A Hall of One’s Own

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

There are, broadly, two methods of studying women in the past. The older, which is known simply as ‘women’s history’, first emerged alongside the feminist movement in the 1960s and developed academically in parallel with social history. It seeks to identify the contribution that women, individually and collectively, made to different historical eras and events. […]

Home Truths

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

For most of human history, from the ancient Semitic civilisations to the societies of the present, property has played a central role in exciting both achievement and destruction. In examining its role in our past and present lives, Rowan Moore’s new book offers many insights. Moore, architecture critic at The Observer, appreciates the role that […]

Who’s Afraid of Flying Buttresses?

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

First published exactly seventy years ago, Sir John Summerson’s Architecture in Britain, 1530–1830 has never been out of print. Compact and clearly written, it somehow managed to encompass a lifetime’s learning in some thirty short but lucid chapters. In a review of 1954, the distinguished architectural writer J M Richards predicted, ‘It will certainly remain […]

Make Architecture Great Again!

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

In 1989, when Thomas Heatherwick was eighteen years old, he picked up a Taschen book about the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí in a student book sale. Inside it, he saw a double-page spread showing Gaudí’s Casa Milà, an apartment building in central Barcelona. ‘I was stunned,’ he writes in the introduction to Humanise. ‘I had no idea that buildings like this existed. I had no idea that such buildings could exist.’ The picture had a transformative effect on the young Heatherwick, who was already eyeing a career

Build ’em Up, Knock ’em Down

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

‘That hovel? That’s what you’re planning to write a book about? Absolutely no one will read it! Besides, it’s not normal for a young woman to be so obsessed with death. You shouldn’t be making up books, you should see a psychiatrist.’ This damning assessment was delivered by Giulia, Charlotte Van den Broeck’s host during […]

Castles of Concrete

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Owen Hatherley blithely claims that this massive tour de force is ‘a guide to the place … you’re visiting, or a place you want to visit’. Pull the other one, squire. The notion of Owen Hatherley, Tripadvisor, is sheerly preposterous, though it may appeal to a tremulous publisher figuring out how to market this behemoth. He is really a polemicist, ready to take issue with anyone, including himself. His insistent invitations to look are heavy with allusions, catholic comparisons and quiet asides. The result of his tireless labour is an oblique, partial, lopsided survey of Britain throughout the long modernist century; and no matter what a platoon of celluloid collars and

Where George Eliot Meets Mick Jagger

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

In 1988, we – the Boyds – were looking to move to a bigger house in Fulham, where we were then living. But by haphazard miracle we ended up buying a house in the heart of Chelsea, between the King’s Road and the Thames, and have never moved. It’s impossible to imagine living anywhere else. Chelsea in 1988 was markedly different from Chelsea in 2022. For example, many of the houses

Build Brown, Go Green

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In December 1893 Mao Zedong was born in Shaoshan in an earth house built by his father. The childhood home of Sir Walter Raleigh in Hayes Barton was made from cob, a mix of earth and straw. In 1825 the German lawyer Wilhelm Wimpf built one of the tallest rammed-earth buildings in the world in Weilburg, where it still stands, two centuries later. A vast earth-brick ziggurat

Astronomical Expense

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

If you’re the sort of person who likes looking up at night, you might on occasion notice what appears to be an extremely bright star moving slowly across the sky. If it’s not a helicopter searchlight or a UFO then there’s a good chance it’s the International Space Station (ISS), a structure about as large […]

Fifty Shades of Grey

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Brutalism is one of the few architectural style labels to have originally been used positively but subsequently become a term of abuse, in the process performing the opposite etymological journey to such terms as ‘gothic’ and ‘baroque’. ‘It is a concrete brutalist monstrosity’ is a blanket response that obscures the variety, beauty and complexity of […]

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

RLF - March