Sunday 1 December 2013

Progress II

Ian Nairn’s Outrage (about the destruction of Victorian streets and buildings and the erection of brutalist housing "estates", many now demolished) was published in 1956. In the 70s, nobody ever told us that there had been a protest movement for 20 years. Can we stand in the way of progress?

It's funny how it's so often the oppressor rather than the oppressed that thinks things should remain the same. (@MrOzAtheist)

"Rust belt planners' novel concept-redeveloping ex-industrial brownfield sites with... new industries." (@urbanphoto_blog)

Houses on the ring road in Enfield blighted by a road-widening scheme that never happened are being regenerated.

Government decides to cull badgers – protests – condemnation – “It will never work” – marksmen shoot fewer than expected – end of badger cull. For the moment. (2013)

UK companies move call centres to India, customers are furious, UK companies move call centres back to the UK.

BBC cancels Sky at Night; Sky at Night continued by popular request.

Government wants to close down Lewisham AandE; people of Lewisham protest; Lewisham AandE stays open.

The Greens want to renationalise the railways.

In the 1930s, speed limits in the UK were abolished as it was assumed that the British would drive like gentlemen. They were swiftly reinstated.

Reindeer are back in the Scottish Highlands after 8,000 years.

Stalingrad is Volgograd.

Buffalo is depedestrianising Main Street. “For roughly 15 years, cities have been removing their pedestrian malls after finding they weren’t working.” ( Aug 2013)

Whitby railway closure by Beeching was “very controversial”. A society to reopen it was formed within two years. It was reopened in 1973 (steam trains, run by volunteers).

The 30s department store burned in the riots has been rebuilt as it was, where it was.

Crystal Palace “may be rebuilt”. (Guardian 2013-07-28 But the aliens who told a medium that “Crystal Palace will stay up” were talking about the football team.)

How long did the New Maths last? (See the Initial Teaching Alphabet and the Whole Language reading method (Look and Say).

Berlin reunified, becomes capital of Germany again.

"Without much fanfare, Scotland has been systematically reversing Dr Beeching's cuts to rural rail services. In the last 30 years, 62 railway stations in Scotland have reopened - more than anywhere else in the British Isles. In December 2009 the Airdrie to Bathgate Line which had been closed to regular passenger traffic since 1956 started to run again. The reopened service brought rail to an area which had lived without it for half a century. Rail reopenings have enjoyed a cross-party consensus in Scotland - but can the programme survive public spending cutbacks? (BC Radio 4 24 June 2011, Reversing Dr Beeching)

Dutch conservator ordered to destroy paintings, hid them instead. Now they're back in the Rijksmuseum. (Same thing happened to medieval sculpture during periods of iconoclasm, including Eve of Vezelay. People hid them in walls, the wrong way round.)

French revolutionary made-up months (Pluviose, Thermidor) went the way of Cleveland (made-up county abolished 1996). Like the temples to atheism. (But the Atheist Church is opening international branches after a couple of years of existence.)

Salmon return to the Clyde.

Thamesmead – people will love to move to this modernist new town surrounded by green fields. Property prices there are the lowest in the area.

Bendy buses – introduced, loathed, withdrawn. (Replaced by Boris buses which may be even worse.)

Marriage and children were abolished as a goal for women in the 70s/80s – you were supposed to prefer a career. More women have professional careers now, but women went right on wanting to get married and have babies, and doing it – and what would happen if they didn’t?

Communal changing rooms: introduced as modern in the late 60s, hated, rapidly became cubicles again.

Russians are being invited to buy back family mansions and estates to stop them falling down.

We took Victorian and Edwardian pine furniture and stripped off the paint and varnish. Now we’re repainting it.

The German Rechtschreibreform banned the umlaut and esszett. A friend writes: "They gave it a go for a while but it didn't catch on with the public, nor most of the press, and it all became a bit of a national joke and an easy laugh for comedians. The government's attemps at pushing the spelling reforms through actually led to some court cases which demonstrated that the government had no legal powers in the matter and people could spell how they liked. By about 2005/6 the idea was pretty much a flop."

Muzak was  supposed to make people calm and happy, so why did it disappear? Because they found it unbearably irritating.

A half-century ago, the Liberal haggadah omitted most of the traditional passages relating to the flight from Egypt including the Ten Plagues - though these were restored in 1981. (Jewish Chronicle)

Sixties office block Centre Point, which stood empty for years, to become a residential tower.

Countries forced into federations re-Balkanise (Czech Republic and Slovakia, Spain and Catalonia, England and Scotland).

Many planned new tram routes in London follow the old routes (but aren’t looking likely).

In the 60s people hardboarded Victorian doors and replaced brass knobs with plastic handles, covered up plaster ceilings with polystyrene tiles. In the 70s people put the olde worlde details back. (But now they’re ripping out Arts and Crafts details.)

The Bilbao Effect – now pretty much discredited. (Douglas Murphy/@entschwindet The theory goes that if you built an iconic art gallery somewhere depressed, it will attract cafés, restaurants and businesses which will regenerate the area for you.)

Temple Bar (a 17th century stone gateway) was recovered from woodland in Enfield and put back near its original location in London's Paternoster Square (in 2004.

Cakestands are back, thanks to cupcakes.

Pathfinder: "The government is to end a controversial housing regeneration programme in England four years earlier than planned." (BBC 27 Oct 2010) "The scheme was designed to revive run-down areas in the North West, the Midlands, the North East and Yorkshire by tearing down old terraces and building new homes. But critics called it 'an exercise in social cleansing' and said it had resulted in perfectly good houses being demolished - and often not replaced - when they could have been renovated." (BBC 3 Nov 2011)

"The best hospitals are reinventing SENs (State Enrolled Nurses without degrees)." (Camilla Cavendish, Times September 29 2011) Now (2013) the governmentt announces that all nurses must do a year doing nothing but caring (washing, feeding, toileting).

"Bring back polytechnics, argues higher education report." (BBC June 2013)

Talking signs, talking bins, cabvision: hated, now mainly disappeared.

Trees for Life are trying to regrow the Caledonian Forest that covered all of Scotland. (Next, the Welsh rainforest and Irish forests.)

Co-ops as an alternative to top-down hierarchies: they either fizzled or became hierarchies again.

In the 70s, the French had topless beaches – now they all cover up.

All 12 tower blocks in Cumbernauld are to be dynamited. (January 18 2012 ). Oh no, they're going to be "reclad" and given new kitchens and bathrooms (2013).

Be careful what you wish for. I used to long for architects to see the hideousness of Brutalism and copy Victorian cottages. By about 1980, they’d caught on and have been building nothing but Victorian cottages, in all sizes, ever since – for housing, for retirement flats, for shared ownership flats, for supermarkets. And the buildings have become increasingly debased, with smaller and smaller windows and that red stripe everywhere. 80s fake cottages were at least a reasonable copy. (People used to say, “Oh no, we can’t copy Victorian cottages because they were too small”. They now build pseudo cottages with tiny rooms, terrible layouts and no storage. And tiny, tiny, tiny windows.)

More here.

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