La Cité Radieuse, or The Radiant City in English, is a housing development in Marseille that was completed in 1952. The concrete block reaches eighteen storeys and dwarfs the modest post-war buildings in this part of the south of France.

Designed by the influential Modernist architect, Le Corbusier, La Cité is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Le Corbusier was trying to re-imagine the city and change the ways in which people interacted with each other by simply building up. A plan that was attempted all over the world and refined in places like the Barbican Estate in London.

By the end of the twentieth century, Brutalist architecture was more or less universally hated in the UK. The unsympathetic dumping of concrete in post-war cities without regard for the surroundings, as well as the social problems created by the architecture itself in some cases, was never going to win these buildings any fans. 

Jonathan Meades has made prejudiced comments about the Welsh language, BAME people who speak Welsh and has reproduced French colonialist views. Leigh Jones responds and provides context.Leigh Jones responds to Jonathan Meades article on the Welsh language from the weekend, in which he exposed multiple prejudices

Over the years, though, the designs themselves have slowly earned passionate support and critical re-evaluation has brought Modernism a new-found respect outside architectural circles.

Having authored anti-semitic articles in the 1920s and eventually landing a job researching and promoting eugenicist policies in Vichy France, Le Corbusier himself would not enjoy a similar posthumous revival.

I learned about Le Corbusier and have a love for his style of architecture because of the work of one of La Cité Radieuse’s more notable residents: the critic and broadcaster Jonathan Meades - whose own love of the architect’s work led to him moving here around a decade ago.

My first experience of Meades was his 2009 television series: Off Kilter. Here was a man in dark Ray-Bans looking like he’d fallen out of a French New Wave film, delivering a deadpan essay to camera about Scotland’s architecture and social history. There was a subtle Surrealist humour to the whole thing, which was beautifully shot, as well as the undeniable presence of the programme’s charismatic presenter.

I became utterly obsessed with this man’s work.

Jonathan Meades taught me so much about art - his 2001 film on Surrealist art in particular is a personal favourite that plays with the tropes of the subject in order to tell its story.

Through his work, Meades also taught me about how my own identity could be contextualised within a wider cultural landscape. He taught me, in a very strange way, about what it means to be Welsh.

As a Welsh speaker, it came as a huge disappointment to see that Meades had recently written an article for The Critic magazine describing the language as “moribund”.


Meades has a tendency to be contrarian and stir things up deliberately in order to make a point - his deadpan, OTT verbiage is performance art with a higher purpose. “Surely, my hero was employing something like this here”, I thought, as I excitedly clicked the link to see what spin he was putting on this inflammatory headline.

Sadly, there would be no such twist.

I have no idea what has so recently alerted Meades to the Welsh Government’s aim to have a million Welsh speakers by 2050, but now seems like a strange moment for the broadcaster to denounce a policy that was first announced in August 2016.

If providing its people with the tools to access and enjoy its own culture is “authoritarian”, as Meades describes it, sign me up and send me to the gulag.

From the old fashioned (ie English) spelling of Caernarfon, I can see that Meades is being his usual contrarian self, although there’s no higher purpose this time. He’s just whingeing.

Unlike the Meades of old, this is lazy and unfocused - and his decision to refer to Antwerp by its French name, Anvers, reveals a lot more than he probably thinks.

The Flemish people in Belgium see the French-speakers, whose numbers rapidly grew at the end of the nineteenth century, as interlopers and a threat to their cultural identity. Sound familiar?

The Francophile Meades is reproducing French colonial ideology by calling it Anvers. One can easily dismiss his thoughts on Wales and our language on this basis (as if his having zero stake in Wales or Welsh wasn’t enough reason to ignore him). His perspective is that of the oppressor. 

As if to prove that point, Meades’ article takes a real sinister turn when he describes BAME Welsh speakers as being “burdened with a double handicap”, before lamenting the BBC’s positive outlook on multiculturalism. He continues in this vein, although it’s hardly worth addressing the ramblings of a man who apparently reached the end of saying anything of value about five years ago.

In his article, Meades decries differences in culture because they “create divisions” and “foment tribalism”. This is a million miles from the Jonathan Meades who, though sometimes condescending, only ever discussed widely varying cultural subjects with a deeply held respect of the benefits that cultural diversity brings.

When proposing a plan for rebuilding Algiers, Le Corbusier described the native Algerians as “Barbarians”. His plan was rejected and he moved away from discussing politics publicly after this.

Perhaps it was time that Jonathan Meades did the same.

Leigh Jones is a music industry professional who lives in London. He has a weekly Welsh language podcast with author Llwyd Owen called 'Ysbeidiau Heulog'.

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