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London, "the unique city" (as Steen Eiler Rasmussen titled it in his popular book first published in 1937), can never be cap- tured in a single image but tantalizes with a succession of contra- dictory takes. A collection of villages, parishes, boroughs, and former suburbs, specialized in origin and destination. The City with its financial and legal institutions, Westminster with its political bodies, Mayfair and Kensington with their residences and cultural institutions. Its architectural character is as varied as its component parts, which comprise an incoherent if dynamic metropolis that developed piecemeal, largely through private initiative. London experienced no grand governmental scheme to connect the separate enclaves in a disciplined manner, and individualism has reigned architecturally and urbanistically.

It was not until 1889 that the London County Council (L.CC) was established to exercise some measure of control over the 12 metropolitan boroughs. For years, the City remained resolutely outside its jurisdiction. Initially, the architectural impact of the L.CC, which had its own designers, was visible chiefly in the housing estates it erected throughout London. But after World War II, it dominated construction in a number of categories. In 1965, the Greater London Council (GL.C) was formed to regulate the expansion into surrounding counties. London grew from 117 to 609 square miles, and the population reached some 8 million. The GLC was dissolved in 1986 under the Thatcher government, forcing the individual boroughs to take the initiative and giving impetus to gigantic private schemes for commercial and residential development.

Queen Victoria's son, Edward VI, came to the throne when Great Britain was at the height of its power and glory. A grand scale was necessary for the largest world capital of an imperial nation, and accordingly, the favored style in an era that still considered revivals indispensable was the English Baroque of the 17th and early 18th centuries. Edwardian architecture bristled with the heavy rustication, broken pediments, bold cornices, and clustered columns loved by Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor. Whereas Victorian buildings had achieved their size by the addition and multiplication of relatively fine-grained detail, Edwardian architecture was massive and sculptural. In many cases, Victorian polychromy via red brick dressed with pale stone was retained, though many buildings were entirely of Portland or Bath stone. Regrettably, a great deal of new construction occurred at the expense of existing buildings, especially those of the 19th century, considered stylistically outdated and spatially inadequate for perceived new urbanistic and programmatic requirements. Thus, the modestly scaled and scenographically consistent structures of the late Georgian Regent Street development fell victim to discrete huge buildings like the Piccadilly Hotel (1905-08) by R. Norman Shaw (1831-1912), the late Victorian colossus who deftly adapted to Edwardian taste.

Public and private buildings, especially government structures (Central Criminal Courts, Old Bailey, 1900-06, by Edward Mountford [1855-1908]); Lambeth Town Hall, Brixton, 1905-08, by S. Warwick and E. A. Hall; London County Council County Hall, Westminster, 1908-31, by Ralph Knott [1878-1929]), theaters (Coliseum, 1903-04, and Victoria Palace Music Hall, 1911, all by Frank Matcham [1854-1920]), and urban interventions (Admiralty Arch, 1906-11, by Aston Webb [1849-1930]). The French Classical Beaux-Arts manner also made its appearance (Ritz Hotel, Piccadilly, 1903-06, by Charles Mews [1860-1914) and Arthur Davis [1878-1851]); Selfridge's Department Store, 1907-1928, commenced by the American Francis Swales [1878-1962] and completed by Sir John Burnet [1857-1938]). Neo-Georgian formed a less extravagant, more vernacular nationalist counterpoint to neobaroque. Sir Edwin Lutyens [1869-1944], sui generis, looked to both traditions, manifesting his originality in his very first London building, the premises for Country Life magazine (1904). The heritage of the Arts and Crafts movement was still alive, particularly in domestic architecture: C. F. A. Voysey [1857-1941] erected characteristically simple but endearing residences in Kensington, and C. R. Ashbee [1863-1942] constructed two highly original houses at 38-39 Cheyne Walk in Chelsea (1899-1904). A few buildings, like the Bishopsgate Institute (1895) and Whitechapel Art Gallery (1897-1901) by C. Harrison Townsend [1851-1928] and the Black Friar Public House, remodeled in 1903 by H. Fuller Clark, reflected the effect of Art Nouveau.

