‘Without any doubt, London is one of the best cities in the world for modern architecture. But it is also one of the biggest cities in the world, and it does not make a display of its best things. A visitor looking for new buildings in the City and the West End might well be justified in turning away with a shudder. Yet delightful things may be waiting for him in Lewisham or St. Albans.’ Ian Nairn, from the ‘Foreword’ to Modern Buildings in London. As one of the few architectural critics to eschew purely aesthetic modes of analysis, Ian Nairn’s timeless books on modern urban cities have been hailed as some of the most significant writing about contemporary Britain, while also being praised as alternative ‘guidebooks’ for curious travellers. First published in 1964, Modern Buildings in London celebrates the character of buildings that were immediately recognisable as ‘modern’ in 1964, many of which were not the part of the well-known landscape of London but instead were gems that Nairn stumbled across. Written ‘by a layman for laymen’, Nairn’s take on modern design includes classic buildings such as the Barbican, the former BBC Television Centre and the Penguin Pool at Regent’s Park Zoo as well as schools, old timber yards, ambulance stations, car parks and even care homes.
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