Friday, 14 June 2013

“There’s a new town in town,” 1969

The building of the New Towns in Britain was the biggest construction project in mainland Europe since France’s national basement was dug in the 1920s. The third wave of towns included Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, Telford in Shropshire, and (Untitled) in Woldborough.

(Untitled) was a troubled undertaking from its inception. The architect, Rolfgang Üd, was unused to the compromises of communal planning, and demanded full rein to explore his dream of building as a “concrete ballet”. Many of the houses he designed had no windows, to avoid “the grotesque discontinuity of curtains,” and his insistence that the radical town centre include three art galleries and a “water library” left planners scratching their drawing-boards.

But it was the town’s name that caused the biggest headache. All Üd’s works were untitled, and he saw no reason why the New Town should be any different. The Postmaster General, Anthony Muchless, angrily challenged Üd to compose a usable address for the citizens of (Untitled). Üd refused to be “musclebound by envelope culture” and further entrenched his position by suggesting the roads be identified by “smells and sighs, building a city of memory and intensity”. Muchless resigned and threw his ministerial car into the sea in protest.

When the first residents of (Untitled) complained that they were unable to receive post or have a telephone connected, Üd replied, “for this they should thank me; I have gifted them more time for contemplation”. The town never achieved even 15% occupancy, and was empty by 1981. It was blown up by Roy Castle on It’s A Christmas Knockout! in 1983, provoking Üd to send the BBC a dead panda as a “gesture of syllepsis”.