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Book Review of “Spectacular Vernacular: London’s 100 Mos...

Book Review of “Spectacular Vernacular: London’s 100 Most Extraordinary Buildings”

In “Spectacular Vernacular: London’s 100 Most Extraordinary Buildings,” David Long takes the reader through central London to discover its least known yet extraordinary buildings. As disclosed in the book’s introduction, the author aims at attracting both London visitors and longtime residents’ attention to some of the least celebrated buildings and structures of the English Capital.

In "Spectacular Vernacular: London's 100 Most Extraordinary Buildings," David Long takes the reader through central London to discover its least known yet extraordinary buildings. As disclosed in the book's introduction, the author aims at attracting both London visitors and longtime residents' attention to some of the least celebrated buildings and structures of the English Capital.

London street, Davide D'Amico

In the words of the author, “the lack of an urban master plan … means that in London … the chief glory lies … in its many historic and often highly individual buildings.” This does not mean, however, that all the structures in this book are state of the art architectural realizations; even if some buildings feature extravagant features, many of them have a rather lower profile and discreet appearance -while others are even considered failures.

The book is subdivided into ten chapters categorizing the described structures according to their function. Each chapter contains a selection of six to fifteen buildings. These range from private residences and clubs to military structures, public facilities, guildhalls, and buried transportation infrastructure. Whether these structures are overlooked because of familiarity or simply out of neglect, they all share either exceptional architectural features or an interesting history. As a matter of fact, all the buildings chosen by David Long are havens of history. And whether they date back to middle ages or to our contemporary era, each one of them tells a part of the history of London and Londoners and brings a new understanding to readers of some known and lesser known British traditions.

London parliament facade detail, Josullivan.59

Some of buildings in this book are still in use, others are abandoned, but most have gone through a series of renovations, rehabilitation and repurposing. Most of them are also not accessible to the public or accessible only upon special requests and on special occasions. David Long is therefore handing readers in this book a special opportunity to discover some of London’s hidden gems through his highly visual descriptive writing style and a very keen attention to detail. To illustrate each description, the two-page to three-page texts are followed by one or two black and white pictures that put the reader in context.

The extensive use of anecdotes and Long’s subtle English humor makes this book an easy and flowing read. I’ve never been to London and this book really made me think about planning a trip to the renowned English capital in the near future. I know then that, when I do, I will definitely be taking “Spectacular Vernacular” along.

Do you use architecture or history books as travel guides? Are there any special ones that you would recommend?

“Spectacular Vernacular: London’s 100 Most Extraordinary Buildings” is a The History Press publication. The Grid is giving away three FREE e-copies of the book. Make sure you go to the Rafflecopter Giveaway to enter to win your free copy of “Spectacular Vernacular.” 

“Spectacular Vernacular: London’s 100 Most Extraordinary Buildings” by David Long was first published in 2006 by Sutton Publishing. It was reprinted again in 2007 and 2008. The first eBook edition was published in 2012.

Credits: Images by Davide D'Amico and Jossullivan.59. Data linked to sources.

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