Postgraduate Course: Advanced Studies in Post-War British Architecture (ARHI11008)
|School||Edinburgh College of Art
||College||College of Humanities and Social Science
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||As the immediate priorities of post-war reconstruction began to fade in the 1950s, and as an improving economy fuelled a consumer boom, ideas of 'modernity' became central to architecture and design - and to wider cultural debate - in post-war Britain. Harold Macmillan declared at the end of the 1950s that most people in Britain had 'never had it so good', and his government's modernising agenda was developed by Harold Wilson under the banner of 'white heat' technocracy. Through the study of buildings, designs, texts, and the media, this course explores how architecture was used to articulate ideas of modernity in Britain between the late 1940s and the end of the twentieth century. It adopts a pluralist approach which sets architecture in a wider historical context, examining a range of approaches to architecture including the Brutalism of the 1960s and 1970s as well as High Tech, Postmodernism, and conservation in the 1970s and 1980s. This period of architectural history continues to generate exciting new work by historians and arouses much public debate, especially where the conservation of its architecture is concerned.
After 1945, architecture and planning were seen as the tools by means of which to reshape British society. Within the context of the Welfare State, the built environment was comprehensively rethought. New towns were built from scratch; others were comprehensively remodelled. Large sections of the population were rehoused by both the state and by private enterprise, new schools and universities were built, new shopping centres responded to changing patterns of consumer behaviour, and new environments for culture and leisure were created. Architecture was fundamental to the vision of a modern Britain shared during the 1950s and 1960s by both Left and Right. Yet during the 1970s this optimistic, idealistic vision was challenged by critics, while economic recession prompted wider worries about the country's future direction. A different political agenda shaped the 1980s and 1990s, decades in which the Modernist certainties of the 1950s and 1960s were re-shaped in the light of the 1970s debates as well as new, emerging concerns.
This course offers a broadly conceived overview of a period of British architectural history that continues to generate lively debate among historians as well as the general public. It surveys the architectural production of the period, considering not only constructed buildings but also unbuilt schemes, and also looking at how architecture was represented in print, image, exhibition and film. As historians, our concern will be to locate architecture in a wider social, political and cultural context.
We will consider the variety of architecture during the period, from the 'architect's architecture' of 1960s Brutalism to more production-focused approaches such as prefabrication, looking at the ideas that shaped it, the technologies that made it possible, and the extent to which it was embedded in wider debates. We'll examine how these ideas were reframed during the 1970s. Finally, the course will look at the architecture of the 1980s and 1990s, decades which, as yet, have attracted relatively little study by historians. Are we right to focus on Postmodernism and High Tech? What else was going on? We'll look at community architecture, co-operative practice, and low-energy design. We'll conclude by asking: how can we start to write a history of late twentieth-century architecture in Britain, and how does it relate to the architecture of the 'heroic' Welfare State period of 1945-75? Our references will include some of the famous names of the period, such as James Stirling and the Smithsons, but we will also look at 'anonymous' architects working in public practice, as well as a range of designers whose work is now less well-known. Students will be able to engage with the latest research, and at this level will be expected to advance their own research agendas.
The course will be taught through a mixture of two-hour lectures, and seminars (which may be one or two hours long depending on group size and activity). There will also be visits to archives at Historic Environment Scotland and Edinburgh University Library. There will be visits to key sites in Edinburgh and potentially beyond. Parts of this course will be jointly delivered with the UG course ARHI10048 Architecture in Britain, 1951-97: Brutalism & Beyond.
Assessment will comprise:
a.) a 4000-word essay, submitted at the end of the vacation following the course, on a subject of the student's choosing (70%).
b.) an assessed presentation, 30 minutes long, given in class (30%).
Through reading, discussion and site visits, you will be invited to make up your mind about buildings and designers whose legacies are often controversial.
Information for Visiting Students
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Not being delivered|
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Demonstrate an extensive knowledge and understanding of architectural production in Britain, and by British architects in a selection of overseas contexts, between 1945 and 1999
- Demonstrate an advanced and synthetic understanding of the cultural, political and historical context of British architecture during the second half of the twentieth century, and the relationships between architecture and that context
- Independently locate, reflect on, and use a range of different forms of evidence in complex and potentially novel ways, and to consider how and why historians have done so in the past
- Generate and support arguments that challenge and extend our understanding of the architectural history of this period.
- Demonstrate a critical awareness of the value to the historian not only of 'actual monuments' but also a wider form of architectural production including text, designs, and mass media.
|A full reading list will be available at the start of the semester. The core surveys on which the course will draw are:|
Elain Harwood, Space Hope and Brutalism: English Architecture 1945-75 (New Haven and London, 2015)
John R. Gold, The Practice of Modernism (London, 2007)
Alan Powers, Britain: Modern Architectures in History (London, 2007)
Nicholas Bullock, Building the Post-War World (London, 2002)
Miles Glendinning, Ranald Macinnes, and Aonghus MacKechnie, A History of Scottish Architecture, from the Renaissance to the Present Day (Edinburgh, 1996)
Lionel Esher, A Broken Wave: the Rebuilding of England, 1940-1980 (London, 1981)
Barnabas Calder, Raw Concrete: the Beauty of Brutalism (London, 2015)
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
Critically review & consolidate existing knowledge in the field
Make judgements where data may be limited or comes from a range of sources
Demonstrate routine and specialist skills in presenting and conveying information formally and informally in writing and orally
Communicate with a range of audiences
Work autonomously and demonstrate initiative
Work to bring about change and new thinking
|Course organiser||Dr Alistair Fair
Tel: (0131 6)51 3913
|Course secretary||Miss Siobhan Byron
Tel: (0131 6)51 5744