Ian Hamilton Finlay, Albert Speer, and the Ideology of the Aesthetic at Little Sparta and Spandau

  • Greg Thomas Independent Scholar
Keywords: Concrete poetry, Brazil, architecture, gardens, aesthetics


This article assesses the development of Ian Hamilton Finlay’s concrete and post-concrete aesthetics from his contact with Brazil’s Noigandres
poets in 1962 until his late-1970s correspondence with the architect and former Nazi minister Albert Speer. It considers Finlay’s work over this period, from early-1960s concrete poems evoking a private realm of formal order to counterfactual renderings of the same works on neoclassical and Third Reich architecture. The second half of the essay offers a reading of A Walled Garden, Finlay and Ian Gardner’s study of Speer’s garden on the grounds of Spandau prison. The article posits a gradual awakening of Finlay’s sense of the ideological quality of aesthetic judgement, culminating in works that ask troubling questions about the relationship between the socially unifying work of concretist aesthetics and the social repression and violence of Nazism.