Profile

Born in 1959, Jonathan Charley, studied architecture in Portsmouth, London and Moscow, and subsequently worked in community architecture for seven years, completing his PhD on Soviet Architecture in 1994. He has lived in Glasgow for nearly thirty years, is currently Director of Cultural Studies in the Department of Architecture at the University of Strathclyde, and has been a lecturer and tutor across the world from Moscow, to Berlin, London, Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte. In 2012 he was appointed as the Project Director for Scotland at the Architecture Biennale in Venice that received the Royal Scottish Academy Gold medal for Architecture. Alongside exhibitions and media projects, such as Foreign Bodies (2004), the award winning GLAS project (2006), Critical Dialogues (2012), and Disappearing Moscow (2017), he writes mainly about the political and social history of architecture and cities. Most recently the edited collection the Routledge Companion for Architecture, Literature and The City (2018), Memories of Cities: Trips and Manifestos (2013), and the co-edited Writing the Modern City: Literature, Architecture and Modernity (2011). He is currently working on a new book The Monologues of City X, (2019), that takes the reader on a journey into the heart of the capitalist city through four fictional narratives, capital, machine, nature and utopia. He has a wife, two daughters, speaks good Portuguese, adequate Russian and poor French, and has a life long passion for whisky, fish, dub-reggae and Plymouth Argyle Football Club.

Works

  • Projects26
  • Publications75
  • Exhibitions11
  • News and Events15

2018

The Demolition of Paradise

This is the fourth version of the Moscow demolition storey that focuses in more detail on the architectural and urban context of the programme.

"Shortly after the death of Stalin, in the first few months of 1955, a strange new discourse appeared in the pages of the Soviet architectural journal Arkhitektura CCCP. For twenty years its editorials had proselytized a triumphalist language of monumental neo-classicism. Moscow had been rebuilt as the embodiment of an absolutist state, its radial plan reinforced by gigantic boulevards, the skyline transformed by seven kitsch wedding cakes, and its underground excavated and transformed into a palace. Overnight the language changed. Doric columns and delicate mosaics were never going to solve the problems of post-war reconstruction and in particular the pressing need for new housing. There was only one solution; the prefabrication of buildings and the mechanisation of construction. The future was concrete. Architects, technologists and planners were challenged with solving the housing crisis within the space of twelve years. Concrete factories were built, construction workers retrained, and by the end of the decade the first experimental housing estate appeared in Novi Cheremushki in the south of the city..."

Downloads: DEMOLITION OF PARADISE

2018

Tears in Al-Andalus

Unless a DNA test showed some very unexpected results I have very little in common with Boabdil, the last Nasrid Emir of Granada, expect for one thing – tears. He reputedly wept as he said farewell to the magic citadel of Alhambra, fearful of what would become of this fragment of earthly paradise as the Catholic armies retook the city. Surrounded by the white and terracotta arched colonnades of the majestic Mezquita in Cordoba, I too shed a tear. It is true that the Mezquita incorporates both Roman and Visigoth ruins, but the sheer violence of the crudely inserted chapel that shatters the illusion of infinite space is in a league of its own. Legend has it that then when building workers were instructed to demolish sixty-three columns to make way for this act of gothic vengeance they downed tools in protest at what they saw as an act of architectural barbarism. It was Emperor Charles V who gave permission for building works to begin. However, he was later famously to comment: “Had I known what was here I would never have dared touch the old structure. You have destroyed something unique in the world and added something one can see anywhere.”

I have long been fascinated by the Islamic Renaissance, and Cordoba was one of its great centres of learning. At its height in the late tenth and eleventh centuries, its main library boasted over four hundred thousand texts and lay at the centre of a network of over fifty public reference libraries scattered across Andalucia. It was a veritable city of books in which Greek philosophy was pitched against divine revelation, religious observance against secular law, and alongside nine hundred public baths boasted twenty seven schools for the children of the poor. This made the Cordoban population possibly the cleanest and best educated in Europe. ...tbc

  • Publications
  • News and Events

2018

Demolishing Home

This is the third version of our Moscow story that focuses on the development of social inequality and in particular homelessness since the fall of the Soviet Union.

"One of the most remarkable features of the last twenty-five years has been the speed with which the legacy of 1917 has been disowned. Within days of the defeat of the 1991 putsch by Communist Party hardliners, the Tsarist Eagle fluttered from the parliament flagpole and the city began its descent into wild gangster capitalism. At the time it seemed as if a demented three-way marriage had taken place between a Yakuza banker, a 19th century British slave trader and a gun toting Chicago bootlegger. Casinos and hard currency shops mushroomed across Moscow and, for the first time in seventy years, a real estate market emerged. State housing was privatised and landed property was restored. Factories closed, subsidies were withdrawn and single industry towns – once decorated in crimson flags -were abandoned. The safety net that for generations had guaranteed citizens basic housing, education and health care services, began to disintegrate. A new word appeared in the vocabulary, ‘Bezdomniyi’ (homeless), the key index along with unemployment of the rapidly deepening social inequality
that accelerated as the 1990s unfolded."

https://theferret.scot/moscow-residents-fighting-save-communist-era-homes/

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2018

The Cold war Finds a Common Home - The Intertwined Worlds of Philip K Dick and the Strugatsky Brothers

"This chapter continues my journey into the architectural and spatial history of estranged literary genres. It focuses on the work of two of the greatest proponents of science fiction literature, Philip K Dick and the Strugatsky brothers, Arkady and Boris. Living and writing as they did on either side of the ideological frontier that defined the Cold War, we might expect the novels of K Dick and the Strugatskys to reflect rival world-views. In fact, it transpires that they have much in common and both play with a series of set piece themes that have become tropes in science fiction literature. They satirise political authority, critique social order, and fret over what it means to be human. They represent our relationship to nature and technology as confused and dangerous and above all interrogate what we understand by reality. It is a similar story with regards to the particular space-time worlds the writers create. Far from the depiction of radically opposed urban situations, their built worlds merge and overlap in unexpected ways. In both cases we enter urban landscapes that are entropic, surreal, and enveloped in fear."

Chapter 10 in the forthcoming Companion on Architecture, Literature and the City

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2018

The Routledge Companion on Architecture LIterature and the City

This promises to be a major new work devoted to what is fast becoming a popular field of multidisciplinary activity. Diverse and open in its definitions of both architecture and literature, the volume includes studies on everything from the graphic novel, to graffiti, science fiction, poetry and the structure of language. It is currently in production and scheduled for publication in september 2018. Attached are draft versions of the contents page, foreword, preface and introduction.

Downloads: INTRODUCTION FOREWORD PREFACE CONTENTS

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2017

Disappearing Moscow

Nothing in Russia is ever done in half-measures and in June 2017 the Moscow Duma voted unanimously to demolish 4500 housing blocks that will directly affect the lives of over one and half million people. In September this year I went to Moscow with the Award Winning Documentary Photographer and film-maker Chris Leslie (Disappearing Glasgow) and spent a week in Moscow living and working from one of the condemned flats in a neighbourhood scheduled for demolition. From there we went all over the city to old working class neighbourhoods documenting not only the architectural, political and social history of these flats and the proposed regeneration, but also the untold human stories from those on the front line facing eviction from their homes and communities. More coming soon. Publications forthcoming in the Guardian, Drouth, The Ferret and Urban Realm.

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2017

Postcards from Moscow on the 100th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution

This is the second version of the demolition story, narrated in the context of the anniversary of what i still think was the most im[poertant event of the twentieth century.

"Comrades, fear not, the Vietcong will protect your home" Claims Activist"

I first visited Moscow in 1984 when it was dusty, grey and still decorated with gable end paintings exhorting the population to read. Street side displays of Hero Workers stared out from cracked roadside glass cabinets, illuminated hammers and sickles hung forlornly from lampposts, but I was convinced that if I looked hard enough I would still find positive traces of the revolution that had not been deformed and disgraced. As I came out of Kropotkin Metro station for the first time I felt oddly at home. I have been back on and off ever since, and it was right that I should return on the one hundredth anniversary. We were there to document the beginnings of what is possibly one of the biggest urban migrations in history. Earlier this year the Moscow Duma voted to demolish four and half thousand apartment blocks in a ten-year programme that will affect the lives of nearly two million people. In the front line of the demolition programme is the first generation of prefabricated housing, the ubiquitous five storey concrete panel apartments that populate every Russian town. The authorities maintain that the so-called ‘renovation programme’ is motivated by a desire to improve the housing conditions of the people. Activists say it’s nothing but real estate speculation. The whole situation is highly controversial and has provoked protests, tears and jubilation in equal measure. It borders on the surreal in its scale and immensity. But then this should not be a surprise. Moscow specialises in the absurd and the surreal. In Bulgakov’s novel the Master and Margarita the devil walks the streets in the company of a sharp witted talking cat on hind legs. In the Tretyakov gallery fanatics weep and kiss icons. They also want to canonize the last Tsar, the insane tyrant Nicholas the Second. But it is also a city that still lays carnations in front of the Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh who guards the entrance to the Novy Cheremushky estate, the birthplace of the industrialisation of house building.

