Martin Pawley's stories
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review - Sixteen Acres: The Rebuilding of the World Trade Center Site By Philip Nobel. Granta, 2005. 280pp £17.99
Sixty-five years ago, when this dear island of ours was in even greater danger from continental Europe than some think it is today, with German tanks already lining the cliff tops of northern France and the French government in flight from Paris and drafting surrender documents, the British prime minister devised a mammoth gesture intended to keep France in the war at all cost.
News that the Millennium Dome could be turned into a gigantic advertising hoarding seems likely to reignite the 10-year-old debate about the scale of new additions to the London skyline - or it would if anyone still cared.
Hashing and rehashing the trends and crazes of the 21st century from the vantage point of its first five years has become the art of the commentator.
As a student of history I have always been fascinated by my own period - by the events that took place around the year of my birth, 1938. This was a dramatic year, whose political matrix remains the subject of heated debate among historians to this day. In Europe it takes in the reunification of Germany and Austria and Neville Chamberlain's 'Peace in our time' deal with Hitler over the breakup of Czechoslovakia. These consequences of the Treaty of Versailles either came to a head in ...
review - Jean Prouvé - Complete Works, Volume 3: 1944-1954 By Peter Sulzer. Birkhauser, 2005. 384 pp. £72
There is a pattern to all totalitarianism, whether of the Left or the Right, and you can recognise it immediately. It starts when the same goal is endorsed by everyone. To be topical, let's say it's something called 'total urbanism'. 'What about total overcrowding?' you object. 'Nonsense, ' you are told, 'for that we'll double all densities and forthwith!' Short shrift at the hands of these zealots, then, and the planners are even quicker off the mark , opening the floodgates on every ...
'The worst thing about the future, ' said a young friend of mine, 'is that it's so boring. It's always on television and, if you miss that, it's in the Sunday newspapers - what's really interesting is the past. The guys just can't get enough of it. Everyone I know is obsessed with shooting radar into the ground to find old tombs, digging up plague pits, reconstructing Roman cities, X-raying skulls, counting teeth?'.
As we all know, the percentage of schemes that make the leap from drawing board to postal address is pitifully small, but this does not prevent them from acting as catalysts in ways that are as unpredictable as they can be profound. The London Millennium Tower project was a case in point.
Long ago a little-known commentator put his finger on the heart of our housing problem. If we go on like this, he wrote (in the mid-1980s, when by 21st century standards we barely knew what to 'go on like this' meant), houses would end up earning more money than the people living in them.