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  • Negotiated modernism: British suburbia between the wars

Curtis, Barry, 2012, Book Section, Negotiated modernism: British suburbia between the wars In: Making a New World: Architecture & Communities in Interwar Europe. Leuven University Press. ISBN 9789058679093

Abstract or Description:

In this essay, Curtis makes an original contribution to the history of modernism in Britain by establishing the many ways in which forms of tradition infused the design and inhabitation of the new suburbs. First invited to contribute a paper at a conference at the University of Leuven (2006), Curtis developed his research into a full essay for publication in this book, featuring the work of 17 international scholars who each examined aspects of the symbolic (re)distribution and material expression of communal identity during the interwar decades.
Curtis’s essay emphasises residual, pre-1914 influences on the forward-looking culture of the interwar years. These took a variety of forms – from the material ‘legacy’ of pre-war furniture in post-war homes to popular perceptions of widely mediated reports on the style decisions of the newly wealthy. Curtis argues that recognising the ‘mixed economy’ of tradition and modernity in the suburbs helps us to understand and better interpret the sharp and well-known criticisms of figures such as D.H. Lawrence.
Curtis based the essay on his research in the commercial archives of the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture at Middlesex University, and his wide reading of fiction written during the period. Placing a particular emphasis on the activities of commercial builders, an under-researched agent in the massive increase in housebuilding in interwar Britain, Curtis emphasises the company Laing PLC (reproducing a number of previously unpublished illustrations of the company’s homes in his article). He shows that builders were sensitive to the psychological as well as practical needs of British homebuyers after the Great War.
This essay reflects Curtis’s research interest into the lingering influence of Edwardian culture in the 1920s and 1930s, a theme that he addressed in a lecture at a Tate Gallery symposium organised by the Edwardian Culture Network in May 2012.

Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies
School or Centre: School of Humanities
Date Deposited: 25 Oct 2013 16:17
Last Modified: 03 Feb 2014 11:56
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/1443

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