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Boom Cities Reviews

Boom Cities by Otto Saumarez Smith (Assistant Professor in Architectural History, University of Warwick)

Boom Cities

Architect Planners and the Politics of Radical Urban Renewal in 1960s Britain

Otto Saumarez Smith (Assistant Professor in Architectural History, University of Warwick)

Score pending

2 reviews

Category: History, Non-fiction
Imprint: Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 26 Mar 2019
ISBN: 9780198836407

In this volume, Otto Saumarez Smith recounts the fraught history of the urban development of British city centres in the 1960s, uncovering the planning philosophy, and the political, cultural, and legislative background that created the conditions for these transformations to occur across the country.

4 stars out of 5
29 May 2019

"well-stocked with interesting and revealing facts"

If you can’t begin to imagine how pedestrian precincts, underpasses, multistorey car parks and other grim locations for TV crime dramas once embodied a born-again vision of modern Britain, Otto Saumarez Smith probably won’t change your mind.

But if you’re interested in the motives that inspired the wholesale reshaping of our town and city centres in the Sixties, he has a tale worth telling... Saumarez Smith is determined neither to blame nor mock. But his even-handedness - laudable in a thesis-writer, less so in a narrative historian – makes little effective distinction between the thoughtful interventions and the acts of architectural Blitzkrieg. We seldom glimpse the political landscape beyond the architect’s office or council chamber (Precinct People were apparently untouched by the Cuban Missile Crisis or the Vietnam War).


4 stars out of 5
27 Mar 2019

"(a) detailed and engrossing book"

That the book ends with a sense of “tragedy” and “intense disillusionment” is less of a judgement on the characters involved and more on the inherent penny-pinching – or money-misdirecting, perhaps – of the British political class when presented with the chance to create a dignifying, elevating, equalising public realm. The strength of Boom Citieslies in its insistence that blaming individuals for the failures of a whole political and economic system is too easy. It makes us see the things that should have been different, and the ways in which they could still be.