• Bricks and Words #1: ‘Carscapes’

    Today I’m starting something new; on the last Friday of each month throughout this year, I’ll be choosing and saying a few words around a book about or involving architecture, cities or the built environment that I’ve found compelling, useful, beautiful or thought-provoking over the last couple of decades or so. They’re a real mix, including fiction, works with a political slant, populist publications and conventional monographs – the mosaic below gives a few hints. Not all are in print, but they can all be tracked down easily enough through second hand book shops, online resellers or specialised public reference collections. Each is well worth the effort. We start with…

    Carscapes: The Motor Car, Architecture and Landscape in England by Kathryn A. Morrison, John Minnis (Yale University Press for The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art in association with English Heritage, 2012)

    No single invention has had a greater impact on this green and pleasant land than the car. A century of building, selling, keeping, using, parking and scrapping the automobile has left a fascinating legacy of structures associated with each of those stages in its life cycle, and this superb book, accessible but thoroughly researched, tells the complete story. It records powerful, amusing and workaday examples of what one could call ‘carchitecture’ from across the nation, from destination restaurants overlooking motorways and hotels perched on top of multi-storey car parks to Art Deco showrooms and filling stations that look like cottages. You can also explore the country’s last surviving mechanical car park, included thanks to a tip off from yours truly. The book grew out of an in-depth thematic survey of the subject, and it will open your eyes to the myriad of buildings that we have designed solely because of the presence of the car. I guarantee it will change the way you look at the next drive you take.

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Chris Rogers writer on architecture and visual culture

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