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Title: Contextualising the continental : the work of German émigré architects in Britain, 1933-45
Author: Thomson, Christina
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 1999
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Between 1933 and 1940 between sixty and ninety German architects arrived in Britain as émigrés fleeing from Nazi oppression. The Germany which they left had, until Hitler's intervention, been the centre of European architectural modernism. Making their passage into Britain, they encountered a country whose architectural climate was altogether more traditional. When the first German architects arrived in 1933, architectural modernism was only just taking root, but only a few years later Britain's architectural culture boasted a thriving modernist scene. This coincidence has led historians to draw a direct connection between the presence of German architects and the establishment of modernism in Britain. This thesis, however, advances the current historiography by showing that the role of German émigrés was, rather than to initiate British architectural modernism, to support a development which had taken root before their arrival. Through examination of a number of sources - including personal papers, drawings, photographs, archive material, buildings, and personal interviews - it explores processes of acculturation as evidenced by the work of the émigré architects. A number of in-depth case studies reveal that the new environment in Britain provoked a variety of responses among the German architects, whose work frequently digressed into the realms of British architectural traditions (taking particular inspiration from the architecture of the Georgian period). Looking beyond well-known figures such as Mendelsohn and Gropius, the thesis concludes that the story of architectural migration from Germany to Britain cannot be told in terms of modernism alone. It shows that responses to the émigré situation were highly dependent on the individual architect's background, his or her experience, age, standing and time of arrival, but reveals that, disregarding these differences, all émigré architects to some degree adapted to their new working environment, a tendency which has been described as New Contextualism. Although submitted in the field of History of Art, the scope of this thesis is methodologically and epistemologically wider than might usually be associated with this field. Despite being strongly visually based in its main analysis, the work is inter-disciplinary in approach, incorporating elements of biography, history, sociology, and exile studies, therefore expanding the boundaries of art historical study.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft ; British Academy ; University of Warwick
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: DA Great Britain ; NA Architecture