Thursday, October 4

Who was Ian Nairn?

"Before Jane Jacobs, before James Howard Kunstler, before David Sucher, there was Ian Nairn. Much of what's best in his writings is his sensitivity to streets, to ensembles, to juxtapositions, to places--the whole panoply of what we call urbanism. And Nairn is, more than any architecture critic I've ever read, attuned to and ready to describe how places affect all the five senses."

from an enthusiastic blog post a few years back.

Given that there are only a limited number of us Nairns in the world, my curiosity is peaked a little when I come across the name. I've seen Ian Nairn referenced a few times in urbanist discussions, but all of his books are out of print and not available at any of the libraries around here.

He is known for his delight in cities, particularly London, that maintain their unique characteristics and traditional sense of place. He named the post WWII urge toward a global monotony subtopia, and spent the later years of his short life wielding a pen against it. Yet, on the other hand, he appears to have come out in favor of modernist architecture in general. A little puzzling to me.

I'll have to keep my eyes open for his name in the future.


Hector Superb said...

You may be interested to learn that there is a group on Flickr called Nairn's London. Here, you will see photos of the places and buildings which Ian Nairn commented on in "Nairn's London"

David M said...

Nain was a hero of mine when I studied history of architecture at school. I remember getting 'Outrage' from the library. Recently got a used copy [from San Francisco!] I am now 66 and been out in Brecon this morning photographing just those ghastly things he raged about - not a lot has changed and planners are still philistines!

Gillian Darley said...

there's quite a lot stirring on Ian Nairn - I'm concentrating on his time in the US at the moment and will be giving a paper at a Townscape conference in London in July as well as writing a piece, Ian Nairn and Jack Kerouac, on the Road, for a Five Leaves Books publication on mapping, forthcoming in August 2011. If copyright allows, David McKie and I are planning a kind of annotated anthology, for 2013.