Concretopia: a Journey around the Rebuilding of Postwar Britain
Old Street (February 2012)
Was Britain’s postwar rebuilding the height of midcentury chic or the concrete embodiment of Crap Towns? John Grindrod decided to find out how blitzed, slum-ridden and crumbling austerity Britain became, within a few short years, a space-age world of concrete, steel and glass.
On his journey he visits the sleepy Norfolk birthplace of Brutalism, the once-Blitzed city centre of Plymouth, the futuristic New Town of Cumbernauld, Sheffield’s innovation streets in the sky, the foundations of the BT tower, and the brave 1950s experiments in the Gorbals. Along the way he meets New Town pioneers, tower block builders, Barbican architects and 1960s town planners: people who lived through a time of phenomenal change and excitement.
What he finds is a story of dazzling space-age optimism, ingenuity and helipads – so many helipads – tempered by protests, deadly collapses and scandals that shook the government. Concretopia is a funny, warm and revealing social history of an aspect of Britain often ignored, insulted and misunderstood.
It will change the way you look at Arndale Centres, tower blocks and concrete forever.
"A powerful and deeply personal history of Postwar Britain. Grinrod shows how pre-fab housing, masterplans, and tower blocks are as part of our national story as Tudorbethan suburbs and floral clocks. It is like eavesdropping into a conversation between John Betjeman, JG Ballard, and Jonathan Meades."
Leo Hollis, author of CITIES ARE GOOD FOR YOU
"Brilliant. Fascinating throughout. Full of astutely-observed social detail, it’s a vital vade mecum for anyone interested in Britain's 20th century history."