Fantasies of urban futures
in Reconstructing modernity
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This chapter examines the origins of the post-war Plans as a means to interrogate a number of historical stereotypes about Britain after the Second World War. In 1945 Hull and Manchester, in common with many other British towns and cities, produced comprehensive, detailed redevelopment plans. These Plans were a spectacular mix of maps, representations of modern architecture and ambitious cityscapes that sit, sometimes uneasily, alongside detailed tables, text and photographs. Initially examining continuities between the inter- and post-war plans, the chapter emphasises the importance of the Plans in local governments’ attempts to express long-held desires to control and shape the city. I argue that the Plans evidence an attempt to mould the future shape and idea of the modern city through imaginative use of urban fantasy. Images of modernism, I argue, were not presented as a realisable architectural aim, but as a way of mediating between the present and an indistinct, but fundamentally better future. I suggest flawed interpretations of the visual materials contained in the Plans are responsible for an over-emphasis on the influence of radical modernism in post-war Britain.

Reconstructing modernity

Space, power and governance in mid-twentieth century British cities

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