We shape ourselves, and are shaped in return, by the walls that contain us. Buildings affect how we sleep, work, socialise and even breathe. They can isolate and endanger us but they can also heal us. We project our hopes and fears onto buildings, while they absorb our histories.
In Living With Buildings, Iain Sinclair embarks on a series of expeditions – through London, Marseille, Mexico and the Outer Hebrides. He explores the relationship between sickness and structure, and between art, architecture, social planning and health, taking plenty of detours along the way. Walking is Sinclair’s defensive magic against illness and, as he moves, he observes his surroundings: stacked tower blocks and behemoth estates; halogen-lit glasshouse offices and humming hospitals; the blackened hull of a Spitalfields church and the floating mass of Le Corbusier’s radiant city.
And he peels back layers of life. A father and his daughter, who has a rare syndrome, visit the estate where they once lived. Developers clink champagne glasses as residents are ‘decanted’ from their homes. A box sculpted from whalebone, thought to contain healing properties, is returned to its origins with unexpected consequences. Part investigation, part travelogue, Living With Buildings brings the spaces we inhabit to life as never before.
“A remarkable book; surprisingly gripping and often very moving… stories weave and unweave over the book’s course, patterning thought into a complex built environment, at once disorientating and illuminating.” – Robert Macfarlane.
Iain Sinclair was born in South Wales. He went to school in the west of England and university in Dublin. He lives, walks and writes in east London. His books include Downriver, winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Encore Prize, Lights Out for the Territory, London Orbital, Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire, American Smoke and The Last London.
Living with Buildings is published in association with Wellcome Collection, a free museum and library that aims to challenge how we think and feel about health. Inspired by the medical objects and curiosities collected by Henry Wellcome, it connects science, medicine, life and art. Wellcome Collection exhibitions, events and books explore a diverse range of subjects, including consciousness, forensic medicine, emotions, sexology, identity and death.
Natasha Devon’s event is available to watch on YouTube or on @PanMacmillan Instagram TV channel until 24 June and she will be doing a live Q & A on Monday 1 June at 6 pm on Pan Macmillan’s Instagram channel. You can order Natasha’s book by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 8552 9993.
Are you locked down with children in years 5 or 6? We have four lessons for classroom or family use developed from On the Record’s oral history project centered around Newham Bookshop, Writing and Reading Newham. Click here for full details.
Michael Rosen’s poem, These Are The Hands, features in a book of poems from the heart of the NHS, which has just been published.