City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

Ian Nairn: Words in PlaceI've been meaning to write about Gillian Darley and David McKie's book about Ian Nairn for ages now. Entitled 'Ian Nairn: Words in Place', it's a wonderful read about one of the most important characters in post-war British architecture and planning—albeit a character on the edge in more ways than one. (See an earlier post on 'Nairn's London'.) But I'll have to wait a bit longer for that. You could just pick up a copy for yourself.

However, I just watched a 2014 BBC4 documentary about Nairn, "The Man Who Fought the Planners: The Story of Ian Nairn", which some enterprising soul has generously uploaded to YouTube, and I thought I'd post it here too … while it lasts. Nairn's story is both inspiring and sad, in almost equal measure, but ultimately the former wins out, where Nairn himself lost. The documentary does a good job of telling his unique story, and the wider story of the wanton destruction of post-war Britain—particularly the North—that literally drove him to despair. It's shocking to see the degradation of our cities mirrored in Nairn's own personal demise. Yet the film also notes the increasing influence Nairn's work has had over time, and the continued relevance of his critique today. 

And I thought I'd note another old film I just chanced across, on a similar theme: Reyner Banham's 'A City Crowned with Green' (1964), which focuses on London, and its character and development. It's a lovely old film, and chock-full of insights, most of which still resonate today. It's also fascinating to hear Banham take apart Frank Pick, a person usually referred to with reverance in design circles, for enabling a particular kind of sprawl, dissolving the the city's distinctive qualities. Again, these are issues we're still unpicking today, as a recent statement by the London Society about the UK's 'green belt' makes clear (see also excellent article by Rowan Moore.)

You can watch the Banham film via the link below:
"A City Crowned with Green", by Reyner Banham (BBC, 1964)


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