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BOOK

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REVIEW

Sir Ninian Comper: An Introduction To His Life And Work By Anthony Symondson and Stephen Bucknall.Spire Books, 2006. £29.95

The opportunities for new church work are few and far between, the process of the most modest new intervention often fraught with difficulty.

But Ninian Comper provides lessons - most of all, in how historical research can inform architectural practice. His work, once seen in the flesh, is simply stupendous, and has a depth lacking in many of his inter-war contemporaries.

This is most clearly the case in the uplifting St Mary's, Wellingborough, completed in 1931. Combining late Gothic, early Renaissance, Greek and Iberian influences, it's one of Comper's best examples of his mature design philosophy which he later termed 'Unity by inclusion'.

Written by Anthony Symondson (who has been teasing us with smaller studies of Comper for some time), this book is not the complete work we have been promised, but it's an important step in the right direction.

Comprising an introductory essay and a reprint of Comper's important 'Of the Atmosphere of a Church' (1947), it also includes a fascinating contextual study tracing the influence of John Piper and John Betjeman on Comper's thought. Usefully rounded off with a substantial gazetteer of over 600 entries by Stephen Bucknall - Comper's great nephew - this is a serious, well-illustrated and handsome volume which should increase the appetite for some remarkable work.

Julian Holder is a Manchesterbased architectural historian

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