Edwardian styles continued into the reign of George V, the first member of the House of Windsor, and king from 1910 to 1936. Although surfaces were smoothed, the ornament was cut back into the wall plane rather than boldly extruding, and the attitude toward historical styles became more cavalier. Such stripped, mannerist classicism can be observed in Lutyens's first large London building, Britannic House, 1924-27. In some cases, there is a fusion with Art Deco, the "other" modern style, which was gleefully welcomed in London, whereas functionalism met resistance. Thus, Broadcasting House (1932) by Val Meyers and Warson-Hart with sculpture by Eric Gill (1882-1940), and the headquarters of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) 1934, by (George) Grey Wornum (1888-1957), could be assigned with equal justice to the classical or Deco camp. The capital is well endowed with unequivocal Deco, both in terms of interiors (Cambridge Theatre, 1930, by Wimp eris, Simpson, and Guthrie with auditorium by Serge Chermayeff [1901-1996]) as well as major buildings, such as the Daily Telegraph (1928), by Elcock and Succliffe with Thomas Tait (1882-1954), and the Daily Express (1932), by Sir Owen Williams (1890-1969) with Ellis, Clarke, and Atkinson, both of which employ vast swathes of gleaming glass and chrome. In its modernistic Deco classicism, Broadway House for the London Underground, a stepped high-rise clad in Portland stone with sculptures by Gill, Jacob Epstein, and Henry Moore, resembles both Broadcasting House and the RIBA. It was designed in 1927 by Charles Holden (1875-1960), who had the good fortune and the talent to be chosen by Frank Pick (1878-1941), an executive at London Transport and one of the more adventurous patrons of contemporary design (he commissioned avant-garde posters and the logo still in use). Holden's Underground stations are among London's finest architectural works of the 1930s. Those for the Piccadilly Line at Arnos Grove and Acton Town (1930-33) blend functionalism with Scandinavian and Dutch influences, a combination seen throughout London. Continental architects like Gunnar Asplund of Sweden and Willem Dudok (1884 -1974) of the Netherlands, who enlivened the geometrical purity and severe surfaces of the International Style through the ingenuity of their compositions and continued to employ traditional materials like brick, were more congenial to English taste than the émigrés who began to arrive from Central and Eastern Europe in the wake of totalitarian repression. Nevertheless, their presence would eventually act as a solvent of conservatism. Although some, such as Walter Gropius, Erich Mendelsohn, and Marcel Breuer, remained only briefly, others such as the Hungarian-born Ernö Goldfinger (1902-1987; houses in Willow Road, 1937-39) and Berthold Lubetkin (1901-1990) from Georgia in the Soviet Union, left a lasting legacy. The latter, in 1932, formed the Tecton Partnership with students from the Architectural Association (AA), the educational stronghold of the avant-garde. Tecton's buildings for the Regent's Park Zoo, especially the Penguin Pool (1933-34) with its cantilevered platforms, and the privately financed High Point in Highgate exuded a confident elegance that reconciled many Londoners to modernism. The nine-story cruciform Highpoint 1(1935), with 60 flats, and the seven-story Highpoint 11 (1938), with 12 maisonettes, offered rare amenities like a basement garage, a common winter-garden, and maids' and porters' lodgings. Lubetkin belonged to the Modern Architecture Research (MARS) Group, founded in 1933 as the British branch of CIAM. Most of the members were homegrown modernists like E. Maxwell Fry (1899 - 1987; Sun House, 9 Frognal Way, 1935, one of the first Corbusian villas in England) and Ove Arup (1895-1988; he established Arup and Arup in 1938, and it became the major engineering firm in the British Isles, still active as Arup Associates). The Canadian Wells Coates (1895-1958), another MARS founder, who had designed some interiors for Broadcasting House, participated in one of the most interesting experiments in London in this interwar period: the creation of "Isokon" (acronym for Isometric Unit Construction) in 1931. This firm, directed by J. Craven ("Jack") Prichard (1899-1992), was intended to produce for busy urbanites existenzminimum flats and houses that would be fitted out with standardized units. All were to be designed by Coates, whose most radical achievement was the concrete-surfaced, gallery-accessed Lawn Road Service Flats (1932-33; Gropius, Breuer, and Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, all formerly connected with the Bauhaus, stayed there for various periods). Installed with built-in Isokon furniture, Lawn Road was inspired programatically by the Narkofin collective facility in Moscow and formally by the Pavilion Suisse (as was Coates's more bourgeois 10 Palace Gate apartments of 1939). Another interwar architect who deserves citation is William Crabtree (1905-1991). Although he never attained the professional renown of the MARS founders, Crabtree introduced the curtain wall in his Peer Jones Department Store on Sloane Square (1936). Reminiscent of Mendelsohn's Schöcken Department Stores in Germany, Peer Jones nevertheless is an unusually well-resolved indigenous example of 1930s modernism at its most compelling.

