• Pessimist Utopia: Theo Crosby 1950-1990

Kei, Juliana, 2019, Thesis, Pessimist Utopia: Theo Crosby 1950-1990 PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

This research explores previously overlooked interconnections in 20th century British architecture by triangulating discourses in post-war Modernism, Postmodernism and preservationist architecture. It uses the works of British-South African architect, designer, writer and exhibition curator Theo Crosby (1925-1994) as a lens to make apparent and reflect on these conjunctures. Known primarily as a founding partner of the multi-disciplinary design firm Pentagram, Crosby started his career in the milieu of the post-war Modernist and,
in the 1960s, became a vocal advocate for architectural preservation. In the 1980s he was an advisor to Prince Charles for his populist and controversial interventions within British architectural discourse. The study of Crosby’s multifaceted career provides a means to inquire as to how discussions on architectural language and environment in post-war Modernism changed the trajectory of British architecture during its Postmodern turn, and to reflect on the radicalising effect exerted by the paradigm of ‘preservation’ upon architectural
and cultural discourse.

Drawing attention to experimental ventures in preservation and the nostalgic side of much celebrated techno-utopian visions, this study reveals confluences currently overlooked in late 20th-century British architectural history. It brings to light many of the particularities of British post-war Modernism and its interwoven nature with Postmodernism and preservation.

This research critically evaluates other dimensions brought into view through the study of Crosby’s career, such as architectural preservation’s temporary turn to radical politics and information theory in the 1970s. This thesis connects Crosby’s practices to the present day, in particular to the dilemmas encountered in preservation. His four-decade-long career is also used as a prism to reflect on how architects’ attitude towards the past has been shaped by the economic, technological, industrial and political transformations in late 20th-century Britain.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Architecture > K100 Architecture
Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies
School or Centre: School of Arts & Humanities
Additional Information:

Some images contained in this thesis have been redacted for reasons of copyright.

Date Deposited: 07 Oct 2019 10:47
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2020 16:00
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/4100
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