Having long been great admirers of his broadcast work and writing, we are delighted that Jonathan Meades has agreed to be a patron of the Twentieth Century Society. In 2010 he gave an excellent and impassioned lecture about Ian Nairn for us to a packed audience, anticipating the current flurry of books and programmes about Nairn. It seems particularly apposite that this news coincides with Meades’ new BBC4 programmes Bunkers, Brutalism and Bloodymindedness: Concrete Poetry, given our sometimes controversial campaigns for the best brutalist buildings.
Writing an A-Z of Brutalism in the Guardian, Meades says that, in his postwar work, Le Corbusier ‘dumped a technical manual in favour of ecstatic poetry. La Cité Radieuse in Marseille, aka l’Unité d’Habitation [where Meades lives] was the first of his exercises in sculptural and plastic moulded concrete … L’Unité gave the word brutalism a meaning.’ In her profile of him, also in the Guardian, Rachel Cooke discusses both his books and broadcasting (not to mention his fabulous-sounding corner flat), and nails his mesmerising ability to talk about buildings: ‘No one – absolutely no one – is able to animate a building the way he does.’ I have spent far too much time since Christmas leafing through the fascinating collection of postcards with mordant captions by Meades, published in a ‘boxette’ as Pidgin Snaps, which perfectly capture his eclectic view of the world.
His breadth of knowledge, trenchant views and outspoken support for good buildings, whether or not they are currently popular, make him a great champion for the Society.