This book along with David Kynaston’s “Modernity Britain” has helped feed my interest in and knowledge of architecture and housing in postwar Britain.
I grew up in a new town and have always been fascinated with modern buildings, though at the time I hadn’t realised I was living in a gigantic social experiment.
John Grindrod visited my home town, Cwmbran and other new towns as part of his journey.
New towns are only part of the fascinating story of rebuilding Britain, and the core of the book are the interviews with the architects, planners, residents etc who made and lived in this new build world. One of the most crazy things I learnt in reading this book? The planners obsession with helipads, every major development seemed to have one planned!
The author talks about his book in a BBC interview.
Concretopia has garnered excellent reviews throughout the media, and here’s a selection.
“This is a fascinating story, and Grindrod tells it well. He isn’t afraid of a bit of hard-edged theorising about concrete and brutalism, but he softens the blows with easy light prose, full of bonhomie and mercifully free of jargon. ”
“The intensity of his feeling somehow mirrors and supports the subject. Concrete, tower blocks, system building: these are love-it or hate-it themes.”
“Touching on both the domestic and the grand Grindrod never forgets the human details, from perfectly preserved doorbells on a post-war estate to architects’ now quaintly comical obsessions with sketching in helipads in their designs.”
“John Grindrod’s book is a delight. Because behind the corruption and disasters there is the story of the attempt to build a better way of life for ordinary people. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.”
If you want to find out more about postwar britain then I can recommend the following blogs.
The BBC has a good selection of archived programmes on modern architecture
Also investigate the writings of Jonathan Meades, Owen Hatherley and David Kynaston.