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“The most debased English habits of compromise and sentimentality" : style and substance in British mid-century architectural discourse

Calder, Barnabas (2011) “The most debased English habits of compromise and sentimentality" : style and substance in British mid-century architectural discourse. In: A Retrospective Symposium on the Architectural Review’s Townscape Campaign, 2011-07-23. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Speech which explores style and substance in British mid-century architectural discourse. Shortly after the Second World War the Architectural Review launched its wide-reaching Townscape campaign. Townscape lasted into the 1970s and involved hundreds of contributors who collectively published over 1,000 instalments related to the campaign. Townscape ran parallel to the rise to pre-eminence of the AR itself, which in the post-war era had become famous for its novel graphic presentation, unique editorial line and quality of contributing authors. Beginning with a series of articles in the 1930s, the AR problematised the deleterious effects of the sprawling modernisation of Britain’s rural and urban areas and pitched Townscape as a moderate alternative between (a still unpopular) international modernism and the wave of stylistic revivalisms that had emerged between the wars. It was hoped that a reformed modernism could be married to informal picturesque planning to provide what the AR’s editors termed a “humanized townscape”. By the early-1950s the range of themes championed by the AR had coalesced into the central polemic of Townscape, creating a comprehensive and highly visual approach to urban design.