I've promised reviews of new books about Boston for a while now but one must, in fairness, actually read the books one reviews. However, with an 18 month old in the house sustained reading time has been hard to find. I did make it through Jonathan Glancey's London: Bread and Circuses (Verso, 147pp). Glancey, the architecture critic for the London newspaper The Guardian, casts a wary eye on development in London with special reference to the period following the dissolution of the Greater London Council in the early 1980s. Perhaps the most interesting chapter however is his discussion of the development of the London Underground, especially the work of Frank Pick in the 1930s. Glancey notes that the London public transport system served not only a practical role, moving millions in and out of London on a daily basis, but a symbolic role. Pick's efforts for uniformity throughout the system helped establish a cohesive identity for the Tube and created a signature architecture for London. His efforts are well worth noting in our own era, where comprehensive planning is so often frustrated by market forces--look at the stalled Fan Pier project in the Seaport District as a prime example of how a large project can help determine planning priorities for an entire area. But what happens if that project is never built?
So in Boston it is well worth asking: what is our point of civic unity? The Freedom Trail might qualify but it encompasses only a small part of Boston and an even smaller part of Boston's history. Boston Common? Perhaps. The Boston Red Sox, especially after the World Series win? Right now it would seem that our best bet to is what we do with the opportunities generated by the completion of the Central Artery Project.
Jonathan Glancey's work can be found here.
I hope to write a few reviews in the near future of recently released books on Boston as well as a bibliographical essay of some older works on the city.