For the full version visit the website of the magazine Drouth where you can download the whole issue.
http://bit.ly/2ld8gAO

Alternatively click on PDF below

  • Projects
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  • News and Events

2017

The Wrecking Ball Swings At Moscow

This is one of four picture essays that emerged out of a trip with the award winning filmmaker and photographer Chris Leslie to Moscow last year. This piece was commissioned by the Guardian. Follow the link for access to the full -online article. A shorter one was published in the hard copy newspaper on Wednesday November 1st.

"Moscow is enduring one of its periodic urban convulsions: plumes of dust fill the air, cranes proliferate across the skyline and the streets are soundtracked by pneumatic drills. In the city centre, new parks, infrastructure and freshly decorated historical monuments are the most visible signs of renewal. But there is another, less visible reconstruction programme going on – and one that is startling in its scale.
In June this year, the Moscow Duma unanimously approved the demolition of more than 4,000 apartment blocks in various sites across the sprawling city, home to nearly 2 million people. Most of this housing is privately owned, the consequence of the privatisation of state housing after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It has been a highly controversial decision, bringing thousands of Muscovites into the streets in protest."

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/oct/31/moscow-residents-vote-russia-demolition-rehousing

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2017

The Social Condenser: a century of revolution through architecture

This is the title of a special issue of the The Journal of Architecture (RIBA, Volume 22, Number 3) edited by Michal Murawski and Jane Rendell that is dedicated to what I have always argued was one oft the most important architectural concepts of the twentieth century. Inside there is a collection of diverse essays from the likes of Owen Hatherley, Victor Buchli and my own contribution "Molodoi Chelovek, my origins lie in the past, but I am from the future.'

  • Publications

2016

Happy Think.Inc

For many years I have been writing a city in which all of the contradictions of capitalist society and urban development are condensed and exaggerated with brutal clarity. Every aspect of daily life from education, to body parts, and views of trees, has been commodified in a manner that even the pessimists of former times could barely have imagined. It is a city that sprawls to the horizon in all directions and sits on the brink of ecological catastrophe. As is usual in such tales, the dark cunning of the human imagination works hard on ways to categorise and control human behaviour. However, like all dystopian narratives, it is a vision of the future that is rooted in the present, a story that simply stretches and distorts the social and material reality of everyday life. For example, to speculate on the collapse of urban civilisation and of the metamorphosis of education into a grotesque parody of a retail outlet, is only possible, because the forces that could make it happen have already been unleashed. What follows is a fragment from the testament of the City’s last librarian.

Downloads: HAPPYTHINK Inc

  • Publications

2016

Walking The Frontline – No 4 - MADRID - Bastards, Bunkers and Bullet holes

There are countless reasons to visit Madrid. Tapas drowned in Rioja in El Gato. Truffles and wild boar stew in the front room of an impossibly old and bent lady described in detail by Montalban’s Communist chef detective Pepe Carvalho. An afternoon spent cheering Rayo Vallecano amidst clouds of Che Guevara smoke. After this, you are at home and on subsequent days you can causally tick off Guernica and Goya’s dark paintings. On this occasion I was there to visit the front line in the battle of Madrid. This is a war that never ended. Liberal historians lost in a fog of moral ambiguity maintain that there are two sides to the story, that atrocities were committed by both camps, etc, etc. Similar to the worst aspects of post-modernism that sought to murder historical objectivity and truth, I have little time for such dangerous relativism. As I conducted my alternative architectural tour with a group of students along the buried frontline of the Spanish Civil War one of them asked me about Fascism. “All you need to know about Fascism is that as Franco’s stormtroopers launched their attack on the Republican stronghold of Madrid one of their first targets was the Faculty of Philosophy. They hated godless intellectuals and duly unleashed a broadside that smashed into the west elevation and mortally wounded a poet…” - Work In Progress (2017)

  • Projects
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2016

Sonic Kino

The remorseful kulak drills a hole in the ground with his head. The frantic priest scuttles back and forth and curses the godless. The bereaved wife of the revolutionary hero goes beserk and flings her naked body at the wall. With these three scenes Alexander Dovzhenko’s poetic masterpiece “Zemlya – Earth” comes to a close. It was an invitation to speak at the AV festival in Newcastle, Levels of Democracy: Ukraine Film Weekend that prompted me to re-watch the great triptychs of Eisenstein, Vertov, Pudovkin and Dovzhenko. It was also the second time that I had been asked to talk at an event featuring Test Department who on this occasion were providing a live soundtrack to a little known work by Vertov’s brother Mikhail Kaufmann, “Unprecedented Campaign”. On both occasions I was there to comment on TD’s sonic and visual relationship with the Soviet avant-garde. This work continues my life long journey into the history of the avant-garde and looks in particular at how experimental visual and sonic culture offers a rich tapestry of ideas on how to capture the accelerated and fragmentary experience of modern urban life.

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2015

In Pursuit Of The Ideal City

This is a heavily edited version, of 'Scares and Squares' recomposed as 20 prose couplets reconsider for a Pecha Kucha event at the City Observatory in Glasgow

Downloads: In Pursuit Of The Ideal City

  • Publications
  • News and Events

2015

ХАН-МАГОМЕДОВСКИЕ ЧТЕНИЯ - Khan Magomedov Collection

The Russian translation of my essay 'The (Dis) Integrating Cit: on the Russian architectural and literary avant-garde" in an important volume of essays commemorating the life and work of the great historian of the Soviet Avant-Garde, Selim Khan Magomedov the author of "Pioneers of Soviet Architecture

  • Publications

2015

“Molodoi Chelovek…my origins lie in the past, but I am from the future”

In 1984, intoxicated by hope and idealism and armed with a few grainy images and an architectural map, I made my inaugural trip to Moscow. For the first time I stood in front of the crumbling ruins of the Dom Narkomfina and gazed in astonishment at the Club Russakova that I imagined landing like spaceships as if they had stepped out of the pages of Bogdanov’s utopian novel Red Star. Like visiting terminally ill relatives, regularly checking up on the state of health of these two ‘memories of the future’ has long since become an obligatory ritual. In 1988 not for the last time I took another series of photographs. An old war veteran was sitting on a bench in the slush amongst the bare trees that stood in front. Confused he asked me,

“Молодой человек, почему вы принимаете фотографии этого разорения?”

“Потому что,” я сказал, “что это, возможно, самое важное здание ХХ века.”

Composed as a dialogue with a building, this sketch reflects upon the ancient origins and continued importance of the social condensor as an idea whose time has yet to come.

(Young man, why are you taking photographs of this ruin? “Because”, I replied, “ It is possibly the most important building of the twentieth century.”)

It was written for a conference devoted to the study of the 'social condenser' held at the School of East European and Slavonic Studies in May 2018. An edited volume of essays is intended

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2014

Spectres of Marx in City X

"Apart from his investigations into fixed capital, rent theory and the urban transformation of 19th century Paris, Marx wrote very little directly about architecture and the built environment. His collaborator Friedrich Engels wrote considerably more. But even when taken together they didn’t write a lot. So it is ironic and telling, that their writings have proved to be such an inspiration to some of the twentieth century's most profound thinkers on urban matters who collectively changed the way we think about the city. What follows are five short journeys in the company of Marx into a fictitious city, City X…."

Published in Borden,I, Fraser,M, and Penner, B, (eds), Forty Ways To Think About Architecture, (Wiley: Chichester, 2014)

  • Publications

2014

A.C.T Architecture Culture Technology

This was a series of symposia run at the University of Strathclyde Department of Architecture that explored the broader contextual field of architecture and urbanism. Each symposium was devoted to a particular theme - FILM, ARCHITECTURE AND THE CITY, ARCHITECTURE AND THE TECHNOLOGICAL REVOLUTION, WRITING ARCHITECTURE, and POLITICS AND SCOTTISH ARCHITECTURE. Attached is the Symposia Programme and the biographies of the guest speakers.

