The Twentieth Century Society

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Britain's Front Door, Nairn's Back Yard: Westminster and Pimlico FULLY BOOKED

Britain's Front Door, Nairn's Back Yard: Westminster & Pimlico - FULLY BOOKED

Saturday 8th April

led by Robin Bishop, Gillian Darley and Peter Ruback  

Ian Nairn was a powerful advocate for and critic of Britain’s postwar architecture, with an audience well beyond polite architectural circles. Westminster and Pimlico were his home territory. He worked initially at the Architectural Press in Queen Anne’s Gate, lived in Pimlico until his death in 1983 and famously drank in the local pubs.

This walk is around his old stamping ground. Topographically, it comprises the sort of mongrel urbanism that appealed to him: "Embedded in this mish-mash there are marvels," he asserts – adding characteristically, "but they never cohere".

It starts with the grand buildings of Pall Mall, including New Zealand House which we hope to be able to access, and then proceeds though St James Park and Victoria Street – the latter having been largely rebuilt, in some cases twice, since Nairn’s earliest writings.

At the other end – both geographically and stylistically – are, as Nairn wrote, "the well-built, dull, regular streets of Pimlico, where after five years’ residence you may still not be able to find your way home". As well as the dull regular streets, we will see the highly imaginative yet civilised housing schemes of Crown Reach and Lillington Street.

It is a district that illustrates Nairn’s critical trajectory: from initial enthusiasm for UK modern architecture to anger and disillusionment at the architects and planners he saw as letting down London.

For an engaging, if idiosyncratic, preview of this part of London almost 50 years ago, see the COI film showing Nairn on his home turf: 

Booking for this event will close on Monday 3rd April as New Zealand House require a list of attendees.

Start 1.50pm at the Duke of York Steps (top) London SW1Y 5AJ (Nearest stations Charing Cross and Piccadilly Circus)

Finish 5:30pm – in Pimlico, probably followed by a visit to one of Nairn’s locals

Members £18  Non Members £25

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