The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings


Athletic architecture

Yes—we have an Olympic themed post for you (sort of)!

I’ve just been reading this slim little guide book by a very young Hugh Casson, called New Sights of London (it was published in 1938 when he was 27).  I like the fact that the blurb on the back starts “Everybody is interested in modern architecture….  In its introduction John Gloag writes about the new modernist architecture that Casson was encouraging people to visit:

“This new architecture is young: it has an almost athletic exuberance: it drinks in light and air but is not without a grace of its own.”

Casson himself  is pretty rude about the 1930s alternatives to modern design:

“too many middle-class flat blocks are externally mere Georgian houses grotesquely swollen like images on an inflated balloon” (p.1)

“reactionary [public house] designs and a misplaced striving after smug respectability have had depressing results.  Pseudo-Tudor, a style of studied cosiness without good fellowship, is the choice of too many brewers…” (p. 36)…not much holding back there!


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