I make regular visits to Leicester for its galleries and this was an eclectic selection of work that focussed on our urban environment – its architecture, migration, commuting, crowds, noise and light. It brought together a diverse selection of work that explored many of these issues and considered how city dwellers engage with their built-up surroundings. Included were pieces by Victor Pasmore, Toby Paterson, Carel Weight, George Shaw, Melanie Smith, Michael Andrews, Rut Blees Luxembourg, Suzanne Treister, and Rachel Whiteread.
I do enjoy exhibitions that span time and it was interesting to compare crumbling slum photographs from the 1960s with interpretations of the latest high-rise buildings. Time and time again we rip down one failed inner-city experiment and replace it with a new vision, with a promise that this time we’ve got it right. Interestingly, a more positive future has been obtained for Park Hill in Sheffield which had a notorious decline in the 1970s but has now been regenerated as the ‘coolest’ place to live in the city. You can even stay in a penthouse AirBnB in the complex.
Architecture is an art form that balances form and function and this exhibition showed how function has given way to form in recent decades and this is critically important to the health of the nation. If we love where we live then we are more likely to look after our patch and hopefully are more caring towards each other. But with the challenges of overpopulation, resource scarceness, sustainability and climate change, building cities has never been more challenging so hopefully, we can learn lessons from the past and make a new world that will last a little bit longer.