Category Archives: Coventry

Larkin’s Coventry

Philip Larkin, Dalrymple points out,

was a bit odd. Could it be that the destruction of his home town, Coventry—its transformation from mediæval city firstly to rubble and then to modernist urban wasteland, not to mention hell—had something to do with the bleakness of his vision?

Dalrymple explains (from 8:17) that until the bombing in the Second World War, and the depredations after the war of the socialist planners (who regarded the bombing not as a tragedy but a heaven-sent opportunity), Coventry was one of the finest mediæval towns in Europe. He is reduced almost to tears by the destruction wrought both by the Luftwaffe and the post-war desecrators.

Much of Coventry could have been restored, and the very little that was restored is of outstanding beauty (though actually it was all everyday architecture at one time).

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UK City of Culture 2021

Dalrymple is privileged to have an opportunity to visit Coventry, which has received the coveted accolade (beating off a challenge from Stoke-on-Trent).

He explores aspects of the refined culture of the Florence of the West Midlands, noting that

amid the hideous and dilapidating buildings of a failed modernism,

there are

  • precincts with half the shops boarded up
  • youths in hoodies skateboarding all day along the walkways
  • the prematurely aged, fat and crippled unemployed occupying themselves in the search for cheap imported junk in such shops as remain open
  • lurkers, muggers and dealers waiting for nightfall

He stays in an establishment

whose nearest architectural equivalent is the hotel in which I stayed in Makhachkala in Dagestan.

Coventry sojourn

A jewel of Coventry commercial architecture

A jewel of Coventry commercial architecture

Dalrymple visits the West Midlands city, where

amid the hideous and dilapidating buildings of a failed modernism

he sees

  • precincts with half the shops boarded up
  • youths in hoodies skateboarding all day along the walkways
  • the prematurely aged, fat and crippled unemployed occupying themselves in the search for cheap imported junk in such shops as remain open
  • lurkers, muggers and dealers waiting for nightfall
One of the city's elegant hotels

One of the city’s charming hostelries

He stays in an establishment

whose nearest architectural equivalent is the hotel in which I stayed in Makhachkala in ex-Soviet Dagestan.

Council House, Coventry: the delicate, judicious, infinitely sensitive blending of the old with the very finest of the new architecture

Council House: the very finest of the new architecture is judiciously and most delicately grafted upon the old edifice to make a charming, congruous and unified whole. The conjoining of the two structures in this way is considered a masterstroke of restraint and elegance, much loved by the inhabitants. Truly the city is blessed to have working for it architects the likes of these

Postcards from Coventry

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 08.38.12Dalrymple explains (from 8:17) that until the bombing in the Second World War, and the depredations after the war of the socialist planners (who regarded the bombing not as a tragedy but a ‘heaven-sent opportunity’), Coventry was one of the finest mediæval towns in Europe.

Dalrymple is, he says, ‘reduced almost to tears’ by the destruction wrought both by the Luftwaffe and the post-war desecrators.

Much of Coventry could have been restored, and the very little that was restored is of outstanding beauty (though actually it was all everyday architecture at one time).

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 08.42.24     Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 08.18.11Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 08.31.17Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 08.42.52Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 08.17.29Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 08.30.56Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 08.15.02        Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 08.24.43Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 08.17.01    Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 08.42.09 Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 08.43.11 Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 08.18.11Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 08.18.37Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 08.41.56 Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 08.41.10 Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 08.35.45 Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 08.35.15Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 08.35.31      Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 08.34.37

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