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Book reviews - April 2002

'Civil Engineering Heritage: London and the Thames Valley', edited by Denis Smith
320 pages (September 2000). Institution of Civil Engineers; ISBN: 0727728768
This is the sixth and penultimate volume (Scotland is still awaited) in this excellent series published by the Institution of Civil Engineers' publishing house.

The area covered is stated to be 'Greater London within the M25' and 'the Thames valley .. to Banbury in the north and to Newbury in the west.' The criteria for inclusion of structures are carefully set out, and clearly it would have not have been possible to include descriptions of every structure of historical and technical interest.

Thus, for example, the London Borough of Croydon has to be content with a single main entry, that for Croydon Airport. There is a short list appended of 'additional sites' which, oddly, includes those of two demolished Croydon water pumping stations (Addington and Waddon), but does not note Croydon's surviving earliest water pumping station of 1852 and later additions (Surrey Street) built in part from secondhand materials from the town's atmospheric railway pumping station.

The text is arranged thematically under the headings Thames River engineering, Public health engineering, the Port of London, Rivers and canals, Roads and road transport, Railways, Energy generation and distribution, Notable buildings, and the Thames Valley.

As is usual in these volumes, bridges are particularly well represented as, presumably, good advertising for civil engineers! Structures of all dates are included, from the re-erected 'Cleopatra's Needle' to the 'Millennium Eye.' The Millennium Dome is in, but the notorious 'wobbly bridge' appears to have escaped notice! Paul Sowan

'Outhouses by Famous Architects', by Steve Schaecher
Published by Pomegranate. 2000 I.SBN 00-7649- l260-7 pp 64
Steve Schaecher, an architect by profession, has researched 56 of the world's finest outhouses designed by some of the greatest names in architecture. Many will be acquainted with Wright's 'Flushingwater', Le Corbusier's 'Bidet Savoye' and Buckmaster Fuller's 'Geodesic Throne' but Schaecher uncovers the delights of 'Sarad Latrina' by Antonio Gaudi, 'Villa Crapperia' by Andrea Palladio and, for pure function and form, 'Le Centre Pompidoodoo' by Rogers and Piano.

For reasons best known to himself Schaecher has not included fine outhouses of distinction such as 'The Glasgow School of Art' by Mackintosh, 'Queen's Outhouse' by Inigo Jones or 'Douglas's Dunnie' by Meier. Be that as it may, this small work is of interest to all who seek the more esoteric outhouse.

Two pages are devoted to each outhouse, one for an excellent pictorial representation and one for a short description of some of the architect's work. Personally, I found the preface by I P Daley a trifle pompous, if not somewhat stiff, but the main content of this tome is well presented and should cause more than a smile to the reader.

For those who wish to learn more of the 'great' outhouses of the world, there is a copy to be found in the library of Crossness Engines. Peter Skilton

© GLIAS, 2002