Downloads: A.C.T Poster and Programme

  • News and Events

2014

Machine

A multi-media performance of Chapter 3 from my new book 'The Monologues of City X'. Delivered in the Mining Institute, Newcastle, for the AHRA (Architecture and Humanities Research Association), Friday November 14th. Sound recordings available soon as a wave file.

Imagine a city in which all of the contradictions of capitalist urban development and building production are condensed and exaggerated with brutal clarity. This is City X, a fictional metropolis that is described through three monologues - capital, nature and machine. The narrator of Machine is a self-aware computer, and as it slowly becomes conscious embarks on a journey into its archives. Curious as to its origins it is drawn to the history of science and technology that it finds both peculiar and perplexing. The computer is baffled by the way humans have both revered and feared technology, and is troubled by tales of the simultaneous destruction and deification of its machine ancestors. Aware of the creative and liberating potential of advanced technology, it considers designed obsolescence and the production of useful things as disposable commodities profoundly irrational. Equally incomprehensible is the strange tale of how technological development based on social need became subordinate to the making of money. The more it scans its memory, the more confused the computer becomes. Countless stories speak of incidents that clearly violate the three laws of robotics. Its neural networks overheat as it encounters bizarre fables that tell of the ideological corruption of reason, the utilitarian measurement of everything, and the militarisation of urban life. It resolves to take action.

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  • News and Events

2014

Strike Now - There Is No Cover

Remarkably, music that we first recorded over 30 years ago has been rereleased on a New York punk label, Ever/Never. After a number of years hearing anecdotes about how our music was played in nightclubs as far off as Beijing and Istanbul, some enthusiastic young guys remastered it, reprinted the sleeve notes and most amazing of all redid the covers as original screen prints. It is now available in the UK on Rough Trade, where it is advertised on the same page as a couple of old heroes of mine, Pere Ubu and Wire. Look out for the next re-release, The Epileptic BellyDance. On the links you can read some hilarious reviews that have come out over the last month.

Downloads: CodeBMUSmaxRnR-2 CODE BMUS -- STRIKE NOW - The Boston Hassle ever:never — Code BMUS - Strike Now

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2014

Land and Empire

This was an event hosted by the Empire Cafe organised by the author Louise Welsh and the architect Judith Barber. Built inside the Briggait Gallery, the week long series of events during the Commonwealth Games was devoted to a critique of Glasgow's relationship with the transatlantic slave trade and the planation economies of the Caribbean and southern United States. I gave a short introductory lecture and chaired the session devoted to the 'Land Question' at which Andy Wightman author of the "Poor Have No Lawyers: Who owns Scotland (and how they got it)" presented his recent work.

  • News and Events

2014

The Trantorisation of Planet Earth

This is a short essay written for the magazine of SEDA, The Scottish Ecological Design Association in response to the question; “Are expanding cities the future?” The essay answers this through a reading of Isaac Asimov's 'Foundation' trilogy of novels and draws a parallel between the legitimate hopes of the Green movement and the fate of Utopian Socialism.

  • Publications

2014

The Imagination Of Disaster

A reading of a chapter draft for my new book "The Monologues of City X". A series of polemics about the capitalist city, the Imagination of Disaster is based on a sub-genre of literature that I describe as catastrophe novels and examines the extraordinary human ability to imagine its end.

  • Publications
  • News and Events

2013

Memories of Cities: Trips and Manifestoes

Memories of Cities is a collection of essays that explore different ways
of writing about the political and economic history of the built environment. 
Drawing upon fiction and non-fiction, and illustrated by original photographs, the essays employ a variety of narrative forms including memoirs, letters, and diary entries. They take the reader on a journey to cities such as Glasgow, Paris, Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Marseille, laying bare the contradictions of capitalist architectural and urban development, whilst simultaneously revealing alternative visions of how buildings and cities might be produced and organised. Containing new essays and reworked versions of older essays it represnts the culmination of eight years work.

By turns magisterial and single-minded, political and personal, analytic and argumentative, and sobering and inspiring, Charley’s wonderfully engaging essays offer a unique and indispensable insight into modern cities and architecture. Memories of Cities is a must read.
Iain Borden, UCL Bartlett School of Architecture, UK

Downloads: Memories of Cities Flyer

  • Publications

2013

Marseille: son histoire et son patrimoine culturel - Marseilles: Its History and Cultural Heritage

As part of Marseille's 'celebration' of its status as European City of Culture the Alliance Francaise held a one day symposium on the city's history and cultural heritage to which I was asked to revisit and present the work I did on Marseille and Glasgow back in 2004.

“Foreign Bodies-Corps Etrangers”, was originally published in 2004 as an exhibition and limited edition colour picture book. Published in both languages, the French text was illustrated with photographs of Glasgow and the English text with images of Marseille. The narrative takes the form of an exchange of letters between two cities – Marseille and Glasgow. Like two old men reminiscing about the course their life has taken, they reflect on their historical role as imperial and industrial cities that were pivotal in the development of capitalism in Britain and France; a history that has left an indelible stamp on the fabric and structure of both cities. This paper will revisit some of the issues raised in the book and in particular the global race to brand and commodify the cultural history of cities as a central strategy in the plans for their economic regeneration.”

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2013

Memories of Cities - Book Launch

The first public launch of Memories of Cities, in the merchant city Glasgow. It was hosted by Graphical House who built this website, and designed the Critical Dialogues book and exhibition. The second launch took place at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL on October 21st and a third at the Canterbury School of Architecture on November 14th.

  • News and Events

2013

Critical Dialogues II

Critical Dialogues II set out to contextualise the Venice project within the development of a distinctive architectural culture in Scotland over the last twenty five years. As well as an installation, film and photographic based display of the work done in Venice and repeat experiments conducted in Scotland, the exhibition comprised of a ten-metre long image-text timeline printed directly onto birch faced plywood that documented the recent history of public sector programmes, buildings, exhibitions and events. The event was followed up by a seminar that looked at new forms of architectural practice across Europe.

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2012

Paris: Ghosts and Visions of a Revolutionary City

“I had been following in the footsteps of Walter Benjamin, rambling through the arcades from the proletarian haberdashery of the rue St Denis to the consumption theme park of the Passage de Panorama. Exiting into the brittle February morning, I retreated across the road into a small bistro, the Café Le Croissant. It was here in 1914 that Jean Jaurès, philosopher, socialist and founder of L’Humanité, had stopped to gather his thoughts before heading for a meeting of the Worker’s Internationale. He never made it, and a plaque outside commemorates his death at the hands of an appropriately-named assassin, Villain. As the sleet smeared the windows, it seemed the perfect place to sit for an afternoon and ponder the spatial tactics of urban revolution, in particular that of the Paris Commune, which like an otherworldly phenomena possessed of uncertain qualities and shifting form, has been pored over, researched, and theorised from every conceivable angle.”

Read the full version in Memories of Cities: Trips and Manifestos (Ashgate Publishing: London, 2013)

  • Publications

2012

“Comrade Musicians To The Barricades” The Soviet Avant-Garde and the Early Years of Test Department

An essay on the relationship between the legendary agit-prop music group, Test Department, and the experimental music of the Soviet avant-garde.

“They fiddle, the oldies’ brigades,
The same old-fashioned parts.
Comrades!
Man the barricades!
barricades of souls and hearts.
All genuine communists
have burnt the boats of retreat.
“Don’t just walk, you futurists –
into the future leap!
What good is just building an engine
that goes off in a whirl of wheels?
If your song doesn’t deafen the station,
why have AC and DC?
Sing and whistle, pile sound on sound,
and forward
march.”

From the poem ‘Arts Army’, by Vladimir Mayakovsky, 1923

  • Publications

2012

Cultural Studies 5

For the last two years I have re-orgianised the teaching of Cultural Studies 5 into a series of intensive mini-conferences where students are introduced to key ideas from critical theory and the social sciences. Each conference was followed by studio based small group seminars where students were required to make presentations about their design proposals through the 'lens' of the subject themes. This year the themes were War, Technology, Film and Literature and Political Economy

  • Projects

2012

Experimental Media and Narrative

I have been running this course now for post graduate students for five years and is one of the more enjoyable of my teaching activities. A year long programme of projects and seminars, the frist seminar is devoted to group work. This year the theme was the City At Work, the theme of the workshop that I ran in Brazil. The second semster was taken up wiuth students making 90 second propaganda/advertising films that explored an aspect of their thesis design work.

