“Astana is a metropolis of obsolescence”

Astana Expo 2017 may have aspired to a post-carbon future, but it was hard to imagine from the capital of a country made wealthy by fossil fuels, says Owen Hatherley. The thing not to say about the expo building in Astana, Kazakhstan, is that it looks like the Death Star. Designed by Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill,

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“The Garden Bridge’s cancellation provides an opportunity that mustn’t be wasted”

Now that the Heatherwick-designed Garden Bridge has been officially scrapped, its time to think again about London really needs, says Owen Hatherley. The cancellation of the Garden Bridge is one of those rare and precious moments where concerted campaigning, from a variety of groups, over several years, has managed to have a decisive effect. In the

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“A lethal failure of oversight, like at Grenfell Tower, was going to happen sooner or later”

The devastating fire at London’s Grenfell Tower has highlighted the widespread neglect of the UK’s residential high-rises, and the undeserved contempt held for the people that live in them, says Owen Hatherley. This column was going to be about the election of a left-wing architectural historian and housing campaigner as Member of Parliament for Kensington in the UK’s general

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“The Japanese House is about fear, imagination, aggression and dreams”

The Japanese House exhibition at London’s Barbican doesn’t offer solutions to the housing crisis, says Owen Hatherley, but it does show what’s possible when architects respond to extreme change and instability. In most places, certainly in Britain, the point of the private house is stability and predictability. Increasing in correlation with the rise of the house as

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“Hard to believe this is a product of one of the most admired creative partnerships of the last two decades”

By bringing together commerce and ornament, the now-defunct Foreign Office Architects has produced a shopping centre that looks like a giant black slug, says Owen Hatherley in his latest Opinion column. You remember Foreign Office Architects. The London-based firm was dissolved five years ago with the split of its main partners, Farshid Moussavi and Alejandro Zaera-Polo, but

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“Belarus is a place that badly needs shaking up”

With widespread protest taking place across Belarus, the design of public spaces and social legacies has become a critical project for the nation’s architects, says Owen Hatherley in his latest Opinion column. For one of the least-visited capital cities in Europe, the Belarusian capital Minsk is a city very concerned with its surfaces. In a country often

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“Architects and designers are no good at altering your mental topography”

With her latest exhibition, British artist Laura Oldfield Ford is more likely to change your understanding of London’s working-class landscape than any architect or designer, says Owen Hatherley in this Opinion column. At the far end of Laura Oldfield Ford’s exhibition Alpha/Isis/Eden – on at the Showroom Gallery in Lisson Grove, just northwest of central London – is an image taken from

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“With a good culture war, you can ignore the real reason why British transport architecture is so grim”

The problem with Britain’s railway stations isn’t anything to do with style, it’s that they are all just malls waiting to happen, argues Owen Hatherley in his latest Opinion column. It never usually bodes well when a government minister decides to pass judgment on architecture. And so it was when John Hayes – the newly appointed transport minister

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“Let’s move to radical Essex”

Opinion: the radical buildings in the English county of Essex suggest that avant-garde architecture is better found in the suburbs than the cities, says Owen Hatherley. “The only way is Radical Essex” is one of the better slogans to have been printed on an architecture-related tote bag in recent years. It comes in a variety of bright pinks, blues More

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“Vyborg looks like Helsinki might after a long, drawn out war”

Opinion: with the exemplary restoration of Alvar Aalto’s seminal Viipuri/Vyborg Library, Finland has schooled Russia in how to treat its neglected 20th century buildings. Now they need to restore the rest of the city, says Owen Hatherley. One of the major buildings by one of the 20th century’s five or so most praised architects has More

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“Kiev is a city where any and all public space is seized upon by parasitic capital”

Opinion: a temporary installation around a plinth that once hosted an infamous statue of Lenin in Ukraine accidentally highlights a deeper problem facing the city than what to do with the relics of Soviet rule, finds Owen Hatherley. This month, the Mexican artist Cynthia Gutierrez staged an “intervention” in a public space in Kiev, Ukraine. Called More

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“Europe has been for the lucky few in the UK”

Opinion: Richard Rogers’ vision for a more European form of British architecture promised to create modern and prosperous urban environments. But this “new Europe” failed to reach the suburban council estates and cul-de-sacs that backed Brexit, says Owen Hatherley. A couple of days after the result of the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, I visited Southampton, More

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“Why not move some of Britain’s political power northwards?”

