Holidays in Utopia: Brazil / from the archive / issue 1


I didn’t so much go to Brazil on holiday as on a kind of crackbrained personal fact-finding mission. I didn’t get it. I knew some things, football of course,  samba, Christo Redentor, Oscar Niemeyer, the Amazon, Ipanema and Copacabana, the rainforests and favelas, but I couldn’t imagine how it all fitted together, how it all existed in one country.

Niemeyer’s modernism is democratic, architecture for the masses; spectacular, but often cheaply made, always accessible - remarkably so in the case of the Capitolio,  where you can walk right up to the debating chambers and have your photograph taken with your representative.


To an Englishman more used to 24-hour rolling surveillance, Brazil’s civic openness is a dream come true.

© David Oates

This article first appeared in The Modernist issue 1 'BOLD'.

Liverpool's Lost Future / from the archive / issue 1

Liverpool has an unexpected relationship with modernism. This modern port metropolis of capital and trade par excellence is perennially concerned with the preservation of its pre-1914 achievements of High Victorian historicism and proto-modernism at the expense of the thoroughgoing modernism of the later twentieth century. Where post-war comprehensive development schemes in cities like Newcastle, Sheffield and Birmingham have arguably crafted some of the finest pieces of townscape in those places, Liverpool is still largely defined architecturally by its handsome legacy of nineteenth century trading supremacy. Gone is the rationale, current until around 1939, that saw virtually every building in this city dating from before 1800 swept away in the pursuance of greater commercial and architectural gains.

Business (Jack Hale's conflicted copy 2011-05-05).jpg

There was a moment, however, that saw Liverpool nearer to the mainstream of post-war British planning and close to the creation of a modernist cityscape. Between 1963 and 1965 the Chief Planning Officer at the City Council, Walter Bor, and architect and external planning consultant Graeme Shankland created the Liverpool City Centre Plan, the first comprehensive proposals for modernising a still-war damaged city. What was effectively proposed was the creation of a brand new city centre, one which would operate as a single, integrated unit that better fulfilled the modern functions required of it and which sought to predict and provide the services that would be needed in the forthcoming 20 years and beyond. It was a plan predicated on economic growth and shifting forms of business and leisure, but also one based on the assumption that the cramped historic core had not operated adequately for some time. Bounded by a new inner ring road – the Liverpool Inner Motorway – and scattered with new architectural forms, the plan sought to do far more than circulate traffic more effectively and produce new buildings: it aimed to achieve a complete reconfiguration of the centre of Liverpool with only a few monuments to the achievements of the older city. This was a set of schemes that emerged later than many equivalent plans seen elsewhere around the UK and sought to learn the lessons of earlier redevelopment, aspiring to a consistent level of humanity and deftness in its execution.

Much of the plan had a good deal in common with those seen around the country during the same period, particularly the inner ring road and the overall strategy for movement. All major radial routes from southwest Lancashire and northwest Cheshire would converge on the inner motorway, removing all but local access traffic from the centre and guiding vehicles either to their intended through-route or to one of several new multi-storey car parks, primarily by means of elevated carriageways with grade-separated junctions. The reach and the philosophical tone of what was, after all, just a grand road plan was notable. There was a frank acknowledgement that other post-war inner ring roads, ‘driven ruthlessly through existing urban areas’, had had a hugely negative impact in some cases. The way to avoid this, other than more intelligent route planning, was to integrate road and new buildings as a ‘total environment’, with, for example, warehousing located below elevated sections and car parks or other structures placed above as a means to embrace the presence of the road in the urban fabric and mitigate the effects of fumes and noise. Other movement around the city was to conform to the principles already outlined in the government's Buchannan Report of 1963, separating all road users wherever possible and offering pedestrians traffic-free precincts, highwalks and underpasses. There was, however, no dogmatic rejection in this model of the traditional corridor street or square; indeed, the utility and attractiveness of these forms in planning for a pedestrian environment was emphasised.

