New book Iconicon – can you help?

Very excited that my new book, Iconicon, was announced today by Faber and Faber. It's a sequel to Concretopia, covering the period 1980–2017. Here's the press release. It will be published in 2021, and I'm currently knee-deep in research. But what is it all about?

Right to Buy. The Millennium Dome. Wimpey, Bovis and Barratt Homes. Grenfell Tower. These are some of the physical legacies of Thatcher, New Labour and the coalition. In Iconicon I'll travel around the UK to explore the history of our last thirtysomething years, how we lived and what we built, the places we made and the stories we tell about them – or hide.

Why do I need help? Well, apart from my ongoing mid-life crisis which led me to write Concretopia in the first place, each of my books has been a collaboration, with me telling the stories of people who were there at the time: the insiders, be they residents, workers, builders, planners or architects. These are not 'top down' stories, they are instead an attempt to show what people intended to make, the excitement of new plans and designs, and what it was actually like to live or work in the environments that were built .

If you've read Concretopia or Outskirts you'll know that it's the stories of people that bring what might have otherwise been dry or abstract histories to life: Bob and Irene surviving the Coventry Blitz and helping build the new cathedral; Ken Davie talking about how he worked on the planning team for Cumbernauld from start to finish; journalist Ray Fitzwalter telling how he uncovered the Poulson scandal while working on a local newspaper in Bradford.

And so for Iconicon I'm looking to find more interviewees. But now the story has moved to the 80s, 90s, 00s, right up to 2017. And you can probably guess some of the stories I'm desperate to tell. The right to buy. Toxteth riots. Postmodern Leeds. The design and development of private housing estates, from Brookside closes to marina developments, gated communities and beyond. Out of town business parks and shopping centres. Docklands. Manchester's rebirth. The Dome and lottery funded 'icons'. Eco homes. The architecture of devolution in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh. The rise of housing associations. PFIs. Hi-tech towers. Warehouse flats and hipsterfication. Gentrification and 'adding value'. Property programmes from Grand Designs to Homes Under the Hammer. Estate agents and investors. Lakanal House and Grenfell. The slow rise of Ebbsfleet. The rise and fall and rise of homelessness and repossessions. And lots of other stories I haven't even started to research yet.

Can you help? Perhaps you know someone who designed housebuilders' homes, or were the first move into a Docklands flat or warehouse conversion? Did you help build a PFI hospital or have your repossessed home sold at auction? Did you riot in Brixton, or help plan or build Aztec West or out of town sheds or supermarkets? Did you sell flats in Belfast's Obel Tower or clean Manchester's Beetham Tower? Or were you involved in any of the stories above. I'd love to hear from you.

My email is, or I'm @Grindrod on Twitter.

Oh, and it's pronouced i-conny-con.


  1. Great news, John and I'll be looking out for it. BTW did you expect the paragraph below to sound like a very specialist Renton-delivered Trainspotting monologue?

    The right to buy. Toxteth riots. Postmodern Leeds. PFIs. Hi-tech towers. Warehouse flats and hipsterfication. Gentrification and 'adding value'. Estate agents and investors. Lakanal House and Grenfell.

  2. Looking forward to the new book Just finished and enjoyed, "How to Love Brutalism", and have also read the other 2. Just need to find something else to do now until 2020 ;-)

  3. On page 81 of Concretopia and read the acknowledgements at the back were I found the blog details.I came across the book because it was situated next to the art section in Waterstoned and just thumbed through it then sat down an once I started reading I was hooked.So like the mix of prose fiction style of writing based on a narrative driven work.

  4. we thought briefly about buying a house in BedZed once, must have been 11-12 years ago. Put off by transport links into central london and, erm, the fact you could not hang your washing out to dry out side.


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