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Icon 161 – Architects vs Housing

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Icon is a monthly magazine focusing on the best, most inspiring buildings, interiors, furnishings and fittings. It also celebrates the design process and the talented designers behind the most innovative work. It can be enjoyed equally by architecture and design professionals, and the design-literate public.


In Icon 161, Edwin Heathcote asks whether even the best architects have become too ineffective to solve the UK’s housing crisis. Icon also recalls how 1960s counterculture sparked a graphic design revolution.

Icon 161 – Archtects vs Housing; A failed relationship. The story of architecture and housing is well-rehearsed and dispiriting. Post-war architects, intoxicated with Corb-inspired visions of the perfect society, applied these ideas to the real world, only to come a cropper on that same reality. Its wings clipped, the profession lost the plot and withdrew from the public discourse. This isn’t good enough, says Edwin Heathcote, who pulls no punches in his detailed excoriation of the current impasse in this month’s cover story. Cows, some sacred, others not so much, are pitilessly slaughtered. Where are today’s utopian thinkers? Why, amid the worst housing crisis in living memory, are architects content to tinker at the edges?

Around the same time as architecture’s modernist experiment was beginning to flounder, a new generation of visual artists and designers started looking to the past. Inspired by figures such as Aubrey Beardsley, the counter-cultural scene, led by Hapshash and the Coloured Coat in London (pictured) and Wes Wilson in San Francisco, provided psychedelia with a graphic identity. Their posters and album covers were a riot of colour and fantastical references, and amounted to a wholesale rejection of modernism, as our writer Ian Lowey suggests. You can judge for yourself: much of the original artwork is now on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in an exhilarating, nostalgia-fuelled retrospective. The psychedelic era may have proved short-lived, but architecture could sorely do with some of its radical spirit if the current, unhappy status quo in housing is to be ended. Read it all in Icon 161!

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