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Concretopia: A Journey around the Rebuilding of Postwar Britain by [Grindrod, John]
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Concretopia: A Journey around the Rebuilding of Postwar Britain Kindle Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 69 customer reviews

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Length: 480 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Review

'Wonderful . . . If you've ever wondered who gave planning permission for the serried ranks of concrete blocks you pass on the way to work, read Concretopia and lay the foundations of a new way of looking at modern Britain.'
INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY

'Charming . . . Concretopia could pleasingly be read by anyone in Britain who lives in a postwar Modernist structure and has a love-hate relationship with it. Part-travelogue, part-history, Grindrod's account walks us through in touchingly precise detail the decisions that led to such buildings as the BT Tower, the Barbican, Coventry Cathedral and the blocks of New Ash . . . We don't think of architectural beauty as key to well-being and yet, as this book shows us, it profoundly is.'
ALAIN DE BOTTON, THE TIMES

'Fascinating throughout ... does a magnificent job of making historical sense of things I had never really understood or appreciated ... This is a brilliant book: a vital vade mecum for anyone (not just students of architecture and town planning) interested in Britain's 20th-century history'
James Hamilton-Paterson, author of EMPIRE OF THE CLOUDS

'Fascinating . . . it's all here, from the Poulson scandal to abandoned ring-roads and vanishing industry . . . A great insight into the way things turned out the way they did.'
WALLPAPER MAGAZINE

'Timely and pertinent . . . Grindrod is inventive with words and frequently alights on delightful and perceptive images . . . Particularly fascinating are chapters on the rebuilding of Coventry; the development of the South Bank; the creation of the Barbican (using concrete expensively pitted by hand using pickaxes); the replacement of the Glasgow Gorbals with new estates; the hilltop city that is Park Hill, Sheffield, recently renovated; the sad demise of low-rise, family-friendly 'Span' housing; the devastating 1968 collapse of the system-built tower block, Ronan Point; and the the tale of architect-developer John Poulson, who went to jail for corruption over building contracts.'
SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

'Never has a trip from Croydon and back again been so fascinating. John Grindrod's witty and informative tour of Britain is a total treat, and will win new converts to stare in awe (or at least enlightened comprehension) at Crap towns and Boring Postcards...'
CATHERINE CROFT, Director, Twentieth Century Society

'With a cast of often unsung heroes -- and one or two villains -- Concretopia is a lively, surprising account of how Britain came to look the way it does'
Will Wiles, author of CARE OF WOODEN FLOORS

'From the Norfolk birthplace of Brutalism and the once-Blitzed city centre of Plymouth, to the New Towns of Cumbernauld and Sheffield's streets in the sky, a most engaging, illustrated exploration of how crumbling austerity Britain was transformed into a space-age world of concrete, steel and glass.'
BOOKSELLER

'A powerful and personal history of postwar Britain. Grindrod shows how pre-fab housing, masterplans, and tower blocks are as much part of our national story as Tudorbethan suburbs and floral clocks. It's like eavesdropping into a conversation between John Betjeman, J.G. Ballard and Jonathan Meades.'
LEO HOLLIS, author of CITIES ARE GOOD FOR YOU --...

About the Author

John Grindrod grew up in Croydon in the 1970s and has worked as a bookseller and publisher for twenty-five years. He has been published in the Twentieth Century Society magazine, has co-written and edited a book about TV, Shouting at the Telly, and contributed to a book on music, Hang the DJ. He runs the website dirtymodernscoundrel.blogspot.co.uk and can be contacted on Twitter @Grindrod.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 16209 KB
  • Print Length: 440 pages
  • Publisher: Old Street Publishing (1 Nov. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00FO82SRG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 69 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #21,454 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I downloaded this book to see what a book about concrete could be about. I expected it to be a dul

I downloaded this book to see what a book about concrete could possibly be about. I got a surprise. It is about the reconstruction of Britain's post second world war bomb out towns and slum clearance, covering a period from about the 1950's to the end of the 1970's. The author tells about why new towns were build, and designed the way they were. He also describes the ideology behind the town centres and some of the period's iconic buildings. It is story of the success and failure of these ideas. It gives an insight not only into the building boom and corruption of the time but also into the more noble ideology and hopes of town planners and architects who were trying to forge a better Britian. I for one denegrated the concrete of the era and despised the ugliness of most modern buildings. Since reading this book I have begun to look at modern architecture in a new way. I have now become more deserning in condemnation and praise because I understand better the aims behind the works. This change of attitude has made this book work for me, after all books should make us think, I think. I have also come to understand better what these buildings and centres were in reaction to, this is something I had never concidered before. All in all I was very suprised by this book. I would recommend it as a read for anyone, but if you are interersted in social history I woud certainly suggest you give it a read. It has a nice light touch of someone passionate about the world he lives in.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
'I expected a balanced and critical analysis of what went wrong with post-war planning and architecture', say some reviewers. Well, exactly.
The received wisdom (and it is very much received, uncritically absorbed and usually coloured by one's political outlook) is that the 30 or so years after the war was a 'failed experiment' of leftish utopianism, a blip which is now unfit for purpose and inferior to the ideas the preceded it.
This attitude doesn't just apply to architecture, however. The howl of middle England at the anguish of post-war change, while simultaneously having benefitted wholesale from it and smugly patronising it as a kind of wooly-headed dogooderism, is something to behold.
The irony of the rather different and refreshing picture that John Grindrod entertainingly paints in Concretopia is that the decades of rebuilding after the war were a collective blossoming of ideas, genuinely noble intentions and effort, in the midst of austerity and huge debt – the kind of genuine achievements that should inspire a patriotic pride and yet are consistently belittled by those who shout their patriotism from the rooftops and yet all too often wear it as an image, a badge, all surface.
And yes, here's the dull caveat, as if it need be stated....not everything was perfect, nor perfectly done , mistakes were made etc etc...Ronan Point, corruption....all covered, thank you.
Concretopia is not balanced, because the propaganda it offers a counterweight against is not balanced. What it is however, is as witty, passionate, entertaining, informative and hugely readable as you would never expect a treatise on planning and architecture to be.
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Well researched and engaging. Although I didn't entirely agree with Johns assessment of the buildings described. The social history and enthusiasm between the author and people he interviewed was fascinating to read
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Engagingly written with personal histories and experience that really fill out the detail. If you are a child of the 60s or 70s you will find so many memories in here!
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An essential book for anyone with an interest in post war modernist architecture and planning, lovingly and entertainingly told by the author.
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A very personal and idiosyncratic book about Britain's post-war building boom.

Having been born in a new town, I moved to another one after a few years in London, and have visited a few others, so I found some chapters absolutely fascinating. They were not actually about either of the towns I lived in, but I'm pretty sure the issues were the same.

But the book isn't just about the new towns. Much as it would have increased the chances of me getting to read about Crawley or Basildon, it would have just been the same story over and over again. Instead, there are also sections about the precursors to the new towns (Letchworth), the inner city redevelopment of Newcastle, Sheffield and Glasgow, the Festival of Britain and the National Theatre, Coventry cathedral, the Barbican and the Elephant & Castle. Oh, and Milton Keynes, New Addington/Croydon and some places I had never heard of.

I liked the objective approach to the book. It seems that commentators on architecture or planning are either completely dismissive of anything made from concrete or completely brutalist, but this is a lot more nuanced, admiring what is admirable about, say the Cumbernauld town centre or Sheffield's Park Hill estate while not ignoring what was wrong with them

While this is essential for anybody living in a new town who wants to understand a bit more about how they came about I think it will interest just about anybody.
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