urban form.jpg

The ‘total environment’ envisaged in the ring road and movement strategies can be found as a recurring idea throughout the plan, not least in the proposed shopping, culture and entertainment area flowing from branches in London Road and Bold Street along the main Church Street/Lord Street drag to Castle Street. Whilst much of the existing retail building stock would remain, several new facilities such as an arts and youth centre were mooted, and an intriguing new complex known as ‘Strand-Paradise’ – a sequence of five residential towers on a podium of multi-level, multi-functional space set beside a new park between The Strand and Paradise Street – was proposed on the approximate site of today’s Liverpool One development. Between this area and St George's Hall a new Civic and Social Centre was proposed at the heart of a sequence of new open spaces: a superstructure to house council functions, law courts and miscellaneous new social and cultural facilities. The design, being worked on by Colin St John Wilson at the time of publication, was consciously low-lying and sprawling to maximise public access and emphasise its role as a piece of the city, permeable but integrated.

What emerges most strongly from these plans was not the detail itself but the governing principles and overall ambitions. There was an abstract desire to recreate the city as ‘Entertainment’ and ‘Art’, very much capitalised as concepts, with a commitment to innovative architecture and the manufacture of variety and delight in pedestrianised precincts, both day and night. The view of the citizen, moving through the city at a walking pace either through traffic-free thoroughfares or highwalks, was to be the paramount consideration. Water, seating, planting, kiosks and cafes of various types would fill the space vacated by vehicles, whilst at night brightly lit, dynamic displays would be encouraged, advertising shops and cultural attractions to create a sense of energy and occasion. 

Strand Paradise (Jack Hale's conflicted copy 2011-05-05).jpg

It's interesting to note how fragmentary the application of Liverpool's plan was considering its similarity to other comprehensive redevelopment schemes of the 1950s and 60s. There is of course an inner ring road but only the loosest application of the plan was achieved along perhaps three-quarters of its proposed route, with none of the elevated motorway materialising; there was only a highly restricted execution of the highwalk network that was intended to criss-cross the traffic streets of the business district, now completely demolished; the principal shopping streets were pedestrianised by the early 1980s, but with little design flair and involving no major architectural remodelling; and the Civic Centre scheme was reduced in scope in stages and finally abandoned due to lack of funding and a political change of heart in 1973. One of the most concrete applications of the entire plan was perhaps the construction of the underground railway loop to knit Central, Moorfields and Lime Street stations into a central network, a useful bit of infrastructure that wasn't really reflected in achievements above ground.

The plan of 1965 was always at risk of over-stretching itself in scope over a meandering timescale. Whilst central government funds were available, there was no single pot of money anywhere that could pay for such a multi-faceted programme, and the local funding required was increasingly difficult to access during a time of accelerating economic decline. More than anything, political momentum was lost by the end of the 70s, meaning that executing the plan could only ever be piecemeal and reactive to acute need rather than an overarching vision. What we see in the 2008 Liverpool One scheme is the private development of land earmarked for a remarkably similar treatment in 1965, and whilst this sort of investment and innovation in design – highwalks and all – is naturally to be welcomed, it falls several degrees short of the municipally-led plan of more than 40 years earlier that conceived of an entirely new means to experience the city. The gap between the scale and philosophy of these two visions of comprehensive redevelopment is remarkable.    

© Matthew Whitfield

This article first appeared in The Modernist issue 1 'BOLD'.

Bodly Gone / from the archive / issue 1

April 1st 2011 witnessed the ‘death’ of one of the most enduring logos of transit and of the region. The ‘double -M’, ‘wiggly worm’ or ‘plumbers nightmare’ has been the defining visual identity for buses, trains and trams alike for the best part of forty years. The newly branded Transport for Greater Manchester has adapted the logo to be more curvy and friendly and arguably distorted the clarity of the original.

