chapter  3
27 Pages

Modern Dwellings for Modern Needs

How do we want to live, what sort of framework must we build round

ourselves to make that living as pleasant as possible?

Rosemary Pritchard (1934)

In Chapter 2 we saw how the techniques of self-promotion, the limited competition

and friendly opportunism brought modernist reformers of health and modernist

reformers of space together to address the most significant social problem which

faced inter-war Britain: the health of its working-class population. Through the forging

of prototype landscapes and their mediation through text and image, they succeeded

in rendering modernism synonymous with modern practices of health care. In

entering the arena of housing reform, modernist architects sought to achieve a similar

synonymy but in so doing they took on a challenge very different from the one they

had assumed in health reform. At Peckham and Finsbury, whether in collaboration

with voluntary sector or municipal modernists, their task had been to create environ-

ments for modern practices of health care for which no exact precedent – socio-

medical or spatial – existed. In the case of housing, no such tabula rasa existed and

modernists had to bring their propositions and prototypes to an arena already well

stocked with new forms of housing.