twenty twenty three

from swansea, to marylebone via the black country and back

It feels like just a few weeks since we were writing the review of twenty twenty two, and the year has certainly flown by. Now it is already time to look at what we've been up to in twenty three, and it seems we've packed a lot in. We continued our talks, walks and exhibitions of course but with a new focus on publishing we upped our book game and even hosted our very own book fair. So, here we go.. this was our twenty twenty three.

In January we welcomed Plyconic to our exhibition space. Plyconic is an East London design studio with a fascination in post war architecture. They use plywood to create 3D reliefs (PlyForms) of iconic buildings, and they incuded some Manchester favourites, just for us.  

Our first publication of the year came via Catrin James of our Swansea chapter. Modernist Swansea / Abertawe Fodernaidd is a love letter to Swansea's post war architecture and features plenty of shop front fonts, graphic-coloured tiles, repetitious railings, clean lines, forgotten door handles, concrete flowerpots, mid-century clocks and colourful Formica tables. We were also fortunate enough to launch the book at Swansea's Galerie Simpson Artists in February. It was a shame that problems with the trains prevented us from spending a bit more time in Swansea by the Sea.
February also saw the first Mooch of the year with a chilly group wandering around Salford, hosted as ever, by mooch-master Steve Marland. A busy mooching season followed with visits to Huddersfield, Stockport, Wolverhampton, Rochdale, Stoke, Sheffield, Halifax, Leicester, Nottingham, Doncaster, Newcastle, Preston, Manchester, Chester, Morecambe and Blackpool - its no wonder Steve has now put his feet up for the Winter. Keep an eye on our events pages for upcoming talks and tours.
Our second exhibition of the year came along in March - Fragile Brutalism Ukrainian mass housing : past | war | future. With artworks by SERIA No__ and curated by Elena Michajlowska, Panelki oral history by Margarita Novikova. SERIA No___ is a Kyiv urban graphic project devoted to the brutalist mass housing in Ukraine. The project was conceived with the aim to raise awareness of the country’s architectural heritage and to change attitudes towards ‘panelki’ in order to bring a positive change to actual houses. 
March also saw us round off our talks series, in partnership with BDP with the last of six monthly talks including Ewan Harrison on the Kingsway Stores (the most exclusive retail chain in colonial British West Africa), Owen Hatherley on Modern Buildings in Britain and Richard Brook, Christopher Marsden and Esther Johnson on Alan Boyson (in celebration of the completion of restoration work on an Alan Boyson mural at the Queens Hotel in Manchester, restored by artist by Alice Vincent-Barwood and crowdfunded by the Modernist Society.
We continue to support architecture and design students - this year by collaborating with and exhibiting work from the Unit X. In May we exhibited ArchiType/Archive-X a pop-up exhibition presenting work from final year Graphic Design students from Manchester School of Art.
Archive X was followed by an exhibition of mid century film and sporting posters from the 1960's, including 'Alfie le Drageur' as well as our old favourite, Otl Aicher's publicity for the 1972 Munich Olympic games.

In July we exhibited photgraphs by Michael England as carbon prints, made by artist, photographer and developer Bob France using crushed coal that Michael had collected from the base of a conveyor at Fiddler’s Ferry power station near to Warrington. The exhibition Cooling Down: Carbon Cycle stemmed from research project, The Landscapes of Post-War Infrastructure, directed by Professor Richard Brook (Lancaster University) and Professor Luca Csepely-Knorr (University of Liverpool). The project considers the landscape design heritage of reservoirs, motorways, power stations and their respective surroundings. Many of the coolng towers at Fiddlers Ferry have since been demolished.

We often attend magazine and book fairs and once again we took part in fairs in Edinburgh, Manchester and Hamburg. But this year we went one better and hosted our very own Modernist Book Fair as part of London Design Festival and featured on Monocle Radio at the lovely Vitsoe store in Marylebone in London's fancy west end. We were joined by other publishers of modernist goodies including Steffi Orazi, Uhm Zines, the C20Society, Simon Phipps and Blue Crow Maps. 

In October, Leeds Modernist Society's hosted Illuminate, a photography competition and exhibition that celebrated the interplay between modernist architecture and light. Photographs were submitted form all our chapter cities of Birmingham, Huddersfield, Glasgow, Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and Swansea, ans we will present this exhibition again at Modernist HQ in Manchester in 2024.

September saw us venture into a new century as we published GMC21, our first overview of post millenial architecture in Manchester, with the aim to show a wide variety of Manchester and Salford’s architecture from the last 23 years. Special thanks to Bryony Aitchison and Richard Brook for their dedication and research and the enormous task involved in pulling this book together.

Black Country Type came next -  with an exhibition and a new book. In October we published Black Country Type - Photographs by Tom Hicks, taken between 2017 and 2023, the images in Black Country Type document the post-industrial landscape of the Black Country. The book recieved great acclaim and was featured in The Guardian, BBC and Dezeen .. and so perhaps not surprisingly has already sold out.

Peolple kept coming into our shop and asking 'Have you got anything on Manchester modernism?' and we were embarrased to tell them that we didn't, so in November, after five years since its original publication, we brought back an old favourite, and what is surely the definative guide to twentieth century architectiure in Manchester - manchester MODERN. Redesigned with a soft cover and luxuriously printed in Italy.. its our pride and joy.

Our last exhibition of the year was In Case You Missed It, a response by 26 artists to the closure and imminent demolition of much of the well loved UMIST Campus.The exhibition features a variety of artforms including photography, collage, painting, printmaking, video, LEGO and even a hat. Some of our friends and favourites from the modernist insopired artist community such as Mandy Payne, Sarah Hardacre, Simon Phipps and Jen Orpin were joined by a host of others including Liam Spencer, Nick Jordan, Michael Garaway and the king of modernist Lego, Tony Bolton.

the modernist magazine continues to be a mainstay and as we end the year with issue 49, we are already looking forward to the big 'five O' and we hope to be celebrating our fiftieth issue with you in twenty twenty four.

Throughout the year our busy volunteers at chapters in Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Swansea continued to provide us with information and insights about their fabulous cities via social media - you can find them on Instagram @birminghammodernist@leedsmodernist@liverpoolmodernist@manchestermodernist@sheffieldmodernist and @swanseamodernist. So BIG thanks to them. This year we were also joined by @huddersfieldmodernist and @glasgowmodernist and we are looking forward to seeing more modernist shennanegins from all the chapters in 2024.

A special thank you also goes to you, our subscribers, members and donors - during times when we have no grant income, it is you that keeps us going. And a big thank you to everyone who has contributed, exhibited, designed, supported, funded, visited and just generally been a part of the modernist society in twenty twenty three. We wish you well and hope to see you in 'twenty four.

Happy New Year!