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Title: Multi-storey public housing in Liverpool during the inter-war years
Author: Whitfield, Matthew
ISNI:       0000 0004 2719 9638
Awarding Body: Manchester Metropolitan University
Current Institution: Manchester Metropolitan University
Date of Award: 2010
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Abstract This thesis makes a critical assessment of the Liverpool Corporation's inter-war development of multi-storey housing schemes in the central core of the city. It sets these buildings in the wider context of their political and architectural rationale - locally, nationally and in relation to comparable European examples. In particular, it addresses the multiple aspects of the intellectual heritage that underpinned the conception and design of municipal multi-storey housing schemes in a period when, in England at least, they were notable by their rarity. The rationale for building flatted blocks with public money had its roots in the nineteenth century as a pragmatic response to Liverpool's problems of overcrowding and disease, the need for proximity to the casualised dockside economy, and high central land values. This multi-storey tradition was re-energised by the housing crisis after the First World War when the same pragmatic economic reasoning was reinforced by cross-party support for a self-consciously modern programme of flats. The political momentum was underscored by the presence of progressive council officers and the appointment of Lancelot Keay as Assistant Director of Housing in 1925, whose sympathies were with large-scale and rationally-conceived re-planning, to meet housing (and economic) need whilst creating a quality and scale of architecture which befitted Liverpool's ambitions of civic-minded building in a more welfare-inflected era. Also significant was the cultural capital bound up in connections with the Liverpool School of Architecture, which from the 1930s supplied the Housing Department with innovative young architects, as interns and junior staff mem bers. The architecture of the multi-storey schemes in Liverpool reflected significant trends in contemporary British and European architectural practice. In planning terms Lancelot Keay was a committed follower of Beaux Arts principles of grand, axial planning on a truly urban scale - a method also taught enthusiastically at the Liverpool School of Architecture under Charles Reilly. In the 1930s, the shift in style from Neo-Georgian to an expressionistic form of modernism under the creative input of graduates from the school such as John Hughes immensely influenced the Housing Department's practice, and examples of European municipal and trade union housing schemes were used to communicate the Corporation's ambitions for a truly modern conception of how the city's re-housing should be planned. With flats at the centre of Liverpool's inter-war re-housing programme, both the city and Lancelot Keay rose to some degree of national prominence in the 1930s, as part of the ongoing professional and political debate on municipal housing in general and flats versus houses in particular. Keay was invited to sit on Ministry of Health committees that helped shape policy on the issue and numerous foreign delegations visited Liverpool's schemes. The legislative context and governmental systems of subsidy were never able to fully support Liverpool's ambitions for comprehensive multi-storey redevelopment, but it is clear from the scope of the city's proposals that it was like no other nationally in its promotion of flats as a desirable solution to the problem of the housing crisis; no comparable English cities of the period engaged to the same extent with a programmatic development of multi-storey schemes. Liverpool's flats attempted to create environments that were more than superficially modern, drawing inspiration from the communal social and recreational facilities of some European schemes. The Housing Department's work was characterised by implicit and explicit desires for modernity in multi-storey public housing, in design and ideological conception, and as such represented a highly significant early example of large-scale municipal modernism in public housing practice.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available