Architecturerss

Detroit: a city brought back from the dead

The moral case for gentrification

27 June 2015

In its pomp, they used to say that what was good for General Motors, Detroit’s Medici, was good for America. Detroit was imperial. Like Rome, it stood for the whole.… Read more

On the cusp: a cliche with a hidden astrological side

27 June 2015

‘A stalker who dressed a pillow “mannequin” in his ex’s nurse’s uniform, then sent her a picture, has been told he is “on the cusp” of jail,’ reported the Scottish… Read more

A Frank Gehry building at Paddy McKillen’s architectural theme park in Provence

Bored of collecting art? Try architecture

13 June 2015

The very rich are more competitive than you and me. It’s what made them very rich in the first place. At a smart wedding in Paris, thinking myself impressively cosmopolitan, I… Read more

Rhubarb at Sky Garden - High Resolution08

Fenchurch in the Sky Garden – like going for dinner in Total Recall

30 May 2015

Fenchurch is a restaurant that is scared of terrorists. It cowers at the top of 20 Fenchurch Street, a skyscraper which looks like an enormous and unfashionable Nokia 3120 mobile… Read more

Arch enemies: Euston Arch (left), torn down to make way for London’s most miserable train station (right)

Should Euston Arch be raised from the dead?

Yes   William Cook Rejoice! Rejoice! Fifty-four years after its destruction, Euston Arch has returned to Euston. Well, after a fashion. Four blocks from this lost portico, salvaged from a… Read more

Chichu Art Museum, Naoshima. Photo: Fujitsuka Mitsumasa

Welcome to Japan’s best kept cultural secret: an art island with an underground museum

23 May 2015

In his introductory remarks to the Afro–Eurasian Eclipse, one of his later suites for jazz orchestra, Duke Ellington remarked — this was in 1971 — that east and west were… Read more

Much compared to a photocopier: Renzo Piano’s new Whitney Museum

Renzo Piano’s new Whitney Museum is very good news - for the Met

23 May 2015

About six years ago the first section of the now celebrated High Line was opened in New York and made a palpable hit both locally and internationally. Locally it revealed… Read more

Scapegoat for all of urban life’s ills: Le Corbusier, c.1950

How dedicated a fascist was Le Corbusier?

23 May 2015

The ‘revelations’, 50 years after he drowned, that Le Corbusier was a ‘fascist’ and an anti-Semite are neither fresh nor startling. Indeed they’re old hat. And it defies credibility that… Read more

Crazy horses: Andy Scott’s Kelpies at sunset

The Spectator declares war on bad public art

28 February 2015

Like peace, love and lemon-meringue pie, ‘public art’ seems unarguably attractive. Who but a philistine curmudgeon would deny the populace access to the immediate visual thrills and the enduring solace… Read more

Decades in the making: Glasgow School of Art

The long ordeal of Mackintosh’s Glasgow School of Art

31 January 2015

I was working on the final edit of my book — a fictionalised account of the year Charles Rennie Mackintosh spent in Suffolk — when news came in that his… Read more

3 January 2015

Disband Ofsted Sir: Dennis Sewell’s damning indictment of Ofsted (‘Ofsted in the dock’, 13 December) stopped short of the logical conclusion of disbanding it, arguing instead that the chief inspector,… Read more

Dallas’s art deco Fair Park

Dallas, city of culture

3 January 2015

When George W. Bush was outed as an artist, after a computer hacker uncovered his nude self-portraits, jaws dropped around the world. Could Cowboy George, a man whom even Kim… Read more

From ‘The Temptation of Eve’: detail of glass from Ely Cathedral designed by Pugin, 1858

Cambridge, showcase for modernism (and how costly it is to fix)

13 December 2014
The Buildings of England: Cambridgeshire Simon Bradley and Nikolaus Pevsner

Yale, pp.560, £35, ISBN: 9780300205961

The Pevsner architectural guides are around halfway through their revisions — though it is like the Forth Bridge, and soon it will be time for the revisions to be revised:… Read more

Outsize origami: Gehry’s Fondation Louis Vuitton

Le French bashing has spread to France. Are things really that bad?