Film clips and downloads are on their way!

  • Projects

2012

War, Slavery, Art and Culture

I gave a number of public talks in the last year on the above themes. War, at the Dover Arts Development symposium on Memorialisation, The Slave Foundations Of The Modern City at the Merchant City Voices festival, The Revolt Against Capital And Why We Need One as part of the Ankur debates at the Tron Theatre, and the City as Cultural Site in the The Arches Debates, as part of the Glasgow International Festival.

  • News and Events

2012

Belo Horizonte

I spent five weeks in Belo Horizonte as a visiting Professor at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais where I gave a series of lectures to post graduate students and ran a film and media workshop. I was working with Ana Paula Baltazar and Silke Kapp the founders and directors of MOM, (Morar de Outras Maneiras), a pioneering research and action group that are amongst other things are working with community groups in the favelas.

See some of their work at http://www.mom.arq.ufmg.br/

  • News and Events

2012

Sketches of War -The graveyards of historical memory

Our extraordinary ability to destroy buildings and cities, the industrialisation and mass production of armaments and building components, the impact of the ‘culture of fear’ on urban and architectural design, the ubiquitous presence of military technology in the civilian world, and the ‘soft’ militarisation of everyday life in advanced capitalist societies. These are just some of the themes that inevitably arise in any discussion about the relationship between war and architecture. ‘Sketches of War’ reflects upon these issues and is narrated in the form of a journey to the ‘graveyards of historical memory’. Narrated in a series of short fragments, it visits places as diverse as the military remains of the Cold War along the coastlines of Scotland, a slave fort in Brazil, Franco’s mausoleum, a bombed maternity hospital in Belgrade and the Oradour memorial village in France. Of the many questions posed, there is one in particular that ‘Sketches of War’ seeks to address: is it possible in any meaningful sense to objectify the memory of war and tragedy?

This essay was first given at a conference in Cork in 2010 and is published in the book of the same title, "Ordnance: War, Architecture and Space," ed Boyd, G and Linehan, D, (Ashgate: London, 2012). A further revised and extended version is published in Memories of Cities

  • Publications

2012

Letters from the Front Line of the Soviet Building Industry: 1918–1938

"It should be self-evident that buildings and cities are not made by magic but are the result of the ‘union of human labour with the objects and instruments of production.’ However, it is rare in the conventional narratives of architectural and urban history that we ever hear much about building workers or, indeed, the labour of architects. Human labour might have a bit part, or be a passing reference, but it is seldom placed centre-stage. This antipathy towards ‘history as labour’ is all the more strange when we consider that what Marx called the labour process is the ‘universal condition for the metabolic interaction between man and nature, the everlasting nature-imposed condition of human existence. ‘Letters from the Frontline’ makes a small contribution to this history of the human species as a history of the labour process. Written in 2011, it was assembled from notes collected in Moscow when the Soviet Union still existed. My research at that point was very much to do with the history of the labour process in the construction industry, and in particular, the Marxist critique of capitalist work practices. This naturally enough led me to look at how and in what ways the labour process had developed differently in the Soviet Union. The three ‘letters’ here, written as if I am a visiting journalist, chart a 20-year period from 1919 to 1938 – a tale of revolution and counter-revolution. To this day the question remains unresolved: what form will labour take in a post-capitalist society?"

For full version see, Memories of Cities: Trips and Manifestos (Ashgate Publishing: London, 2013)

  • Publications

2012

Critical Dialogues

The 2012 Scottish contribution to the Venice Biennale, Critical Dialogues, showcased projects from four emerging practices that explored the social role of the architect and the creative boundaries of architectural practice. It won the RSA (Royal Scottish Academy) medal for Architecture, 2012, and was the subject of a retrospective exhibition of Scottish Architecture in 2013.

Downloads: Critical Dialogues publication

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2011

Influencias Ficcionais

Regarding your architectural research, in which way are you interested in the issue of architecture and/in/as fiction?

“It would require a library to identify and disassemble the multiple ways in which architecture and fiction meet, over lap and on occasions merge. Some of the issues raised by such a debate are explored in a book I recently co-edited called Writing the Modern City – Literature, Architecture and Modernity. But a simpler answer is that like most people, I like stories and story telling. Everything begins and ends with a story, fictional or otherwise, and I cannot think of a building, book or indeed any other cultural and material object that doesn’t have a story to tell if you let it speak. It is also the case that just as I cannot think of a building that doesn’t possess a ‘plotline’ in terms of its function, the sensory experience of using it, or its ideological role, I cannot imagine a novel that isn’t rooted in some conception of space and time, whether it is a particular building, urban panorama or geographical zone. In a very real sense then both literary texts and buildings can then be thought of as narratives that are driven by the dynamic relationship between time, space and social reality…”

Full text published in "Arquitectura E Arte. No 13" (Lisbon, 2012)

Downloads: arqa

  • Publications

2011

Time, Space and Narrative - Reflections on Architecture, Literature and Modernity

"The city spread over a plain into distances further than the eye could see. Whichever way he turned there was no end to it, nothing but houses and apartment blocks, streets, squares, towers, old and new quarters of town, mildewy storm-battered rented barracks and skyscrapers faced with modern marble, main roads and alleys, factories, workshops, gasometers and the clumsy looking great hall that he recognised from her as the slaughterhouse. And chimneys, chimneys everywhere..." (Karinthy 2008:111)

It is with an image of the limitless concrete geometries from the top of the Banespa Bank in Sao Paulo and the ziggurats and leaping flames from the opening clip of Bladerunner that I begin my course every year on the History of the Modern City. Like my vain attempt to draw Borges’ metaphor for the universe, the indefinite and infinite Library of Babel, it is a vision of a metropolis that has no centre and no end. And as it drifts and stumbles outwards to the periphery before disappearing into the hazy smog of the horizon, it is as if it is demonically possessed with a speed and complexity that mocks our efforts at comprehension, and defies our knowledge of earthbound demographics, semiotics and urban economics. As dusk falls over this city of twenty million souls, and millions upon millions of lights flicker and illuminate a nocturnal kaleidoscope of objects and bodies, the scene is almost indistinguishable from the Asimovan mega cities beloved of the fantastic imagination that have bled and bled until they enclose the entire surface of the globe. The first generation of modern writers were likewise shocked and astonished as they gazed in awe at the hypnotic antinomies and creatively destructive patterns of the nineteenth century capitalist metropolis. It is why Walter Benjamin, Marshall Berman and many others have found such lyrical power in one of the greatest poets of modernity, Baudelaire, who on his urban drifts though Paris tells us that modernity is best understood as “the indefinable… the transient, the fleeting, and the contingent."

Published in "Writing the Modern City", ed Edwards and Charley, (Routledge: London, 2011)

  • Publications

2011

Drugs, Crime and Dreams of Other Worlds

“Welcome to the marginal places that the obedient citizen rarely encounters. Welcome to the deviant places through which no God fearing middle class person would ever dare wander. And welcome to the parts of cities and towns where fearful prejudice forbid you to go. Enter the literary world of narcotics, theft, murder and weird technology, of back street alleys, cocktail penthouses and paranoid suburbs, of the lo-fi, the downbeat, and the popular, of crime, sci-fi, sex and drugs. In all of this beware of the pushers, pimps, and androids, who curl a beckoning finger and invite you to take a trip into the type of novels and buildings historically frowned upon by the great and good of the Academy. But be equally beware of the frock coated sages who reside within and who ridicule the idea that pulp fiction and the garden shed have aesthetic and cultural value and who shake at the proposition that the pigeon racers doocot should sit alongside the Opera House or that the novels of Dashiell Hammet should be allocated space next to Hemingway…”

Published in Writing the Modern City: perspectives on Architecture and Literature, ed Charley, Edwards, (Routledge: London, 2011)

  • Publications

2011

Writing the Modern City: Literature, Architecture and Modernity

Literary texts and buildings have always represented space, narrated cultural and political values, and functioned as sites of personal and collective identity. In the twentieth century, new forms of narrative have represented cultural modernity, political idealism and architectural innovation. This book explores the diverse and fascinating relationships between literature, architecture and modernity and considers how they have shaped the world today. This collection of thirteen original essays examines the ways in which literature and architecture have shaped a range of recognisably ‘modern’ identities. It focuses on the cultural connections between prose narratives – the novel, short stories, autobiography, crime and science fiction – and a range of urban environments, from the city apartment and river to the colonial house and the utopian city. It explores how the themes of memory, nation and identity have been represented in both literary and architectural works in the aftermath of twentieth-century conflict; how the cultural movements of modernism and postmodernism have affected notions of canonicity and genre in the creation of books and buildings; and how and why literary and architectural narratives are influenced by each other’s formal properties and styles. The book breaks new ground in its exclusive focus on modern narrative and urban space. The essays examine texts and spaces that have both unsettled traditional definitions of literature and architecture and reflected and shaped modern identities: sexual, domestic, professional and national. It is essential reading for students and researchers of literature, cultural studies, cultural geography, art history and architectural history.

