South Bank

Travel Agenda

From Spanish street food and Italian opera to 'Unknown Cities'

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Concrete jungle: Discover a bucolic vision in an unlikely setting

Concrete? I'll have you know that reinforced concrete was invented by a gardener. The gardener in question was a Frenchman, Joseph Monier, who was trying to make the best-ever plant pot. (This isn't the kind of thing that gardeners just happen to know: I read it in a book about inventions I got at the Science Museum.) Gazing at Marseille's Unité, a block of apartments by Le Corbusier, it occurs to me that we have all been labouring under the misapprehension that gardening and concrete don't exactly go together. The truth is that the most brutal building always looks better with a lawn of verdant green. And some palm trees.

London: The South Bank show

Sixty years after the Festival of Britain rejuvenated a former London wasteland, this cultural quarter is more diverting than ever