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Nairn's London (Penguin Modern Classics) Mass Market Paperback – 6 Nov 2014

4.9 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (6 Nov. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141396156
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141396156
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 1.7 x 18 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 107,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

A masterpiece ... Nairn was a poet ... Nairn's London belongs to no genre save its own, it is of a school of one ... There is barely a page which does not contain some startling turn of phrase (Jonathan Meades)

Once you discover him, which in my case was through my dad's copy of Nairn's London, you want to read everything he's written ... He was a literary romantic, with a poetic sensibility (Andrew M. Brown Daily Telegraph)

He taught us how to look (Deyan Sudjic)

One of the finest and most evocative books ever written about a city ... He could see beauty where others just saw dirt, chaos and decay. He delighted in the obscure ... it took me to wonderful buildings and unusual places I probably would not otherwise have discovered. Everything he wrote is worth rereading. During his short, furious, productive career, Ian Nairn had a more beneficial effect on the face of Britain than any other architectural writer of his time ... a great and hugely rewarding book (Gavin Stamp)

His attacks on the banality of Britain's postwar buildings made Ian Nairn an inspiration for a generation of architectural critics. (Jonathan Glancey Guardian)

Arguably the finest architectural writer of the twentieth century ... vivid, sensual descriptions of buildings, a way of writing about architecture that I'd never imagined possible before ... his masterpiece ... a work of architectural criticism and architectural history of huge sophistication and erudition, a rum, bawdy and drunken dance up a back alley, a hymn to those rare moments where the individual and the collective meet (Owen Hatherley)

One of the best and oddest guidebooks to any city ever written (Simon Bradley Evening Standard)

He had the gift of the potent image, making buildings and places animate or human ... anyone who cares even slightly about their surroundings should be intensely grateful ... His common themes are a passion for character, distinctiveness, contrast and surprise, for the unselfconscious and the visceral, and a matching loathing for the statistical, the phoney, the cold, the tepid, the routine, the indifferent and for what he called the "prettification" of places ... His approach was personal and visual, to capture emotional reactions in front of buildings, and record them with literate beauty (Rowan Moore Observer)

Ian Nairn taught me and a lot of us to look at the world (David Thomson)

About the Author

Ian Nairn (1930-1983) was a hugely influential and pugnacious architectural critic, inventor of the crushing term 'subtopia' and central to the growth of the British conservation movement. He co-wrote with Nikolaus Pevsner the Sussex volume in the Buildings of England series. London was his great obsession and Nairn's London his lasting monument. He once paid his wife the compliment of stating that she 'would certainly have been in Nairn's London had she only been made of brick or stucco'.


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Ian Nairn was a popular architectural historian, whose conception of the city as a product of its people and their way of life was distinctive in the fifties and sixties. But he was also nostalgic; he not only appreciated the heritage of London for its own sake, but believed the impulse and the people who had created it were being betrayed and swept aside. His guide captures London at an important transitional moment. Ships still delivered spice in bulk to wharves within sight of the City, but the repair of London after the second war was almost completed - often in a cheap and nasty way, despite the pretence of urban planning - and the modern idea of renewal as an economic activity in itself was only just taking hold. Nairn glimpses that trend but his focus is on what is left of the past, which he describes enjoyably, though sometimes in the manner of a man crying over his beer at closing time.
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By Rough Diamond TOP 500 REVIEWER on 3 Dec. 2014
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a marvellous book. It's simultaneously an aesthetic manifesto, a treatise in practical mysticism, a compendium of good tips on where to drink, a brilliant collection of one-liners, and as thorough a primer on how to see as anything written by John Berger. It's also probably the most opinionated, prejudiced and selective guide book on London ever written. From it, you can trace a direct line of descent to Iain Sinclair's psychogeographies of the capital, Peter Ackroyd's sensitivity to London's mystical leylines, and Jonathan Meades' sheer bloody minded curmudgeonliness. Ian Nairn is the daddy of them all, and this is his masterpiece.

Congratulations to Penguin Books for making such a fantastic job of the reprint.
This has the perfect look and feel of the 1966 edition: right size, right texture, and a generous slab of black and white photos in the middle. For anyone of the right temperament, this would make a magnificent Chriatmas gift. Otherwise, you really owe it to yourself to get this.
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Masterpiece. Great to find this reprinted. Nairn expresses himself in a very idiosyncratic way; his views are backed up by great knowledge; and he reviews structures and environments with perception and humour. Others have put this all more adequately but I found myself flicking through the whole book in a hotel bed at one "lying"!
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I'm so glad that this has been reprinted because prices being asked for the original were ridiculous. If you know London this is a great read even though the city it comments on is nearly 50 years changed. On many things I don't agree with Nairn, but his views are always put over strongly and in a very entertaining manner. For me that is the sign of a great writer.
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A great book that has been out of print for years. It was written in 1966 but London endures. Nairn writes beautifully about a city he clearly adores and has an eye for both the beautiful and the quirky. Most of all he picks up on the thinks that we city dwellers just miss every day. Perfect for dipping into and thinking " I must look up next time I'm on that street" Sadly some of it has been lost to developers but it is all preserved in this lovely book
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A Lovely book you will never get tired of going back to as the late great Ian Nairn gives his erudite and quirky views on places and buildings in London some now long demolished,but still lovely to read about from the perspective of this great and learned man.
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This 60s book on London is fantastic. His disillusionment with the expediency of developers is tragic, and premonitory.

I wonder what Nairn would have made of London today? Certainly the presumptions of the brutalists failed to materialise, and the carving out of entire neighbourhoods, and in particular, the pubs, have borne out his criticisms. But what would he have made of the 'villaging' of Southbank, the Tate Modern, and hipster-bankrolled rejuvenation of proper beer, and restoration of pubs?
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This is a guidebook unlike any other, and should be read for its wonderful prose and dramatic description of a time largely gone. If you're interested in London, architecture and powerful opinions then it is a must.

Ian Nairn acquired a legendary status as an angry young man of architecture in the 1960s and 1970s, and he wrote numerous articles, books and TV programmes before his early demise in the 1980s from alcholism. This book (a reprint of the 1966 original) is the pinnacle of his achievements and, as befits its author, isn't the conventional guidebook that picks out the main tourist spots or architecturally significant buildings in Greater London. Instead, and in Iain Nairn's own words it is "a record of what has moved me between Uxbridge and Dagenham". As such it covers not only many significant buildings in Central London but also alleyways, pubs, viewpoints as well as buildings perhaps only really known within their own locale.

Reading the book makes you want to rush out and visit the places he mentions or at least sit with a London A-Z and the internet to hand to find out more. Sadly, much has changed since this book was written and many of the places he describes have since disappeared or at least changed utterly. What Ian Nairn would make of these places now is easy to imagine given the strong opinions he expresses throughout his writing on what he found on his initial visit. Whilst it contains accurate and clear architectural and historical background to the places included, it is these opinions that moves it in to a league of its own.
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