Colin Marshall sits down for bangers and mash in Woolwich, London, England, with writer on political aesthetics Owen Hatherley, author of the books Militant Modernism, A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain, A New Kind of Bleak, and Uncommon, on the pop group Pulp. They discuss the relevance of the combined sentiments of the Pet Shop Boys and the Human League to his critical mission; his sickness of “where’s my jetpack”-type complaint; the new limits of the possible; whether one more easily sees politics expressed in architecture in England that elsewhere; the coincidental rises of the welfare state and modern architecture; the nature of England’s north-south divide, one starker than that between the former East and West Germany, the unexpected tasteless drama of northern building, and the “ruin porn” richness of towns like Bradford and Liverpool; housing as the chief political issue of modern Britain; the shamefacedness of new English building, and the tendency of it to bear little relation to its own location; his view of buildings like the now-demolished Tricorn Centre in childhood, before he’d internalized “what architecture should look like”; how the still-standing Preston Bus Station demonstrated that a provincial city wasn’t parochial; the long-gone heyday of the City Architect; his upcoming book on architecture and communism, and what he’s discovered in his exploration of eastern Europe; why he might feel the need for a disclaimer stating that he already knows about the gulag; and how he found that the Soviet regime generated much more nostalgia, in its buildings and otherwise, than people think.
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