Opinion: moving the UK’s Houses of Parliament to Bristol is not that strange an idea, says Owen Hatherley, but why not go one step further and create a new capital city in Milton Keynes or the Pennines? In Stratford, east London, in the shadow of the Olympic Village, the Olympic Park and Britain’s biggest shopping mall, is something called the Stratford More

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“The cult of self-build, do-it-yourself and ‘bottom up’ housing has reached impressive proportions”

Opinion: Walter Segal’s self-build houses in south London and Assemble’s Turner Award-winning Granby Four Streets project in Liverpool are rightly celebrated, but they’re not the answer to the housing crisis, says Owen Hatherley. The awarding of the Pritzker Prize to Alejandro Aravena, whose practice, Elemental, is best known for its “half-built” affordable housing scheme in Iquique, Chile, More

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“Wouldn’t buildings be better designed by people who lived in the city where they practiced?”

Opinion: municipal architects helped create some of 20th century Europe’s best cityscapes and buildings, says Owen Hatherley. It’s time for them to return. Around a year ago, the head of the architects department of the London Borough of Ealing showed me around the recent buildings he’d designed. Most of them were young people’s centres. The More

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“Massive, horrible and unavoidable”

Opinion: when the Tour Montparnasse was built in Paris, its residents were so appalled they banned all high-rises. Londoners should do something similar in the wake of Rafael Viñoly’s walkie talkie, says Owen Hatherley. What do the Tour Montparnasse in Paris, designed and built in the early 1970s by a large, anonymous committee headed by […]

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“Postmodernism will not be forgiven lightly for what it did to architectural culture”

Pomo summer: Postmodernism is still shaping contemporary architecture, says Owen Hatherley, but its impact on social housing is an unforgivable legacy. Everything gets revived eventually. And when it gets revived, it gets applause from people who originally hated it. The list is long of architects and critics who now praise the “icons” of the 1960s and […]

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“The real problem with all this Fun is that it isn’t really very funny”

Opinion: twisting slides, a hotel room shaped like a boat and a pop-up theatre are among the “fun” recent additions to London’s Brutalist Southbank Centre. Has Owen Hatherley lost his sense of humour or is there something more sinister in all these layers of entertainment? If you approach London’s Southbank Centre from Waterloo station, you will […]

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“It would be the height of bad taste to put a skyscraper there”

Opinion: you don’t have to like Thom Mayne’s skyscraper for Vals to understand that architecture needs fantastical projects like it, says Owen Hatherley. The early 20th-century German storyteller and architectural dreamer Paul Scheerbart – whose work is newly anthologised in English, in the new volume Glass! Love!! Perpetual Motion!!! – spent the 1900s and 1910s […]

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to put a skyscraper there”
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“The places people are staking their lives on now aren’t architectural icons”

Opinion: the fight for London’s Aylesbury estate – a negative symbol of the Modernist-inspired drive to standardise housing design – is about saving the ideas not the architecture, explains Owen Hatherley. At the Commonwealth Games last year in Glasgow, a spectacle was promised of the celebratory demolition of the city’s Red Road flats. This would symbolise a ‘new Glasgow’ […]
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“More frightening than American Psycho”

Opinion: the visual style associated with cinema’s super-villains has been transformed into a marketable asset for house builders, says Owen Hatherley. The conjunction of modern architecture and film is seldom flattering to the former. In the UK, the image of modern housing took some time to recover from its depiction as the urban anomie set of choice, from Kubrick […]
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“The project of education-via-marketisation has had ugly results”

Opinion: the Brutalist architecture of 1960s British university campuses may not have been popular among students at the time, but it gave them space to protest. The trespa-clad towers of student housing that have sprung up since suggest a far more cynical approach, says Owen Hatherley. Although for some the architecture of higher education in the UK […]
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“So spectacularly ill-judged that you almost long for Libeskind’s earnestness”

Opinion: the refurbishment of London’s Imperial War Museum by Norman Foster is a “botched” job, but it’s hardly surprising given the UK’s strange attitude to its own history, says Owen Hatherley. The 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War this autumn was always bound to lead to some bad architecture. However, Daniel […]

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long for Libeskind’s earnestness”
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