Owen Hatherley

Obituary: Oscar Niemeyer

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Architect (1907-2012)

"What is it you guys want?" an FBI interrogator once asked the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, in exile from a US-backed military coup in his home country. "To change society," he replied. "Now that's going to be difficult", was their retort. Niemeyer, who died this month at the age of 104, was one of the last architects who did want to change society, and it did indeed prove to be very difficult.

The spectacle of culture cuts

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In the flurry of cuts, it's sometimes hard to notice the small detail, to catch the minute print, and understand the nuances of who is losing money and why. However, certain patterns are there to be found. Conformity is rewarded; collectivity and universality are punished. So it is in the welfare state, so in the arts.

If you look at the list of 200 Arts Council-sponsored organisations who have had their entire funding withdrawn, you'll notice one very conspicuous absence. Those slashed range from long-established theatres like the Newcastle Theatre Royal to community music groups like Sound It Out in the West Midlands, from film producers like onedotzero to publishers like Proboscis - but you won't find one example of a very particular kind of arts organisation, that is, of the Blairite grand projects of the 1997-2010 period.

Creating cities without imagination

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New Labour placed great emphasis on urban regeneration, but with deeply conflicting results. Owen Hatherley spoke to Alan Kenny and Jack Farmer about his new book and Britain's ruinous architecture.


Owen Hatherley

How did growing up in Southampton affect your view of architecture?

Bricks, No Mortar

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Review of "Estates", Lynsey Hanley, Granta Books £12.00

The socialist dream of decent housing for all has been in retreat ever since Margaret Thatcher introduced the "right to buy" for council tenants in the 1980s. Once bold visions of the future have been systematically replaced by a revival of Victorian architecture and economics.

At first, Lynsey Hanley's new book, Estates: An Intimate History looks like a spin on the Victorian vogue for guides round "darkest England". Thankfully it's rather more worthwhile, not least because, unlike her forbears, Hanley knows what she's talking about from the inside.

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