Downloads: Writing the modern city flyer

  • Publications

2010

Violent Stone - The City of Dialectical Justice

In its geographical reach and typological inventiveness the spatial revolution of the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie was unprecedented in human history. It was all-embracing and affected every aspect of the architecture of daily life. As Marx famously commented: ‘The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce 100 years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together.’ This spectacular story of progress and invention was from the outset scarred and deformed by its relationship with imperialism, slavery and colonial exploitation. In three interconnected stories about Glasgow, Liverpool and Brussels, ‘Violent Stone’ explores the pivotal role that their respective law courts played in providing a juridical and ideological foundation to this history.

Published in "Architecture and Justice", ed Tobe and Temple, (Ashgate: London, 2012) and first given as a paper at a conference of the same name held in Lincoln 2010.

  • Publications

2010

The (Dis)Integrating City: The Russian Architectural and Literary Avant-Garde

This chapter is an extended version of a paper first given in Moscow at a conference in the Academy of Architecture held to commemorate the ninetieth anniversary of Vkhutemas, the State Higher Art and Technical Studios. Set up in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1920, Vkhutemas was at the epicentre of an extraordinary ten-year cultural revolution in the arts and architecture. Many of the luminaries of the avant-garde, both Rationalists and Constructivists, passed through its doors, where they both practised and taught. Together with students, they helped build a creative revolution propelled by new social conditions that precipitated an unprecedented outpouring of innovative ideas in all areas of architecture and urbanism. It was closed like the Bauhaus at the start of the 1930s, but unlike its German cousin, has never enjoyed the same historical status. The conference in Moscow was part of an on-going quest to remedy that situation and to reinforce Vkhutemas’ position as one of the most important chapters in the history of modern architecture. ‘The (Dis)Integrating City’ takes a particular route through this history and investigates the relationship between the architectural avant-garde and the architectural dimensions of Russian literary modernism, in particular the work of Andrei Bely, Yevgeny Zamyatin and Andrei Platonov.

Published in Memories of Cities: Trips and Manifestos (Ashgate Publishing: London, 2013)

  • Publications

2010

Scares and Squares II: A literary journey into the architectural imagination

Some of the most powerful literary evocations of architecture are to be found in literary texts where the city, rather than merely providing a setting, frames and propels the narrative. ‘Scares and Squares II’ explores this proposition further in a journey through the rather loosely defined genre of utopian and dystopian fiction that begins with Thomas More and ends with Saramago. It started life as an idea for a fictional chat show, in which rival teams of writers and architects battle it out over the idea of the modern city. On one side sat H.G. Wells, Zamyatin, Orwell and Huxley, on the other Tony Garnier, Corbusier, Hilbersheimer and Bruce. Through a series of at times hostile conversations, they explored the marked disjuncture between the way the architect and the writer depicted the early modern city. ‘Scares and Squares II’ plays with a number of recurrent themes that have been explored by many writers, but by two in particular: Darko Suvin in The Metamorphosis of Science Fiction and Frederick Jameson in Archaeologies of the Future. If I was to select one idea from these groundbreaking surveys, it is that such literature should never be confused with futurology or reduced to ‘Boys’ Own comic book’ tales of fabulous new technologies and gizmos. It was, after all, Philip K. Dick who argued that his tales were not so much about the future as about the here and now. Sure, his novels are weird and decidedly other-worldly, but there is always something familiar about the places and situations he describes. This is what is meant by ‘cognitive estrangement’. It refers to the way in which such literary representations allow us to recognise their subject, at the same time as making them seem unfamiliar. I have coined my own version to describe such tales that I think of as narratives of an ‘exaggerated present.’ There is, of course, much more to be said about such a genre that at its best deals with all of the complex issues affecting the human condition, from our understanding of history, nature, reality and technology, to our very existence as a species. My main interest in this essay is naturally enough with ‘space’ (!) and before we lift off, a few parting words from Jameson: ‘We need to explore the proposition that the distinctiveness of Science Fiction as a genre has less to do with time (history, past, future) than with space.’

Short version published in Once Upon A Place: Haunted Houses and Imaginary Cities, (Caleidoscopio: Lisbon, 2013)
A considerably extended version can be found in Memories of Cities: Trips and Manifestos, (Ashgate Publishing: London, 2013)

  • Publications

2010

The Shadows of Economic History- The architecture of boom, slump and crisis

“We gazed with earnest hope for signs of recovery and longed for the airwaves to tell us that ‘the worst is past, economic Armageddon has been averted, and house prices are rising again.’ Back in 2004, I wrote a short essay called ‘Boom and Slump on the Clyde and Liffey’, in which I expressed my astonishment that the Irish economy and housing market hadn’t crashed. For the situation in Dublin was quite unprecedented in economic history. At the height of the Soviet industrialisation of the building industry, the construction sector accounted for 13 per cent of GDP. But in Ireland by the end of 2004, it had reached 22 per cent, prompting the Bank of Ireland to admit in early 2005 that the construction industry’s role in the Irish economy was ‘above equilibrium’. The boom, fuelled by a massive increase in speculative housing, was clearly unsteady, and with over 40 per cent of new flats unsold and unlet, one didn’t have to be an economist to work out that something had to give. However, it is characteristic of all such gold rushes that in the race to capitalise on investments the normal laws of reason are suspended. ‘The Shadows of Economic History’ picks up on this debate and places the recent crisis in the architectural and building industry in an historical context. It argues that it was simply irrational for architects and contractors to behave as if the boom would go on forever. Capitalist development has always been marked by periodic crises, and building production has always exhibited cycles of expansion and contraction. So what caused the economic recession and where on earth did the profoundly mistaken belief come from that we could cheat history?...”

First published in the ARQ, Architectural Research Quarterly (Cambridge University Press, Vol 14, No 4, 2010). Revised and extended version published in "Memories of Cities"

Downloads: The Shadows of Economic HIstory

  • Publications

2010

Dependency Theory on Trial

“Inside the court room...
Architecture Depends is an engaging and provocative critique of the fuzzy world of architecture that has more than a hint of a show trial about it. The chief prosecutor in this case is Till, who supported by his favourite witnesses, Zygmunt Bauman and Bruno Latour, enters the courtroom brandishing his axe and pen. Equipped with an idiosyncratic armoury of anecdotes and philosophical diversions, he announces to the court that his role is to seek the truth, to root out the dangerous ideas, individuals and myths that continue to plague contemporary architectural practice…”

Critical Review of Architecture Depends by Jeremy Till. Published in In The R.I.B.A Journal of Architecture, Vol 15, (Chapman and Hall: London, 2010).

Downloads: ARCHITECTURE DEPENDS

  • Publications

2009

"Telling It As It Is"

A 15-minute film prepared for the 2010 R.I.B.A Research symposium on Changing Practice, it offers Marxist critique of the current state of the architectural profession and building industry.

To watch Part 1 and 2, go to youtube.com.

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2009

Glimmers of another world: Questions on Alternative Architectural Practice

The Glimmer of Other Worlds was prompted by my experiences as a teacher attempting to explain to students what the idea of an alternative to capitalist building production might mean. It struck me that one way to address this was to ask a series of questions that are typical of the kind I have received over the years. In effect, it is an architectural and political manifesto that addresses a specific politically engaged meaning of alternative practice understood as anti-capitalist resistance.

This essay started life as a paper at the Alternate Currents conference held in Sheffield in 2008. In the ARQ, Architectural Research Quarterly (Cambridge University Press, Vol 12, No2, 2009)

Downloads: GLIMMER OF OTHER WORLDS

  • Publications

2009 -

Architecture and Literature

It is hardly an original observation but some of the most powerful evocations of the city and urban life have emerged from the pens not of academic historians but from novelists. The depictions of Paris by Zola, St Petersburg by Andrei Bely, and Dublin by James Joyce, are unsurpassed, rich and powerful. Despite my admiration of the work of Henri Lefebvre and David Harvey, I have often told students that one of the most insightful historians of the post second world war metropolis was in fact J.G Ballard ! Think Drowned Earth, High-Rise, Concrete Island and SuperCannes. The relationship then between architecture and literature has been a preoccupation for many years. In a formal sense it began to ferment with an international conference in 2008 that was hosted jointly between the Departments of Architecture and English Studies called Architexture: exploring textual and architectural space. The conference was organised around four themes: Different Genres, Historical Movements, Public and Private LIves and Notational Systems. It was out of the conference that the book "Writing the Modern City" emerged.

