Book Reviews

Starting a Practice: A Plan of Work, 2nd Ed, Simon Foxell, 2015


"Foxell’s ominous opening line to his first edition, recommending architects to think twice before starting a practice, has not been tempered by the preface to the second edition, which elucidates on the crippling, eight year-long recession that we are just coming out of and which draws attention to how tough the competition is. That said, those earlier redundancies resulted in more new practices baptised in the waters of hard times and with the determination to keep afloat. For the ethereal architect the everyday pragmatics of running a practice can seem a dark art. Foxell’s book continues to provide valuable guidance with updated information on electronic data transfer and social media as a marketing tool"

Jan-Carlos Kucharek, RIBAJ, 13th May 2015

"Simon Foxell’s insight, clarity and small practice experience has created the contemporary must-read guide to tackling the many issues in setting up and maintaining a practice. If all practices treated their businesses as an ongoing project, and used their briefing experience to create and review their business plans we would have a profession on top of its game, of which we could be truly proud."
Jane Duncan, RIBA President Elect, February 2015

"Written in crisp and direct language sprinkled with witty insights, this book is a comprehensive and highly practical guide, of value to all architectural practices; not only to those just setting up but to all wanting to do better."
Sunand Prasad, Senior Partner, Penoyre & Prasad LLP, February 2015

"Most designers will benefit from reading Simon Foxell’s updated guide to practice. If you are determined to set up your own practice in our rapidly changing world then it is essential that you read this first."
Robin Nicholson, Cullinan Studio, February 2015

A Carbon Primer for the Built Environment, Simon Foxell, 2014

CarbonPrimer cover

"I haven't read anything so clear since 'Sustainability without Hot Air'",
Max Fordham, 14th January 2014

Mapping London
Making Sense of the City, Simon Foxell, 2007


Maps not only order the mind, but in London's case they order its habitation. Ever since the Roman grid disappeared under the meandering paths of British and Saxon settlement, the street pattern of the capital has had a life of its own .................”
For full text see -
Simon Jenkins, The Guardian, 24 November 2007

Most of us experience London with the help of an A-Z or the Tube map. Simon Foxell’s splendid book celebrates all manner of graphic depictions of the capital from Roman maps to a modern air pollution map. It’s fascinating, both visually and as in insight into the history of the day. The Restoration in 1660, for example, marked the change to more accurate map-making using planar rather than bird’s eye perspective, while a 1945 bomb damage map has large expanses of purple — meaning damaged beyond repair — in the City. More light-hearted are the various guises of the Tube map including Maxwell Roberts’ curved version, and a plan of Eastenders’ Albert Square
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Pamela Buxton, November 23rd 2007, Building Design

Simon Foxell’s Mapping London is another treat. Full of cartographic images of the capital city over the past six centuries and including gems such as a plan of Albert Square, as well as traditional fare from Wencelaus Hollar, this is a mesmerising journey through the city.
Daily Telegraph, Books of the year, 24th November 2007

reveals a London that we didn't know existed or that we needed to find out ..........
Time Out
Simon Foxell's Mapping London brings together a diverse and stimulating collection of maps of the capital. Diagrammatic, invented, historical and nonsensical; whether painstakingly inked as comic or medieval document, mass-produced like the Monopoly board or Underground map, or taken by satellite, these maps all attempt to make sense of the city, and offer a glorious sense of place, time and history as we try to make sense of their differences and similarities. Foxell has done a superb job in gathering this work together and Black Dog are to be congratulated again on their production and design skills.
See - Rupert Loydell, January 2008, Stride magazine

“A treat for cartophiles, Foxell's epic survey of the history of the capital's maps tracks the burgeoning metropolis through hundreds of different images.................”
For full text see - Wallpaper magazine February 27 2008

“Maps of a city you call home are the cartographic equivalent of a family tree. You may know no more about Great Aunt Sissi than her birth and death dates, but there is a bond that legitimises all your imaginings of what she must have been like .............”
For full text see -
Eye magazine , Spring 2008

This rich collection of over 150 maps of London spans over six centuries--from the 1500s to the present, from which a highly compelling story of this great city unfurls. Reduced to its most elemental two-dimensional representation, London is recognizable to a great many of us by the Thames that snakes its way through the city's densely concentrated network of streets ............
For full text see - Canadian Architect, May 2008

Another history of London in maps to add to what is a rapidly expanding shelf ............
Laurence Worms, London Topographical Society Newsletter No. 66, May 2008

“Although there are short introductions to each of the main sections of this carefully produced and beautifully presented large format book, there is no doubt that it is the maps themselves that are the real and enduring stars here: 300 illustrations in 288 pages with over 200 maps spanning some six centuries .............”
For full text see - Steven Barfield, Literary London, March 2009

The Victorians feared London, considering it an ungovernable monster of crime, squalor and chaos. But respect for private property rights and ancient administrative privileges meant they were never able to do what Napoléon III did to Paris and regularise its tangle of streets into a neater, geometric order ................”
For full text see -
William Wiles, Iconeye

“I found this a very satisfying and enjoyable book. The subtitle suggests that it is earnestly trying to make 'sense of the city' but, as the contents reveal page after page of a wonderful collection of plans and part-plans, the project is instead thankfully given over to the sheer fun and pleasure of seeing how differently this great city's plan form has been read, and depicted with such variety, over the ages .................”
For full text see - Terry Farrell, April 2008, Architectural Review

All architects must surely derive great pleasure from looking at old maps and letting the mind’s eye wander through the street, on the one hand recreating the forms and spaces and then populating them with whatever figures inhabit the margins; on the other, marvelling at the art of the mapmaker, the lines and the brushwork, the embellishments and elisions .........
Thomas Dekker, 2010, Architectural Research Quarterly, Volume 14, Issue 2

