Real pubs and proper locals

Appreciating the small and personal places with Nairn’s London

In the past few years at Something More Near we have worked with a wide range of companies and organisations working in cities, places and the built environment. This has ranged from areas of London being transformed by new housing and educational institutions to dense city centres such as Milan’s adapting to 21st century working.

What we find really interesting about these projects is the huge differences of scale that we find ourselves working at. We find ourselves needing to meaningfully thread them together, whether with architects master-planning new districts to the local butcher who knows more about the street than any of us ever will.

Locked down in London, one book I keep returning to is Nairn’s London, a unique compendium of the city’s architecture, published in the 1960s by architectural critic Ian Nairn. Unlike anything else you’ll read, it veers between the historic, the educational and the highly subjective and opinionated, frequently punctuated by detailed descriptions of the pub interiors of London. It’s an amazing reference point for what has changed since it was written, and what has always been changing in the city.

There’s probably a lot more you could write about what Nairn can tell us about the lived experience of a place and how much we need a variety of open spaces, experiences and delights. But most of all, I wanted to share a quote this week when our public spaces (in particular pubs) are closing down again to remind us what we’re missing:

“Just off Baker Street; a real pub, a proper local… tiny cubicles with high walls and two chairs, places for romantic indiscretion or flogging atomic secrets… Here is a permanent deflation of the idea of average man. There are big bars and small bars, with different users and needs. That’s all, and it is more than enough”