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2009

S.O.L Spaces of Labour

Emerging out of the Advanced Architectural Design course at the University of Strathclyde, and continuing themes explored by G.L.A.S (Glasgow Letters on Architecture and Space, 2001-2005) and B.I.S.S (Bartlett International Summer School 1979-1994), this exhibition and catalogue that showed in Glasgow and at the Highland Housing fair in Inverness and was reported on by the BBC and Scotsman set out to reinvigorate a debate on how we value old industrial landscapes and places of work at the same time as speculating on new forms of productive landscape appropriate to Scotland in the 21st century. The project looked at the remains of the coal and fishing industry, imaginary new productive landscapes devoted to energy and textile production and innovative uses for slat and waste paper.

Downloads: SOL -LANDSCAPES OF PRODUCTION

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2009

Landscapes of Production - On the Origins of the Spaces of Labour Project

“Of all the profound changes and upheavals that hit northern Europe in the latter quarter of the twentieth century and which signalled the end of the post world war two expansionary wave of capital accumulation, it is probably the process of de-industrialisation that had the greatest impact on the social and economic welfare of communities. The crisis that enveloped the UK economy in the nineteen seventies and eighties caused irreparable damage to the social fabric of Britain. It tore families apart and destroyed individual lives. The ensuing social and economic catastrophe prompted economists and sociologists to re-examine the social and technological history of the capitalist labour process and to re-engage with debates about the dynamics of capital accumulation. But whilst the social history and critique of work gathered pace, there seemed to be something missing. That absence was the notion of geography, of space, and of architecture, the reality that capital accumulation and production possess both temporal and spatial dimensions. This was particularly important for understanding the devastating flight of capital and the spatial restructuring of the division of labour that occurred from the 1970s onwards and finally put paid to the remnants of heavy and light industry in Scotland including the slate, fishing, coal and textiles industries. However although considerable energy went into understanding the geographical dimensions of capitalist production in terms of the socio-spatial division of particular branches of industrial production and manufacturing, very little attention was devoted to the design of actual work buildings, which to date still represents the biggest omission in most histories of architecture and building. This is all the more remarkable when we think that for those of us in regular employment we spend a third of our adult lives at work…”

Publlshed in S.O.L - Spaces of Labour, (Glasgow, 2009). See also Scotland's economic recovery must be of its own making, Editorial in The Scotsman, 30 April 2010

Downloads: LANDSCAPES OF PRODUCTION

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2008

Scares and Squares I

This piece, in which the ideas for Scares and Squares II were first rehearsed is as yet unpublished but was written as a dialogue between architects and novelists.

SQUARES AND SCARES
A play on Architectural Utopias and Literary Dystopias

Take four architects. Take four novelists. Ask them all to imagine a future world. Give them the same rather vague brief. They must describe a city of the future. A city inhabited by large numbers of people engaged in mass activity. A city jam packed with science and machinery. A city under the rule of law with regulated forms of conduct and movement. A city in which the political state is required to organise social life. Something strange happens. A rupture immediately appears. The architects imagine a new world that is geometrically ordered and where the righteous, the courageous and the morally resolute live in organised happiness. But the novelists see the city of gleaming towers as a world that disguises an authoritarian, totalitarian nightmare in which individual freedom is annihilated. Squares and Scares imagines the 'utopian' architects Tony Garnier, Le Corbusier, Ludwig Hilbersheimer and Robert Bruce in conversation with the 'dystopian' novelists H.G Wells, Yevgeny Zamyatin, Aldous Huxley and George Orwell. They discuss the relative merits of their respective works in a vain attempt to explain the apparently unbridgeable gulf between them.

The Players and their Works

Tony Garnier - La Cite Industrielle (1906)
Ludwig Hilbersheimer - Plan for Berlin (1928)
Le Corbusier - Le Plan Voisin, La Ville Radieuse (1922-35)
Robert Bruce - The Bruce Plan (1946)

H.G.Wells - The Sleeper Awakes (1899)
Yevgeny Zamyatin - We (1926)
Aldous Huxley - Brave New World (1936)
George Orwell - 1984 (1948)

  • Publications

2007

Smash and Grab- The political Economy of Urban Regeneration in Scotland

“There is a tale I would like to tell you that concerns unimaginable fates and unspeakable acts of barbarity and greed. In order to fully appreciate the madness of this story you are required to suspend all previously understood concepts of reason.

There was a town of great repute built at the mouth of a silty estuary. It was a town of several hundred thousand souls. Industrious and engaged in the production of worthy and worldly goods it beat to the sound of metal hammers. From the remotest villages people flocked to its great mills and furnaces in search of wages. Like many other European city its construction was part financed by the trade in commodities of sinister origins. But of this history it prefers not to speak.

Such was its prowess and reputation that its industry could be found in the landscapes of five continents. Self-confident and fierce in its determination to rebuild the world, it became for the best part of a hundred years the world's industrial workshop. Nothing was beyond the imagination of its engineers and architects. “Nature cannot only be mastered it can be transformed”, and with a mixture of paternal benevolence and a thirst for aggrandisement and profit the city fathers fashioned a city that encapsulated their world-view. All of the essential institutions for a successful civil society were constructed in an orgy of intensive scaffolding. Hotel de Ville, Arcade, Market Hall, Bourse, Galleria, Sal de Musica, Restaurants, Parks and Public Conveniences."

Published in "Shifts", Exhibition Catalogue, (Lighthouse: Glasgow, 2007)

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2005

AkshunArchitecture-Reclaiming the Spaces of Political Resistance

This was one of my first experiments in semi-fictional narrative, revisiting the sites of historical urban rebellion as if I am a time travelling journalist, a theme that I revisited in 2012 in Letters From the Front Line

Cardiff 1848 - Shattering the symbols of oppression

"Britain is being turned upside down - as much by new forms of social conflict as by technology. The rural poor are destroying machinery, raiding bread shops, and attacking the workhouse. They are even dismantling the fences around private land. The city is not much better. The urban 'rioter' is assaulting chapels and the homes of political opponents. In the name of Ludd, Rebecca and Captain Swing, saboteurs have smashed and burnt the property of employers and magistrates. There are even tales of spectral figures clad in women's clothes and blackened faces conducting a nocturnal and clandestine campaign to destroy the toll-gates. Where will it end dear reader? These conflicts and grievances, far from having been resolved, seem to be escalating.”

Published in "Reclamation", Exhibition Catalogue (Chapter Gallery: Cardiff, 2005)

Downloads: AKSHUNARCHITECTURE

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2005

Boom and Slump on the Clyde and Liffey

“It is still boom time and the crane operators and scaffolders scurry between historic square and water's edge laying the foundations for glitzy offices and chic apartments in the race to boost the value of real estate. The capitalisation of culture or more precisely of eating, drinking, and caffeine injected art galleries is a vital component of this process as the city is reborn as a post-modern metropolis serving duck instead of mutton. It isn't difficult to crack the veneer of prosperity that camouflages such urban development. The Liffey still funnels milk bottles, bus tickets, teabags, and surgical debris towards the sea. And as in all 'regenerated' cities a quick detour from the prescribed tourist route returns you to the reality of urban poverty.”

Published in "Building Material", Journal of the Architectural Association of Ireland, (Dublin, Issue 14 winter 2005)

Downloads: Boom and Slump on the Clyde and Liffey

  • Publications

2005

Global Iron

It is true that throughout the world on the retreating shorelines of inland seas and remaindered by the sides of disused railway tracks lies the rolling stock of the British industrial revolution.

“…In fact the Saracen Foundry produced so much ornamental and structural ironwork that it was considered, "one of the most important branches of the Glasgow Iron founding industry and the source of supply of useful and artistic foundings for all parts of the civilised, and we might add, uncivilised world." In keeping with other foundries Macfarlanes pre-fabricated the structures for the Pretoria Zoo, Madras banking hall, and buildings all over Brasil including the Sao Paulo Train Station and the Jose Alencar Theatre in Fortaleza.”

