Roads to nowhere

Jonathan Meades: ‘Architects are the last people who should shape our cities‘ (via World Architects): ‘The mediation of buildings can never be neutral. As long ago as the 1930s, Harry Goodhart-Rendel observed: “The modern architectural drawing is interesting, the photograph is magnificent, the building is an unfortunate but necessary stage between the two.”‘

A writer, at least this writer – and I am hardly alone – sees entropic beauty, roads to nowhere whose gravel aggregate is that of ad hoc second world war fighter runways, decrepit Victorian oriental pumping stations, rats, supermarket trolleys in toxic canals, rotting foxes, used condoms, pitta bread with green mould, polythene bags caught on branches and billowing like windsocks, greasy carpet tiles, countless gauges of wire, flaking private/keep-out signs that have been ignored since the day they were erected, goose grass, shacks built out of doors and car panels, skeins of torn tights in milky puddles, burnt-out cars, burnt-out houses, abandoned chemical drums, abandoned cooking oil drums, abandoned washing machine drums, squashed feathers, tidal mud, an embanked former railway line, a shoe, vestigial lanes lined with may bushes, a hawser, soggy burlap sacks, ground elder, a wheelless buggy, perished underlay, buddleia, a pavement blocked by a container, cracked plastic pipes, a ceramic rheostat, a car battery warehouse constellated with CCTV cameras, a couple of scraggy horses on a patch of mud, the Germolene-pink premises of a salmon smoker, bricked-up windows, travellers’ caravans and washing lines, a ravine filled with worn car tyres, jackdaws, herons, jays, a petrol pump pitted and crisp as an overcooked biscuit, a bridge made of railway sleepers across duckweed, an oasis of scrupulously tended allotments.


The above image is a still from What Have You Done Today, Mervyn Day?, a film about the pre-Olympic Lower Lea Valley by Paul Kelly and Bob Stanley and now available from Heavenly Films. We’ve linked to the rumblings around Iain Sinclair’s ‘fetishisation of urban decay‘ before (related MeFi discussion. Gentrification pushes all the right buttons, and always has, existing in a strange hinterland between the undiscovered and the new. Urban romance is a hard genre to get right.


Other things. The shuttle flight deck is a thing of beauty (via MeFi) / book title author name, how eBooks have upended the book designer’s art (via MeFi) / Accidental Mysteries, the occasional image post at Design Observer, focuses on car design via the medium of eBay ads.

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