Sunday, 8 May 2016

Subtopia revisited >>> Counterattack on bad planning and bad architecture >>> Ian Nairn @ Radio 4

If you want an honest view of planning and architecture - and a pretty accurate understanding from sixty years ago - you could do no better than considering the critic Ian Nairn:
Futures Forum: Ian Nairn: Outrage at the failures of urban planning
Futures Forum: The Man Who Fought the Planners: Ian Nairn

He has been called 'the poet of place':
English Buildings: Poet of places
Ian Nairn: poet of place, enemy of arrogance - Telegraph
BBC - Nairn Across Britain, From London to Lancashire
Ian Nairn: poet of place, enemy of arrogance - Telegraph

Nairn brought several ideas to the fore - which are now well-understood, although still not generally put into practice.

"Destroying country without creating town":
Futures Forum: Cranbrook: an 'eco-town' no more
Futures Forum: The Cranbrook project >>> where's the town centre >>> the infrastructure >>> the 'growth point'?
Futures Forum: Cranbrook: where's the 'good design'?

Suburbia is an illusion:
Futures Forum: The End of Suburbia: ten years on
Futures Forum: For community and against sprawl ..... 'Strong Towns' and 'the end of the suburbs'

The removal of character:
Futures Forum: The aesthetics of development: power plants and windfarms
Futures Forum: "Caring about buildings ... is another way of caring about people."

The responsibilities of local authorities:
Futures Forum: Redeveloping East Devon >>> the alternatives to a heavy-handed approach

Here's an overview of Ian Nairn's book 'Counterattack', now sixty years old:
Ian Nairn, Townscape and the Campaign Against Subtopia 

And it was this which was the subject of an excellent overview on Archive on Four yesterday evening on Radio 4:

 Return to Subtopia

Listen in pop-out player

The distinguished architectural writer Gillian Darley retraces the story of "Subtopia", one of the most significant architectural debacles of the post-war era, and considers its long shadow.
Her story starts with Ian Nairn, the maverick young architectural journalist, who invented the word "Subtopia" in the mid-1950s, when the Architectural Review ran a campaign against unsightly clutter and the blurring of distinctions between town and country.
Nairn drew upon a recent road journey he had made, stating that the outcome of "Subtopia" would be that "the end of Southampton will look like the beginning of Carlisle; the parts in between will look like the end of Carlisle or the beginning of Southampton."
He continued uncompromisingly: "The whole land surface is becoming covered by the creeping mildew that already circumscribes all of our towns. Subtopia is the annihilation of the site, the steamrollering of all individuality of place to one uniform and mediocre pattern."
Gillian Darley brings together lively original archive featuring Nairn himself, Gilbert Harding, Sir Hugh Casson, Sir John Betjeman and others, to re-trace the story.
She talks on location in Southampton with the architectural photographer Gareth Gardner about his new project to re-trace and photograph once more the locations which Nairn visited. In studio, she explores the original and contemporary picture with the architect Janice Murphett, and the architectural writer, Gavin Stamp.
And she wonders whether, if the short-lived and unhappy Ian Nairn were alive today, what would he feel about the British landscape?

BBC Radio 4 - Archive on 4, Return to Subtopia

Other projects have been inspired by Nairn's work:
BBC Radio 4 - Archive on 4, Return to Subtopia - Return to Subtopia

His influence has brought results:
Futures Forum: Making the most of your heritage assets
Futures Forum: Neighbourhood plans: communities vs developers? >>> the examples multiply >>>

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