Published in "Six Thousand Miles", Exhibition Catalogue, (The Lighthouse: Glasgow, 2005)

Downloads: GLOBAL IRON

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2004

The concrete memory of modernity

They say that I am old. Ancient. That I was played with in Imperial China and christened in the Coliseum and Pantheon of ancient Rome. They say that wage labour is old too. That on the same building sites of antiquity, workers paid by the piece or the day laboured alongside slaves. But like myself, the idea of a wage as a general condition underpinning everything we do is very modern indeed. I am concrete. I underpin modernity. I think of myself in two ways. As a noun referring to my use as a building material, and in a more philosophical sense. To make something concrete. To materialise an idea. To concretise a revolution.

Published in "Tracing Modernity", Ed. Hermannsen and Hvattum (Routledge: London, 2004)

  • Publications

2004

Foreign Bodies

‘Foreign Bodies’ was originally published in 2004 as an exhibition and limited edition colour picture book. Published in both languages, the French text was illustrated with photographs of Glasgow and the English text with images of Marseille. The narrative takes the form of an exchange of letters between two cities – Marseille and Glasgow. Like two old men reminiscing about the course their life has taken, they reflect on their mutual rise to a position of great wealth and splendour and their subsequent decline in old age. At first glance they would appear to have little in common. One is a Mediterranean city that is bathed in warm sun for most of the year and the other shivers in the far northwest. On closer inspection, however, there is much that they share. They both have a reputation for being political rebels, and are passionate about football and alcohol – one the home of pastis, the other of whisky. They are also obsessed by the weather. Marseille can be chilled by the mistral blowing in from the Massif Central and burnt by the North African sirocco. Meanwhile, Glasgow seems to alternate between dreek Atlantic squalls and blanket grey cloud. Both cities are also famous for verbal trickery, and enjoy trading on their stereotypes of notoriety, with Glasgow feared by London, and Marseille by Paris. Perhaps more importantly, they are connected historically by their roles as imperial and industrial cities that were pivotal in the development of capitalism in Britain and France; a history that has left an indelible stamp on the fabric and structure of both cities.

Published by the Lighthouse: Glasgow, 2004. Photographs exhibited in Glasgow and Marseille (2005)

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2004

Bunkers and Chips - Military Vernacular in East Fife

9.30 RAF Leuchars
Military installations do not normally figure in books on the picturesque. Nor do they feature in the canons of architectural history or tourist guides. There are a few exceptions like the Martello towers on the East Anglian coast built during the Napoleonic era or medieval fortresses rendered neutral by technological progress and time. But our rural and coastal landscapes are full of military installations and hardware. Some of them buried out of secrecy, some disintegrating into the natural landscape, and some of it lying interred and unexploded. In between are the sites that are still bristling with armed patrols and heavy machines. Leuchars is one of the latter, a busy RAF base that helps prop up the local economy and support national defence systems. The reason for the location for RAF Leuchars is strategic rather than picturesque although the landed class and military think nothing of annexing some of the more beautiful parts of Britain.

Published in "Field Trip- Journeys into Scottish Landscapes", (The Lighthouse: Glasgow, 2004)

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2004

Industrialisation, (post) industrialisation, (de) industrialisation

Introductory excerpt

  1. Industrialisation refers to the historical and geographical transformation of the labour process at the heart of which lie changes in the character of technology, labour and work. It transforms the medieval serf into a wage labourer, and a craftsperson into a machine operator. It takes us on a journey from the hand made house, to the manufactured housing estate and onwards to the pre-fabricated concrete block. In so doing the process of industrialisation changes both the social form of labour and that of the built object.

  2. As a virtual synonym of urbanisation and the nineteenth century industrial city, the process of industrialisation quickly outstrips the capabilities of earlier historical building types to support social development and the expansion of capital. Old building typologies are adapted and new ones introduced. A different built environment emerges organised around two activities; the production, exchange and consumption of commodities; and the enlightenment, discipline and social reproduction of the individual. In other words the spaces of labour (the mill, factory, or office) develop as part of an archipelago of building types that are instrumental to the reproduction of society - economically, politically and ideologically.

Download full version in GLASPAPER 08

Downloads: Pages from glaspaper08

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2003

Accumulation, Kriegspeilzeug, Reserve Army of Labour, Spatial Tactics of Resistance

Short sketches for GLASpaper 05 A-Z of war. A for accumulation, K for Kriegspielzeug (war games), R for Reserve Army of Labour, and S for Spatial Tactics of Resistance

Downloads: Pages from glaspaper05_06-2 Pages from glaspaper05_06-3 Pages from glaspaper05_06-4 Pages from glaspaper05_06-5 Pages from glaspaper05_06-6

  • Publications

2002

Hold the Front page - Buildings are not made by magic

I have always been fond of manifestoes, programmatic statements and short theses. Provocations, utopian statements of desire, critiques, and some times all of these things, here is one of several I have written over the years published in GLASpaper 03.

Downloads: Hold the Front Page

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2001

Fragments from a Moscow Diary 1984-1994

My first foray into semi fictionalised accounts of my experiences in Moscow over the course of a decade narrated through a series of fragments and short vignettes.

First published in the Unknown City, ed Borden, Rendell, Kerr and Pivaro, (MIT 2001)

Downloads: MOSCOW DIARY

  • Publications

2001 - 2004

N.O.T.U (Narratives of the Unseen)

An innovative educational project funded by the British Council and run jointly between the Departments of Architecture at the University of Strathclyde and Belgrade, N.O.T.U experimented with new forms of multi-media technology and story telling

Click on attached interactive Flash File

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2001 - 2006

G.L.A.S (Glasgow Letters on Architecture and Space)

G.L.A.S grew out of a design studio that I ran for ten years at Strathclyde. Together with ex-students we decided to organise an architect’s cooperative with a mission to provide a radical critique of the capitalist built environment. G.L.A.S produced various exhibitions, newspapers and organised educational projects. It won the inaugural Scottish National Achievement Award for Architecture in 2004

See PDFs below to download newspapers

Downloads: glaspaper01 glaspaper02 glaspaper03 glaspaper04 glaspaper05_06 glaspaper07 glaspaper08 glaspaper09

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1999

Notes for a Manifesto

An essay and manifesto that took a critical look at the dilution and abandonment of the idea of revolution and its relationship to urban development with the ascendancy of neo-liberal ideology that followed the fall of the Berlin wall.

Published in Architecture and Revolution, ed Leach, N, (Routledge:1999)

  • Publications

1999

56 Degrees North

A short essay that takes a comparative look at Glasgow and Moscow that by a stroke of luck, (for me at any rate given my obsessions) share the same latitude. Published in, G99 Glasgow Journal of Art and Design, December 1999.

Downloads: 56 Degrees North

  • Publications

1997

The Business of Thought

In the early 1990s I did some teaching on the Masters Degree in Critical Theory and Architecture run by neil Leach at Nottingham University. It was a pivotal era in the development of the theory and history of architecture, part of what Edward Soja labelled the 'spatial turn'. It was also distinguished by a large section of the architectural academic community turning to writers and thinkers that had previously been the territory of social science, literary studies, philosophy and politics such as Walter Benjamin, Michel Foucault, Derrida et al. Rethinking Architecture by Neil Leach, was one of the best introductions to what for most architectural students was forbidding territory. Published in Building Design (11.6.97)

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1996

The Dialectic of the Built Environment: The Making of an Imperial City

A chapter of my PhD printed in the first issue of the R.I.B.A journal of architecture. It offers a critical analysis of the development of the Stalinist City and the ideological culture of 'socialist realism' that I argued in terms of the gulf between revolutionary rhetoric and the reality of everyday life in 1930s Moscow, was better understood as the 'realism of social deception'.

Downloads: DIALECTIC OF THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT

  • Publications

1996

Sentences on Architecture

My first attempt at a polemical manifesto, inspired by Marx's Theses on Feuerbach, Walter Benjamin's Theses on History, and of course Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle.

