on 28 March 2008
Probably the saddest book I have read in a long time.
Your first impulse is to flick through the pictures and look at all the absolutely brilliant architecture and amazing places. You imagine that these old photographs depict locations (like Hull) that are now swarming with tourists and the pride of each of the listed cities. You then start skimming the text and captions and the true horror starts to dawn that pretty well everything shown in the book has been demolished. Finally, you discover that these cities were not destroyed by bombers, earthquakes or fire but by 20th century planners and insane `visionaries' who knowingly set out to annihilate the past and replace it with a new progressive future. Bear this book in mind the next time your hear about 'progress'.
The only thing missing is photographs showing what the depicted places look like now...but perhaps that would be too much to bear.
on 5 February 2009
I read this book with mounting fury that Britain's pre- and post-war planners could have been so dim-witted and lacking in appreciation for Britain's heritage. Stamp's account is the stuff of nightmares. The book is full of excellent photographs, some of them achingly beautiful, and the text, appropriately, has real bite. My only criticism is that it should have been longer. A fine book if you want to torture yourself over the loss of buildings and streetscapes that had history, beauty, life, integrity and character, so unlike the rubbish that replaced them. Buy it and weep.
on 3 January 2010
I'd agree with all the other reviews of this book. The photos are indeed the main glory of the book, supported by a perceptive and elgaic text. Most of the destruction we read about in this book was self-inflicted, if you consider that planning departments belong to us. There are so many other parallels, and as Gavin Stamp points out, a lot of the 60s and 70s mediocrity they created is being replaced. However by what? May I suggest often 80s, 90s and noughties mediocrity! An interesting point made by Stamp is the malign influence in many cases of the Universities for example in Edinburgh. I'd venture to suggest a similar influence is still at work in the recent (soon to end) University building boom - the recent example of Leicester and De Montfort University springs to mind - where the similar supine attitude of the Council figures large. So if you read this book, emerge into the present and let it inspire you to look around your own community!
on 19 April 2012
How can it not be bittersweet?
This is a pictorial history of some of the lost gems of British urban architecture. For obvious reasons, the volumes in black and white and goes through several key cities and shows how much they have changed.
Many are the as a consequence of the destruction during World War Two but one can't help marvel at the quaintness of cities such as Coventry which are subsequently rebuilt in ulgy modern styles.
I'm not one that just celebrates older styles, there are some gruesome examples of Victorian gothic in here as well.
The images are stunning and many include people just going about their business which adds to the context of the images. The text is authortative and well-laid out. The book is also over-sized so nothing is squeezed in. I found myself returning to this volume time after time to look at particular cities and view some of the lost sights.
A valuable addition for any one interested in buildings and history.
on 28 March 2010
Britains Lost Cities is excellent but do not use this site to order 'Lost London' which is a very similar book.
I read an article about 'Lost London' in the Sunday Times and was very keen to get a copy. I went to Amazon and tried to order a copy. I was out of stock as apparently it was very popular but the good news was you could register you interest and Amazon would email you when stocks came in. Great idea so that's what I did. About six weeks later I got an email saying they were in stock so I went back on the Amazon site and ordered it. Job done or so I thought and I ordered Lost Cities on Amazon's recommendation.
A couple of days later, out of the blue, I had an email from Amazon saying the order had been cancelled for that book. The other book I ordered arrived. No explanation and no offer of a reorder so I ordered it off the English Heritage website. It arrived 2 days later! Black mark to Amazon.