The Daily Telegraph

What could be better than a hideous, brutalist car park? Almost anything


Bristol is finally going to knock down a horrible, old multi-storey car park blighting its town centre and put up some flats in its place. Good for Bristol, you might think.

Not so among the brutalist-loving community. Kathryn Morrison, an architectu­ral historian, pronounced herself “aghast” that the “fantabulou­s” garage with its “superb sculptural form” is to be demolished. I had to reread her posts several times to check that she wasn’t joking, but no, she doubled down: “Bristol has some WONDERFUL early MSCPS [multistore­y car parks],” she declared on Twitter, posting a few snaps of buildings that would be too depressing to use even as Blade Runner backdrops.

A larger batch of photos of the car park published by the local online paper Bristol24/7 gives some idea of its atmosphere. It is empty, the concrete stained, the walls thick with grime and graffiti. A view of the inner core looking down its six storeys shows a stagnant pool of dark liquid full of rubbish and bits of shopping trolleys at the bottom. It is, in short, every bit the dystopian nightmare you might imagine it to be.

Admirers are presumably too immersed in the fantasy of its creation to notice these inconvenie­nt facts. This was, after all, the UK’S first “multi-deck garage”, a developmen­t noteworthy enough to be recorded in a film clip from the 1960s, archived by British Pathé. The news item is extraordin­ary for its excitement about a soul-crushing architectu­ral form. Over footage of the concrete monster, a clipped voice calls the building a “sign of the times” that is “adapted from an American design” so cars can be “parked or taken away easily”. “What could be better for the man in a hurry? Better than the scenic railway!” the narrator declares.

What could be better? Almost anything and especially a developmen­t that has room to house students, who are overpopula­ting Bristol, plus space to park a similar number of cars and charge electric ones. Even better, drawings of the new building look tolerable by modern standards. Though these images often deceive, the red brick and arches aesthetic is already better than the hideous multi-coloured panels usually stuck onto new towers nowadays. In short, stay strong Bristol. Let the wrecking ball fly.

Joe Biden test-drove a gigantic electric Hummer in Detroit this week in an effort to promote his infrastruc­ture spending and electric vehicles incentives. “On my watch, the great American road trip is going to be fully electrifie­d,” read his social media post, below pictures of the outing. But it’s the same old false generalisa­tion: “Electric good; gas bad.” In this case, unfortunat­ely for Mr Biden, wonks have crunched the numbers and found that supplying sufficient power to move a four-ton electric car around actually generates more carbon emissions than if you just drove a small car with a combustion engine.

The same logic applies for other types of transport. Take large container ships. The size and weight of a battery needed to power a colossus like that are so vast that it would be better for the planet to convert them all from diesel to liquefied natural gas. Alas, such facts fall on deaf ears. Green gas is friendless.

It is empty, the concrete stained, the walls thick with grime and graffiti. It is every bit the dystopian nightmare you might imagine it to be

In a hospital recently, I was bemused to read on a bottle of hand sanitiser that the product “kills 99.9 per cent of many common germs”. This seemed a strikingly ambiguous claim. One could take it to mean that the product neither kills 99.9 per cent of all germs, nor even 99.9 per cent of all “common” germs, but that it does kill 99.9 per cent of a smaller subset of germs, namely a lot of common germs, but not every single one of them. Perhaps we could take “many” to mean more than half, or at any rate at least 50 per cent. So it probably means it does kill 99.9 per cent of 50 per cent of common germs, which is to say it might kill off nearly half of common germs. On the other hand, it could also mean that of each individual “common” germ, it kills 99.9 per cent of it, but leaves 0.1 per cent floating around. Since I was in a hospital, I took some anyway.

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