in the Manchester chapter for obvious reasons.

One of if not the best thing I've ever read on Manchester's development.

Everyone who contributes to this board should read this book.
 

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I wouldn't waste your money. Hathaway writes occasional features for Building Design magazine. This book seems to be merely a regurgitation of previous diatribes already published in that magazine.

Whilst some of his observations are sound, such as the scourge of supermarket led regeneration and pokey single-aspect investor flats, he's attempted to lend these frankly obvious points some weight by wrapping them up in some sort of pseudo intellectual nonsense about 'Madchester', as only an outsider with little knowledge of the city could.

These issues are national phenomena rather than being a particular feature of regeneration in the north and are more a function of particular models financing, planning and developing schemes in the UK rather than a local culture.

All this isn't to say there isn't an awful lot of mediocre tat built in Manchester and Salford in recent times because there has. Some of it, yes, probably thanks to a more laissez faire approach to planning that you would find elsewhere. But really, I think that's probably as far as you can reasonably go in linking local culture to particular aspects of the city's recent built form.

Not wishing to state the obvious, but you really should read the book before you review it.
 

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Erm I will save my fire until I read the book.

But I will speak about the article. First essentially its multilevel. First though he is not some young naive post grad, he is not old enough (i would suggest) to re-call the bleakness of the 80's and how despairing it was to live in Manchester.

I would not imagine there is many Mancunian who wondrously emote about the Underground market, the scores of empty warehouses rotting like teeth off Whitworth Street, the Shambles, the empty rockpools beside Victoria and Piccadilly station, the scary, hairy Piccadilly Gardens after dark. And of the course the mass gas chamber that was Cannon Street bus station.

If you love ugly then great. But I am a human and like some beauty and order. That defines me from an gorilla.

I have no sympathy for this revisionist pap regarding Hulme. The so called creative nature was and is overstated. Come on. It happened elsewhere and it happened more.

I agree that cities need creative spaces outside the mainstream. But there is no need for a new Hulme, when you have the internet.

The real creatives either got out or made some real change like this http://casestudies.pepesec.eu/archives/77 or http://www.housingnet.co.uk/housingnet-html/Homes_For_Change_Housing_Co_operative.html. Not so glamorous, but certainly more lasting. And guess what. When given the chance, these people built sustainable, healthy, safe and attractive environments. Not the run down and dangerous place Hulme was. They aren't misty eyed.

I also have little time for this idea that somehow poverty creates culture. It's typical patronising middle class tosh to imagine desperation breeds genius. The real issue has been how a lack of opportunity denies talented working class people the chance to express their creativity. The 80's were a classic case of this happening.

I do not buy into this idea that the 80's saw people sit and the dole and write songs, whilst the 00's saw them work. Don't buy it. Its more a case that those people are now using their creativity with new technology and not on guitars. Music isn't that important as it was.

Since the 90's boom, Manchester has seen a plethora of creativity in design, business, politics, art, community projects, social care, anarcho-syndicalist style football clubs and literature. Whilst I mourn the Urbis, we have more platforms to present this creativity (cyber and real) than ever.

There is a real argument about how there has been an apparent banality in the last decade. On one level that is true. Affluence does that. There was little to be angry about. Now there is, maybe we will see some change, but it won't be in the mainstream.

But that's not about kids living in brutalist buildings, but a world wide phenomena. I hope the future will see people realise we live in a society, not an economy. That humanity is more important than profit.

Where I will argue with Hatherley is his moan at the poor quality of some of the new builds. Stapled together flats are crap. Fur coats with no knickers. But to say they are worse than sink estates. Go on ask the younger folk of Dickie Bird, west Gorton or Old Moat whether they'd like to stay there or have a flat in the Quays. Enough said.

I bet I will agree with half of what he says. So much that I will probably wish I'd wrote it, but I will equally feel that the other half will make me scream.
 

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:eek:hno:

Christ, he sounds like your typical weirdy, happy-clappy individual who has his head in the clouds so much he no longer understands the real world.

Those bleak crescents had a thriving, independent culture.
Bollocks. Try telling that to the poor souls who had to try and raise their children in that 'culture'.

The reason why brutalist architecture failed was because it was crap. No-one wants to live in something that looks like 1970's Vladivostok.

And regardless of what he might believe, most people actually quite like living in trendy apartments / spacious house in the 'burbs, going to nice restaurants, drinking at nice bars, and yes, even spending a day shopping at the Trafford Centre!

What most people don't want to do is squat is some grey, brutalist, communal hole where we all sit around, presumably unshowered for several days, without work, writing folk songs about how awful things are - which presumably is the world which Owen Hatherley thinks us Northerners should live in so we maintain the image of his Southern stereotyping.

When I think of how Manchester used to be, I can confidently say I'd rather we're a mausoleum to Blairism than a mausoleum to the Soviet bloc.
 

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Is it bad of me to add that he lives in north London, reads the Garudian, shops at Waitrose and drives a Toyota Pius (or a Volvo), or have I gone too far ;D

I think both of the post sabove (by Nathan and Heaton) are excellent observations of Manchester and society, regardless of what the book says.
 

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As an Aussie said to me on his first visit to the UK a couple of years ago 'I was not expecting to find all these government estates and crap looking modern blocks of flats except in eastern Europe' Says it all really!
 

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Is it bad of me to add that he lives in north London, reads the Garudian, shops at Waitrose and drives a Toyota Pius (or a Volvo), or have I gone too far ;D

I think both of the post sabove (by Nathan and Heaton) are excellent observations of Manchester and society, regardless of what the book says.
he said he lives in Greenwich which is in south east london.
 

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Beetham
No1 1
CJC
Lowry
Lowry theatre
Imoerial War
City's ground

Better than most cities I have been to. Has this fella been to Barcelona, Milan etc..

what exactly is he expecting....

Shanghai is stuffed with shit brown boxes...Hong Kong too...

only London or Rome has a claim to 500years+ of interesting buildings.

He is a wally?
 
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