London, Third Edition
The Unique City
The author, a Danish architect and town-planner, published his book on London to show his compatriots that they had a 'great deal to learn from that form of civilization in which London has taken the lead'. It aroused wide interest in the Scandinavian countries. Later he felt that it was of even more importance to tell the English, 'that civilization which we admire and imitate as best we can'.
His is not an architectural book; yet it gives more about London buildings that matter to the Londoner – the houses in the West End and Bloomsbury squares, the suburban villas and semi-detached houses, the East End cottage-dwellings, and why they have developed in their particular way – than any architectural work. As the writer sees it, the influences that have moulded London are: a constitutional monarchy living outside, if close to, London, a strong and independent trading class, jealous of its rights and especially of its rights to open spaces and the pursuit of sport; and its inhabitants' 'utter ignorance of what was being said and done in other countries'. The importance of sport to the people is a theme to which he constantly returns; 'sport', he says, 'is the music of the Englishman'. The difference between London and the Continental city is to him complete – the spreading city and the compact city. After reading his deeply-studied, diverting and original book London will be seen with new eyes. Its pages seem to illuminate the city from within.