During World War II, not only did building cease, but London suffered irreparable losses of its architectural stock. The mandate after 1945 was reconstruction, especially of housing. To meet the target of 100,000 new dwellings amid postwar shortages of materials and manpower, new techniques of prefabrication were adopted, and new typologies such as the slab and the tower block joined more traditional layouts. In both material and aesthetic regards, quality at first was poor; to counter this, the L.CC broadened the responsibility of the Architect's Department. Many figures that became distinguished private practitioners, such as Colin St. John Wilson (1922-) and Peter (1923-2002) and Alison (1928-1993) Smithson, gained their first practical experience there.

During the 1950s and 1960s, the L.CC, along with local councils, erected vast housing estates in Inner and Outer London. Many were unimaginative and shoddy, stigmatized as "Welfare State" architecture, but several, such as Alton West at Roehampton near Richmond (1955-59), were internationally hailed. A sort of Ville Radieuse made palatable through its picturesque setting and unusually careful execution, Alton West comprises five Unités d'Habitation, cunningly set against a sloping hill, and fifteen 12-story towers arranged in two groups, as well as low-rise terraces and housing for the elderly. The earlier Alton East (1952-55) takes its clues from Scandinavian public housing; the low blocks have pitched roofs and concrete walls are clad in klinker brick. While doubtlessly ingratiating, it is less powerful.

Private architects also worked for local councils. Denys Lasdun (1914-2001) invented a new type of public housing - the cluster block - for the Bethnal Green Council, and the Westminster City Council sponsored a competition for Churchill Gardens, Pimlico (1950-62), won by A. J. P. Powell and J. H. Moya when they were still students at the AA. It is an inner-city version of the CIAM Siedlung: 7- to 11-story blocks run perpendicular to the nearby river, and slabs ranging from three to five floors parallel the Thames. The estate includes a covered shopping arcade, pubs, and restaurants. Its vocabulary is reminiscent of pre-World War II modernism. The taut glazed and brick surfaces and articulation of the frame make the dwellings more open and less monolithic than one finds with customary council housing.

In a burst of postwar optimism, the Festival of Britain was held in 1951 to showcase modern architecture as suitable for other projects besides housing and to initiate development on the South Bank of the Thames. A number of the temporary pavilions anticipated the High-Tech movement of the 1980s in their lightweight materials and novel structures. The only permanent building, the Royal Festival Hall (LCC Architects Department with Robert Matthew, J. Leslie Martin (1908-2000), and Peter Moro), is a successful fusion of English/Scandinavian empiricism with continental élan (though somewhat marred in recent years by additions and interior renovation). The interiors were beautifully crafted, and the complex interlocking spaces functioned in ways that still command admiration. The influence of Le Corbusier, consistently the favorite European pioneer among the British (Mies van der Rohe did not attain the popularity he enjoyed in the United States until much later), is discernible in the use of pilotis (stilts) and in the articulation of the glazed skin as separate from the structure.

