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Making Dystopia Reviews

Making Dystopia by James Stevens Curl

Making Dystopia

The Strange Rise and Survival of Architectural Barbarism

James Stevens Curl

2.25 out of 5

3 reviews

Category: Non-fiction
Imprint: Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 23 Aug 2018
ISBN: 9780198753698

A devastating critique of the Modernist Movement: from the Bauhaus and Le Corbusier, through destructive Modernism-inspired urban planning of the post-war years, it questions how increasingly unequal and dysfunctional societies have been affected by self-serving, self-appointed elites hell-bent on creating an alienating, empathy-less Dystopia.

4 stars out of 5
1 Nov 2018

"It’s not just that we have been here before – though, goodness knows, we really have. It is also that the world has moved on."

It offers a curious resurrection of arguments first made almost a century ago and is primarily directed against a group of architects and writers almost all of whom died a generation ago. Less a work of history than one of historical re-enactment, it gives rise to the same oddly nostalgic feel as might a cartoon from one’s childhood. Weirdly, it even ends with James Stevens Curl’s redrawing of an image by the 19th-century artist Alfred Rethel, showing the figure of Death ringing the warning bell against barbarous modernism on behalf of the exhausted author, who has expired in a chair. 


1 stars out of 5
25 Aug 2018

"In Making Dystopia, James Stevens Curl calls contemporary architecture ‘psychotic’ and ‘deranged’. But it’s his own views that are dystopian"

Anyway, the size of Curl’s ambition may be inferred from a description of his book as object. It is dense and shiny. Advance praise is integrated into the prelims, a mite too proudly. It has a ‘Prolegomenon’ (yes, really), abundant Latin quotations, nearly 40 pages of preface and acknowledgments, 58 of dense endnotes and 42 of bibliography. Plus a prolix ‘Further Thoughts’ and a turgid epilogue. It is windy, overwritten, under-edited, repetitive and full of clichés. It is a book where ‘much ink has been spilled’. And its design is a disgrace to OUP — and would be to the corner-store copy shop. The jacket is typographically illiterate, the layout is artless, while the pictures lack contrast and sit unhappily grey in a visually dreary book. If this is what the author thinks is good design, then God help us and OUP.

2 stars out of 5
18 Aug 2018

"This furious blast at modern architecture comes rather too late for our skylines"

Argued with a pathological attention to detail, and in a style that might have struck even TS Eliot as being a little over-stuffed with classical allusions, it is intended primarily to shock and awe the architectural establishment itself. That’s a pity. At a quarter of the length, and shorn of its more obscure digressions, Curl’s blistering broadside would be a fabulous read for the non-specialist. It’s still entertainingly apoplectic, if you can stick with it. Curl is 81, and his book reads like an outpouring of pent-up anger, contempt, revulsion and despair accumulated over decades.