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Icon 157 – Pop Modernism

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Icon is a monthly magazine focusing on the best, most inspiring buildings, interiors, furnishings and fittings.

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Icon 157 explores the urban environments that spawned punk on both sides of the Atlantic and features a cover designed by legendary graphic designer Malcolm Garrett

In 1981, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark released their third album, Architecture & Morality. The record’s title reversed architectural historian David Watkin’s Morality and Architecture – a scholarly riposte to the idea that modern architecture should always reflect the zeitgeist rather than attempt timelessness through classical forms. OMD were not hung up on such ideological battles, but the album, which overlaid ecclesiastical chanting onto ultra-synthetic electronica, did acknowledge a classical history seen as passé by a generation of Le Corbusier-inspired modernists.

Other references to architecture in music have been more overt. In his breakout solo hit Everyday is like Sunday, Morrissey invoked the ghost of Betjeman when he sang of ‘the seaside town that they forgot to bomb. Come, come, come, nuclear bomb!’ But it was the bands rising from the embers of punk – OMD, Magazine, Joy Division and later New Order – that first attempted to make sense of a modernist story that was by then entering its closing chapters. As our cover story shows, the drama played out on both sides of the Atlantic – from the spluttering steel mill towns of Ohio to the concrete tower blocks of Manchester.

These unlikely canvasses produced an incredibly original moment in the annals of pop, with the music finding its visual expression through designers like Peter Saville and Malcolm Garrett (who designed our cover this month) – both saw bands as vehicles to express their own ideas about modernism. The result was a fascinating intersection between visual and aural art, which reverberates today.

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