But this is the Le Corbusier of the 1920s and 1930s, whereas it would be the late Le Corbusier, the man who made béton brut (rough concrete) a byword, who would dominate the London architectural scene, exercising a not necessarily benign influence for more than two decades. The grim concrete bunkers of Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Hayward Gallery that in 1964 joined the Festival Hall on the South Bank, designed by the LCC/GLC team, still evoke dislike and dismay. Yet the movement known as the New Brutalism, shorthand for the ubiquitous employment of rough concrete, moved far beyond imitation of Le Corbusier's postwar practice: Its essence is ethical, not stylistic (Peter and Alison Smithson, with historian Reyner Banham, coined the term). "Brutalism tries to face up to a mass-produced society, and drag rough poetry out of the confused and powerful forces at work" (Architectural Design, April 1957). A leading force in Team X's revision of modernist planning orthodoxy, the Smithsons wished to balance technological innovation with humanistic concerns, reinforcing fruitful interaction and encounters between urbanites, bringing together in one ensemble the functions that had been separated out by CIAM. Their primary effect on London's architecture was polemical; they built little, and even the theory promised more than it delivered. The Smithsons' competition design for the Golden Lane estate in 1952 was never realized, but its ingenious linking of public and private space to create a community was considered exemplary. Such Brutalist concepts were in large measure realized at the concrete-and-brick Barbican Estate (1959-79), constructed over a bombed-out section of the City by Chamberlin (Peter, 1919-78), Powell (Geoffrey, 1920-), and Bon (Christof, 1921-). With its elevated streets that protect pedestrians from the traffic below, its mixture of tower blocks (the tallest residential structures in Europe at the time) and slabs, and its deft intermingling of cultural institutions (art galleries, a theater/concert hall), exposition spaces, gardens, fountains, and dwellings, the Barbican creates a discrete community within the City of London.

Amid the bulky masses of stained concrete and aggressively sculptural, shabbily detailed behemoths that disfigured the urban landscape in the 1960s and 1970s, a few promising works lived up to the post-war dreams of the Welfare State. The Alexandra Road complex (1969-79) by Neave Brown (1933-) for the London Borough of Camden Architects provides housing blocks that embrace a training center for the mentally handicapped, a school, a community center, and a local park. These social buildings form the head, whereas the base has two pedestrian streets circumnavigating the park and giving access to the dwelling on either side. Although inevitably constructed of beton brut, the thoughtfully composed setback section offers private terraces for the inhabitants.

By 1980, Brutalism had run its course, but nirvana was not yet at hand for London. Mediocre buildings come in many different guises and materials, and rampant private development undermined much of the social agenda that had ruled the LCC/GLC. One result was the appearance for the first time on London's horizon of commercial skyscrapers. The National Westminster ("Nat West") Tower (1981) by the Swiss-born Richard Seifert (1910-2001) was the first in a regrettably continuous sequence of undistinguished tall buildings, but relief was at hand. A generation born in the 1930s was poised some 50 years later to initiate an exciting new chapter in the life of London architecture. Although each of these renewers has a recognizable personal approach to design, the contenders may be conveniently grouped under two rubrics: High-Tech exponents are faithful to their credo of using sophisticated technologies to create component-based, light, flexible, structurally expressive, future-oriented buildings unencumbered by past references. Tensile cables, prefabricated metal elements, large sheets of glass, and occasionally mesh and cloth are favored over masonry and concrete. Post-modern practitioners draw on a variety of sources and may not eschew new structural and material possibilities but overlay these with traditional means and historical motifs, often in the interests of contextualism, a concept woefully lacking in London in the heyday of Brutalism. Whichever one's preference, both groups have revitalized London with buildings of astonishing exuberance, flair, and relevance.

Both tendencies owe something to a major British figure not mentioned heretofore, because tragically, he built a line in the city he loved, with the exceptions being the Clore Gallery extension to Tate Britain (1987) and the posthumous No. 1 Poultry Street.

The early work of James Sairling (1926-1993) anticipated High-Tech; he was one of the first to look back to 19th-century marvels like the Crystal Palace for inspiration. Then he developed his own brand of Postmodernism, a blend of the classical and the industrial that influenced architects who had been his students at Yale University and the AA.

The AA also brought forth Archigram, whose concepts Richard Rogers (1933--) first actualized in Lloyd's of London (1978-86). This striking 12-story building gleams and glows amid the congested heart of the City, its stainless steel-clad concrete structure hung with shining service ducts and pods containing lavatories and meeting rooms, its glazed elevators a source of endless fascination as they futuristically climb and ascend. Its balcony-girt atrium, traversed by escalators, adds to the excitement.

Though Rogers and Norman Foster (1935--) were briefly partners in Team 4, their work is quite different. Foster's compositions are far less complex and do not celebrate servant spaces or elevate the guts of the building; the focus is on the delicately detailed glass surfaces rather than the structure, often dematerialized. The architect's double-height offices with flats above (and a penthouse for Foster himself) on the south bank of the Thames between Albert and Battersea Bridges (1991) typify the seemingly artless simplicity that suggests less is more.

