With the recent urban landscape changing rapidly due to the recession, Owen Hatherley’s latest book A New Kind of Bleak is a timely reflection on how these changes have taken shape in Britain.
Reviewing his book for the Guardian, Andy Beckett says of Hatherley:
His leftwing politics, quick put-downs and, perhaps above all, the sense that he speaks for a rarely represented generation that has not benefitted from gentrification, the property ladder and the other urban booms of the last 30 years, make his books fierce and original.
Following recent events across the globe, it is no surprise that reviewers of David Harvey’s Rebel Cities continue to easily locate the book in its contemporary context and commend its undeniable relevance. Writing in the Financial Times, Edwin Heathcote states that this latest work produced by Harvey, whom he hails as having always been “a consistent and intelligent voice on the left,” could not be better timed:
In the past couple of years the squares and streets of the city have re- emerged in the most dramatic manner imaginable as a forum for public protest. From Cairo to Athens, from Madrid’s “Indignados” to America’s Occupy Wall Street movement and right up to the recently removed protesters outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London, urban centres all over the world have resonated with the chants of those who feel economically and politically disempowered.
Visit the Financial Times to read the review in full.
What of the Olympic site itself? Everything is dominated by the ArcelorMittal Orbit, a shocking pink entrail laterally curved around an observation tower, famously commissioned by Boris Johnson in the toilets of a fundraising dinner from steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, who provided the metal in return for the monument being named after him. There’s a faintly sick irony in this ex-industrial zone being overlooked by an edifice dedicated to a prolific downsizer and asset-stripper of factories, but that aside, there are buildings to enjoy, if you can keep from your mind the town-planning abortion that has been wreaked upon Stratford.
Owen Hatherley's new travelogue through the grim thoroughfares of contemporary urban planning is raising both hackles and high praise from across the mainstream media.
Reviewing A New Kind of Bleak for Time Out, Euan Ferguson praises Hatherley's "typically acerbic and witty arguments" on the ideological landscape that have shaped our urban environments, from the unrealised potential of post-war planning to the clumsy market-driven regeneration of Blairism:
Hatherley's an engaging, fearless and startlingly intelligent polemicist, one unashamed to talk about class and capitalism and the importance of state provision. We need a writer like him now more than ever, an uncompromising voice from the left: the purpose of his search for the real Britain is not to take the piss or exhume fake nostalgia but to ask questions for which there are no easy answer.
A bestseller in France, A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros charts the many different ways we get from A to B — the pilgrimage, the promenade, the protest march, the nature ramble — and reveals what they say about us.
Inspired by this brilliant and erudite new book, out this month on Verso, we present Verso's updated guide to political walking.
1. A Philosophy of Walking - Frédéric Gros
Gros illuminates a new philosophical history of walking, and provides new ways of navigating and interacting with one's environment politically. Walking has long been held as the key to opening the mind, reconnecting with one’s self and nature. From Kierkegaard to Kant to Kerouac, some of the finest thinkers of history credit a good walk with inspiration for their ideas (dating back to the Aristotle's 'peripatetic' lectures) Gros’s new book details how this most basic of human transportation can cause commonsensical-looking things to be unfounded and certain improbable-looking things to be true. Gros details how walking can help us join as one with the natural world, and liberate us from crises and stresses of identity.
2. Explore Everything - Bradley L. Garrett
It is assumed that every inch of the world has been explored and charted; that there is nowhere new to go. But perhaps it is the everyday places around us—the cities we live in—that need to be rediscovered. Bradley L. Garrett has evaded urban security in order to experience the city in ways beyond the boundaries of conventional life. He calls it ‘place hacking’: the recoding of closed, secret, hidden and forgotten urban space to make them realms of opportunity.
The book is also a manifesto, combining philosophy, politics and adventure, on our rights to the city and how to understand the twenty-first century metropolis.
3. The View from the Train - Patrick Keiller
In his sequence of films, Patrick Keiller retraces the hidden story of the places where we live, the cities and landscapes of our everyday lives. Referencing writers such as Benjamin and Lefebvre, this collection follows his career since the late 1970s, exploring themes including the surrealist perception of the city; the relationship of architecture and film; how cities change over time, and how films represent this; as well as accounts of cross-country journeys involving historical figures, unexpected ideas and an urgent portrait of post-crash Britain.