If you’ve ever perused the London section of a local bookshop, you’ll have some appreciation for just how many volumes about the capital are currently in print ...........”
For full text see - What’s the best non-fiction book about London, Londonist, February 1st 2011

London, as Simon Foxell’s excellent book makes clear, is a metropolis that has been endlessly and obsessively redrawn. The city’s historical weight and territorial range is great enough to sustain an almost endless spectrum of reinterpretations, ranging from the monolithic Ballardian flyovers of Iain Sinclair’s London Orbital to the labyrinthine warrens of subcultural detail found in Michael Moorcock’s Mother London or Alan Moore’s From Hell ..............
For full text see -
Andrew Fleming, June 22 2011, Ceasefire Magazine

We tend to think of maps as tools for travel, but Simon Foxell explodes this idea with his book ‘Mapping London, Making Sense of the City’ ...................
For full text see -
Book of the day October 07th 2011 ynconline

"This compilation of maps is very powerful in enhancing and perhaps also re-adjusting our image of London. ..."
For full text see - Benjamin D Hennig, The Geographical Journal, 2011

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"Beautiful and thought provoking maps cover the growth of London on many levels and through many centuries. This is a lovely book and one that will amaze any one living in London. The growth of the city since the Victorian period is hard to growth until you see a map of London in 1800 that shows the vegetable patches of South Kensington and Chelsea shown clearly. Maps reach beyond street plans to the growth of infrastructure like the Underground and underground rivers through to images of what London might look like in the future. A delight to any lover of maps or one curious about cities and their growth."
See 5th June 2012

News - Mapping London used a source for 2012 Opening Ceremony
Space Syntax and Mail online

Mapping England, Simon Foxell, 2008

Maps: Skullduggery, distortion and lies
Simon Foxell’s compelling new tome, Mapping England ..........
For full text see -
Richard Morrison, The Times November 12th 2008

A curious review of Simon Foxell’s Mapping England in the Times earlier this week; it took about half the piece to actually come round to the book ...............”
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The Map Room November 15th 2008

The wildcard award goes to Simon Foxell's Mapping England (Black Dog, £40): maps of the British Isles going back 450 years. Try looking at the 1940 German board game based on air battles for England without shuddering.
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Lucy Davies, The Telegraph, December 1st 2008

Critic’s Choice: Mapping England offers an appreciation of maps that surpass utility
A mid 19th-century map of Leeds, tinted to highlight unsanitary areas of the city is just one of 150 or so elevations in Simon Foxell’s Mapping England .............”
For full text see -
Andrew Mead, The Architect’s Journal, December 11th 2008

Mapping England is the follow-up to the hugely successful Mapping London: Making Sense of the City. Simon Foxell turns his attention to the country as a whole; a beautiful cartographic journey through maps from the origins of cartography right up to present day with ancient hand-drawn maps to the latest technology in computer generation/3-D modelling .............”
For full text see -
Maplines, Winter 2008, The British Cartographical Society

There seems to be a steady flow of lavish books about maps, indicating an enduring fascination with cartography. Whatever types of maps are featured in such books, their content is necessarily highly selective. The theme around which the maps are arranged is a challenge, can be fairly spurious and is also a highly individual choice on the part of the author.
Simon Foxell’s beautiful book is no exception to these general rules ..................

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Mick Ashworth Geographical, April 1st 2009

The Edge Futures, Ed. Simon Foxell, 2008

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Mulgan: plan for ageing population
Tony Blair’s former director of policy Geoff Mulgan has called on architects to take a lead in shaping the built environment to accommodate the UK’s ageing population ............”
For full text see -
Marguerite Lazell, Building Design, June 13th 2008

Prince's aide attacks Labour over transport
One of the Prince of Wales's most senior aides will today issue a stinging critique of government transport policy and claim that Labour is failing to invest sufficiently in trains, bus routes and cycle networks ...........
For full text see -
Robert Booth, The Guardian, June 18th 2008

A question of transport
Hank Dittmar discusses his new book, Transport and Neighbourhoods
For full text see -
Building Design, June 19th 2008

The professionals choice: The future of the built environment professions, 2003


The Professional's Choice: Human Capitalists
The launch of a very important study, The Professionals’ Choice, at the glitzy Bloomberg Centre on Bastille Day led, inevitably, to an instant leader and letters in BD. They reacted to the most negative of the five scenarios in the book: architects will disappear as most buildings become customised standard products. Simon Foxell’s book deserves a slow read or three, followed by rumination on its thinking ..................”
For full text see -
Richard Saxon, 25th July 2003, Building Design

“What will practice be like for architects and their fellow building professionals in 20 years' time? A new world in which completed buildings just emerge from a few taps on a computer tablet? ..................... “
For full text see - Building, issue 26 , 2003

A recent publication by Building Futures (RIBA/CABE), The professionals choice: The future of the built environment professions, stands out for its deliberate exploration of what society may need from its built environment professions over the next twenty years. Ethics is a persistent theme of the different contributors and critical commentaries.
Nicholas Ray, 2005, Architecture and its ethical dilemmas, Taylor & Francis

RIBA Good Practice Guide: Starting a Practice, Simon Foxell, 2006

The recent RIBA Good Practice Guide, Starting a Practice by Simon Foxell of the Architects Practice (RIBA Publishing, £15), is an excellent source of information to help you find out what you have to do, and how to work out how much it will cost ............
For full text see -
Richard Brindley, Building Design, January 13th 2010