'No place' photography has become establishment. Mediumtown
is a new initiative from CABE
, the UK’s architectural watchdog. Certainly, photography of everyday architecture has gained currency in artistic circles in the past decade. Style magazines present artfully scruffy neighbourhoods, the casual, unconsidered built debris that gets left behind by the rapid rise and fall of the economic tide. Perhaps you can trace this aesthetic back to Lewis Baltz
, and his iconic images of the mono-box industrial culture that grew up in 1970s California, the template for thousands of business parks, industrial estates and retail zones around the world. Contemporary photographers like Andrew Cross
also carry the can for the 'no place' aesthetics'.
Mediumtown doesn't shirk from this grey, geometric aesthetic - indeed, it revels in it. Purporting to be a celebration of the everyday, there's a slightly sneery tone to the whole exercise. It's a collaborative, public art project that ultimately reduces vast swathes of the country to identikit, indistinguishable suburb: Mediumtown. CABE's remit is to champion architectural excellence, so it's not hard to see the whole project as covert information gathering to justify their existence. One imagines the London-based Mediumtown webmasters and mistresses giggling in delight at the images of rank banality that arrive in their in-trays. Look - how perfect! A bus stop in Basildon! In part, this is the aesthetic of development, the visual language of Estates Gazette
, a weekly publication that offers vast swathes of English countryside for sale to the highest bidder. According to this week's issue, there is apparently 9.5m square feet of vacant office space in the UK’s M4 corridor alone. 45% of this has never
If you still want a crack at turning your town into Mediumville - and we could even be tempted ourselves - instructions are here
(.pdf). Vaguely related. Haddock
linked to this rather epic online archive of the work of Charles Booth
, the Victorian anti-Poverty campaigner. The site gives some idea of the sheer scale
undertaking - to create a detailed map of London's wealth. Booth walked the city's streets, taking copious notes
to create his Life and Labour of the People of London
, some 17 volumes in size. The publications included his remarkable colour-coded maps, with the streets coloured from yellow ('Upper-middle and Upper classes. Wealthy'), down to black ('Lowest class. Vicious, semi-criminal').