Over the top, into no man’s land…
The purpose of this blog is to host a quixotic project of mine; I will attempt to visit all the sights in Ian Nairn’s 1966 masterpiece Nairn’s London, shortly to be reprinted for the first time in decades. Jonathan Meades rightly points out that this tour-de-force succeeds as a piece of extraordinary writing, and that only the most witless would carry it into the streets and actually use it as a guide book; this always struck me as a call to arms.
Large parts of 2014’s London will of course be unrecognisable from the London of 1966, as Wren has given way to Renzo and Cockney to Jafaican. Robert Peston wrote the other day that London was one of six new city-states that controlled the world’s capital (completing this rogue’s gallery were New York, Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo). I thought it might be instructive -if depressing- to see what has survived, what has had its function changed or withdrawn, what has vanished altogether.
It would feel rather a cop-out to simply take photos and copy out the brilliant, highly individualistic opinions of a dead man, so I shall attempt to give my personal impressions of the places I visit. I make no claim to speak with authority, as my training in architecture is comparable to my training in photography (nil); nor do I claim to be able to read a place “like a detective novel”, but I’ll give it a go.
I will deviate from Nairn’s itinerary if anything off-the-list catches my roving eye, and I might break the routine by writing about other places which I have visited, yearn to visit, or are simply on my mind.