• Bricks & Words #7: ‘The Thirties: Recalling the English Architectural Scene’

    Art Deco was the first architectural style that I was ever really aware of, back in the 1980s, probably a result of exposure to television dramas and Sunday supplement articles, both of which presented the delightful geometries and pastel colours of Deco as winningly seductive. It was a movement whose works I learned early to appreciate and which I still enjoy and which led me to join the Twentieth Century Society (originally the Thirties Society). This book, similarly one of the first I acquired on the subject of architecture, is a wonderful introduction to a period when home-grown and émigré architects alike brought optimism and interest to the built environment of England.

    Briskly but not shallowly, Dean takes the reader engagingly through almost every aspect of the style and its application, from iconic houses to public places of entertainment and from the parallel Modernist movement to the underlying social reforms of which the architecture was often a manifestation. Most of the principal personalities of the time are included, such as Oliver Hill, Wells Coates, Lubetkin, Chermayeff and so on, and insights into their characters are given as well as their works. Clients, materials, theories and more are also addressed. Importantly the whole is heavily and beautifully illustrated with material from the RIBA collection. For me this was a revelation, as the many colour plates often include the exquisite perspective works of Cyril A. Farey and J.D.M. Harvey, little worlds of paint and gouche in which to become lost. Altogether this is a perfect primer to the subject at hand, and well worth acquiring.

    ‘The Thirties: Recalling the English Architectural Scene’ by David Dean (RIBA, 1983)

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Chris Rogers writer on architecture and visual culture

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