Shaping the City to Come

BookShaping the City to Come

Shaping the City to Come

Rethinking Modern Architecture and Town Planning in England, c. 1934-51


February 15th, 2022

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This study reassesses modern architecture and town planning in mid-twentieth-century England, highlighting ideas and debates that were in circulation as modernist ideals gradually took root. The book reveals an architectural culture that was serious, active, and visionary, with impact that extended into the postwar years. Through close studies of specific works and writings, the author acknowledges the importance of the international context of modern architecture as it intersected with the variety of narratives that defined English modernism, such as national identity, the New Empiricism, and the picturesque, taking into account the large community of émigré architects who settled in England with the approach of World War II, as well as a more general dissemination of international style forms and theories from continental Europe. The book places familiar figures such as Berthold Lubetkin and Ernö Goldfinger, as well as projects such as Tecton’s Penguin Pool and the Festival of Britain’s “Live Architecture” Exhibition, in new light, presenting a rich picture of the modern architectural climate in England. The study draws attention to the debates, proposals, and processes that fed into the development of modernist, urban-minded, and forward-looking architectural ideals.

'With its unique take on the impact of the diasporic displacement of modernist practitioners, Shaping the City to Come makes a delightful contribution to the growing revisionist discourse on the state of modern architectural culture in Britain. In this subtle tale, local conditions responded in important and nuanced ways to the arrival of formative émigré figures and their attendant design ideologies. The text is scholarly in the depth of its meticulous research, as well as accessible in its elegant prose, and will enrich the knowledge of specialists and amateurs alike.'
Hadas Steiner, The University at Buffalo, State University of New York

'At a time when Britain asserts its independence from Europe, Shaping the City to Come is a timely reminder of the contributions of refugee and émigré architects and planners to English life and culture. Expertly weaving architectural and urban history with cultural theory, this absorbing and well-researched book is sure to revise our understanding of a formative historical era. From interwar experiments in mass housing to post-war urban reconstruction, Lewittes deftly explores how English culture was transformed through its encounter with the European diaspora. Elegantly written and insightful, it suggests a new definition of modern architecture shaped by the experiences of mass migration and forced exile.'
Joanna Merwood-Salisbury, Victoria University of Wellington

Author Information

Deborah Lewittes is Associate Professor at City University of New York.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
List of Figures9
Preface: The Man in the White Suit: England and the Dissemination of Modern Architecture15
Introduction: Four Stories: Telling the Tale of Modern English Architecture33
1 The Visionary and the Concrete: Spirals and Circles53
2 London Underground and Overground: From Subcultures and Subterranea to Subtopia83
3 Planning London: Wartime Proposals and the Urban Future109
4 Living in the Urban Future: Britain “on the cusp” and the Live Architecture Exhibition151
Conclusion: Architecture in the Diaspora: An Alternative Framework181
Selected Bibliography263