To celebrate publication of the first two volumes in a new series from Pevsner, we asked Pevsner publisher Sally Salvesen some questions about the architecture books everyone is waiting to get their hands on – Pevsner Introductions.
Yale: Nikolaus Pevsner is one of the names most associated with writing about buildings, but for people new to Pevsner, what’s special about these Introductions?
Sally Salvesen: The county volumes of The Buildings of England and the rest of the Pevsner series can seem quite intimidating for people with just a little experience of architectural history. With this new series we want to offer books that give readers, church crawlers and house hunters confidence in understanding what they are looking at. Buildings from all over the country are used as examples of particular styles and developments. So the hope is that after reading these Introductions people will feel better informed and well-grounded in the subjects. We’ve been able to include lots of photographs that help to illustrate the points made.
Y: Pevsner Guides in their recognisable livery have always had collectable quality, lending themselves to their own bookshelf. The new guides depart from traditional Pevsner branding, and are all set to inspire a new generation of Pevsner ‘shelfies’. How did this covetable new look come about?
SS: We’ve been particularly lucky to work with David Pearson of Type as Image on the series look. David comes from the perfect background for us. He started his career in the text design department of Penguin, and all the Pevsner typography also originated there. We still use the type spec drawn up by the great typographer Hans Schmoller in 1950. David was also the designer of Penguin’s Great Ideas series. He has a wonderful sense of how to combine the serious and the playful to create themes that run from one book to another with great strength. He came up with a look that uses relevant architectural elements for each topic, juxtaposing them with a very light touch. He’s recently been appointed a Royal Designer for Industry, which puts him right at the top of the league.
SS: The next book to appear in this livery will be a revised edition of Pevsner’s Architectural Glossary – it will include plenty more terms and we hope to have more images too. That will be accompanied by an updated version of the app, including the much-loved audio pronounciations, recorded by our editors Simon Bradley and Charles O’Brien. Then after that Simon, who is a best-selling railway author as well as being one of the two in-house Pevsner writers, will be producing the Transport volume in Spring 2017. It will cover a wide range of topics from airports and railway buildings, to motorway service stations and lock-keepers’ cottages.
Y: Dream author? The Pevsner Introductions have already paired energetic architecture experts with two favourite architectural forms – houses and churches. If you could pick a celebrity author for a new volume, what might that pairing be?
SS: This is fun – lots of thoughts spring to mind. I’d like Will Self to do Towns, and Jonathan Meades to tackle Industry. But on the other hand, I’d hate to give anyone the impression that only men can write well about architecture, so, in that case, Gillian Darley should do Towns – she’d bring a wonderful sense of topographical richness to it, and Elain Harwood, author of Space, Hope and Brutalism, as well as the Pevsner City Guide to Nottingham, should do Modern.