Geoscience Reference
In-Depth Information
In London Zoo in the 1930s that sense of distance was arguably diluted somewhat
and animals came to be seen as occupying a pivotal relationship between humanity
and nature. To the mind of modernist reformers and applied scientists, they were
organisms to be understood, nurtured and housed efficiently, as, indeed, were
'Biotechnic' planning
There was a clear relationship between modernist architecture and concern for
environment and health in the 1930s (see Gruffudd 1995). That relationship was
multi-faceted. It was expressed in concern for the patterns of ill-health, and specific
diseases like TB, generated by dark, insanitary and cramped areas of the Victorian
industrial city, and in the concurrent belief in the health-giving benefits of the new
architecture—natural light, fresh air and sanitary design. The Architects' Journal (AJ)
in June 1933 graphically illustrated the problem of over-crowding in a series of
striking textual and visual images. The smoky, huddled Manchester sky-line, for
instance, was set against the rational angular forms of a German housing
The Manchester sky-line…discloses itself fitfully between mercifully frequent
wisps of fog as a devil's cauldron of chimneys, belching soot over long funereal
slabs of black-slated roof…. Here free Britons live, are begotten, born and
die. The gleaming white and red tenements at Lichtensberg house an
identical type of population—not huddled together literally in stall-like
hutches, but in spacious, balconied flats, with abundant light and air, a clear
sky overhead, and grass to look out upon.
(AJ 1933:832)
Clearly allied to an architectural discourse was a much wider debate about the
virtues of 'planning'—the rational, scientific ordering of human social and spatial
life. Most histories of modernism stress the radicalism of the modernist project and
its emergence, in Britain at least, from socialist-intellectual circles (e.g. Gold 1997),
and this chapter builds, in part, on that reading. But it also offers a challenge to the
tendency to view modernist architecture and planning as solely the discourse of the
machine. There have recently been some reinterpretations of modernism which
stress its ambivalent—or even positive—relationship with tradition, with mysticism
and (most importantly here) with the organic and with nature (e.g. Matless 1992,
1998). For Lewis Mumford (1945:412), the historian of technology, for instance,
modernism was all about the emergence of a biotechnic age:
'[L]iving' in architecture means in adequate relation to life. It does not mean
an imitation in stone or metal of the external appearance of organic form:
houses with mushroom roofs or rooms shaped like the corolla of a flower. It
Search WWH ::

Custom Search