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This conversation was inspired by the works of Steve Stewart-Williams principally his book The Ape that Understood the Universe and his Twitter feed. We talk about the nature versus nurture debate, design, the importance of copying, the woke fraternity, Breton fishing boats, the caveman inside us, Richard Dawkins, the importance (or otherwise) of music (and, by extension other forms of culture) before moving on to the horrors of modern architecture and the horrors of Nissen huts in the Winter of 1963.

Brian Quotes

“It could well be that in Malaysia they are more scornful of this sort of thing than we are in the Anglo-Saxon world.”

“Obesity is not exactly a problem they had on the ancient plains of Africa or wherever it is we did our evolving.”

“…humans are, even now, evolving into the culture that humans have created.”

“One of the problems you have if you work from first principles is you have to re-think absolutely everything and you fail to re-think absolutely everything successfully.”

“That was a big pretence by the architectural profession that they had nothing to do with it, ‘Oh, that was the planners.’ Rubbish! They were absolutely up to their necks in this.”

“There’s a sort of labour theory of value that applies to decoration isn’t there? And if it’s just thrashed out by a machine it kind of loses its meaning.”


  1. The Ape that Understood the Universe.
  2. Brian has posted several times on this subject. Here are a few:
    1. What women look for in men.
    2. Breton fishing boats.
    3. The evolution of language.
    4. Nurture Only is wrong.
  3. Stewart-Williams appears to be an associate professor at the University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus.
  4. It appears that our youthful tank crews were singing something called the Panzerlied which is a new one on me.
  5. Kenneth Clark did indeed hold concerts at a then painting-less National Gallery.
  6. Did Britain and Germany have the same national anthem in the First World War? Pretty much.
  7. For Ayn Rand’s views on architecture see the movie The Fountainhead (or even read the book if you’ve got the patience.)
  8. The Great Eastern. Did it have to be that size? To sail to Australia without stopping to re-fuel, yes.
  9.  Quinlan Terry.
  10.  I was quite wrong, Design as Outcome is not on the Brian Micklethwait Archive just yet. But it is here.
  11. Brutalist architecture or wartime Nazi bunker? I'll leave you to decide:



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