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Showing posts from November, 2011

New buildings and urban geographies in the 1960s and 1970s

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There are some great books from the 1960s and 70s about the new buildings and modern urban geographies being constructed at that time. Here are three of my favourites:
1. Tony Birks, Building the New Universities (David and Charles publishers, 1972)

A guide to Sussex, York, East Anglia, Kent, Essex, Warwick, and Lancaster universities, most of which had only finished their first stages of building at the time of publication. A fascinating insight into the ideas and ideals behind this wave of new universities, and how these ideals shaped their architecture and planning. It's also balanced in its assessment of some of the more experimental design features, especially the tendency for concrete to discolour in the British climate, and difficulties of ventilation and heating.

Choice quotations:

(on the budget freeze and cutbacks of 1968)
In a move to lower the cost of learning, or at least the unit-cost of higher education, buildings, like everything else, have to suffer. Any special pl…

research papers on History Working Papers Project

I'm trialling my research papers on the History Working Papers Project website, set up by Jason Kelly and Tim Hitchcock as a means of enabling open peer review.

I will be giving an abridged and combined version of the papers firstly at the University of York C18 seminar this Tuesday 29 November, and then at the Institute of Historical Research on 14 December, 5.15pm. They are in two parts, partly because I haven't worked out which bits I'm going to use, and partly to provide more extensive versions for people who wish to know more than I can explain in a 45 minute seminar. Part II is a theoretical overview of the 'spatial turn'.

Part I: 'Space, Place, and Popular Politics in Northern England, 1789-1848'
Part II: 'Theoretical Interlude: Why I'm tired of turning'.

Do post your comments and start the debate!

Material object of the week

I love this little late C18 patch box featuring a vignette of the Tontine Inn, Sheffield. It's in Sheffield museum's excellent online collections.

Apologies to framework knitters and Rebecca Rioters

Apologies to the good stocking knitters of Nottinghamshire - I kept referring to you as weavers on the debate 'Were the Luddites Right?' on BBC Radio 3 last night. Of course I meant knitters, but in the heat of debate, with no notes, I couldn't remember the right word.

Also, apologies to the Rebecca Rioters of Wales. I was considering cross-dressing customs used in protest in Lancashire and the West Riding in 1811-12 specifically rather than wider traditions and Wales in the 1840s.

Listen to the debate here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b017cjqt

non-places: Rowan Moore and Anna Minton on Business Improvement Districts

This week's Observer featured an article by Rowan Moore on the London River Park shopping development. He builds his argument around Anna Minton’s study of Business Improvement Districts such as Liverpool One, Paddington basin, and Spitalfields market. 
The fashion now is for 'malls without walls', that is, large areas of shopping streets that remain uncovered and have the appearance of being open public spaces, but which have every aspect of them privately run and controlled.
Both Moore and Minton highlight how the private multinational conglomerates who own these shopping developments have changed the meaning of public space, surreptitiously and deliberately. These spaces appear to be public because they are in the open air, have some public amenities such as seats, sculptures and fountains, perhaps toilets, but they are only pretending to be public spaces. Activities which we assume are allowed in public space - such as photography with a tripod, picnics, chaining up a b…

George Shaw and painting the everyday

I've just seen the Turner Prize exhibition at the Baltic, Gateshead. One of the contenders is George Shaw, the Coventry painter. I suspect he won't win, because he is painter in a traditional sense of brush and canvas. I've been an admirer of his work for a while now, and, as is the case with most of my interests, it's because of his representation of place.

A sense of place is the key to his work. Shaw is a Coventry painter, rather than a painter who happens to come from Coventry. His subject matter is generally the urban and semi-urban landscapes of Coventry that he knew as a teenager. Yet the Coventry he depicts is also an everywhere: the concrete buildings, the rusty fences, the littered paths, the wet tarmac, is noman's land and every man's land.

These landscapes draw the viewer in because they are so familiar. It is distinctively Coventry for Shaw, with the sites filled with his own experience and memories. But the sites could also be anywhere in suburb…