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"Egalitarianism Has No Meaning Here": Hubert de Cronin Hastings and the Aesthetic Politics of Townscape
Proceedings of the 16th International Planning History Society (2014)
  • Anthony Raynsford, San Jose State University
Recent scholarship has highlighted the significant impact of The Architectural Review’s Townscape campaign, especially of the late 1940s and early 1950s, on post-war urban design. Nevertheless, the politics of Townscape in the context of the early Cold War period has never been clarified, or even extensively raised as a question. Using little known archival sources from the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Victoria and Albert Museum, especiall the unpublished writings of The Architectural Review’s editor and proprietor, Hubert de Cronin Hastings, this paper argues that Hastings viewed Townscape as a political vehicle for countering what he saw as an insipid, institutionalized egalitarianism, spreading not only from the Soviet Union but also from the housing policies of Britain’s Labour government. As late as 1937, Hastings had been a strong advocate of linear city planning principles, assisting in early versions of the MARS Plan of London in which serpentine neighbourhood units rationally arranged such functions as dwelling and transportation, but by the late 1940s, he and other editors at The Architectural Review had begun to reject such s stematizing of urban form. Townscape’s subsequent turn awa from ‘heroic’ modernism was, at the urban level at least, the emphatic rejection of European modernism’s socio-political premises of the 1920s and 30s, including its egalitarian socialism, exemplified by earlier CIAM models of rational building and serially repeating forms. The aesthetics of formal difference and urbanistic contrast was meant instead to correspond to the social differences thought to be inherent to English society, particularly to what might best be called a neo-Tory understanding of English society. The urban picturesque, as formulated in The Architectural Review’s proposals for central London and at the South Bank Exhibition, would hypothetically correspond with individualistic notions of perception, later symbolizing the individualistically-mobilized spaces of ‘free’ or ‘open’ societies. 
Publication Date
July, 2014
Christopher Silver and Dan Zhu
University of Florida
Citation Information
Anthony Raynsford. ""Egalitarianism Has No Meaning Here": Hubert de Cronin Hastings and the Aesthetic Politics of Townscape" St. Augustine, FLProceedings of the 16th International Planning History Society (2014) p. 886 - 898
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