Killer architecture

by Kitty Drake in July 2021
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Architectural magazine The Modernist has released issues devoted to cinemas, and kitchens, but lately, things have taken a violent turn. Titled ‘Killer’, the 39th issue is devoted to buildings designed with the express purpose of taking life: bunkers, warships, forts. The guest editors are the artist and curator Alex Boyd and the social historian Linda Ross, who introduce themselves as having grown up “in the shadow of military landscapes”. This, and the fact that defence spending in the UK is increasing, has inspired them to “cast some light on a few of these overlooked spaces”.

The Modernist is long and thin, with multiple fold-out pages. In one opening spread, we pull apart a photograph of Sputnik I, the world’s first human-made satellite, to reveal multiple smaller images of its construction. The ‘Killer’ theme changes the nature of this tried and tested design feature, creating the feeling that you are unwrapping a particularly chilling present.

In my favourite piece, about the photographer Marc Wilson’s images of ruins from the Second World War, the writer Roy Exley draws a parallel between the misty, strangely romantic pictures of bunkers and the landscape paintings of the 18th century. The images are exceptionally gorgeous, and the way the pages fold out means that different military ruins bleed into one another. In one spread, a shot of Hayling Island in Hampshire collides with Cramond Island, Scotland. The architecture of death, on these pages, is remarkable for its beauty.

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