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.
The exclusions from Richards's memoirs are as revealing as who was included; his first wife PeggyAngus was barely mentioned in his published memoirs.
Most of the objects recorded in Will You Walk into My Parlour? date from after the Second World War, because he had abandoned most of his belongings and furniture in 1942 when he and Angus separated.
This chapter works to reintegrate PeggyAngus into the narrative of Richards's life and work in the 1930s, to
Reconstruction, public participation and the future of modernism, 1941–51
architecture would usher in a new era for modernism.
Richards's life, both personally and professionally, was quite different after the war. He was divorced from PeggyAngus and he had various new positions including being architectural correspondent at The Times newspaper and a frequent broadcaster on BBC radio. Richards's professional standing was captured in Berthold Lubetkin's description of modern architects’ position in Britain after the war: ‘We were established’.
Richards also returned to
Carolyn Trant, in her book about the life and work of PeggyAngus (Richards's first wife), described him as ‘by temperament, a commentator rather than a man of action’.
While this may appear to make Richards an unlikely subject of historical research, his focus on mediating the work of others is what makes him worthy of study. I think of Richards as being like a civil servant of architectural culture. He worked diligently, often anonymously, behind the scenes to produce the magazine. Both the AJ and the AR were
The contesting voices of architectural criticism, 1951–61
Richards wrote to PeggyAngus that all of his evenings were taken up by work for the programme. Letter from J.M. Richards to PeggyAngus, undated, PEG 2: Correspondence, PeggyAngus Archive, East Sussex Records Office. Although architecture was discussed much less than theatre, literature and art on the programme.
Alison and Peter Smithson started the decade working in the LCC architects’ department but in 1950
The book was not published until 1940, delayed by the outbreak of the war. Penguin issued at least four reprints of Richards's book: the latest was in 1970, which is testament to the consistency of his ideas.
The first edition was a product of Richards's network; the photographs were all from the Architectural Press's image library and the illustrations of historical buildings in chapter 2 were drawn by PeggyAngus.
The book epitomised the type of architectural