Brutalist Architectures: mourning, mapping, mobilising

Tue, 20 October 2020
17:00 – 19:00 BST

Speakers: Chaired by Shela Sheikh (Goldsmiths), Amanda Roberts(City of Culture, Environment), Coventry Tree Warden Network, Sebastian Hicks (Coventry University), Michael Truesdale (Stop HS2/HS2 Rebellion Campaign), Sarah Butler (Manchester Metropolitan University), Adele Mary Reed (Photographer), Paul Chokran (Illustrator) and Nirmal Puwar (Goldsmiths).

Methods Lab, Goldsmiths organised panel discussion.

Though the trees were classified as protected, the city council raised no objections to the bulldozing making way for university developments at the junction of Cox St and Jordan Well in Coventry, West Midlands. A relation of kith and kin, developed from being passersby to civic green heritage, was unnecessarily severed, with trees that had stood tall for over fifty years, shifting, growing and sounding with the wind, sun and rain, suddenly gone.

To observe the shock of the sudden and unnecessary perplexing break, of what was part of the everyday and is no more, sociologist Nirmal Puwar, photographer Adele Mary Reed and urban sketcher Paul Chokran, engaged in an inter disciplinary site-specific collaboration.  The tree felling and the scene left behind became an installation as well as an illustration of disregard for both civic and environmental heritage.

Via regular, prolonged site visits involving examinations and conversations over the devastation and smaller details of the ruins of stumps outside the front of the Graham Sutherland building, Coventry University’s Arts Faculty, Puwar, Reed and Chokran between them developed and reflected upon images, words, sounds and collections of materials. The film In Memoriam: Tree Felling at The Plaza [8.30 mins] produced by Reed, is a composition of the findings gathered during the lockdown months of Spring and Summer, 2020.

Film URL:

To mourn the trees on the site, and to situate the specific case in a broader map of tree felling, that necessitate multi-scalar mobilisations, panellists will discuss local and global issues raised by contemporary brutalist architectures online over Zoom.


Speaker Biographies:

Amanda Roberts is the current Programme Manager – Environment and Green Futures at Coventry City of Culture Trust where she leads their creative programme of work around humans connectivity to nature and climate change; alongside a broad range of sustainability work including the Coventry & Warwickshire Green Code. She has formerly held executive director roles at Contact Theatre, mac Birmingham & Deda, producing credits at Birmingham REP, Punch and held office as National Director Diversity & Birmingham at Arts Council of England.

The Coventry Tree Network was formed in 2014 to raise the profile of trees and hedgerows around Coventry and its environs. Tree Wardens get involved with a range of activities, from practical projects such as planting and caring for trees to gathering information about local trees and developing imaginative projects to encourage others – including schoolchildren – to value their local trees and woods.

Michael Truesdale is very active member of the Stop HS2 / HS2 Rebellion campaign and an urban tree defender in Bristol with the Save the M32 Maples group.

Shela Sheikh is Lecturer in the Department of Media, Communications and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London, where she convenes the MA Postcolonial Culture and Global Policy. A recent multi-platform research project around colonialism, botany and the politics of the planting includes ‘The Wretched Earth: Botanical Conflicts and Artistic Interventions’, a special issue of Third Text co-edited with Ros Gray (vol. 32, issue 2–3, 2018), and Theatrum Botanicum (Sternberg Press, 2018), co-edited with Uriel Orlow. Her current research interrogates various forms of witnessing between the human, technological and environmental. Together with Wood Roberdeau, she co-chairs the Goldsmiths Critical Ecologies Research Stream.

Speaker Biographies:

Sebastian Hicks is Assistant Professor in Architecture at Coventry University. Through a series of built projects, live mapping strategies and socio-interventions from forests of Argentina and Malaysia, to the cities of London, Valencia and Amman, to the Cathedral of Coventry, Sebastian’s core research teaching and practice centres around the agency that design can structure. As scholar and engaged citizen, Sebastian has developed and driven multiple initiatives around the protection of delicate rural/urban ecologies, often in dynamic spaces of socio-economic tension. Social and environmental reconciliation lie at the centre of the work.

Sarah Butler has published three novels Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love, Before The Fire and Jack and Bet. Sarah’s work explores ideas of home, belonging, identity, family, and urban landscapes. She is currently a CHASE Scholar in Creative Writing at the Open University and lectures part-time in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. She set up Urban Words which she explores the relationship between writing and place through prose, poetry and participatory projects. Recent writing residencies include writer-in-residence on the Central line; at Great Ormond Street Hospital; and Stories From The Road – a project exploring personal stories of Oxford Road, Manchester.

Adele Mary Reed is a photographer, video maker and mother with a deep interest in analogue film technology. In her practice she forms observations of the urban environment, with a focus on idiosyncratic meetings of human and ‘natural’ materials, balance, and colour. She has exhibited with Coventry Biennial, Spilt Milk Gallery, Coventry Cathedral and the Hundred Heroines initiative amongst others. Adele also facilitates a Mothers Who Make hub in Coventry as well as curating an international collection of photography depicting motherhood using 35mm film. See her work at her website.

Paul Chokran is a Coventry-born artist who has been involved in the local art and theatre scene for many years. He is an active member of the CWSA (Coventry & Warwickshire Society of Artists) as well as the Criterion Theatre, where he has been designing and painting scenery for over 25 years. He is also a member of Sketch Coventry. He is currently producing artwork for various local organisations and projects. His most recent exhibition was for Grapevine’s “Walk and Talk” event in 2019, for which he produced a series of drawings based on sketches and photographs. He has exhibited locally over the years, most recently at the Herbert Art Gallery in CASE (Coventry Art Societies Exhibition) 2019, where he was the Winner of the Chairman’s Favourite Painting Award.

Nirmal Puwar is a Reader in the Sociology Department at Goldsmiths, University of London, where she has lectured since 2003. She is author of ‘Space Invaders: race, gender and bodies out of place’ and has co-edited 18 collections. She has worked collaboratively on creative methods, on a number of projects, including ‘Noise of the Past’ at Coventry Cathedral and South Asian Cinema Scenes with the Herbert Art Gallery. At Goldsmiths, she has co-curated exhibitions from the work of John Berger, Jean Mohr, Edward Said and Pierre Bourdieu. She is writing a memoir/urban history as a returnee sociologist and writer-as-resident in Coventry. Currently she is a Visiting Fellow at Warwick University.