Monday, 31 October 2011

English Scheme Revisited

Ian Nairn was an ex RAF pilot, architectural writer & topographer who came to fame in 1955 with "Outrage", a special edition of the Architectural Review in which he waxed angrily about the state of the built environment.  He believed that Britain was well on the way to becoming a homogenous sprawl, with city, town, village and countryside all but indistinguishable from one another.  He called this state Subtopia.

"Outrage" was followed by "Counter Attack" (1957), which restated the problems and proposed ways of tackling them (which amounted to a call for greater vigilance and a refusal to put up with things as they were).

"Your England Revisited" (1964) was his third stab at subtopia, and while not exactly a weary sigh of resignation, it does have an air of "Okay, let's go over this one more time, shall we?" to it.

All three books are heavily illustrated with photographic examples of what Nairn considered good and bad practice (mostly bad).

What makes them especially GRATE is Nairn's concern for details, which means lots of straightforward photos of ordinary things: lamp posts, fences, paths, roundabouts, hedges, pylons etc.

Nice wee biog by Jonathan Glancey here: Ian Nairn


  1. he did a TV series too right?

    seem to remember it getting repeated in the early 90s and my flatmate then (the guy who later did the Classic Cafes book)saying 'you should watch this'

    either that or he'd somehow procured video tapes of it

  2. He did! "Nairn Across Britain". An early 70s job. There's a good description of it here, which speaks of the loan of "a 1990 VHS tape":

    Sounds like a Jonathan Meades type of thing, only more cross, less detached.