The ‘double-M’ came into use in 1974 following another April 1st transition and the creation of Greater Manchester and the GMC. It is said to have been one of the most widely deployed transport logos in the country and as an attempt to visually unify the newly formed county was applied to train related infrastructure as well as that of the bus network. Whilst the application of the logo and its development as a brand lay with the GMPTE and their in house publicity team, the logo was actually designed by Ken Hollick, a London designer. Design Research Unit (DRU) were also invited to submit proposals at the same time. The orange logo on a white background was to replace the SELNEC (South East Lancashire North East Cheshire) sector logos of Northern, Southern, Central, Cheshire, but not to require the full fleet to have new livery. SELNEC had only been formally constructed in 1968, despite a 1962 report on regional transport using the same acronym.

The logo became used across the city on everything from bus stops to woolly jumpers and its application governed by the ubiquitous design manual. These documents became an essential part of company identity in the late 1960s and into the 1970s following pioneering work in the US by designers like Eliot Noyes and Paul Rand. In a relationship that spanned over a decade, Eliot Noyes’ work for petroleum giant Mobil anticipated the design of everything, from forecourt to fleet. In the UK DRU had defined British Rail’s (BR) identity with their work on the logo and font in 1965. The control over the distribution of the BR font was such that as the GMPTE rolled out their joint branding exercise with BR at local railway stations even their publicity team were denied access to the master template. Under the direction of Ken Mortimer the GMPTE team had to employ Helvetica Medium as it was the closest commercially available typeface. In fact, most of the GMPTE signage that would carry the logo was governed using principles set by DRU and their standards for BR.


Mortimer oversaw the brand’s transition in the use of colour too; from orange and white to orange, brown and white that came to characterise the GMPTE fleet of Leyland Atlantean buses. The brown was a creeping addition to the palette for the livery and perhaps started when Ken Hollick drew the first buses with the new logo with brown wheels. Following this, architects Essex Goodman & Suggitt began to utilise brown as a contrasting colour in architectural elements in their work for the GMPTE and a pair of lecturers from Stockport proposed brown as an additional colour for the livery of the new Charterline fleet. The brown and orange buses, which are somehow synonymous with the 1970s but really a product of the 1980s, were those that became visually associated with the double-M.

So the logo has not disappeared without a trace, it has been mutated into a diminished version of itself. Its full removal from all of the locations it has been applied will undoubtedly take years, in the same way that the transition from an orange background to a red one did in the previous rebranding exercise. One has to question why TFGM did not commission a full new identity for their brave new integrated transit world, but, of course, there is no longer anything new; just the remix.

© Richard Brook

This article first appeared in The Modernist issue 1 'BOLD'.


Habitat / issue 25


A flyer from the opening of the Manchester Habitat store in the 1960's. Well we couldn't do an issue themed Habitat without featuring that shop could we.   

Issue 25 Habitat out now.  

Call for contributions - HABITAT

Its our home, our abode, our environment - whats your habitat?


The theme for The Modernist magazine issue 25 is HABITAT, the first of four 'H' issues and we invite you to contribute your articles or photo stories.

As ever, you can be flexible in your interpretation of the theme as long as it broadly relates to 20th century design.

We are seeking articles of around 1000 words or less if the piece is more image focused.

The Modernist contributors are a volunteer community so the budget doesnt stretch to a fee. Sorry.

COPY DEADLINE: 01-11-2017

Contact us at editor[at]

Thank you in advance

The Modernists



Bound Art book fair


The Modernist will be at the Bound Art book fair at the Whitworth on the 7th and 8th of October. Well have copies of our latest magazine and our new book manchester MODERN. 

There will be plenty of other art, design and photography publishers there from across GB and Europe. 

So.. come along and see.  

Postcards from a Peckham Car Park

On Friday August 19th The Modernist Magazine set up our stall A.P.O. a new indie publishing fair as part of Bold Tendencies at the top of a car park in Peckham.. here's what it all looked like.


