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A New Kind of Bleak: Journeys Through Urban Britain

The urban state of the nation—from Olympic dreams to broken Britain

This is what austerity looks like: a nation surviving on the results of what conservatives privately call “the progressive nonsense” of the Big Society agenda.

In a journey that begins and ends in the capital, but takes in Belfast, Aberdeen, Plymouth and Brighton, Hatherley explores modern Britain’s urban landscape and finds a short-sighted disarray of empty buildings, malls and glass towers. Yet while A New Kind of Bleak anatomizes “broken Britain,” Hatherley also looks to a hopeful future and discovers fragments of what it might look like.

Illustrated by Laura Oldfield Ford, author and artist of Savage Messiah.

Reviews

  • “A humanely barbed Nikolaus Pevsner for our times ... This book should be required reading for planners, developers and architects.”
  • “Hatherley has busily constructed a cult reputation as the angry young man of architectural criticism.”
  • “Engaging, fearless and startlingly intelligent polemicist.”
  • “Essential reading for anyone who ever feels their blood start to boil when they hear the word ‘regeneration.’ ”
  • “Owen Hatherley brings to bear a quizzing eye, venomous wit, supple prose, refusal to curry favour, rejection of received ideas, exhaustive knowledge and all-round bolshiness.”
  • “Fierce and original.”
  • “He writes with venom and flare... [It is] refreshing to see politics reintroduced to the architectural debate.”
  • “[A] bracing antidote to the faux-chumminess of so much British cultural discourse.”
  • “A timely counterpoint to Britain’s jubilee and Olympics self-congratulation... observed with a precision and fury to force you to open your eyes.”
  • “Hatherley’s astute and provocative analysis reaches deep into many of the inequalities that exist for the 80 per cent of us who live in urban areas”

Blog

  • Infrastructures of Empire and Resistance


    Demolition of "The Jungle" migrant camp in Calais, October 2016. 

    In late October 2016, I packed my bags for a short trip abroad, leaving a region raw with struggle over the racial and colonial violence of infrastructure. In places like Standing Rock, Flint, Muskrat Falls, Toronto, and Baltimore, conflicts raged over the targeted violence of energy, water, border, and policing systems. Movements for Black lives, for migrants’ rights, for indigenous sovereignty, and for economic and environmental justice were increasingly mapping violent infrastructure systems with their direct actions and analyses. The water protectors’ camps at Standing Rock were large and growing, animated by spirit, ceremony, and unprecedented gathering as they halted the Dakota Access Pipeline. The largest prison strike in history, 45 years after the Attica uprising, was calling out the inhumanity of American carceral infrastructure. Black organizers were denouncing infrastructure crises like the one poisoning Flint, Michigan, suggesting these would be the defining struggles for Black communities to come. More than 50 Indigenous Nations from across Turtle Island had just signed the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion, with the goal of protecting Indigenous lands and waters from all proposed pipeline, tanker, and rail projects. In my hometown of Toronto, Black Lives Matter members were making claims for the protection of “Black Infrastructure.” Blockades of damns, ports, highways, and rail infrastructure had become frequent news virtually everywhere, except for in the reporting of the mainstream media.

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  • Architecture and Cities Reading



    As the cost of housing continues to rise and affordable housing remains scarce, we face a global housing crisis of epic proportions. Our cities are now a geographic representation of the widening wealth gap, with the rich moving upwards into sky-high luxury living, and the poor being pushed further and further out. Architecture reflects and reinforces divisions with ever greater brazenness.


    This housing crisis has deep political and economic roots—requiring a more radical response than ever before. Familiarise yourself with the geography of inequality, politics, and identity with these books on our modern cities. 

    Our Architecture and Cities reading is all 50% off, with free shipping and bundled ebooks (where available), until the end of the year. See here for more sale details.

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  • “Defend free movement, without illusions”—On the Significance of Immigration

    Sam Kriss is a UK writer who blogs at Idiot Joy Showland and has previously written about the post-Brexit Labour coup on the Verso blog. Here he unpicks ‘immigration’ as an empty signifier in which the totality of modern life's general miserableness is encapsulated and given false explanation — yet one that now threatens the end of freedom of movement, which argues the left must defend, without illusions.

    Our policy is to end free movement: people were unhappy about the drudgery and uselessness of social life, and the ruling classes encouraged them to call that miserable situation ‘immigration’; now, to fix the situation, the same ruling class is proposing to actually end immigration. The politicians have decided that Europe means immigration, but immigration only means itself. It’d be hard to imagine a more ridiculous outcome; it’s as if someone in a restaurant was unhappy with the food, and the manager tried to fix things by tearing up the menu. 

    Britain is obsessed with immigration; nastily obsessed. The vote to leave the European Union was, it’s now solemnly agreed, really a vote on open borders and freedom of movement. Apocryphal tales of people voting Leave because they thought it meant that all the migrants would be made to leave; more concrete, more harrowing instances of bigotry that have nothing to do with European migration law: assaults and attacks on black Americans and British Muslims, people who weren’t covered by any of the referendum’s overt content, but who carried the physical marks that signal migration. What does it actually mean when people talk about free movement, about unrestricted mass migration, about all these foreigners coming in?

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Upcoming Events

  • Nina-max_141

    May 30, 2017

    London, United Kingdom

    The Design Museum

    Building A New Feminism

    Join architecture critic Owen Hatherley and philosopher Nina Power to explore Soviet communal architecture and the gender politics of the built environment. In partnership with the Royal Academy.

Other books by Owen Hatherley