Architectural critic Ian Nairn was never one to mince his words: when he loved a building you knew about it, when he hated one, you feared for the architect's wellbeing.
A new edition of Nairn's 1964 book Modern Buildings in London — introduced by Travis Elborough — is a great excuse to bathe in the acerbic wit of one of London's great writers... and to see if we still agree with his sentiment 60 years on. Hold on to your hats, as we dig out some of our favourite quotes.
Bucklersbury House, City of London
It has no virtues and no vices: it is the null point of architecture, the base line for the judgments in the rest of the book. [It is also now long-demolished]
Various buildings, east of St Paul's
If by whim or temperament you want to find somewhere to say: 'Oh dear, the English!' then this is it. Every change has been rung on timidity, compromise and incompetence.
Newbury Park Underground station
An extraordinary bit of bravura from an architect who designs in every style; an old-style romantic in an age which wants its romanticism rough and rude, if at all.
Admiralty Citadel, The Mall
At first it seems a preposterous intrusion, even in summer when it is covered with creeper. Then, gradually, it becomes a glorious and very English folly, in a century which has far too little architectural sense of humour — something as incongruously appropriate as the Observatory at Greenwich. [We recently wrote an ode to this ungainly imposter]
United States Embassy, Grosvenor Square
One of the biggest disappointments in London. [It's no longer the US Embassy of course — that's now in Nine Elms, and if our sources are correct, Donald Trump LOVES it...]
Royal Festival Hall, South Bank
An extraordinary building. It nonplussed everyone when it was built, and after fifteen years public feeling still seems to be just as equivocal and disturbed... In a hundred years' time, after a concert, people will still leave out of key with its cerebral relentlessness.
Various buildings, Blackheath Park
If Eric Lyons is the modern Nash, then this is his Regent's Park.
After twenty years, this is still the best modern bridge in Britain. The only sad thing is that it replaced a masterpiece by Sir John Rennie; one arch of this is embedded in the abutment at the Waterloo end. And in its bridgeness it must outdo even Rennie.
Alton West Estate, Roehampton
A funny marriage between extreme talent and arrogance, so that it has good individual things but doesn't grow into a marvellous place.
Penguin Pool, Regent's Park Zoo
...meanwhile the penguins walk solemnly up and down their interlocking concrete spirals, a parody of every committee which ever decided about 'amenity' or 'the people' or 'urban pattern'. [There haven't been penguins here since 2004, but it's still seen as a classic piece of modernism]
Elephant and Castle, Rebuilding
The Elephant is chaotic at the moment and will be for years. [You said it, Ian]
15-19 Aubrey Walk, Kensington
This is, quite simply, a three-storey Regency terrace. Not a copy or a pastiche, but the real thing, designed by somebody who is living a century and a half out of phase.
The Hoop, Notting Hill Gate
This is the best modern pub interior in London. [This is now a Le Pain Quotidien]
The only engineering work in London with the grandeur and assurance of the best Victorian designs.
Empress State Building
A joke title for a joke of a building.
Stockwell Bus Garage
Probably the noblest modern building in London. [Couldn't agree more]
Eros House, Catford
This really is a building which says something in the town, with the same kind of panache as an Elizabethan house.
Arnos Grove Underground station
One of the classic Underground stations, as fresh as ever after thirty years, and much better than Holden’s own more elaborate later buildings. [Make that after 90 years]
London Airport (now Heathrow)
Very, very British. A tragi-comedy of muddle and architecture running at too low a voltage.
Uxbridge Underground station
The outside is a flashy piece of symmetry that just about ruins the centre of Uxbridge... [Don't be silly, Ian]
Modern Buildings in London by Ian Nairn with introduction by Travis Elborough, published by Notting Hill Editions.