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A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain

A darkly humorous architectural guide to the decrepit new Britain that neoliberalism built.
Back in 1997, New Labour came to power amid much talk of regenerating the inner cities left to rot under successive Conservative governments. Over the next decade, British cities became the laboratories of the new enterprise economy: glowing monuments to finance, property speculation, and the service industry—until the crash.

In A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain, Owen Hatherley sets out to explore the wreckage—the buildings that epitomized an age of greed and aspiration. From Greenwich to Glasgow, Milton Keynes to Manchester, Hatherley maps the derelict Britain of the 2010s: from riverside apartment complexes, art galleries and amorphous interactive "centers," to shopping malls, call centers and factories turned into expensive lofts. In doing so, he provides a mordant commentary on the urban environment in which we live, work and consume. Scathing, forensic, bleakly humorous, A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain is a coruscating autopsy of a get-rich-quick, aspirational politics, a brilliant, architectural "state we're in."

Reviews

  • “A book of finespun rage ... a book that had to be written. Wittily, bitterly, pithily, mostly accurately, Hatherley tells it how it is.”
  • “This surgical evisceration of the cityscapes of Blairism is required reading.”
  • “Wonderfully provocative.”
  • “Hatherley is always entirely clear about his personal standpoint, so his criticisms never seem unjustified ... A rather bleak undercurrent is tempered by Hatherley’s often witty observations and easy-going prose style.”
  • “This is a different kind of Heritage Britain, the kind that the tourists don't usually get to see ... this is also the real Britain, and Hatherley is the most informed, opinionated and acerbic guide you could wish for.”
  • “Roomy and intellectually sophisticated.. It is bold and original, and it may change how you see British cities.”
  • “This is fear and loathing in Lost Albion riffed by a quainter version of Hunter S Thompson.”
  • “Painted with a raging energy that is exhilarating ... [It's] political, sinister, sometimes funny.”
  • “A serious left-field attempt to provoke thought and argument ... This is an important book that is entirely worthy of the arguments it sets out to provoke.”
  • “Hatherley deserves to be widely read … he has brought a welcome freshness and honesty to architectural criticsm.”
  • “In this angry, fiercely funny book, Owen Hatherley steps forward as the Pevsner of the PFI generation, an erudite, urbane guide to the Ballardian wreckage of millennial Britain. Essential reading for anyone who ever feels their blood start to boil when they hear the word ‘regeneration.'”
  • “An exhilarating book. 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.This book is as much a marker for an era as English Journey and Outrage were.”
  • “The latest heir to Ruskin ... Hatherley blasts the architectural style of New Labour Britain. Whatever your pet-hate, Hatherley will probably have some enjoyably cruel words for it.”
  • “A useful and entertaining guide to the state of our built environment .”

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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  • How Did We Get Into This Mess?

    A British politics reading list

    *** THE SALE HAS NOW FINISHED ***



    It's been a landmark year for this rainy island. Labour coup attempts, Brexit chaos, rising poverty, thriving right-wing politics, and yet! we've seen more outrage over a potential marmite shortage than the spike in racially motivated attacks.

    Beyond that, there's been an accelerated rise of the far-right throughout Europe (and, of course, the horror in the US), a refugee crisis so poorly managed that an even worse humanitarian crisis awaits us in 2017, and a global climate catastrophe that isn't going away but continues to be (largely) ignored. Capitalism is still doing it's bit for the rich, whilst failing everyone else, creating a wealth divide so large that it's hard to see where it will end.

    Our British politics reading list includes books that look at these very issues, as well as the historical contexts and political conditions that have allowed them to thrive in the last year. Until Jan 1: all our print books are 50% off (with free shipping worldwide and bundled ebooks), all our ebooks are 90% off.

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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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Other books by Owen Hatherley