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Tim Abrahams’ new essay, entitled ‘The Stadium’

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New essay takes a long view of the Olympic Stadium, writes James Pallister

Last week I mentioned Strelka’s new e-publishing imprint, whose medium is tablet computers. This week another low-cost, print-based, small architectural imprint emerges in the form of Machine Books, whose latest publication is Tim Abrahams’ new essay, entitled ‘The Stadium’.

It is, of course, that Stadium, the one by Populous on the Olympic Park. If anything, Abrahams is a little disappointed with its lack of thing-ness: he isn’t a massive fan, seeing it as somewhat a missed opportunity, though he steers clear from the scabrous approach to architectural writing and aims to steer a line between what he perceives as the poles which characterise much discourse around the Olympic project: miserabalist whimpering decrying it and rictus grins braying its praises.

Abrahams writes about the stadium in the context of East London’s development, entertainingly so, with time for Banham, Foster and, inevitably, Cedric Price – and with pithy observations on architectural criticism and cross-class sniffiness toward the games. ‘There is a great deal of snobbery in the attack on the games from the right, whilst in leftist critiques we see a patronising disdain for the masses,’ he writes.

Abrahams rehabilitates some of the villains painted by Iain Sinclair in Ghost Milk, recalling how the ‘completely unexpected adjunct’ to London’s skyline of Canary Wharf ushered in the possibility for developments of the Gherkin and the Shard, an act of aggressive exuberance in deregulation which ‘drove forward London’s appreciation of scale’.

Abrahams gets the point that, for all the depressing  encroachment into public space which goes with it, the slightly absurd spread of brand-clash quandaries that follow (can Barclays’ Boris Bikes be allowed within the Lloyds TSB-sponsored territories?) and the naff magenta signs popping up everywhere, the Olympics will be fun.

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