Manplan 1 set the tone for the series whereby Patrick Ward photographed and recorded one month of British frustration, that of congestion, queues, poverty, boredom, protests, inadequate buildings and damage to both the built and natural landscape. Subsequent editions intended to propose solutions to issues such as: what responsibility have architects for the environmental crisis? Is modern life isolating us? How do we prepare for the huge increase in the elderly? Is current housing policy sound? Is technology good or bad for us or even turning us into robots? What impact does the paralysis of decision making, particularly by government, have? Hence the first edition’s title ‘Frustration’ reflecting the AR’s conclusion that, “the picture that emerges covers the whole spectrum of despair from inconvenience through exasperation to tragedy and, of course, farce.” (The Architectural Review, September 1969)
Manplan was a departure from AR’s norm, not least the use of grainy reportage photography shot on 35mm cameras by leading photojournalists commissioned by the AR. The design was characterised by the use of full-page images, multi-page spreads, guest editors, bold titles, Rockwell typeface forming a ribbon of text from page to page and by being printed using a matt black ink. In particular for Manplan 1 Ward’s photographs were punctuated by black pages framing only the smallest of images.
Although the AR had long championed better town planning through the ‘Townscape’ campaign or highlighted blights on the landscape in ‘Outrage’, Manplan’s brave assessment was nevertheless a shock and a critical broadside on the architectural profession, some of whom protested by cancelling their subscription. Striking both by its design and by its depictions of buildings being populated and used by people, Manplan was to a degree controversial yet highlighted and explored many issues which remain acutely pertinent today.
The RIBA regrets that for copyright reasons we are not able to show any of Patrick Ward's images on RIBApix.
Click for further information on the exhibition: Wide-Angle View: architecture as social space in the Manplan series 1969-70, 13 September 2023 to 24 February 2024.
Manplan 1: Frustration
Publication date: September 1969
Series editor: Tom Rock
Guest photographer: Patrick Ward
Article by Jonathan Makepeace