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British Post-War Architecture: Anglo-Scandos, Brutalists & “Trad Dads” - HOA00100M

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  • Department: History of Art
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Joshua Mardell
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22

Module summary

The module will interrogate the architectural consequences of shifting canons of taste in post-war Britain. It will examine the social and economic conditions within which buildings – brutalist or otherwise – were conceived, and how modernity was shaped in the period not only through architecture and urbanism but – if seemingly paradoxically – conservation, an increasingly dominant force on built environment polices and debates.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2021-22

Module aims

Donald Trump, big builder and sometime president, focused on architecture when he issued one of his last executive orders: namely, that new buildings should be built in a classical style. Moreover, what they should not be, he specified, is ‘brutalist’, which was then defined in vague and ahistorical terms. Trump’s executive order ingrains a prejudice against modern architecture’s most vilified moment, just as the ‘style’ seemed to be enjoying a new, increasingly widespread popularity. This is fitting to the central discussions of this seminar series which will interrogate the architectural consequences of shifting canons of taste in post-war Britain. It will examine the social and economic conditions within which buildings – brutalist or otherwise – were conceived, and how modernity was shaped in the period not only through architecture and urbanism but – if seemingly paradoxically – conservation, an increasingly dominant force on built environment polices and debates.

The eight object-based sessions, mostly arranged by building types such as universities, houses, theatres and churches, will begin with a period of ‘general consensus’ when modernism triumphed in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s, albeit playing host to competing modernist factions: the Anglo-Scandinavian ‘New Empiricists’ and the avant-garde ‘New Brutalists’. It will move into the 1970s, which witnessed new economic austerity accompanied by a mood of retrenchment and anxiety, and, a rise in an (especially popular) challenge to modernist orthodoxies. It will conclude in the 1980s, by which time modernity had seemingly opened itself up to history, to plurality, to ‘post-modernism’. It will also will make room for a further ‘ism’: otherism. This will examine architectures that are harder to pin down, from architects working in a vernacular tradition, to those inclined to prolong or revive classical styles, whom the architectural critic Reyner Banham termed ‘Trad Dads’. Embedded into this survey course will be a consideration of women architects in the post-war period and LGBTQIA+ spaces, hitherto all but obliterated from canonical and survey histories of the period.

As a whole, this course will consider post-war architecture as a complicated arena of changing values that will help you sharpen your tools to analyse and extrapolate its meanings

Module learning outcomes

Subject content

  • Knowledge of a corpus of significant buildings, architects, writers, and campaign groups from the period
  • An understanding of the social, political and economic dimensions behind architectural judgment, and how it has affected the visual appearance of the built environment
  • The ability to reflect critically on several different approaches to examining and telling the story of post-war architecture
  • An understanding of issues concerning the development and ongoing revision of the ‘architectural canon’, its ramifications for conservation, and a readiness to debate this
  • An understanding of the procedures used for the statutory protection of buildings in the UK (including knowledge of the ‘preservationist’ lobby), especially in relation to post-war listed buildings

Academic and graduate skills

  • Communication skills: giving a presentation and a ‘live’ tour of a building project
  • Skills in critical reading
  • Development of research skills, and of describing and analysing buildings
  • Development of confidence in the use of architectural terminology

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Essay (4000 words)
N/A 100

Special assessment rules

None

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Essay (4000 words)
N/A 100

Module feedback

We aim to provide feedback on summative assessment within 20 working days.

Indicative reading

Core texts:

  • Burckhardt, Lucius. Why is Landscape Beautiful?: The Science of Strollology (ed. Markus Ritter and Martin Schmitz) (Berlin, 2006).
  • Darling, Elizabeth and Walker, Lynne. (eds.) AA XX Women in Architecture, 1917-2017 (London, 2017).
  • Gold, John. The Experience of Modernism: Modern Architects and the Future City (Abingdon, 1997).
  • Gold, John. The Practice of Modernism: Modern Architects and Urban Transformation (London and New York, 2007).
  • Harwood, Elain. Space, Hope and Brutalism (New Haven, 2014).
  • Hopkins, Owen. Postmodern Architecture. Less is a Bore (London and New York, 2020).
  • Hyde, Timothy. Ugliness and Judgment: On Architecture in the Public Eye (Princeton, 2019).
  • Powers, Alan, Britain [modern architectures in history] (London, 2007).

Additional:

  • Abramson, Daniel M. Obsolescence: An Architectural History (Chicago, 2017).
  • Allmendinger, Philip and Huw Thomas (eds.) Urban Planning and the British New Right (Abingdon, 1998).
  • Bullock, Nicholas. Building the Post-War World: Modern Architecture and Reconstruction in Britain (London, 2002).
  • Architecture in Britain and Beyond (London and New Haven, 2010).
  • Furman, Adam and Joshua Mardell. Queer Spaces: An Atlas of LGBTQIA+ Places and Stories (London, 2022 [manuscripts]).
  • Glendinning, Miles. The Conservation Movement: A History of Architectural Preservation: A History of Architectural Preservation: Antiquity to Modernity (Abingdon, 2013).
  • Harwood, Elain and Alan Powers (eds.). The Heroic Period of Conservation [Twentieth Century Architecture, 7] (London, 2004).
  • Holder, Julian and Elizabeth McKeller. Neo-Georgian Architecture 1880-1970 (London, 2016).
  • Hvattum, Mari and Christian Hermansen. Tracing Modernity: Manifestations of the Modern in Architecture and the City (London, 2004).
  • Powers, Alan (ed.). Robin Hood Gardens: Revisions (London, 2010).
  • Proctor, Robert. Building the Modern Church: Roman Catholic Church Architecture in Britain, 1955 to 1975 (Farnham, 2014).
  • Smith, Helen. Masculinity, Class and Same-Sex Desire in Industrial England, 1895-1957 (Basingstoke 2015)
  • Smithson, Alison and Peter Smithson. The Euston Arch and the Growth of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (London, 1968).
  • Vellinga, Marcel and Lindsay Asquith. Vernacular Architecture in the 21st Century: Theory, Education and Practice (London and New York, 2006).

Key websites:



The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.