Ian Nairn: a distinctive voice on urbanism

6b89a25a-3d45-4195-a53e-19a482c559e6Matthew Engel at The Financial Times:

Nairn didn’t even have a script: he pottered round in his Morris Minor convertible, saw buildings he either loved or loathed, said his piece, usually looking uneasy and unsociable, and moved on. He was a hugely influential figure in alerting the populace to the disasters created by the architect/planner/government-knows-best attitude that prevailed.

The critic Deyan Sudjic sees him as one of four men who shaped the way Britain saw its architecture 30 and 40 years ago, along with the cataloguer Nikolaus Pevsner, the lyrical nostalgist John Betjeman and the Los Angeles-lover Reyner Banham. Pevsner and Betjeman have never gone out of fashion; Banham’s exuberant theories have not weathered well.

Nairn, meanwhile, was the youngest of the four but the first to die – in 1983, aged 52, of cirrhosis. The drink had already done for his career as both a broadcaster and writer. For two decades he had blazed across the scene, first in the architectural press, then in books, finally on TV and in the Sunday newspapers. The creative industries have some tolerance for wayward geniuses but it is always finite, especially when alcohol makes them intolerable, and Nairn had stretched the tolerance beyond its limits. The obeisances were muted when he died, and then he was largely forgotten.

more here.