|the precincts of central London|
Among the mountain of topographical books that I found in Hay last weekend the one that I bought was A Guide to the Structure of London (1972) by Maurice Ash. I was hooked by a glance at these amazing maps and the chapter titles:
1. In search of London's identity 2. The skin of an onion? 3. The geography of conflict 4. Journeys and sojourns 5. A strategy for identifying London 6. Town trails
|types of housing tenure, 1966|
Ash opens by asking the question of whether London exists, "There is just one question to be asked before one begins a book on the structure of London: Does London exist?"
Due to the diversity between Deptford High Street and Hampstead Heath and lack of common interest he wonders if "the entity of London is a fiction".
|the central spaces of importance for conservation|
I would love to imagine Ash in conversation with Patrick Keiller's character Robinson in a grubby formica-tabled worker's cafe, or perhaps at Brent Cross Regional Shopping Centre. In Keiller's film, London, Robinson posits that "the true identity of London is its absence, as a city it no longer exists ... London was the first metropolis to disappear" (you can watch this part of the film here at 3.44)
|plan for the South East, 1967|
|strategic plan for the South East, 1970|
The book ends with six journeys through London that illustrate the thesis within the book: walking circuits in South London around Elephant and Castle, inner East London from Stepney Green, and inner West London from Earl's Court; and then wider sweeps by car north and south and the outer metropolitan areas.
I wonder what following the same journeys today would tell us about whether London actually exists or is merely a fiction?
maps reprinted by Ash from Research Paper SRI, September 1966