Exhibition by Simon Phipps at the Foundry Gallery - 9 september - 27 october 2016

"Any piece of architecture worth being called architecture is usually both hated and loved"  Rodney Gordon – Architect ‘The Tricorn’, Portsmouth UK.

What do you think of when you hear the architectural term ‘Brutalism’? Love these concrete monolithic buildings or hate them the artist and photographer Simon Phipps is ready to challenge all your preconceptions of the Brutalist building in his solo exhibition in London: BÉTON BRUT. Simon Phipps has spent the last 15 years photographing and documenting Brutalist and buildings in the UK, creating a survey of photographic images that demonstrate the breadth of this contentious architectural style.
BÉTON BRUT showcases a new series of architectural photographs screen printed in monochrome onto brushed aluminum. Phipps' careful selection of materials for his work captures one of the properties of Brutalism, ‘its not concerned with the material, but the quality of the material, what can that material do?’ The use of a halftone screen and the aluminium moves the photograph away from the representational; it becomes more sculptural within the enhanced materiality of surface and ink. His photography plays with the viewer’s perspective of the buildings; he has an innovative way of looking at these dynamic constructions finding interesting new vistas and perspectives to capture our imagination.
A selection of Phipps extensive photographic inventory is also displayed in BÉTON BRUT where the curatorial arrangements highlight typological similarities and differences, revealing an analysis of form and structure. Using the placement of colour to highlight architectural details; stemming from Le Corbusier’s Polychromie Architectural, Phipps has used colour from the buildings he has resolutely documented and faithfully used these colours as an integral part of the exhibition in The Foundry Gallery.  BÉTON BRUT is curated by Elizabeth Goode.

About Simon Phipps

Simon Phipps is a London based artist whose work focuses on Modernist architecture. Phipps is the photographer for "THE BRUTALIST LONDON MAP" published by Blue Crow Media and supported by The Twentieth Century Society. His book "BRUTAL LONDON"  a photographic survey of brutalist architecture within the inner London boroughs will be published in November 2016. Phipps is also currently working on a project with Darren Umney about Netherfield - a modernist rationalist estate in Milton Keynes designed by Dixon, Jones, Cross and Gold. "BETWEEN THE RATIONAL AND THE NATIONAL: NETHERFIELD IN THE NEW SUBURBAN LANDSCAPE" will be exhibited at the Architectural Association and the Milton Keynes Gallery in 2017.

9 september - 27 october 2016

The Foundry Gallery 39 old church street, chelsea, london, sw3 5bs, uk


Back to Peckham

Publishing event / book fair

We're going back to our regular Summer haunt at Bold Tendencies in Peckham this August, but this year its a bit different, no Copeland Book Market but a new event A.P.O.  The Modernist will be making an appearance on the opening night at Show & Tell.

The opening night of About the Physical Object (APO) will be a one night only affair called: Show and Tell. A book fair, in which a wide variety of publishers display a wide variety disciplines on paper. Showing what they do and hopefully bringing along an artist or writer to do a book signing. Displaying In the hope of show the public that these books do not just come out of thin air. That there are individuals behind these words and pictures on the pages you read. So far, confirmed publishers consist of:

ABC, Bemojake, E.R.O.S. Journal, The Everyday Press, Fitzcarraldo editions, Loose Joints, Oddeye press, Nousvous, The Modernist, Morel Books, Rick Pushinsky / Hunter and James, South London Gallery, Hoxton Mini-press, The Plantation Journal, Trolley Books.

A.P.O. About Physical Object, a new eventhere to explore the physical aspects of book in all desired disciplines. Ranging from traditional publishing to performance arts.  Mini-click and Libreria/Robin Linde Production curate the Saturday and Sundays episodes, which will consist of unorthodox activities of producing publications of one kind or another. The events concentrate on the idea of the physical nature of publishing, photography and literature: All within the idea of the book and the physical object.

Show & Tell: August 19th 5pm - 9pm


Bold Tendencies, Levels 7-10, 95A Rye Lane, London SE15, 4TG