'Architecture, Media and Archives: the Fun Palace of Joan Littlewood and Cedric Price as a Cultural Project'

Project Details

Layman's description

The Fun Palace was a cultural project initiated in London 1961 by radical theatre entrepreneur Joan Littlewood and architect Cedric Price, aimed to transform mass-audiences into active citizens through the provision of opportunities for self-directed, pleasure-led and open-ended social interaction. It was a dynamic and complex project, nurtured by an expanding network of contributors and of practices throughout its development until 1975. In 1964, the idea took the form of a giant, mobile architecture for the banks of Lea Valley. Infused with the range of cybernetic concepts and methods – explored through the Fun Palace’s Cybernetics Committee meetings chaired by Gordon Pask – it challenged the determinism of modern architecture and planning. By the end of the decade and under the leadership of Littlewood, the project was reconstituted into local activism, engaging Stratford youth amidst violent redevelopment in the area. The lack of institutional support prompted a number of tactical publicity practices – broadsheets, films, journals, grids and press cuttings – that disseminated the Fun Palace’s cultural agenda of emancipation through pleasure.
The Fun Palace has captivated the imagination of architectural scholars since its inception; yet its architectural presence eclipses the understanding of the project’s more ambitious cultural agenda. How did the project actually operate? Paying close attention to Littlewood’s role, this research investigates the conditions of production, circulation, storage and reception of a selection of Fun Palace media from the archive to uncover, on one hand, the pressures that these objects exerted upon interrelated areas of cultural production in Britain 1960s and 1970s – architecture, theatre, education, leisure, mass media, and information and communication technologies. On the other hand, it studies the impact of the asymmetrical form of the Fun Palace archive on the project’s reception up until today. Ultimately, through the interrogation of this situated activity and agency, I argue for the central role that media plays in the constitution of the Fun Palace’s complex cultural agenda.
This research is aimed at scholars with an interest in architectural theory and historiography. The cross-disciplinary nature of the Fun Palace and its discussion here will also engage those in theatre, media and cultural studies.
StatusActive
Effective start/end date5/01/1431/08/24

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