In early 2020, Christiaan De Beukelaer embarked on the Avontuur, a hundred-year-old schooner as part of his research into the revival of wind-propelled cargo vessels. He follows in the footsteps of Richard Henry Dana Jr, Eric Newby, and Alan Villiers, who sailed on ‘working ships’ when they still transported goods across the oceans. While at sea, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, which left seafarers, including the crew of the Avontuur, stranded aboard their ships.
Reconstruction, public participation and the future of modernism, 1941–51
Chapter 4 is focused on Richards’s book The Castles on the Ground which he wrote during the war, and which was published in 1946 by the Architectural Press book department. In the book Richards argued that the architectural tastes of ordinary people were shaped by the material conditions of society. His thesis was that modern architects had to work to create the material conditions that would allow for a modernism to evolve into a vernacular. The chapter traces how this idea threaded through Richards’s postwar work at the AR and his expanding career at the BBC, The Times, the Congrès Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne and at the Festival of Britain. The context of postwar reconstruction had materially changed the conditions of architecture, and Richards’s work was imbued with an optimism that a form of ‘social realist’ architecture would evolve. However, he grew increasingly frustrated as commercial culture encroached on architecture and threatened his vision for the future of modernism.
Under shifting macro-economic conditions, namely rising energy imports, a reorientation of Chinese foreign policy under President Xi Jinping, and the expansive Belt and Road Initiative, China–United Arab Emirates and Saudi relations are burgeoning. Having concluded comprehensive strategic partnerships encompassing political, military, energy and security dimensions, these relations are well matched, especially in areas such as fintech, smart city technology, artificial intelligence and COVID-19 vaccine cooperation. However, conditioned by Beijing’s reticence over Middle East entanglements and prioritisation of the Indo-Pacific region, US policy priorities and aversion to over-dependence, this chapter finds that whilst bilateral relations are vital, they remain somewhat uncertain.
As the Avontuur called in at Honduras, Belize, and Mexico to load cargoes of green coffee and cacao beans, it became clear that we would not be allowed to disembark for shore leave, let along crew change. When in ports, the sheer scale of the global shipping industry became apparent. Would transporting a negligible amount of luxury products to well-meaning European consumers make a difference that’s worth the effort of spending months at sea?
The conclusion discusses how the framework developed in the book can have broader application for the study of environmental and animal rights organizations, specifically the exploration of organizational evolution and appeal to target audiences. It emphasizes that the book provides insights into the role and appeal of the WWF in Arctic diplomacy and northern environmental issues, and highlights the input of Arctic state representatives and Arctic Indigenous peoples’ representatives as providing triangulating reflections on WWF’s work. However, the conclusion also notes the long-term implications of anti-sealing and anti-whaling campaigning on receptiveness of environmental and animal rights activists in the North and the Arctic, as well as the need for expanded research in the future on in-depth Arctic state specific experiences with IENGOs and more detailed investigation into Indigenous perspectives of WWF, and IENGOs in general.
The conclusion answers the book’s guiding research questions. It covers a number of conceptual bases including threat perception, modified decision making, absent effective regional security structures, as well as transitions within and away from riyal politik and economic statecraft. The chapter also dwells on the role of oil policy and other strategic economic relations in the conduct of Saudi and United Arab Emirates (UAE) foreign policy and international relations, such as expatriate labour opportunities, labour remittances and the Hajj. The chapter discusses new or revitalised trade patterns generally associated with the Saudi and UAE Visions strategies, alongside shifts in US policy. Alliance patterns, hegemony, dependency, leverage, patron–client relations, hedging and political legitimacy are analysed within this new context.
Chapter 3 examines the AR under Richards’s editorship, looking at the magazine in the context of the broader media landscape of the British Broadcasting Corporation and Penguin publishers. It argues that Richards was engaged in a project of propaganda for modern architecture, which spanned these different media outlets and consistently targeted the architectural public. Focused in the six years between Richards’s arrival at the AR and his departure for the Ministry of Information in 1941, this chapter maps how he developed different forms of architectural criticism as tools to persuade and encourage appreciation of modernism among the architectural public. Through the form and content of architectural criticism at the AR as well as in the MARS group and in Richards’s book An Introduction to Modern Architecture published by Pelican (1940), architectural criticism promoted the modern architect as a cultural expert; a figure equipped to guide the progress of architecture and the taste of the public. The changes that occurred in architectural criticism during this period signalled an evolution in the dynamic between critic, architect and public.
The first chapter explores how Richards’s ideas about modernism and architecture were formed through his personal and professional relationships. It traces his network during the 1930s, during the early years of his career in architectural journalism and his marriage to Peggy Angus. During this period, his ideas about modernism and vernacular architecture were articulated through objects and the spaces that he shared with Angus and their circle of friends. The chapter looks at how Richards’s interest in vernacular design related to his politics and was integral to his approach to modernism. Placing Richards among this network of artists, architects, journalists and advertisers highlights the integral place of promotion and publicity within architecture during the period. The chapter looks at how informal relationships translated into formal groups and organisations that were working to promote modernism in art and architecture such as Unit One and the MARS group.
The trade winds have barely changed since humans first set sail. Nor have the physical principles of wind propulsion changed. Even the organisation of shipboard life in the twenty-first century closely resembles the lives described by Richard Henry Dana Jr, Eric Newby, and Alan Villiers. What has changed is that we’re now in a race against climate change to transform the shipping industry more quickly than it ever has in history. As we sailed across the Atlantic Ocean, in an attempt to change the world, the world itself had changed due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Christiaan De Beukelaer joins the schooner Avontuur in Tenerife as a researcher studying the potential of traditional wind-propelled ships to help decarbonise the shipping industry. He signs on as a trainee crew member, standing watch eight hours a day to sail the hundred-year old ship across the Atlantic Ocean to pick up cargo in the Caribbean and Central America.