To Lansbury and beyond
Fifties'detailing At the entrance to the Lansbury Estate's Festival of Britain temporary exhibition area, three pavilions took pride of place. The first was the town planning tent, which was designed, as the AJ put it in 1951, 'to show the layman why New Towns are being built and how they are planned'.
The official exhibition guide described the five key processes of town planning as:
the battle for land;
assessing the needs of the people;
how can these needs be met? ;
work in progress; and ending with a remodelled town centre as the focus of social life - which Punch described as a 'drearily antiseptic existence'.
The building research pavilion included sections on stability, showing how to ensure that external walls are constructed to be resistant to wind and rain. The noise section - signified by a 2m-high model of an ear - allowed visitors the opportunity to hear taperecorded sounds of babies crying through a variety of wall constructions. The heating display showed 'how heat may be economically provided and how it may be conserved'.
Good, 'modern' building practices were displayed in a full-size cutaway house, although insulation was not much in evidence.
Gremlin Grange was the display model for all the worst practices - from bad foundations to rising damp; from frost-damaged water tanks to smoking chimneys.As the guidebook said: 'This is a full-sized demonstration of how things may go wrong when scientific principles in building are ignored.'
Whatever we may think of the dated naivety of some of the details, the desire for a coherent planning strategy and improvements to living standards is refreshing.
REFERENCES The Architects' Journal, 6 September 1951 1951 Exhibition of Architecture, Festival of Britain Guide 'In Darkest Lansbury'.BAYoung.Punch, 13 June 1951