Event: SAHGB Annual Lecture and Awards Ceremony 2019. London, 9 December 2019

‘Why New Towns?’​​, Dr Elain Harwood
6.00 pm, Monday 9 December 2019
Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, Wilkins Building, University College London

Booking is now open for The Society of Architecture Historians of Great Britain Annual Lecture and Awards Ceremony. This highpoint of SAHGB calendar – when the society recognizes and celebrates achievements in Architectural History – opens with the awarding of the Alice Davis Hitchcock Medallion, the Colvin Prize and the Hawksmoor Essay Medal. This will be followed by the Annual Lecture, this year given by Dr Elain Harwood. Attendees are then invited to join us for drinks and canapés in the South Cloisters of the Wilkins Building at UCL.

Elain Harwood, Senior Architectural Investigator at Historic England, won the Alice Davis Hitchcock Medallion in 2016 for Space, Hope, and Brutalism (Yale University Press, 2015), the first major book to study English architecture between 1945 and 1975 in its entirety. In her lecture she turns to urban development, posing important questions about the mid-twentieth century Brave New World: Why New Towns?

Dr Harwood writes:

‘You know after the war we all thought we were building a great Brave New World. You know we were all dedicated really to build a Brave New World and the Brave New World was very much to be the New Towns. So…we were all filled with enthusiasm. Dedication if you like.’

So said Evelyn Denington, Baroness Denington of Stevenage, interviewed in the 1980s about her appointment to the Stevenage Development Corporation in January 1950. The programme of new towns – fourteen in the 1940s, followed by another one in the 1950s and seventeen more in the 1960s and the early 1970s – was one of the most ambitious in the world, a marriage of architecture, planning and landscape. How were these towns chosen? Were these to be blocks of flats in open parkland, as envisaged by European designers such as Le Corbusier, or would the British model of garden cities as set out by Ebenezer Howard prevail? The answer was less immediately obvious than we might suppose. What makes the first new towns important today, at a time when new (private) settlements are being planned and what are the features to look for? How did the later new towns expand or temper these ideas? Baroness Denington had to oversee the selling off of Stevenage’s assets in 1980 by a Conservative Government interested only in private profit, but would she have been satisfied with her creation to that point?

For more information and to register for the event please follow this link to the SAHGB webpage.

Programme – Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, Wilkins Building, University College London
6.00pm Registration
6.30pm President’s Welcome and Awards Ceremony
7.00pm Annual Lecture: Why New Towns?, Elain Harwood
7.50pm Drinks Reception in South Cloisters

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