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Title: New town urbanity : theory and practice in housing design at Harlow
Author: Manley, Christine Hui Lan
ISNI:       0000 0004 5992 729X
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: Glasgow School of Art
Date of Award: 2014
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This study investigates how the concept of 'urbanity' was defined, developed and applied to the design of housing in British post-war New Towns. A number of modernist architects, particularly Sir Frederick Gibberd, considered 'urbanity' to be a visual town-like quality. Such concepts were part of a wider movement to reconsider the aesthetic dimension of town planning; ideas developed through architectural discourse during the 1940s and 50s, responding to (and sometimes contradicting) the earlier modernist principles of the 1930s, which emphasised the social and functional aspects of architecture and planning. Reacting to the low-density suburban developments of the inter-war period, Gibberd developed his own ideas about urbanity. Gibberd was a member of the avant-garde Modern Architectural Research Group (MARS Group); however, developing such aesthetic notions went against the principles of mainstream modernism. Nevertheless, the 1946 New Towns Act provided the ideal opportunity for Gibberd to test his visual planning theories, since after the War, he was selected to plan Harlow New Town. He served the New Town from conception to completion, maintaining his ambition to create a sense of urbanity throughout. Much of the housing has remained unchanged since construction and a number of areas have been studied to reveal the application of urbanity elements over the period of study (1947-1967). By examining Gibberd's personal notes and sketches, as well as the discourse evident in architectural publications, Part 1 of the study aims to establish what 'urbanity' meant to Gibberd and other modernist architects during the 1940s and 50s. Through archive research, Part 2 investigates the ways in which Gibberd together with the Harlow Development Corporation (HDC) attempted to apply elements of urbanity to housing design at Harlow. The low densities prescribed by the Housing Manuals at first proved restrictive to Gibberd and the HDC, andchanging ideas about housing types, home ownership and 'social balance' also had an impact on the shape of Harlow. This thesis highlights Gibberd's key role in the development and implementation of principles of visual town planning throughout the 1940s and 50s. However, where other modernist architects reaffirmed their commitment to social aspects of planning, Gibberd's emphasis on aesthetics has led to the omission of Gibberd's work at Harlow from conventional narratives of modern architecture and planning. This study challenges this idea by arguing that the theory and practice of 'urbanity' formed an alternative, additional strand of modernist thinking about town planning.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available