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Review - Book - The Practice of Modernism: Modern Architects and Urban Transformation, 1954-1972

By Elain Harwood

The Practice of Modernism: Modern Architects and Urban Transformation, 1954-1972.
By John R Gold.
Routledge, 2007.
336pp. £29.99

A decade ago, John Gold’s The Experience of Modernism offered a geographer’s insight into the aspirations of the Modern Architectural Research Group (MARS) and post-war planners facing the rebuilding of Britain’s slums and blitzed town centres (AJ 21.05.98). It was wide-ranging, fresh and challenging. This follow-up looks at Modernism’s ascendant years, as cities like Birmingham and Glasgow were transformed with new centres and housing blocks, and Cumbernauld offered an alternative to the Garden City.

Only London escaped wholesale transformation – though there were isolated monuments such as Richard Seifert’s Centre Point offices and Darbourne & Darke’s Lillington Gardens housing in Pimlico. The end of this euphoria came in 1968 with the collapse of a tower block in the Borough of Newham – Ronan Point. With it went the privileged financial conditions that enabled such projects, along with public confidence in architects, planners and other professionals.

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