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
Autumn Term 2021-22
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
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
% of module mark
Essay/coursework Essay (4000 words)
Special assessment rules
% of module mark
Essay/coursework Essay (4000 words)
We aim to provide feedback on summative assessment within 20 working days.
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