A Journey around the Rebuilding of Postwar Britain
TOWER BLOCKS. FLYOVERS. STREETS IN THE SKY. ONCE, THIS WAS THE FUTURE.
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, in 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 innovative 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, old retainers of Coventry Cathedral, proud prefab dwellers and sixties town planners: people who lived through a time of phenomenal change and excitement.
What he finds is a story of dazzling optimism, ingenuity and helipads — so many helipads — tempered by protests, deadly collapses and scandals that shook the government.
Acclaimed by critics from all sides of the political spectrum, Concretopia is a witty and revealing 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.
John Grindrod has written for the Guardian, the Financial Times, the Twentieth Century Society Magazine and The Modernist, has co-written and edited a book about TV, Shouting at the Telly, and contributed to a book on music, Hang the DJ. He grew up in Croydon in the 1970s and has worked as a bookseller and publisher for twenty-five years. He runs the website dirtymodernscoundrel.com and can be contacted on Twitter @Grindrod.