Publishing about 20th century architecture and design
Some of what's inside Issue 17: Factory
The Expressionist Factory Heritage
The architecture of Expressionism heralded the onset of the Roaring Twenties. The rise of the Bauhaus commenced with the old idea of creating a “Gesamtkunstwerk” by integrating sculpture, painting, textile and furniture design and architecture under one roof and within one piece of plastic art.
Words & Pictures: Christoph Rauhut & Niels Lehmann
A blue sky factory for Nottingham
John Player and Sons – the very name evokes those first, nauseous cigarettes at teenage discos – have long been subsumed into a nationwide company and are about to give up manufacturing in their native Nottingham.
Most obviously, a factory is a place: a building where products are assembled on a production line. You could also say that a factory is an idea: a way of managing a job by breaking it into smaller pieces, and these smaller parts can then be standardised. But the metaphor goes further. Almost everything in the modern world is made of standardised parts.
It’s easy to overlook such a place. You can see it for a brief moment, when you go to Warsaw by train from the west. There’s probably no reason for a visit, unless you live in it yourself, this far suburb. Built on the site of the former village Czechowice, the history of The Ursus district of Warsaw begins in 1923 with the opening of the first factory.
No other building typology has harnessed architecture parlante more to its own advantage than the factory. Ledoux and Boulle may have offered engraved fantasies - utopian, phallic or impractically functional as the case might be – but industrialists found that the architecture of their premises potentially had a very direct, promotional message to offer. Victorian companies were fond of incorporating images of their factories into elaborate letter headings while the impulse reached its apogee, albeit more allusively, in interwar corporate modernism, in which the choice of a determinedly innovative architecture ‘spoke’ to the virtues and qualities of the product.
System-built or prefab housing was perhaps the absolute answer to the question of how to rebuild and regenerate postwar Britain. Quick to build, modern and practical, factory built homes offered a cost-effective and potentially revolutionary solution to the problems facing Britain’s cities, and nowhere was the ideology more readily embraced than in Hulme, Manchester.
Pictures: Manchester Metropolitan University Visual Resource Centre
Dunkirk might not be top of your to-visit list when it comes to modernist architecture in Europe, but it is a worthwhile area to explore, nowhere more so than the wilderness of the dockyards where poppies and buttercups poignantly keep their stronghold. Famous for Operation Dynamo, approximately 80% of Dunkirk was destroyed during the second world war. Nowadays in the centre of Dunkirk you stroll down beautifully maintained postwar streets of such experimentalism and optimism: pavements embellished with swirling 1950s multicoloured circles, shiny wall tiles, whirling concrete staircases and brightly coloured frontages.
Two aspects of the Fagus factory caught my eye. The first was a recent photograph that made it look in virtually new condition, rather than a building 100 years old. The second was how much more modern it looked than the other German factory of the same period, the AEG Turbine Hall.
The Algha Group are manufacturers of hand-made traditional, classic and vintage spectacle frames in rolled gold and acetate. Founded in 1932 by Max Wiseman, the business was set up using equipment purchased from a factory that was closing down in Germany.
English Architecture 1945 -1975 Elain Harwood Yale University Press — £50
Whilst it still has some way to go to gain a place in the hearts of the population at large it is now widely accepted that postwar architecture is as worthy of study, appreciation and protection as buildings of any historical period. This growing appreciation is, in no small part, thanks to the author of Space Hope and Brutalism, Elain Harwood.