Nico in Manchester: ‘She loved the architecture and the heroin’

She had been a top model, then sang with the Velvet Underground, and in 1981 Nico moved to Manchester. Her friends there share their touching, alarming memories of a true bohemian An imperious blond German ex-model with a voice once described as like a body falling through a window, Nico was already extraordinary by the time she leant her vocals to songs including Femme Fatale and All Tomorrows Parties on the Velvet Undergrounds classic first album, produced by Andy Warhol. Soon after that, she embarked on a solo career, and made records, such as The Marble Index, that were even darker, with despairing lyrics and a wheezing harmonium accompanying Nicos Teutonic tones. By this time, she was no longer blond …

The invention of Essex: how a county became a caricature

The long read: From Loadsamoney and Basildon man to Towie and Brexit Essex has long been held up as both the authentic England and the crudest, stupidest symbol of Englishness As a child growing up in the 80s and 90s in Southend, a sprawling seaside town in south-east Essex, I noticed that people on TV often laughed at the very word Essex. Some years later, in 2016, my wife, Hayley, crossed the border into Albania from Montenegro while travelling with an old friend who, like us, grew up in the county. The border guard asked where they were from and when they told him, his response was quickfire: Ive heard a lot about

The skyscraper infinity pool sorry, but where’s the diving board?

It is meant to be a boundary-busting punch for the sky. But this design for a rooftop London pool is just another high-rise ego gimmick In 1924, swimming pool designerno apparent means of escape, as if the digital people are in some kind of sublime prison cell for the super rich. We are assured there is in fact a way in and out, courtesy of a rotating spiral staircase which rises from the pool floor, and that this is an entirely buildable proposition that includes an inbuilt anemometer to vary the water level and access to the pool. Underwater swimming … how the pool could look Photograph: Compass Pools The designer, Alex Kemsley, said, the building started life as a …

The art deco pub, the library and Poldark manor: Britains architectural gems at risk

As Save Britains Heritage campaign highlights historic buildings that could be lost to the nation, Cornish estate owners vow to take action For viewers of a certain age it is instantly recognisable. Botallack Manor, on the Penwith peninsula in western Cornwall, doubled as Nampara, the home of Ross Poldark and his family, in the original 1970s Poldark television series. Today, the Grade II-listed house, built in the 17th century and boasting spectacular views of the has enjoyed a new lease of life, the same cannot be said for the house. For the past five years it has lain empty and in an increasing state of neglect, so much so that it has been included in the latest (30th) edition of …

Hedonism, sex and fear why the Weimar republic is in vogue

From Fritz Lang to Brecht, 1920s German culture is being celebrated in print and on stage perhaps because it has clear echoes today It was one of the most febrile and fascinating periods in the 20th century. A time when cultural creativity and technical innovation walked hand in hand with political uncertainty, growing inequality and storm clouds gathering on the horizon. Small wonder, then, that 100 years later, the Weimar republic is being celebrated in film and literature, music and art. Next month sees the conclusion of the BFIs well-received Weimar programme, Weimar Berlin: Bittersweet Metropolis, a series of concerts, cabaret, films and talks, culminating in September at the Royal Festival Hall with The Partys Over, which includes a performance …

Sterile or stirring? Britain’s love-hate relationship with new towns

Paternalistic social engineering or make-Britain-great-again utopianism? A new archive film compilation takes a look at the UKs controversial postwar towns People sometimes say to me, You must get a terrific kick out of having been responsible for a huge thing like a new town, said Sir Frederick Gibberd in an interview in 1982, 35 years after he created the new town of Harlow. Well, I get a lot of misery out of it, in fact. I go around and think, My god, thats unbelievably bad, and it could have been so good. If that was what the designer thought, imagine how everyone else who moved to Harlow felt. The interview comes in a short film at the end of Stevenage, …