chapter  3
18 Pages

Three Boyarsky and the Architectural Association

WithDavid Dunster

British Architecture. Written by Paul Barker and posing the question: ‘Architecture: Art or Social Service’4 the pamphlet opposed the logic of functionalism against the presumed ethereality of all the Fine Arts (Music, Painting and Sculpture, Poetry) and their self-absorption, the phrase ‘art for arts sake’. This polarisation of the purpose of architecture must be read within the context of a large public building programme eclipsing privately financed construction. Architecture, an arm of the political and ideological apparatuses of both left and right, signified the reconstruction of Britain after the war. Only one European country treated architecture in such an explicitly subservient way and for those now travelling to America this illustrated how much closer to the Soviet ideas of socialist realism Britain had steered. The Fabian pamphlet illustrated just how representational architecture was now seen to be, and if this effect was concealed behind a cloak of fashionable sociology it marked a renaissance of the simplistic functionalism of the 1920s, but now with no modernist banner to unite it with the formalists. As the neo-classicism of Lutyens and others was gradually replaced by the obviousness of modernism, and Llewellyn Davies had been brought into the Bartlett precisely to sweep away the Beaux Arts teaching methods of Richardson and Corfiato. A confidence in the obviousness of architecture, indeed its transparency to political and functional purposes, made any concentration upon formal questions appear a heresy.