on 16 December 2013
Nairn was a great architectural writer, he wrote about the spirit of buildings rather than just the statistics. His guidebooks were an essential part of learning London in the later 20th Century. His journalism campaigning against the ugly and the mundane was brave and outspoken. His work and his legacy needed to be revived for this generation, and Darley and McKie have compiled a splendid volume. One for everyone who cares about their townscape.
on 31 May 2014
There is something rather austere and formal about the presentation of this otherwise wonderful biographical masterpiece. From the exceptionally drab front cover, the re-print of black and white photo's lacking the crisp clarity of modern digital reprographics, to the dull impenetrable type face, everything about its presentation says it will be a fusty book on an architectural commentator of yesteryear. Indeed, it shouts in its presentation of the mediocrity that our Hero abhorred, lacking the colour and vibrancy of its subject. A literary subtopia no less.
And yet...and yet... Buoyed by having seen the BBC4 documentary first, I stuck with it, and what treasures lay within. Darley and McKie capture the essence of a man, his passion, beliefs, excitement, fears, love and hate not just for the architecture of buildings, but of Place, and those responsible for moulding and shaping it. You can not help but wish you had met Nairn in his prime, shared with him his understanding and enthusiasm of the world we inhabit, what makes it succeed, and all to often what makes it fail. His understanding of people and community as the most important element of the built form was, arguably, ahead of his time and one can only wish there had been more Nairns around to rail against the loss of iconic buildings like the Euston Arch, but also the less well known, that stood in all our towns and added so greatly to our sense of being.
Darley and McKie bring the spirit of Nairn to a whole new generation (myself included), charting his rise to national prominence and his untimely and premature fall. I challenge you to read this wonderful collection of essays without feeling compelled to go and obtain your own copy of Nairn's London (soon to be re-printed) or Nairn's Paris and to experience him first hand for yourself.
on 14 May 2014
I came late to the discovery of this brilliant, sensitive and deeply committed writer and presenter. His depth of knowledge, enormous passion for his subject and prophetic commentary are impressive and his early death represented a tragic loss at a time when such views need to be heard and so much valuable architecture has already been lost. Can't recommend this highly enough!