I am an architectural and urban historian. My current research explores a constellation of ideas about the radical renewal of the central areas of British cities in the early to mid 1960s. It focuses on the plans created by architect-planners for British city centres. It places these plans within their cultural and political context. It is a history of what William Holford described as 'the Utopian urge to reconstruct the core of the old metropolis, to bring order out of disorder, to counter sprawl by concentration, to create a symbol of efficiency – a Welfare City in a Welfare State.'
I am also interested in leisure centres, post-war university architecture, shopping centres, and the workings of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. I have written about architectural practices including Gillespie, Kidd & Coia; Chamberlin Powell & Bon; Sheppard Robson; Building Design Partnership; Howell, Killick, Partridge & Amis; and Powell & Moya..
The Inner City Crisis and the End of Urban Modernism in 1970s Britain
Twentieth Century British History
This article links two processes that reached culmination during the 1970s: the emergence in central government of concern for inner city areas, and the rejection of urban modernist approaches to the built environment. It focuses on the approach of the Department of the Environment in dealing with the issue, particularly through the three Inner Area Studies on Lambeth, Small Heath in Birmingham and Liverpool 8, which were published in 1977. The first section gives an account of the background under which the Studies were commissioned by the Department of the Environment, then headed by Conservative Secretary of State Peter Walker. Part two gives a brief account of the Studies. Part three details their reception under the Labour Government, and shows their influence on the 1977 White Paper Policy for the Inner Cities. Through this case study two arguments are made about the changing approach to the built environment in the 1970s: that political and planning elites played a pivotal role in the disavowal of urban modernism in this period; and that the multiple problems exemplified by the inner city made modernist approaches appear increasingly untenable, even to former advocates. The conclusion suggests that, at least in its approach to the inner city, the meliorist aims of the post-war period were not an intellectually spent force by the 1970s, but remained an ambitious and evolving project.
Central government and town-centre redevelopment in Britain, 1959-1966