Context 159 - May 2019

C O N T E X T 1 5 9 : M A Y 2 0 1 9 61 impact of industrialisation on towns and cities is seen graphically before the war with workshops and goods yards crowding around the stations, every inch of space being used for manufacturing and little scope given for the setting of the workers’ houses. Another shot of Bishopsgate (City of London), dated 1947, highlights the impact of bombing and the scars left on the dense urban scene. Post- war reconstruction follows: a vast panorama of Plymouth from 1962 shows how modern concrete blocks began their march across a transformed landscape now patterned with motor routes. Students of railways will be delighted to find termini, smaller stations and the broad swathes of tracks which formerly surrounded them abundantly featured. Other forms of infrastructure, such as viaducts, are seen from the unique viewpoint of an aircraft. The range from great city centres, where much fabric since lost to us is recorded, to small towns and stretches of coastline, provides a picture of England from the air to include its suburbs and beyond. A view of York and its city walls in 1921 shows open fields and hedgerows at a distance of only a few yards from the four curving platform roofs and the great hotel built next to the station from 1878 to 1896. In a view of Berkhamsted, the London and Birmingham Railway of 1833 sweeps through a narrow gap between the banks of the canal and the Norman motte- and-bailey castle only yards away. Perhaps even more than the motoring and maritime books that preceded it, the railway volume has a full text by this highly experienced author at each right-hand page opposite the beautifully printed images. It adds up to an account of the country’s topography, providing ample evidence of how the Victorians reshaped England both in town and country. Graham Tite, conservation officer The city seen Value in the View: conserving historic urban views Tom Brigden, RIBA Publishing, 2018, 160 pages, black and white illustrations, paperback, ISBN 978 1 859467 30 5, £32 Although published by the RIBA, this book is a detailed introduction to the topic, rather than a new or even refined methodology that has been adopted or endorsed by the RIBA. It has been distilled from a PhD study and is appropriately well-referenced, but its origins make it more a well-informed academic study than imperative guidance for professionals. However, it is worth closer attention by heritage professionals, to broaden understanding of the subject and the different approaches to it in different cities. Critical to the content of the book is the double- meaning of the word ‘value’: the value which a view adds to a townscape; and the personal values needed to appreciate it. Part 1: The Origins of the Protected View highlights the Elevated View and the first of the case studies: the Vedute di Roma and the view from Richmond Hill. Brigden sets out his pre-existing and questionable assumption that important views are globally valued almost solely through western values, which have been influenced by the picturesque artistic movement of the 18th and 19th centuries. This assumption almost suggests that it is only ‘western’ people with a knowledge of art history who can have an instinctive emotional response to an attractive scene. It is in denial of the millions of Chinese people who flock to Shanghai’s Bund to admire the view across the Huangpu River to the Oriental Pearl Tower. It is also remiss in failing to mention Shakkei, a fundamental principle of Japanese landscape and urban design that borrows or frames nearby or distant landscape and landmarks in such a way that it appears to be part of the garden or an essential component of the view from the garden. This technique has long been widely used in framing views of landmarks, such as the view of St Paul’s Cathedral from Richmond Hill through a ‘keyhole’ in the line of trees, identified in the London View Management Framework. Part 2: How Contemporary View Policies Operate explores five interesting case studies (London, Dresden, St Petersburg, Istanbul and Vancouver), providing an interpretation of the background to each city and how view protection tools have been used to greater or lesser effect. Throughout, Brigden discusses the role of Unesco and is somewhat critical of its Western- centric ideologies. However, Brigden’s study itself is restricted to threeWestern case studies and a further two that are at the eastern edge of the west. At no point does the book attempt to provide its own definition of the components of a view or make a distinction between a view and a vista or a