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Notebook on Cities and Culture S4E26: New Meant Better with Jonathan Meades

Colin Marshall sits down in Marseille, France, specifically in the Le Corbusier-designed Unité d’Habitation, with Jonathan Meades, writer and broadcaster on architecture, culture, food, and a variety of other subjects to do with place. In his latest film, Bunkers, Brutalism, and Bloodymindness, he looks at architectural styles once- and currently maligned. They discuss how much his residence in Marseilles has to do with his residence in the Unité d’Habitation, to which “caprice” brought him not long ago; unapologetic building versus pusillanimous building; the lack of centralized planning that afflicts France, and what kind of built environment it has brought about; what makes Marseille “no longer the city of Gene Hackman and Fernando Rey”; the phases of the Unité, from its rejection by the workers for whom Corbusier intended it onward; the larger reaction to 20th-century social housing in France and Britain, and what it means that those countries have no taste for the sublime; which European borders he crosses and most immediately notices that “someone cares” about the buildings; what you miss by never having seen Portsmouth’s Tricorn Centre, which rose in a rebuilt city in a time when “new meant better”; how he finds no place boring, an attitude for which he may have received inadvertent training traveling through England with his salesman father; places as gardens of forking paths, leading to all manner of other things; real places, and the fiction places you by definition invent when you try to describe them; the “persona completely apart” he uses to contrast against the variety of places on display in his films; his ideal of satirizing everything; what went into his upcoming book An Encyclopedia of Myself, beginning with the “lie” of its title; whether he has ever felt fascinated by American places; what the French consider too “difficult” about his un-methodical work; and what hope we should hold out for a future Jonathan Meades film on Buenos Aires.

Download the interview here as an MP3 or on iTunes.

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