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The View from the Train: Cities and Other Landscapes

Essays by the iconic British filmmaker on the relationship between film, cities and landscape
In his classic sequence of films, Patrick Keiller retraces the hidden story of the places where we live, the cities and landscapes of our everyday lives. This collection explores the surrealist perception of the city; the relationship of architecture to film; how cities change over time, as well as an urgent portrait of post-crash Britain. The View from the Train establishes Keiller as one of the most perceptive writers and thinkers about the city, landscape and politics.

Reviews

  • “Patrick Keiller’s films (including London and Robinson in Space) are some of the most beautiful and evocative images of contemporary urban environments we have; in this collection of lucid and eloquent essays he shows us the theoretical rigour that lies behind his practice. Essential reading for urbanists, cineastes, psychogeographers – and indeed anyone who either lives in cities, or cares about them; so: everyone.”
  • “Keiller is Britain’s most observant and provocative film-maker around the subject of cities and the landscape. In these wonderful essays, he explores the political and cultural forces behind how the UK looks.”
  • “An enigmatic, intermittently brilliant collection of essays about the built landscape of Britain and how it has changed in the last thirty years.”
  • “Perceptive, educated, un-obvious musings on place and inhabitation.”
  • “Our most original geographical and political thinker.”
  • The View from the Train often delights with its sly, impish wit and observation.”
  • “An essayist of stylish rigour.”

Blog

  • An Open Letter to the British Left

    This essay was first published in Jacobin


    (2015 Plan B conference: Stefano Fassina, Oskar Lafontaine, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and Yanis Varoufakis. via melenchon.fr)

    Dear friends and comrades,

    To a foreigner who has been living and working in the United Kingdom for the last sixteen years, the immediate post-referendum situation appears highly paradoxical. It seems as if the shock has been of such a magnitude that even the most celebrated British virtues — sense of humor, understatement and, above all, solid common sense — have faded away.

    On the losing side, which includes, of course, most of the media and the economic and political establishment, the impact is as devastating as it is unexpected. The markets are plunging all over the world and the City of London, the economy’s central nervous system, faces disaster.

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  • "Cities, like cats, will reveal themselves at night" - an extract from Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London

    Extract from Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London by Matthew Beaumont

    In the dead of night, in spite of the electric lights and the remnants of nightlife, London is an alien city, especially if you are strolling through its lanes and thoroughfares alone.


    In the more sequestered streets, once the pubs are closed, and at a distance from the twenty-four-hour convenience stores, the sodium gleam of the street lamps, or the flickering strip-light from a soporific minicab stand, offers little consolation. There are alleys and street corners and shop entrances where the darkness appears to collect in a solid, faintly palpitating mass. There are secluded squares where, to appropriate a haunting line from a poem by Shelley, night makes ‘a weird sound of its own stillness’. There are buildings, monuments and statues that, at a distance, and in the absence of people, pulsate mysteriously in the sepulchral light. There are foxes that slope and trot across the road, in a single motion, as you interrupt their half-shameful, half-defiant attempts to pillage scraps from upended bins. And, from time to time, there are the faintly sinister silhouettes of other solitary, perhaps homeless, individuals – as threatened by your presence, no doubt, as you are by theirs. ‘However efficiently artificial light annihilates the difference between night and day’, Al Alvarez has commented, ‘it never wholly eliminates the primitive suspicion that night people are up to no good.’


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  • Reimagining Architecture and Cities: A Reading List

    As the housing crisis worsens, and the inequalities of the city become more pronounced, a radical architectural response becomes vital and necessary.

    In Last Futures: Nature, Technology, and the End of Architecture, Douglas Murphy maps the designs, dreams, and failures of architects, philosophers and planners from the 1960’s to the present day; introducing a world of apocalyptic industrialists, radical hippies, cybernetic planners and visionary architects, and exploring not just what to build, but how.

    Inspired by this, we present a reading list of books that propose new ways to reimagine the city, and underline the need for progressive architectural alternatives. 


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