It’s hard to believe that a book about concrete, and the post-war building boom, could be so fascinating and readable, but this book, Concretopia by John Grindrod, certainly is!
It helps a bit that the book is structured around things that are of interest to me – new towns (have lived in one all my life), educational buildings (have spent all my life either studying or working in post-war built educational establishments), redevelopment in Glasgow (somewhere I visit often), etc.
I think my interest in brutalist/modernist/whatever architecture started when I wrote a little book about the older buildings in my town, the ones pre-dating that era. I did a lot of walking around town, and along the way started to notice all the little details of the post-war buildings. Then my old high school was to be demolished, and I did a photographic study of all the interesting details of the building.
A couple of trips with my parents, where our bases happened to be Milton Keynes and Hemel Hempstead, and passing frequently through Cumbernauld on the bus, showed me some of the similarities between different new towns, and this made me feel a nostalgia for what my own home town was like when I was growing up.
This book is feeding my obsession with this sort of architecture even more! It’s full of interesting information and anecdotes, and I keep reading bits out to my colleagues at breaktimes (even though they probably find it much less enthralling than I do!). I was worried that I’d have less interest in the bits that weren’t about new towns, but, in fact, it’s all really fascinating.
Whether or not you like this style of architecture, it is something that human beings created with purpose and reason. They created it to try to improve life. Learning the reasons behind this architecture can help you to respect it more, even if you don’t like it.
I have to admit that the stylish cover design really drew me in, with its bold colours and simple shapes. I do so much of my reading on the kindle these days, but for this one I had to have the book. And now I’m raving about the book to anyone who will listen, and will probably try to foist my copy on them when I’ve finished it!
The author has a real way with words, and draws you in to the story. That’s how it feels – like you are reading a novel rather than non-fiction. There are so many quotes from interesting and down-to-earth people along the way, too. I think that many authors of non-fiction should take a leaf out of this author’s book. It’s a totally non-stodgy read!