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WR-AP Book Club - Public House

Updated: Jan 20, 2022

Hello and welcome to the first instalment of the WR-AP practice book club! In this new monthly series, a member of our lovely team will be taking you through the newest editions to our architectural library. In today’s piece we will be delving into Open City’s newest offeringPublic House: A cultural and social history of the London pub.

As we all know the pandemic has been a tough time for our beloved pubs so, with the slow crawl back to normality opening their doors once more, I feel this celebration is aptly timed. This beautifully designed book explores our city’s rich history through the lens of the humble public house. I’m sure we all have our own stories of wild nights down at the local watering hole but it’s incredible to read about the social, political and cultural events that have taken place within the four walls of our local boozers.

I first looked through this book with my partner and there was a lot of pointing and exclamations of lost memories brought back by the familiar image of a pub we’d walked in to, and later, stumbled out of. There’s this thrill that comes with the recognition of a place you’ve been while flicking through or scanning the green maps that act as end pages, triggering hazy memories of pints with friends or gigs in a dingy back room. The perfect gift for any London pub enthusiast, architect or not.

As a graphic designer rather than an architect this book felt like the perfect combination of what I do and where I work, that along with the bold orange colour scheme made it feel like it was made to sit on WR-AP’s shelves and ensured it’s purchase. Designed by Studio Christopher Victor, the London-based graphic design practice of Rosa Nussbaum and designer of Alternative Guide to London Boroughs’, this energetic quirky book plays with text, colour and image creating a feast for the eyes. The book utilises fluorescent orange and a rich green which seems to have been taken from the images themselves, at least those that remain in full colour as opposed to the green tones of what was once monochrome. The strict use of these colours creates a great energy within the pages as well as a cohesiveness that bonds the dives and the grandiose. This dynamism is accentuated through the use and layout of the images breaking up the text and bouncing the eye across the page from pub to pub. The clever use of the full bleed spreads gives your mind a little break as it drinks up the pints of public house knowledge and immerses you in the feeling of the venues.

120 London pubs are explored throughout the piece with histories ranging from the Gunmakers Mothers Arms with its role as a creche for the women’s suffrage movement to those who’s structural integrity itself made them book worthy, like The Star and Garter. I know a lot happens in pubs but I’d never have expected so much positive action to come from those stickily carpeted rooms. Much like the variety of pubs there’s a plethora of contributors including the mayor of London and Peep Show’s Isy Suttie. They delve into the importance of both individual venues and pubs in general within our lives, recounting stories and the awful toilets at The Albany.

You’ll be looking at your local differently after leafing through these vibrant pages, there’s so much history within the architecture around us which we so often take for granted. I feel like this book has made it very clear that a building doesn’t have to be beautiful to be important, to be loved. Take the Carlton Tavern for example, A building you’d walk past without a second look, or perhaps only the slightest recognition of its old man pubishness, hastily demolished by developers only to be rebuilt brick by brick after the intensity of the public outcry and an order from Westminster’s planning team. Public houses have been an integral part of our city and society for a thousand years and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change, and I’m sure none of us want it to.

This instalment of Book Club has been brought to you by Amber, design and communications lead and newest addition to the WR-AP team. Amber is a 2020 Communication Design graduate from the Glasgow School of Art and founder of Bloom & Body, a small ceramics business focusing on the human form.

I hope you enjoyed my brief run through of Public House: A cultural and social history of the London pub’ , and if you did you can click here to buy your own copy!

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