The Vandals in Retreat

“It was a nightmare, but we have almost woken up.”

With some qualification, Dalrymple celebrates what seems to be the end of Britain’s postwar architectural pogrom, in which many Victorian buildings and entire town centers were destroyed and replaced by modern concrete eye-sores. He says the destructive urge arose from “a deep sense of humiliation, an awareness that, in an age of the most startling technical progress” Britain’s architects “were not equal to the most jobbing of jobbing provincial builders of two and a half centuries earlier”.

Many British cities are beginning to re-discover their architectural heritage, town centers are becoming liveable residential areas, and cultural institutions are benefitting.

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15 thoughts on “The Vandals in Retreat

  1. Gavin

    A great article, as usual. I have often visited the eyesore that is the Barbican Centre in London (http://bit.ly/h833rr) and wondered what TD makes of it, though I need not wonder for long.

    The centre is enormous and its construction must have necessitated the demolition of a great deal of the City of London. It is in true Brutalist style and has before been voted Britain’s ugliest building. (Inside it hosts a variety of artistic events from classical ones involving talent to modern art.)

    Mercifully the planners left a church of 1390 standing in the middle of the complex, but as Dalrymple notes, this merely serves to accentuate the bleak ugliness of the rest of the architecture.

    I suppose we should at least be grateful for them naming Brutalism so shamelessly, for it is brutal to the sensibilities and no doubt encourages brutality in general.

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