Originally published by the Architecture Press in 1963, The Italian Townscape was written by Hubert de Cronin Hastings (1902-1986), under his pseudonym of Ivor de Wolfe, with photographs taken by him and his wife Hazel (alias Ivy de Wolfe). He claimed to have invented the word Townscape, and used his position as proprietor/editor of the Architectural Review to promote it as a technique to inspire the creation of historically layered, visually stimulating, dense cities in the period of reconstruction and new towns.
The theory of Townscape was originally developed by Hastings in collaboration with the architect, planner and illustrator Gordon Cullen, whose book of this name, published in 1961, remains a standard work. In The Italian Townscape, Hastings made his own statement, sharing his worries about the blandness of modern consumer society and celebrating Italian towns and cities as theatrical background for everyday life. Writing at a time when English people were migrating to the suburbs and cars were destroying the conviviality of cities, Hastings anticipated the return in recent decades to an ideal of public space, where ＂the only true happiness lies at the centre＂.
Hastings/De Wolfe rekindles our appreciation for individual urban elements: articulating his analysis through disparate themes: from the more obvious: ＂streets＂, ＂advertising＂ and ＂pedestrian network＂, to typically idiosyncratic ones: ＂Defensive armour＂, ＂constipation＂, ＂toughies＂ and ＂sissies＂ and ＂all creeping things＂. The photographs evoke the Italy of Fellini’s films, making it a forgotten classic of travel and photographic publishing whose lessons remain relevant today.
Professor of Architecture and Cultural History at the University of Greenwich, Alan Powers, and Professor Erdem Erten of the University of Izmir in Turkey, contribute a new introduction to this reprint, restoring the identity of Hastings as an author and his role in architecture and planning debates from the 1930s to the 1970s.