Pimlico, 1970: Ian Nairn on council housing, human scale and low traffic neighbourhoods

Pimlico, 1970: Ian Nairn on council housing, human scale and low traffic neighbourhoods

Ian Nairn was an architecture critic, writer and broadcaster with a passionate interest in urban environments who wrote a celebrated book about London. His ideal of a city in which a “village” ethos was a defence against “subtopian” suburbs and the degradation of city centre areas brought about by destructive planning policies has since sustained a few bruising contacts with changing times, such as the mixed fortunes of post-war council estates and the powerful recovery of London’s economy from the end of the 1980s. But in the film about Pimlico he presented in 1970, embedded below, he articulates his philosophy with typical, slightly irritable, eloquence.

Fans and foes of London’s new Covid-era Low Traffic Neighbourhoods alike will enjoy his appreciation of Westminster City Council’s approach for inhibiting through-traffic: no planters, no cameras, no street closures but plenty of No Entry signs…

Read more about Ian Nairn here and here.

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Categories: Culture

1 Comment

  1. Ian Nairn was so right but was so ignored. What a tragedy for the UK, suffering as he says from urban sprawl and ‘sub-topia’. Why have we lost the adventurous spirit that produced the magnificent Park Hill estate in Sheffield and retreated into complacent housing stereotypes?

    Others have compared continental towns that are full of life because people live in the centre where the streets never die at night. We have this sort of development in parts of a few towns and cities in England but the people with homes near the facilities too often have other homes elsewhere, so there is little community gain.

    Our urban streets are of such mixed ownership they can rarely be adapted to follow a continental model. The new answer is in an ever increasing number of tower blocks – that’s not the answer. I have spoken in Parliament on this subject.

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