Welcome to Subtopia – Nairn’s Paris reviewed

Ian Brunskill reviews Nairn's Paris in the TLS: Ian Nairn was ten days short of his fifty-third birthday when he died in 1983. A sympathetic Times obituary described him as “an architectural and planning missionary with a rare talent for writing about these subjects in language the uninformed could understand, and that could arouse in them a sense of personal involvement. As a consequence he exerted a pervasive influence on public as well as professional opinion, and on official policies”.

That’s a faintly bureaucratic way of putting it, a way that Nairn would never have put it himself, but it’s accurate enough. What it doesn’t convey is how Nairn’s rare talent and public influence were concentrated into just two decades of restless activity. In his mid-twenties he established himself almost overnight as one of the twentieth century’s most distinctive writers on architecture, planning and conservation; an important, insistent voice, impossible to ignore in the debates that raged…

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