About a month ago, I stumbled across a copy of Peter Smithson’s “Bath: Walks within the the Walls“. Peter Smithson and his wife Alison Smithson were key figures in the debate over shifting architecture in the 1950s. The uncompromising concrete style of New Brutalism championed by the Smithsons can be seen in their buildings at the University of Bath.
It’s therefore surprising to discover that Peter Smithson found so much to admire in the Georgian architecture of Bath – to the extent that he created this book of 5 walks around Bath in order to show architects, students and anyone willing to listen, the lessons that Bath has to teach us about architecture and landscape.
Dr A and I have been discussion the possibilities of Bath as a city highly suitable for flaneuring, ever since getting pleasantly lost somewhere between Sion Hill and the Circus sometime last summer. Also, Dr A’s research into prehistoric art has led to a new fascination with materials and marks of making. So with Smithson’s guide in hand we set out to hit the streets.
Smithson has some pretty strict rules about how you should undertake these walks, a key requirement being that you should follow them “alone or with one other person, and that one should not talk.” This is because: “the reverie that Bath can induce is an important part of the lesson“.
Apologies to Smithson, but it was simply not possible for us to keep quiet for so long. Plus, I could not resist reading out Smithson’s forceful and often entertaining comments about the buildings and views we were encountering.
We had intended to follow the walks in order, but in the end we started with Walk 2, as it took us into areas of Bath we have so far failed to explore.
Over the next few months we hope to complete the rest of Smithson’s walks and post our findings on the blog.
Walk 2 will be posted tomorrow.