Category Archives: Posts … words

Building Ambitions of Brighton College

Today is mid-May (but we won’t be mid-May for much longer, I hear) and I open this website for the first time this year. My story of Brighton College’s building ambitions is finally off to be printed today and can be changed no further. Looks good here. It has been an interesting project, it just growed and growed but I hope it has been worthwhile.

And in the time it has taken me to get to print, the OMA building has moved from this shot at the very end of 2018 to a genuinely recognisable building.

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The world of Piero della Francesca : a couple of thoughts

This post – just as we are leaving Italy for a winter in England – simply locates two or three things which, during the recent Cognoscenti tour to the world of Piero della Francesca, I promised to make available to those on that tour.

The first is the David A King’s fascinating and completely original take on The Flagellation. I mentioned his ideas only very briefly as we stood in front of this amazing painting a few weeks ago.  Click here and you will be introduced to his thesis about Bessarion (to whom I did introduce the group) and his astrolabe, linked mysteriously with the Piero painting. The best introduction is the slideshow of his lecture in Urbino, well worth a glance (click on his “silent lecture” click here, once you are on his page to download it as a pdf).

The second is a short essay I wrote 25 years ago about Urbino. It’s a very brief introduction, but while on the tour, one of the travellers who had read it (as we had circulated it to the Renaissance City tour in 2915), suggested more of you might be interested, now you have had a taster of that remarkable city.  Here it is: my-kind-of-town_jmck.

Crowds at The Resurrection, at The Annunciation, and filling the piazza in Arezzo

Crowds at The Resurrection, at The Annunciation, and filling the piazza in Arezzo

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In 3 days time – Regarding the Human

I like this floating lady, almost Chagall-like, but I don’t think she made the final cut for the exhibition which opens on Saturday at The House of Friendship, 208 High Streeet, Lewes.

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Forgive a few weekend musings.

Germans voted for and supported Hitler. Were they mesmerised? Were good people silent, leaving “too few free spirits to do any good”?

I have today been reading Sarah Bakewell on the mid 16th Century essay ‘Voluntary Servitude’ which discusses “the ease with which tyrants dominate the masses, even though their power would evaporate instantly if those masses withdrew their support.” (The “too few free spirits” phrase above also comes from her life of Montaigne, as do all following quotes.)

Today we continue to vote for those who have our own worst interests at heart.

Montaigne’s friend La Boétie “simply says that the people need only stop co-operating, and supplying armies of slaves and sycophants to prop the tyrant up.” In today’s democracies we simply can stop voting for them. “Yet this almost never happens, even to those who maltreat their subjects monstrously.”

La Boétie (around 1545) writes “that tyrants somehow hypnotise their people. … They cannot wake from the dream.” La Boétie, in Bakewell’s words, makes it sound almost like a kind of witchcraft. “If it occurred on a smaller scale, someone would probably be burned at the stake, but when bewitchment seizes a whole society, it goes unquestioned.”

Even George Osborne now compares that Farage poster to Nazi propaganda.

I think of carefully planned, slowly released, incitement to terrorism, in its new specificity. This is not attacking a ‘symbol’ – burning a flag, killing Lee Rigby in London simply because of his uniform, or aid workers and journalists for being ‘Western’. The terrorising murder of an important, singled-out, political actor is really different.

No one death is mourned any more, nor any less, than the other. But the issue of terrorism, of terrorist behaviour, is sharply different. Gangs of arms-length thugs marauded and murdered in the dark streets of inter-war Germany. But the socialist leaders were very specifically targeted.

Targeting an immigrant today is callous and totally indefensible. Targeting a prominent activist supporting immigrants is very different and far more dangerous.

We cannot all copy Spartacus’ colleagues and say “I am an immigrant.” But what if – to counter Hitler’s yellow star – everyone in Britain today, who has at least one grand-parent not born in this country, would wear a sign, say a white flower, and wear it with great pride. Would that not be something wonderful?

(I couldn’t take part, but today being Father’s Day, I note that my children’s grandparents, other than my own parents, are an anti-semitic Pole kidnapped by Russia as a young teenager, an Austrian Jew, an Arab Christian from Lebanon and a German Jew; all normal British citizens.)

A final thought. What if on one day – the day before the referendum, for example – every single British person with one grand-parent not born in Britain declined to work that day; downed tools, refused, was on strike for Britain and humanity. Then the country would notice.

June 19, 2016

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Walter Segal – William Morris – Colin Ward


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Quinlan Terry addresses the Regency Society

Quinlan Terry has now given the Annual Anthony Dale Lecture to The Regency Society of Brighton & Hove for 2016.

I was reminded of my review in the Architects’ Journal of almost exactly the same lecture (but without carps at Hadid et al) thirty years ago when he delivered it at the RIBA.

But in this scrap I’ve just found here, only a quarter of a century ago, I was talking about his charming Riverside development in Richmond:



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Assembling Segal

assemble-segal tweeFinal preparations for the Walter Segal exhibition at the Architectural Association which opened with a packed party last night. In the foreground, a “Segal” pavilion by Assemble – winners of the latest Turner Prize – which now replaces the ‘temporary little house’ Segal built in his Highgate garden.

Beyond the model, to the left, are John Frazer and his wife, who built an interactive computer model of Segal’s system in 1980s to aid clients in designing themselves; to the right of the column are Jon Broome, Segal’s partner and successor with self-build; Nicholas Taylor, author of The Village in the City and, as Lewisham housing chair, the key enabler of the Segal method being taken up by a public housing authority; and John Segal, the architect’s son (seen again below portrait of Walter Segal by his father, Arthur Segal).

Five minutes after this picture was taken, there was barely room to move.


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Architecture Today – open agenda around Walter Segal and others

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(This is published today, 11 January 2016, in Architecture Today and is not yet on their website. Scroll down for previous post on Walter Segal, exhibition, and links to texts)

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Walter Segal exhibition and debate

A Walter Segal exhibition is at The Architectural Association, 36 Bedford Square London, from 16th January until 13th February – more details here.

I have only just learned the details myself, from this tweet.Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 23.37.41

As part of that event, there is a panel discussion on Walter Segal and the Future of Self-Build, with Jon Broome (Segal’s collaborator years ago, and today a leading exemplar of timber-frame, self-build and low-energy buildings), Charlie Luxton (architect well known from regular television appearances) and Alice Graham (exhibition promoter, journalist and inhabitant of a Segal-Broome house at Walter’s Way).

It will be at the Architectural Association on 26th January at 6.00 pm.

I have written much about Walter Segal, including but not only his pioneering of self-built timber-frame affordable houses for those on local authory lists as being in housing need.

The only book on Segal is my Learning from Segal (Birkhaueser, 1989) now long out of print.  But various other writings on Segal are now available here.

Walter Segal photographed by John McKean

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Walter Segal

The Open Houses Walter Segal Day on Saturday, 19 September 2015,  was great fun

segal-aj pic014

Alice Grahame has got a great website started at

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