Two other London architects of this generation who are masters of High-Tech are Michael Hopkins (1935--) and Nicholas Grimshaw (1939--). Hopkins is the author of the Mound Stand at Lord's Cricket Stand, St. John's Wood, a festive concoction of tents, guy ropes, and steel struts that make an ideal viewing pavilion. Grimshaw is perhaps the more determined of the two to use industrialized components. The Eurostar Terminal at Waterloo Station (1989-92), with its charismatic asymmetrical exterior trusses supporting a twisting glass roof, displays his grasp of intricate engineering formulae.

Postmodernism has many branches, ranging from fairly direct imitation of Palladian and Georgian buildings, advocated by Prince Charles and executed by Quinlan Terry (1937-), among others, to a neovernacular that stems from the tradition of the Picturesque, to the more successful synthesis of modern technique, often High-Tech, and historical references. Terry Farrell (1938--) is the chief exponent of the latter approach, as demonstrated in a series of monumental London buildings: Vauxhall Cross (the headquarters for Military Intelligence) on the Thames (1988-92), which has an Art Deco flavor, and the gigantic mixed-use developments of Alban Gate, London Wall (1988-94), and Embankment Place at Charing Cross (1988-96). Other architects who employ this technique are John Outram (1934-; Pumping Station, Stewart Street, Blackwall, 1985-88) and Piers Gough (1946-; The Circle, Butler's Wharf, 1987-90) of Campbell, Zogolovitch, Wilkinson, and Gough (CZWG).

Another development that commenced in the 1980s was the dominance of the private sector. Whereas for decades after World War I, it was the publicly funded housing estates that constituted the largest agglomerations in London, in the boom period of the Thatcher years, private commercial development, much of it in the City and eastward, especially the disused Docklands, became the largest agglomerations. Broadgate (1985-91), a virtual "City within the City," boasts pubs, restaurants, shops, gardens, public sculpture (Richard Serra, George Segal, Barry Flanagan), and even a skating rink to cheer the hours of the 25,000 office workers who inhabit its large blocks. Its 14 buildings are a mix of Postmodern Picturesque and American Corporate Modern. Phases I-IV (1984-88) were designed by Arup Associates, and for phases V-XIV (1988-91), Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill (SOM) were called in because of their experience with the rapid construction of steel-framed buildings (unusual in London up until then).

SOM is not the only major American practice to work in the capital in recent years. Earlier, John Russell Pope (1874-1937) designed the Elgin Marbles wing of the British Museum (1937-39) and the Duveen Sculpture Hall (1937) at the Tate Gallery, Millbank. In the 1980s, several Americans gained entry: Venturi, Scott Brown, and Associates designed the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery (1986-90), and Cesar Pelli (1926-) built one of the tallest commercial buildings in Europe at Canary Wharf in Docklands (1990-95). Canary Wharf had been planned by SOM, which constructed its own tall office building there and established a London office in 1986. Rick Mather (1937-), having studied at the AA, has his practice in London; works include renovations and a new courtyard at the Wallace Collection (2000), as well as the master plan for the South Bank (2002).

There have been times in 20th-century London when architectural design displayed certain consistency: namely, during the Edwardian era and during the long period of postwar reconstruction lasting from 1951 through the 1970s under the dominance of the L.CC and the GLC. But for much of the time, London's architecture has been extremely heterogeneous. During the first half of the century, it was conservative, and radical tendencies were few. During the middle years, it was necessarily utilitarian, with social needs coming before aesthetic experimentation. During the last two decades, however, architecture in London has achieved a level of excitement and experimentation that has merited international recognition. With the Millennium funding for large architectural projects, London in the 21st century will undoubtedly witness more and more architectural triumphs.



Sennott R.S. Encyclopedia of twentieth century architecture,Vol.2 (G-O).  Fitzroy Dearborn., 2005.

