Five of the Best: Books about British Architecture and Design

In our latest blogpost, art historian student, Matt Page, selects his five favourite books about British Architecture and Design.

British artists, designers and architects have had a wide ranging and lasting impact on the visual and material culture that we — and others across the world — experience today. We have chosen five books which demonstrate the diversity of British architecture and design and present their histories in stimulating ways; the books include explorations of maverick architects, the futuristic designs of Zaha Hadid, the history of magazine design in Britain — and more!

1. Zaha Hadid: Form in Motion

Zaha Hadid: Form in Motion

Form in Motion is the catalogue of the 2011 exhibition of Zaha Hadid’s work that was held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It explores Hadid’s design practice beyond her architecture, examining furniture and decorative works that she designed to inhabit her architectural spaces. The book is short but lusciously illustrated with large colour images of Hadid’s spectacular designs, including examples such as the Z-Car (a vehicle which would not look out of place in a Sci-Fi film) and Flatware (a stainless steel cutlery set). It features essays by Patrik Schumacher and Kathryn Bloom Hiesinger which explain Hadid’s origins as a mathematician and how computer modelling enabled her to produce architecture and designs which reconsider the formal qualities of objects that many of us encounter everyday.

2. Mavericks: Breaking the Mould of British Architecture

Buy a copy of Mavericks: Breaking the Mould of British Architecture

Mavericks: Breaking the Mould of British Architecture by Owen Hopkins, the Architecture Programme Curator at the Royal Academy of Arts, examines the buildings of twelve British architects whose architecture went against the grain of their contemporaries and eschewed mainstream tastes. The book spans the period from the sixteenth century up to the twenty-first, beginning with Robert Smythson and ending with Zaha Hadid. It is an erudite and eloquent survey of British architecture through the lens of architectural idiosyncrasy.

3. British Design from 1948: Innovation in the Modern Age

Buy a copy of British Design from 1948

Accompanying the Victoria and Albert Museum’s 2012 exhibition, British Design from 1948 comprehensively documents the work of seminal artists and designers working between 1948 and 2012 — the duration between the London Olympic Games held in 1948 and the 2012 London Olympics. Te catalogue is a monumental tome and reflects the scope of an exhibition which encompassed over 350 examples of British design. Along side the wealth of vibrant images are essays from writers, theorists and designers, such as Jonathan Meades, Anne Massey and Sir Terrance Conran.

4. A History of British Magazine Design

A History of British Magazine Design

A History of British Magazine Design explores 170 years of the history of magazine design. Drawing on the Victoria and Albert museum’s archive of over 80,000 magazines the book meticulously charts the history of magazine design in Britain and its role in influencing and reflecting fashions, design and attitudes. The catalogue marries an encyclopaedic knowledge of magazine design, technology (e.g. photo manipulation) and an assessment of the social function of the magazine, with beautiful reproductions of their striking covers.

5. Lost Futures

Buy a copy of Lost Futures

If you like, or loath, brutalism and architecture in concrete, then Owen Hopkins’ Lost Futures: The Disappearing Architecture of Post-War Britain is worth reading. It investigates the political, sociological, economic and cultural contexts which conceived the concrete architecture of Britain and are now leading to its demise. Hopkins charts the journey from construction to demolition of thirty-five post-war buildings built between 1945 and 1977, and illustrates them with photographs from the Architectural Press’ archives. Lost Futures historicises the buildings, accepting that they are now shifting from modernity to heritage, and successfully provides brief yet cogent case studies of architecture across Britain. 

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