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Return of The Modernist

The Modernist mag is back, and it’s as fruity as ever, finds James Pallister

Those sensitive, concrete-loving pranksters at Manchester Modernist Society this week walked away with the ‘Best Crowdfunding Campaign’ Award at the BlackBaud Digital Fundraising Awards.

A slightly incongruous pairing perhaps, but this doughty troupe is not averse to employing the latest technology to explore buildings of the past. They won the gong for stunts last year dedicated to raising awareness about the architectural value of the former UMIST University campus in central Manchester. As part of the RIBA LoveArchitecture Festival in June 2011, game donors could swop donations in cash for fake university degrees, and the object of their affection – the 1960s campus – was wrapped in police tape that swapped ‘Crime Scene’ with ‘Attention! Modernist Building!’

More significantly, the group has just published its fifth issue of the Modernist mag (AJ 26.01.12) which takes ‘campus’ as its theme. Alongside pieces on the Open University and Modernist universities in Nigeria, Czech-specialist Benjamin Tallis writes a short, powerful critique of prevailing occi-centric perceptions of eastern Europe and the notion of post-communism ‘transition’. He uses socially-mixed modernist housing blocks as his prism, ‘places where people grew up happily and well, learned to be creative, engaged and independent…experiencing concrete as schoolyard, rather than jungle’.

As ever, there’s lively language throughout. In one of the standout pieces Phil Griffin sketches the agglomeration of buildings from different eras – Victoria, Edwardian, 21st century – that make up the Co-operative campus in Manchester: ‘The buildings, like the business, have bottom’. He segues from a description of the collection of buildings to reminiscing about his time spent working in Office Supplies at Redfern House, for the ‘preternaturally jovial’ Harry Evans, and admires the chutzpah of Peter Marks, Co-op CEO, for commissioning the 3DReid’s 3,500 capacity No 1 Angel Square: ‘a big gland of a building’.

The Modernist, ‘A quarterly magazine about twentieth century design’ Issue no 5, Campus, £4.50

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