No more giants

J.M. Richards, modernism and The Architectural Review

Jessica Kelly
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Jim Richards thought that architects should be anonymous experts who served their communities, not ‘giants’ designing buildings to express their own individual creativity. He pursued this idea throughout his forty-year career as an architectural critic, journalist and editor. This book traces Richards’s ideas about anonymity and public participation in modern architecture and how they weathered the changing contexts of architecture in the mid-twentieth century. This is a story of shifting relationships between the architectural profession, public audiences and the media. The Architectural Review (AR) was first published in 1896 and by the 1930s was closely aligned with modern architecture. James Maude Richards (Jim to his friends) was the longest serving editor of the AR working from 1935 to 1971, with colleagues including Hubert de Cronin Hastings, Nikolaus Pevsner, Hugh Casson and Reyner Banham. Richards developed a specific approach to architectural criticism, which was based on promoting architecture to a public audience. He used criticism as a bridge between architects and their patrons and users. This book explores the changes and continuities in Richards’s work in the context of broader cultural shifts between experts and the public during this period. This is a history of modern architecture told through magazine articles, radio broadcasts and exhibitions, rather than buildings. Richards’s career and his position among a network of journalists, architects and artists, shows the centrality of media and promotion to architecture. It also shows how ideas about public participation, vernacular design and popular culture were key to defining modern architecture.

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