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Establishment: 1950s Modernism

By the beginning of the 1950s, Modernism has become the style associated with the twentieth century and used in all manner of buildings. The architecture, whether a grand project such as Brasilia or a block of flats like The Lawn, Harlow is assured and elegant.

Return to the Modernism through the Decades landing page.

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National Congress buildings, Eixo Monumental, Brasilia: the Chamber of Deputies and the Towers of Congress

RIBA2161-16
Niemeyer, Oscar (1907-2012)
NOTES: The city of Brasilia was planned and developed in 1956 with Lucio Costa as chief urban planner and Oscar Niemeyer as principal architect. It formally became the capital of Brazil in 1960 and is the seat of all three branches of the Brazilian government. The National Congress buildings completed in 1958, comprise the Federal Senate, the Chamber of Deputies and the administrative twin Towers of Congress.

Palazzetto dello Sport, Rome

RIBA2876-25
Nervi, Pier Luigi (1891-1979)

Castrol House, Marylebone Road, London

RIBA2881-25
Gollins Melvin Ward & Partners
NOTES: Later known as Marathon House, this office block was converted into flats in 1998.

Peter Robinson, 65 Strand, London

RIBA5171
Lasdun, Sir Denys (1914-2001)
NOTES: This store was the first post-war building in England to make large scale use of bronze cladding. It was demolished in the 1990s

57 Ham Street, Ham Common, London: the garden facade

RIBA5200
Buzas, Stefan (1915-2008)
NOTES: This house, designed by the architect for himself and his family, is one of a pair with very similar elevations but different plans.

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

RIBA5207
Coventry City Architects Department
NOTES: Built in 1958 as part of the reconstruction of Coventry after World War II, this theatre was named in honour of the Yugoslav gift of timber used to help reconstruct the city. The theatre is a good example of the 'Festival' or 'Contemporary' style.

Flats in Holford Square, Finsbury, London: view showing the triaxial plan form of the spiral staircase of Bevin Court

RIBA5251
Skinner Bailey & Lubetkin
NOTES: Tecton were responsible for the masterplan, which was given Town Planning consent in 1948, and Skinner, Bailey & Lubetkin were responsible for its development and execution. See RIBA141108 for negative verson of this image.

The Lawn, Harlow, Essex: the Tower

RIBA5767
Gibberd, Sir Frederick (1908-1984)
NOTES: Harlow New Town, together with the London orbital developments of Basildon, Stevenage and Hemel Hempstead, was built after World War II to ease overcrowding in London. The masterplan for the town was drawn up by Frederick Gibberd in 1947. It is notable for being the location of the first pedestrian precinct and The Lawn, the first residential tower in Britain.

Cathedral Church of St Michael, Coventry: the steps and entrance porch with the bronze sculpture of 'St Michael subduing the Devil'

RIBA10454
Epstein, Sir Jacob (1880-1959)
NOTES: The bronze sculpture of 'St Michael subduing the Devil' was executed by Jacob Epstein in 1958.

Hallfield Estate, Bishop's Bridge Road, Paddington, London: a five-storey block

RIBA25793
Drake & Lasdun
NOTES: Tecton were responsible for the masterplan which was developed and executed by Drake & Lasdun.

Alton West Estate, Roehampton, London: the eleven-storey maisonette slabs

RIBA26234
London County Council. Architects Department
NOTES: The Alton Estate is situated between Putney Heath and Richmond Park in south-west London. The smaller south-east part, Alton East, was built in 1952-1955, while the much larger north-west part, Alton West, was built in 1955-1959.

Designs for the Usk Street housing estate, Bethnal Green, London: elevation of the maisonette block

RIBA32539
Drake & Lasdun
NOTES: This drawing dates from between 1951 and 1953. The Usk Street estate featured 'cluster blocks' of housing. See RIBA92600 for an uncropped version of this image

St Oswald's, Tile Hill, Coventry: the freestanding campanile, church hall and the church

RIBA48631
Basil Spence & Partners
NOTES: Basil Spence was commissioned in 1954 by the local Anglican diocese to design three low-cost parish churches to serve the new residential suburbs around Coventry: St Oswald's, Tile Hill; St John the Divine, Willenhall; and St Chad's, Bell Green. Each church is individually detailed but all are characterized by a freestanding campanile.

Spa Green Estate, Rosebery Avenue, Finsbury, London, seen from Rosebery Avenue

RIBA49531
Skinner Bailey & Lubetkin
NOTES: The Spa Green Estate initiated a mass housing programme for the London Borough of Finsbury. The design as executed differed little from that first proposed by Tecton to the Borough Council in 1938 although this was conceived as part of a much wider plan to provide the borough with a whole range of much needed facilities, including the Finsbury Health Centre. Immediately after World War II the Finsbury Plan was abandoned and efforts were concentrated on alleviating the chronic housing shortage. The design for the estate was a development of the one which Tecton had submitted to the competition for working-class flats in 1935 and incorporated a number of new features including the Garchey system for refuse disposal (used in England only once before - at Quarry Hill, Leeds), and an aerofoil-shaped section in the roof to allow clothes to dry. This latter idea was developed in conjunction with the scientist, Hyman Levy. The estate was completed in 1950 by Skinner, Bailey & Lubetkin.
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