ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.



January 2023



How to Read London by Chris Rogers

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
People without a background in architecture who are interested in learning about the different styles they see around London.

In a nutshell:
Author Rogers provides two-page overviews of major architectural landmarks across the (primarily northern part of) London.

Worth quoting:

Why I chose it:
I was in a museum bookshop and had seen it before. Also, I find so much of London architecture interesting, but also a lot of it pretty depressing.

What it left me feeling:
Far-sighted (the font is super tiny)

This 250-page book is printed in two colors, which is my first issue. I get why they did it – I believe that full color would be super expensive. At the same time – black and white pictures of buildings in a book on architecture just isn’t sufficient. I want to see the detail and how it really looks. So right away, I was a bit bummed.

Author Rogers breaks the book down into architectural eras / styles: 17th century, Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian, Moder, New Elizabethan, and Contemporary. Within each era he picks maybe 15 buildings to focus on, and starts with one page of information that sums of the style of the era. Each building has a black and white photograph and an overview paragraph, along with the location, date, and architects. On the opposite page are detailed drawings of different relevant aspects of the building – sometimes it’s the floor plan, or the facade, or some other notable feature. Each of those features has a paragraph (in seriously tiny font) providing further information. At the end of each section is a map of London pointing out where to find each of the previously discussed buildings.

I enjoyed reading through this, though I definitely did not read every bit in detail, as there was a LOT of information to take in. I enjoyed reading about the buildings that I was familiar with (including one that I go to for work on occasion). But there was both a lot of information and not quite as much as I hoped there would be. I think maybe I would have enjoyed more up front information about each era? More of a discussion around the different places it could be found, not just the specific highlighted buildings? Also, as someone who lives in South London, I did find it annoying that there were very few buildings included that were more than a block south of the Thames.

Finally, for me, and I know taste is subjective, but the New Elizabethan style? Ooof, that is not for me. I find those buildings depressing as hell to look at.

Recommend to a Friend / Keep / Donate it / Toss it:
Keep (for reference)


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