For those lucky enough to be in London this summer for the Olympics, we’ve decided to share a selection of beautiful Yale architecture and history books, which look at the city’s diverse and impressive range of buildings and historical features. London has a lot to offer, so make the most of it with these lovely books…
The London Square: Gardens in the Midst of Town by Todd Longstaffe-Gowan
During the Olympic Games, Russell Square in Bloomsbury will be home to the Olympic Media Hub, which provides transport for more than 5,000 media representatives from across the world. Pedestrian access to the park is not affected, and just as well, because Russel Square is one of the jewels in the crown of Bloomsbury, and is a fabulous example of the London Square.
Modern-day London abounds with a multitude of these squares, enclosed by railings and surrounded by houses, which attest to the English love of nature. These green enclaves are among the most distinctive and admired features of the metropolis and are England’s greatest contribution to the development of European town planning and urban form. Traditionally, inhabitants who overlooked these gated communal gardens paid for their maintenance and had special access to them. As such, they have long been synonymous with privilege, elegance, and prosperous metropolitan living. They epitomize the classical notion of rus in urbe, the integration of nature within the urban plan – a concept that continues to shape cities to this day.
In The London Square Todd Longstaffe-Gowan delves into the history, evolution, and social implications of squares, which have been an important element in the planning and expansion of London since the early 17th century. As an amenity that fosters health and well-being and a connection to the natural world, the square has played a crucial role in the development of the English capital.
Pevsner Guide to London (Volume 5: East) by Bridget Cherry, Charles O’Brien and Nikolaus Pevsner
East London is home to the London 2012 Olympic Village, and has seen enormous regeneration and development in the last few years. The buildings in the surrounding areas reflect a chequered history of economic change, social need, urban renewal, and conservation.
Along the Thames relics of a powerful industrial and maritime past at Wapping, Limehouse and the Isle of Dogs remain among the glossy new offices and smart riverside flats of the former Docklands. In the fast-changing historic East End, where the City edges ever closer, Hawksmoor’s monumental Baroque churches still tower over their surroundings, while Georgian houses of prosperous silkweavers are juxtaposed with philanthropic institutions which catered for the Victorian poor of Spitalfields, Whitechapel and Bethnal Green. The contribution of successive generations of immigrants is reflected in the variety of places of worship and cultural centres, from chapels to synagogues and mosques, while a century of social housing has produced innovative planning and architecture, now itself of historic interest.
Further out, in London-over-the-border, medieval churches and merchants’ country mansions lie embedded among the suburban streets of Walthamstow and Woodford, and proud civic buildings of the busy towns of Barking, Stratford, Ilford and Romford. On the outer fringes there are still fragments of the ancient Forest of Essex, and traditional rural buildings among the marshes and farmland of the Essex countryside. This volume covers the boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest. For each area there is a detailed gazetteer and historical overview. Numerous maps and plans, over one hundred specially-taken photographs and full indexes make this volume invaluable as both reference work and guide.
Pevsner Guide to London (volume 2: South) by Bridget Cherry
The South of London offers some fabulous public spaces that provide picturesque locations for Olympic events. Hampton Court Palace, the former royal residence based on the banks of the River Thames, provides a spectacular setting for the Road Cycling Time Trial, and Greenwich Park, London’s oldest Royal Park, provides a beautiful location for the Equestrian and Modern Pentathlon events.
These beautiful locations and more are included within the Pevsner Guide to London (volume 2: South), a uniquely comprehensive guide to the twelve southern boroughs. Its riverside buildings range from the royal splendours of Hampton Court and Greenwich and the Georgian delights of Richmond, to the monuments of Victorian commerce in Lambeth and Southwark. But the book also charts lesser known suburbs, from former villages such as Clapham to still rural, Edwardian Chislehurst, as well as the results of twentieth-century planners’ dreams from Roehampton to Thamesmead. Full accounts are given of London landmarks as diverse as Southwark Cathedral, Soane’s Dulwich Picture Gallery and the arts complex of the South Bank. The outer boroughs include diverse former country houses – Edward IV’s Eltham Palace, the Jacobean Charlton House, and the Palladian Marble Hill. The rich Victorian churches and school buildings are covered in detail, as are the exceptional structures of Kew Gardens.
This book is part of Pevsner’s 6-volume Guide to London.
Beyond the Tower: A History of East London by John Marriott
From Jewish clothing merchants to Bangladeshi curry houses, ancient docks to the 2012 Olympics, the area east of the City has always played a crucial role in London’s history. The East End, as it has been known, was the home to Shakespeare’s first theatre and to the early stirrings of a mass labour movement; it has also traditionally been seen as a place of darkness and despair, where Jack the Ripper committed his gruesome murders, and cholera and poverty stalked the Victorian streets.
In this beautifully illustrated history of this iconic district, John Marriott draws on 25 years of research into the subject to present an authoritative and endlessly fascinating account. With the aid of copious maps, archive prints and photographs, and the words of East Londoners from 17th-century silk-weavers to Cockneys during the Blitz, he explores the relationship between the East End and the rest of London, and challenges many of the myths which surround the area.
Zaha Hadid: Form in Motion by Kathryn Hiesinger and Patrik Schumacher
Those who haven’t heard of Iraqi-born British architect Zaha Hadid will certainly be aware of her work this summer. With its distinctive curved roof, Hadid’s London Aquatic Centre in Stratford will be the first venue visitors see upon entering the Olympic Park for London 2012, and will set the stage for some of the most exhilarating events of the Games. The distinctive building (Hadid describes it as being inspired by her work on ‘fluid morphology’) has already been described as a ‘triumph’ (The Telegraph).
Zaha Hadid: Form in Motion is a beautiful new book from Yale, that for the first time looks specifically at Hadid’s non-architectural output. This eye-opening book uncovers Hadid’s commercial designs, made between 1995 and 2011, as a means of exploring the interrelationships among architecture, urbanism and design that define her work.
The book is written by Kathryn Bloom Hiesinger, curator of European decorative arts after 1700 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Patrik Schumacher, a partner in the Hadid’s firm. The texts, photographs and drawings demonstrate Hadid’s groundbreaking use of technology in digital design and manufacturing, and the methods and processes that propel her revolutionary formal language. Truly a must-have for design students, architectural enthusiasts and lovers of innovative, trail-blazing art projects.
These titles are available to buy now from Yale University Press.