There have been several books and articles recently on an iconoclast:
December 6, 2013 6:47 pm
Ian Nairn: flight from Subtopia
Ian Nairn: flight from Subtopia - FT.N
Futures Forum: The Politics of Architecture: choosing bricks and mortar
Ian Nairn, a brilliant, idiosyncratic architectural critic in print, on radio and television from the mid-Fifties to the mid-Seventies, was partial, passionate and political, to borrow Baudelaire’s resounding dictum. But his politics are sometimes hard to see clearly. In his introduction to the reissue of Nairn’s Towns (Notting Hill, £12), Owen Hatherley calls him a “Tory anarchist”; but he’s perhaps better described as a selective humanist: “Brighton is what London might be like if the duchess, the spiv and the cockney were left and the great grey middle was rinsed away.”
Ian Nairn: Words in Place, by Gillian Darley and David McKie, review - Telegraph
Nairn is one of those figures who is unknown to most people but worshipped by a small cult of enthusiasts. 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. Writers and journalists love him, mainly because he writes beautifully but also because he was himself a hack of sorts. He had no architectural training. He turned out weekly columns for 20 years – first in the Observer, for a bit in the Telegraph and finally in the travel pages of Harold Evans’s The Sunday Times. He was a hack who wrote in an original way, though. As Meades says (in an essay collected in Museums Without Walls), “there is a long tradition of journalists who don’t write journalese”. Nairn belongs in that.
He was a literary romantic, with a poetic sensibility and an interest in human personality. He had many heroes and he celebrated them – Soane, Thomas Harris in Chester, John Foster in Liverpool, modernists like Eric Lyons, but most of all John Nash – “the lazy, careless, semi-scrupulous, plebeian and, I suspect, rather lovable John Nash”. He dedicated his best book, Nairn's London, to Nash.
His real subject was his emotional response to buildings and places – pungent, highly subjective, often wistful. That is the attraction. The following clip shows him as if he might be about to start crying, his voice trembling, in Northampton Market Square with its doomed arcade ("It's a bit difficult to talk about the arcade at the moment… If this turns out to be an obituary I'm very sorry…"). Note also his Morris Minor.
Ian Nairn: poet of place, enemy of arrogance - Telegraph
Ian Nairn's voice of outrageIan Nairn's voice of outrage | Art and design | The Guardian
Outrage revisited | Art and design | The Guardian
Ian Nairn - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia