‘The core’: The centre as a concept in twentieth-century British planning and architecture. Part One: the emergence of the idea

Elizabeth Darling*, Alistair Fair

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This is the first of a pair of articles in which we argue that what we term the ‘centre-idea’ was fundamental to British modernist architecture and planning thought from the mid-1940s onwards. We locate this idea’s roots in the pre- 1939 British voluntary sector, specifically the activities of the Peckham Experiment and the Pioneer Health Centre which housed it. We evidence its long-term influence on post-1945 architecture and planning in the invitation to the Experiment’s co-creator George Scott Williamson to speak at CIAM’s eighth Congress in 1951. The paper begins with a discussion of the Experiment, an architectural and urban setting which was understood to effect new forms of human relationships and subjectivity suited to a democratic, post-imperial modernity. We then consider other environments to show how this ‘centre-idea’ was widespread in progressive circles by the late 1930s. The paper concludes by discussing the community centre as an emerging building type increasingly supported by the state. This coming together of the British state, modernist architecture and progressive voluntarist thinking by the outbreak of war in 1939, would mean that the ‘centre-idea’ had a significant impact on reconstruction debates and post- war planning; the subject of our forthcoming companion article.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-98
JournalPlanning Perspectives
Volume38
Issue number1
Early online date13 Oct 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • modernism
  • planning
  • MARS Group
  • CIAM
  • Pioneer Health Centre
  • Jaqueline Tyrwhitt
  • J M Richards
  • community
  • democracy

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