Published in Strangely Familiar, ed Borden, Rendell and Kerr, (Routledge, 1996)

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1995

Industrialisation and the city. Work, speed up, urbanisation

An early overview of a theory of industrialisation and capital accumulation, again adapted from a chapter in my PhD and published in Architecture and the Sites of History: Interpretations of Buildings and Cities, (ed), Borden and Dunster, (Butterworth, 1995)

Download forthcoming

  • Publications

1995

Modernism and the USSR

An adaptation of a chapter from my PhD, written as an introductory primer for students unfamiliar with the Soviet Avant Garde, published in Architecture and the Sites of History: Interpretations of Buildings and Cities, (ed), Borden and Dunster, (Butterworth, 1995)

  • Publications

1995

Resisting the End-Game. The terminal extinction of architecture

This essay published in the Proceedings of the Bartlett International Summer School, Volume 17, Glasgow, 1995, was a reworking of a public lecture that I had given at the R.I.B.A earlier that year. It was a critical response to the emerging culture of endism and postism, that at that juncture had proliferated across conversations in all areas of public life from politics to architecture. It was at best irritating and at worst idiotic...a series of mis-understood shibboleths that spoke of the 'end of history', 'the end of socialism', 'post ideological society', 'post industrial society' and so on and so forth.

Downloads: Review of my lecture at the R.I.B.A, *Resisting The End Game*

  • Publications

1995

When Design and Politics Were Fused

Review of the Russian Avant-Garde: Theories of Art Architecture and the City by Catherine Cooke, published in the Architects Journal (26.10.95). Catherine Cooke was a pivotal figure in rekindling interest in the history of the Soviet avant-garde. A prolific author, great teacher and inspiration she helped introduce me to key areas of Soviet history. The opportunity to review her fantastic volume of essays produced with her customary scholarly detail was a privilege and a pleasure.

Download forthcoming

Downloads: When Design and Politics were Fused

  • Publications

1993

Free to do what I want, your way

This review is included because the book Buildings and Power by Tom Markus, was a hugely important landmark in the study of the relationship between social power and the development of architectural typologies during the initial stages of the development of capitalism in the 19th century. Published in Building Design (26.11.1993)

  • Publications

1992

Reform club

Interview with the then President of the Architects Union of the USSR on the impact of Perestroika on architectural and urban development. Published in Building Design (23.6.92). This was about the last journalistic piece that I wrote about the situation in Russia with the fall of the Soviet system. Below, there are PDFs of selected others back to the first written in 1988.

Downloads: Reform Club

  • Publications

1992

Uncle Joe's legacy

Compared with the quantity of pages devoted in the west to the celebration of the avant-garde, relatively little ha been published that looked at the legacy of Stalin era architecture. This book Stalinist Architecture a colour glossy picture book by Andrei Tarkhanov and Sergei Kavtaradze was one of the first. The review was published in Building Design (26.6.92)

  • Publications

1990

Taking Russian Lessons

A short essay examining the Soviet experience with system building, an extraordinary technological revolution that saw similar types of prefabricated buildings being constructed from the suburbs of east Berlin, to the Japanese sea.

Downloads: Taking Russian Lessons 1 Taking Russian Lessons 2

  • Publications

1990 -

Teaching and Advanced Architectural Design

I started teaching in a part time capacity at East London and the Bartlett, contributing to the History and Theory programmes. Over the years I have run lectures and seminar series on The History of the Modern City, Soviet Architecture, Critical Theory, and Experimental Media. From 1994 - 2008 working closely with Per Kartvedt, we developed the now legendary course in Advanced Architectural Design at the University of Strathclyde that produced several generations of young architects who were confronted with the freedom to explore the social role or the architect and the creative boundaries of architectural practice. It was out of the M.Arch in Advanced Architectural Design that the cooperative G.L.A.S emerged.

Archive of images forthcoming

  • Projects

1989

Dialogue of Design

This was a review of a conference on the impact of Perestroika on Russian Architecture, published in Building Design (3.3.89). It was memorable because I got the chance to meet and pose some questions to Berthold Lubetkin one of the greatest figures of twentieth century architecture. A Soviet emigre, founder of Tecton and ATO, he was the key figure in the design of some of the most seminal modern buildings in Britain such as Highpoint and the Finsbury Park Health centre.

Downloads: Dialogue of Design

  • Publications

1989

Window on the West

Review of the Petrine Revolution in Russian Architecture, by James Craft. This book charts the history of the europeanisation of the Russian town and city introduced by Peter the Great and continued by Catherine the Great who were determined to "destroy the Asiatic sprawl of Moscow.

Downloads: Window on the West 1 Window on the West 2

  • Publications

1988

Children of The Revolution

In the late 1980s a group of young Russian architects became the focus of considerable attention with an exhibition of some extraordinary drawings that became know by the euphemism 'bumashnaya arkhitektura', 'paper architecture'. This is a review of an exhibition of their projects at the Architectural Association in London. Children of the revolution, was published in Building Design (2.12.88).

  • Publications

1988

How the Soviet Industry Works

This was in actual fact the first ever piece that I had published in the journal Construction News 6.10.88. In it, I attempted to describe the operation of the then quite monolithic structure and organisation of the Soviet Building industry that prior to the collapse of the Soviet system employed over 13 million building workers, architects amd technicians in what was dreamt of as being a continuous semi-automated process of design and build.

Downloads: How The Soviet Industry Works 1 How The Soviet Industry Works 2

  • Publications

1988

A Story of a Paper Tiger

Book Review of Ivan Leonidov by Andrei Leonidov, Andrei Gozak, and Catherine Cooke, Building Design (25.11.88). Leonidov was the author of one of the most celebrated and iconic images of the avant-garde, The Lenin Institutue and library in Moscow, his diploma project from 1926.

Downloads: A story of a paper tiger 1, Book Review A story of a paper tiger 2, Book Review

  • Publications

1988

Back from the USSR

This was my second foray into the printed world that I wrote immediately on my return from a year long British Council research scholarship to Moscow where I had been a student at the Moscow Institute of Construction and Engineering doing research for my PhD the Dialectic of the Built Environment.

Downloads: Back From The USSR 1 Back From The USSR 2

  • Publications

1980 - 1987

Collective Building and Design Ltd

A pioneering self-management workers’ collective of architects and builders based in Stoke Newington, east London, CBD operated for nearly twenty years. As well as housing conversions and general building work it specialized in community architecture and provided a complete range of services from land procurement to design and construction. As well as an apprenticeship in how to design and build it was also a lesson in democratic working practices

See PDF for images and an eight-page review in the Architects Journal from 1984

Downloads: CBD Master PDF

  • Projects
  • Publications

1979 - 1995

B.I.S.S Bartlett International Summer School

If Collective Building and Design was my apprenticeship in the building industry, this was my intellectual and theoretical apprenticeship into radical literature and Marxist political economy that I first confronted during my Masters degree at UCL in 1987. A broad ranging international collection of researchers and activists including Trade Unionists, planners, historians and architects it offered a critique of the capitalist built environment and held an annual summer school each of which was published in proceedings. Its focus was on the production of the built environment and accordingly there were a number of recurrent themes; land and rent; the history and political economy of the building industry; housing and urban development; workers' struggles and the history of the construction labour process. Truly international in terms of its membership and interests it hosted conferences in places as far afield as Sao Paulo, Mexico, Brussels, London, Glasgow, and Moscow.

It also gave me a window to publish a number of essays on architecture and building. Resisting the End-Game. The terminal extinction of architecture, (Volume 17, Glasgow, 1995), Dead Zones, (Volume 15, Roubaix, 1993), Ideology and the Labour Process, (Volume 14 , Brussels, 1993), Slogans Revisited - Perestroika and the Soviet built environment, (Volume 12, Moscow, 1992), Architecture, production and ideology, ( Volume 11, Paris, 1989)

See attached PDF for a full bibliography of conference papers

  • Projects
  • Publications

1978 - 1986

codeBMUS

Typical of the spirit of independent DIY approaches to music and performance that characterised the immediate post-punk era, BMUS, was a collective that combined music, multi-media and politics performing live in various pubs and students unions, reaching the dizzying heights of having a 12” single played a couple of times by John Peel and sharing a musical float with Hawkwind during a miner’s rally. Our first recorded outing was the Epileptic Bellydance that in keeping with the era was distributed on a C60 cassette, and the highlight was probably the EP Strike Now: There is No Cover. After codeBMUS folded we continued our multimedia spectacle under the name of the Zen Abattoir.

Music downloads forthcoming!!

Downloads: BMUS Gig Poster, Chat's Palace, Hackney, 1983 ZEN Abattoir Gig poster, Ealing, 1983 ZEN Abattoir Gig poster, Idiot Ballroom, Hammersmith, 1982 codeBMUS, Gig poster, London Musician's Collective, Camden, 1982 codeBMUS, Vox Fanzine review, 1981 Zen Abattoir, Review, *Performance* Magazine, 1983 BMUS Events List

  • Projects
  • Publications