Paperback review: A New Kind of Bleak: Journeys Through Urban Britain, By Owen Hatherley

The worst bits of here, and why they stay that way

Owen Hatherley's book is ostensibly a work of architectural criticism, a series of essays in which the author considers the aesthetics of urban Britain, from Plymouth to Cumbernauld. But it is also a fiercely intelligent and exhilaratingly angry polemic that addresses the failure of successive governments to invest in our bleakest towns.

Hatherley showcases a memorable turn of phrase throughout, whether it is in declaiming policy – “students were encouraged under New Labour to be an ideal combination of indentured serfs and aspirant yuppies” – or in evoking the look of the built environment itself: the Welsh Valleys are “one dispersed great town, parted by billowing waves of topography”.

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