26/06/2021
26 Jun 2021

The house mafia

26 Jun 2021

The house mafia

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Features
Liam Halligan
The house mafia: the scandal of new builds

‘We don’t just have snags with this house — “snags” suggests issues that are minor,’ says Kelsey Aldritt of her new-build Persimmon house just outside Pembroke, Wales. ‘This house has had major problems from the moment we moved in.’ Kelsey is six months pregnant and the doctor has told her not to get stressed, but with a house like this, stress is unavoidable. ‘It really angers me that Persimmon gave us such a defective house,’ says Kelsey’s partner, Theo.

The house mafia: the scandal of new builds
Jessica Douglas-Home
Why is modern architecture so ugly?

In Chesham and Amersham last week, Tory voters punished the government, not only for building on greenfield sites, but for allowing the construction of too many ugly, badly designed buildings. The British public are fed up with modern architecture. Despite polls that prove this time and time again, architects simply ignore people’s views. Indeed, if the public has the temerity to criticise their latest works, there is uproar — as I have discovered to my cost.

Why is modern architecture so ugly?
Kate Andrews
The new Covid divide: one rule for the elite, another for the rest of us

This week was meant to be the moment when we could celebrate the return of freedom. Instead, we’re left still navigating a maze of rules. Couples are working out what a ‘Covid-secure wedding’ means (spoiler: no dancing or hugging). Family reunions — once planned for Christmas, then delayed to Easter — are being pushed back into the autumn. Birthday parties have been axed again. No one wants to break the law, or risk asking others to do so.

The new Covid divide: one rule for the elite, another for the rest of us
Philip Patrick
Even a robot assistant can’t help you make sense of Japan

Tokyo The late A.A. Gill, in his notorious ‘Mad in Japan’ essay, concluded that the only way you could make sense of Tokyo was to think of it as a vast open-air lunatic asylum, with inmates instead of residents. Gill would have loved Arisa. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered anything more stereotypically Japanese than Arisa. She’s a multilingual robot concierge at Nishi-Shinjuku station in central Tokyo, one of the thousands of new automatons installed in the city ahead of the Olympics next month.

Even a robot assistant can’t help you make sense of Japan
Paul Wood
Triumph of the Taleban: the unfolding disaster in Afghanistan

There’s an apocryphal story, told and retold by journalists many times over the course of America’s longest war. A Taleban prisoner is sitting, relaxed, across the table from an American interrogator: ‘You may have all the watches,’ the prisoner says, ‘but we have all the time.’ Now, the Taleban’s patience is finally paying off. President Joe Biden has promised that the last US soldier will be out of Afghanistan by the heavily freighted date of 11 September.

Triumph of the Taleban: the unfolding disaster in Afghanistan
Stuart Ritchie
How the Lancet lost our trust

Right from its first issue in 1823, the Lancet was more than just an ordinary medical journal. Its founding editor, the dyspeptic surgeon and coroner Thomas Wakley, purposefully gave the journal the name of a sharp scalpel that could cut away useless, diseased tissue: he used it as a campaigning organ, to push back against injustice, bad ideas and bad practice. What bothered Wakley most was the establishment. Not only did the Royal College of Surgeons care little about quacks and snake-oil salesmen, but its members were also engaged in corruption and nepotism, ensuring that their cronies got the best positions and filling their pockets with lecture fees.

How the Lancet lost our trust
Fredrik Erixon
What Sweden’s political crisis says about Europe’s collapsing centre

Uppsala Nooshi Dadgostar is Sweden’s new political star. A young, softly spoken politician with Iranian immigrant parents and an unfinished degree in law, she became the leader of the Vansterpartiet (‘Left party’) late last year — taking over from Jonas Sjöstedt, a bleeding-heart version of Jeremy Corbyn who struggled to shake off the party’s communist past. Most of her predecessors have tried but failed to become a central part of the national political conversation.

What Sweden’s political crisis says about Europe’s collapsing centre
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