13 December 2014

The French for French-bashing is le French bashing. This verbally costive nation is at it once again, torpidly borrowing an approximately English expression rather than coining its own. Such bashing… Read more

Martha Graham and Bertram Ross in Graham’s most famous work ‘Appalachian Spring’ (1944), with a prize-winning score by Aaron Copeland

To call this offering a book is an abuse of language

8 November 2014
New York Mid-Century: Post-War Capital of Culture, 1945–1965 Annie Cohen-Solal, Paul Goldberger and Robert Gottlieb (contributions)

Thames & Hudson, pp.399, £28, ISBN: 9780500517727

I picked up this book with real enthusiasm. Who cannot be entranced by those 20 years after the second world war when New York supplanted Paris as the cultural capital… Read more

Proposal for Convoys Wharf, Deptford: a new commuter enclave with a nice view

How Londoners can reclaim the River Thames

8 November 2014

Last week, 539 apartments designed by Frank Gehry and Norman Foster were made available for off-plan purchase. This was heralded by simultaneous launches in London and Kuala Lumpur and a… Read more

The many faces of Essex: it was the architects’ intention to create ‘Something Fierce’ — a designed environment that was actively stimulating. ALL PHOTOGRAPHS FROM ESSEX UNIVERSITY'S 50TH ANNIVERSARY BROCHURE

The only way is Essex University

1 November 2014

We are told this is now a ‘knowledge economy’. Strange, then, that there are so few recent educational buildings of note. An expansion of universities has not led to much… Read more

Grade II-listed Phoenix prefabs in Moseley, Birmingham

Why prefabs really were fab

18 October 2014
Prefab Homes Elisabeth Blanchet

The Shire Library, www.shirebooks.co.uk, pp.64, £7.95, ISBN: 9780747813576

Sir Winston Churchill did not invent the prefab, but on 26 March 1944 he made an important broadcast promising to manufacture half a million of them to ease the new… Read more

Julius Shulman: Case Study House #22, 1959 (architect: Pierre Koenig)

The camera always lies

27 September 2014

Everyone knows about architecture being frozen music. The source of that conceit may be debated, but its validity is timeless and certain. For all its weightiness, architecture plays with ethereal… Read more

Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Glasgow School of Art

It’s not easy for a middle-aged woman to get inside the head of a 12-year-old innkeeper’s son in 1914

13 September 2014
Mr Mac and Me Esther Freud

Bloomsbury, pp.297, £16.99, ISBN: 9781861545708

Esther Freud wrote dazzlingly in the first person through the eyes of a five-year-old child in her first novel, Hideous Kinky (1992). What made that book so captivating was the… Read more

‘Portrait of Andrea Quaratesi’, c.1532, by Michelangelo

Michelangelo had a bigger vision than Shakespeare – and the ego to match

13 September 2014

It is 450 years since the birth of William Shakespeare. The anniversary has been hard to avoid in this country, which is entirely appropriate. Shakespeare helped to shape not only… Read more

Where are the Betjemans de nos jours?

We need more opinionated English eccentrics making documentaries like, ahem, me...

6 September 2014

Is it just me or are almost all TV documentaries completely unwatchable these days? I remember when I first started this job I’d review one almost every fortnight. Always there’d… Read more

St Enodoc Church overlooking St Enodoc golf course and the sea beyond, Rock, Cornwall. John Betjeman lies buried in the graveyard

The ultimate guide to Cornwall

19 July 2014
Cornwall Peter Beacham and Nikolaus Pevsner

Yale University Press, pp.800, £35, ISBN: 9780300126686

Before writing this review I spent an hour looking for my original Pevsner paperback on Cornwall, published in 1951 (the first in the ‘Buildings of England’ series). It was falling… Read more

English tea-chests are thrown into Boston harbour, 16 December 1773

A Labour MP defends the Empire – and only quotes Lenin twice

14 June 2014
Ten Cities that Made an Empire Tristram Hunt

Allen Lane, pp.514, £25, ISBN: 9781846143250

In a grand history of the British empire — because that is what this book really is —  you might expect more hand-wringing from a historian and Labour MP who… Read more

Curse of the Gherkin

Why the bankers’ bonus debate is not going away

A bouquet to Alison Kennedy, ‘governance and stewardship director’ at the Edinburgh-based pensions provider Standard Life, for leading the rebellion of Barclays shareholders against the bank’s decision to pay increased… Read more