Good Morning Britain

What you wont be seeing at Venice next year.

Britain has entered a period of dramatic change. Architecture and urbanism are catalysts and foot soldiers for this change. Emboldened by recent isolated successes, British architecture seems poised to refashion great swathes of the country – at exactly the same time as questions of Britishness, multiculturalism and globalisation are impacting on the country and its diverse communities.

The Proposal:
British architecture has woken up to find itself dreaming. Government, developers and the public have all decided to believe in, fund, and construct architecture again. From TV property shows to the planning of new communities and towns, aspirations are turning into construction sites. But question remains unanswered. What exactly are we dreaming?

This proposal attempts to characterise British dreams. They are dreams in the way that William Blake dreamt of a golden Jerusalem as he walked the streets of London. Dreams like William Morris’ “News from Nowhere’. They are dreams about who we are and the kinds of places we want to live. But where there are dreams, there are also nightmares.

These are the competing fantasies that are shaping Britain. They might often be architectural, but they are not about architecture. Like all dreams, they tell us about ourselves in an indirect way: desires, fears, hopes and dreads. A city isn’t place anymore, it’s a lifestyle. It’s constructed out of choices, not bricks. It doesn’t have geography it has destinations.

Examples of English Dreams:

1. High Tech and Future Facing.
The language of high tech supposedly symbolises future facing communities. But for all its functional rhetoric, perhaps it’s a stylistic plaster on the wound of cities.

2. Nostalgia for a Time We Never Knew.
The nostalgic British iconography of village, cottage and countryside remains powerful and desirable. However, a contemporary picturesque has developed - stretched to include postindustrial landscapes and urban decay. We now dream about Constable Country and Trainspotting country … sometimes simultaneously.

3. Capposexual Lifestyle
Loft living has evolved from artist led semi squatting challenge to bourgeois living to a billion pound property gold rush. Its high end sees developers such as Urban Splash inventing new kinds of urban life in Manchester. Its low end sees fake industrial buildings built in the suburbs. Lifestyle and image are the fuel to this urban fire. That means it works in strange ways: The most important element in Manchesters regeneration was a nightclub. The slag heaps of Yorkshire mining towns become real snow skiing centres.

4. Celebration City
Britain has rediscovered public space. From alfresco eating and drinking to festivals. The traditional village fete has mutated into a cocktail of multiculturalism, branding and civic expression. Often used to kick off regeneration projects or to celebrate their completion, these festivals contain both nascent bottom up ideas about new communities, and a stilted top down aspiration for contemporary civic-ness.

5. DIY Suburban.

The real future of Britain isn’t necessarily a metropolitan vision. Its perhaps more likely to be suburban. The values and attitudes of the suburbs are significant pointers to community life in the 21st century.

Posted by sam at December 1, 2005 5:07 PM

Previously trans_blank.gif

Projects trans_blank.gif