Vulgar Modernism: J. M. Richards, Modernism and the Vernacular in British Architecture
|Published in:||Architectural History, 2015, v. 58|
In 1946 J. M. Richards, editor of theArchitectural Review (AR)and self-proclaimed champion of modernism, published a book entitledThe Castles on the Ground(Fig. 1). This book, written while working for the Ministry of Information (Mol) in Cairo during the war, was a study of British suburban architecture and contained long, romantic descriptions of the suburban house and garden. Richards described the suburb as a place in which ‘everything is in its place' and where ‘the abruptness, the barbarities of the world are far away'. For this reasonThe Castles on the Groundis most often remembered as a retreat from pre-war modernism, into nostalgia for mock-Tudor houses and privet hedges. The writer and critic Reyner Banham, who worked with Richards at the AR in the 1950s, described the book as a ‘blank betrayal of everything that Modern Architecture was supposed to stand for'. More recently, however, it has been rediscovered and reassessed for its contribution to mid-twentieth-century debates about the relationship between modern architects and the British public. These reassessments get closer to Richards's original aim for the book. He was not concerned with the style of suburban architecture for its own sake, but with the question of why the style was so popular and what it meant for the role of modern architects in Britain and their relationship to the ‘man in the street'.
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