  1935-1938, the Highpoint apartments, London, UK, LUBETKIN AND TECTON 
  1954, Hunstanton School, London, UK, OVE ARUP 
  1984, Finsbury Avenue Offices, London, UK, OVE ARUP 
  1985, Lloyds of London Headquarters, London, UK, RICHARD ROGERS, OVE ARUP 


  1934, London Zoo, The Penguin pool, London, UK, LUBETKIN AND TECTON
  1935-1938, the Highpoint apartments, London, UK, LUBETKIN AND TECTON
  1954, Hunstanton School, London, UK, OVE ARUP
  1984, Finsbury Avenue Offices, London, UK, OVE ARUP
  1985, Lloyds of London Headquarters, London, UK, OVE ARUP, RICHARD ROGERS





Understandably, the literature about such a vast city is itself vast. Innumerable monographs on individual architects exist, and periodicals are important sources, especially The Architectural Review, Architectural Design, A.A Files Blueprint, and the weekly The Architects Journal. Surveys of modern architecture in general and British architecture in particular include analyses of important London buildings. The books listed below concentrate on the capital.

Amery, Colin, Four London Archects 1985-88- Chipperfield, Mather, Parry, Stanton Williams, Cambridge, Massachuseus: MIT' Press, 1987

Banham, Reyner, The New Brutaline: Ethic or Aesherie, London: Architectural Press, 1966

Barker, Felix, and Peter Jackson, A Hisory of London in Mapu, London: Barry and Jenkins, 1991

Beattie, Ann, A Revolution in Hewing: L.CC Housing Architects and Their Work, London: Architectural Press, 1980

Benton, Charlotte, A Different World Emigre Architeen in Britain 1928-1958, London: RIBA Heinz Gallery, 1995

Clout, Hugh (editor), London History Atlas, London: Times Books, 1991

Davies, Colin, High Tech Anchitecture, New York: Rizzoli International, 1988

Esher, Lionel, A Broken Wave: The Retruilding of England, 1940- 1980. London: Allen Lane, 1981

Glancy, Jonathan, New British Architecture, London: Thames and Hudson, 1989

Glancy, Jonathan, Bread and Circuses, London: Verso, 2001

Greater London Council. Home Sweet Home: Housing Designed by the London County Council and Greater London Council Architect 1888-1975, foreword by Kenneth Campbell, London: Academy Editions. 1976

Harwood, Elaine, and Andrew Saint, London, Exploring, England's Heritage Series, London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1991 Jackson, Alan. The Politics of Architecture, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970

Jencks, Charles, and Andreas Papadakis (editors), Pass-Modern Triumphs in London, London: Academy Editions, 1991

Jones, Edward, and Christopher Woodward, A Guide w the Architecture of Landon, London: Weidenfeld 1983; and Nicolson, 2nd edition, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1992. Reprinted with corrections, 1995

Lambert, Sam (editor), New Architecture of London: A Selection of Buildings since 1930, London: Architectural Association, 1963

Leapman, Michael (editor), London: The Evolution of a Great City, London and New York: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1989

Maxwell, Robert. New British Architecture, New York: Praeger, 1973 Moffett. Nocl. The Best of British Architecture: 1980-2000, London: E. and F. N. Spon, 1993

Murray, Peter. and Robert Maxwell, Contemperary British Architects, Munich and New York; Prevel, 1994

Peto, James, and Donna Loveday (editors). Modern Britain, 1929- 1939. London: Design Museum, 1999

Powell, Kenneth (editor), Werld Citier: London, London: Academy Editions, 1993

Rasmussen. Steen Eiler, Landon, the Unique City, Cambridge. Massachuerts: MIT Press. 1974 (reprint of 1937 edition. New Yore The Mac Millan Co. 1937 new revised edition. London: J. Cape. 1948. Reprint of 1948 edition. Cambridge, Massachuserts: MIT Press. 1974.

Saint. Andrew, and Gillian Darley. The Chronicles of London, London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1994

Saunders, Ann, The Art and Architecture of London: An Ileutrated Guide, Oxford: Phaidon. 1984

Seaborne, Mike, Photographers Landon, 1839-1994, London: Muscum of London, 1995

Service, Alistair, London 1900, New York: Rizzoli Internacional, 1979

Trench, Richard, and Ellis Hillman, London under London: A Subterrancan Guide, London: John Murray, 1984

Weinreb, Ben. and Christopher Hibber (editors), The London Encyclopedia, London: Macmillan, 1984; tevised edition. 1995 (same publisher)








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