Alan Powers (former Chair of the Twentieth Century Society) offers an insightful and engaging evening as he delves into London's buildings of the 1930s.
We tend to think of public sector architecture as a feature of the post-war Welfare State, but considerable resources were committed in the 1930s to all types of building, largely funded by public money for social uses. These included housing, hospitals and clinics, transport, schools, police and fire stations, libraries and town halls.
Stylistically, these could be found at the two ends of the architectural spectrum, traditional and modern, but the great majority were in between, in a zone that has been neglected by writers and commentators on the subject. These middle styles are found in all building types, but in the architecture of public service, they had a special remit to convey civic values of dignity and efficiency, combined with durable materials. Excitement and novelty were not favoured, but the designers, many of them long forgotten, achieved results that deserve careful looking and after such long neglect are unexpectedly being reproduced in aspects of current design. At the same time, the original buildings are often changing use and are under threat of demolition.
The Architecture of Public Service is the title of the 2018 issue of the Twentieth Century Society’s journal, which will be available for sale at the lecture. It is distributed at no extra cost to all members of the Twentieth Century Society.
Alan Powers writes mainly on mid twentieth century art, architecture and design in Britain. He has a long association with the Twentieth Century Society, first as its honorary caseworker in the 1980s, and more recently as chairman 2007-12. In 2018, he will publish two books, Enid Marx, The Pleasures of Pattern (Lund Humphries) and Bauhaus Goes West (Thames and Hudson).