by Ian Nairn
A new edition of Britain’s Changing Towns by Ian Nairn (1967), introduced, edited and updated by Owen Hatherley.
“These essays show him writing about cities and towns as wholes rather than as collections of individual buildings. In each of them, there are several things happening at once – assessments of historic townscape, capsule reviews of new buildings, attempts to find the specific character of each place…”
Sixteen short essays on places as varied as Glasgow and Norwich, Llanidloes and Sheffield, by the finest English architectural writer of the twentieth century.
‘Nairn invented a way of looking, a way of writing.’ — Jonathan Meades
'It [Nairn's Towns] should be kept in the glove-box of every car...' Standpoint Magazine
‘Nairn’s emergence as a maverick, inspiring figure in midtwentieth century architectural writing (and broadcasting) was sudden, and his claim on the public’s attention all too brief . . . On a good day he could turn phrases like an angel and gave his readers, listeners and viewers insights others could only dream of. And he did this by ignoring all differences between high- and low-brow, between aristocracy and working class, between fine art and fine engineering.’ – Gillian Darley, AA Files
Ian Nairn (1930–1983) made his name with a special issue of the Architectural Review in which he coined the term ‘Subtopia’ for the areas around cities that had been failed by urban planning. He was largely responsible for the volumes on Surrey and Sussex in Nikolaus Pevsner’s Buildings of England series, and published two guidebooks, Nairn’s London (1966) and Nairn’s Paris (1968), as well as presenting several BBC television series. His work has influenced writers as diverse as J. G. Ballard, Will Self, Iain Sinclair and Patrick Wright.
Owen Hatherley is the author of the acclaimed Militant Modernism, a defence of the modernist movement, and A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain. He writes regularly for a variety of publications, including Building Design, Frieze, the Guardian and the New Statesman. He blogs on political aesthetics at nastybrutalistandshort.blogspot.com.