Helen Barrett

Before the Blitz: the dynamism of British architecture

Gavin Stamp was a prolific and unusually level-headed architectural writer and historian. Less emotional than Ian Nairn, pithier and more immediate than Nikolaus Pevsner (he knew both men), Stamp wrote definitive books on grand and humble subjects. These ranged from his hero Edwin Lutyens, to brutalism, to Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s scarlet telephone boxes of

The proposed cities of the future look anything but modern

California Forever is an American 21st-century utopian vision, a new city to be built on 60,000 acres of dusty farmland 50 miles outside San Francisco. This latest plan for ‘safe, walkable neighbourhoods’, unveiled late last year and yet to be approved, is financed by Flannery Associates, a consortium of tech venture capitalists led by a

Why do the British still dream of bricks and mortar?

In Building Soul, Thomas Heatherwick’s recent Radio 4 series, architects are villains. According to the puckish designer of Google’s King’s Cross campus, the profession is in thrall to a ‘cult’ of modernism, intent on forcing us to live in houses that make us ill and work in offices that make us depressed. Is property ownership

In praise of the Dome

London’s City Hall stands empty. The bulbous, Foster + Partners-designed ‘glass testicle’ — in Ken Livingstone’s words — occupies one of the best sites in the capital: Thames-side, squaring off to the Tower of London, and overlooking Tower Bridge. But in December, its occupiers — the Mayor, the London Assembly and the Greater London Authority

Abstract and concrete: the beauty of brutalism

Nothing divides the British like modernist architecture. Traditionalists are suspicious of its utopian ambitions and dismiss it as ugly; proponents romanticise it, yearn for the civic principles that built it and gloss over its failings; the young see period charm in flat roofs and straight lines, while the old associate them with deprivation; the wealthy

Celebrating Tony Wilson, the founder of Factory Records

To many people Tony Wilson was a bigmouth Mancunian, brash music impresario and jobbing television presenter. But to the generation that came of age in the late 20th century he was a guide to the future. We have him to thank for ushering in the strangest, most revelatory pop music to the cultural mainstream. Wilson