Architectures of survival investigates the relationship between air war and urbanism in modern Britain and asks how the development of airpower and the targeting of cities influenced perceptions of urban spaces and visions of urban futures. The book brings together a diverse range of source materials to highlight the connections between practices of warfare and urbanism in the twentieth century. It covers the interwar period, the Second World War and the early Cold War to demonstrate how airpower created a permanent threat to cities. It considers how architects, town planners and government officials reframed bombing as an ongoing urban problem, rather than one contingent to a particular conflict, and details how the constant threat of air raids prompted planning for defence and planning for development to become increasingly entangled. The book highlights the relevance of war and the anticipation of war in modern urban history and argues that the designation of cities as targets has had long-lasting consequences. It addresses militarisation in modern Britain by investigating how air war became incorporated into civilian debates about the future of cities and infrastructure, and vulnerability to air raids was projected onto the mundane material culture of everyday urban life.
Cities under fire: the ‘new blitz reality’
Destruction, so long predicted, came from the skies at last.
(Architectural Review, 1942)1
After decades of fearful premonitions, bombs fell on Britain in 1940.
In previous years, writers and planners had recast cities as targets
in imagined future air wars, and during the Second World War such
long-anticipated air raids became part of everyday life and routine.
The ‘new blitz reality’ and its air raids were, in the words of a 1942
psychoanalytic survey of Britain, ‘unpleasant but unavoidable’.2 The
would provide long into the future. The government argued that the intense destructive power of air war was one of
many potential disruptions to supply that should be insured against
like any other. The government’s approach to ARP, and its relationship to planning, demonstrate how the gap between peace and war
was narrowing. Visions of permanent passive defence were architectural illustrations of a condition of permanent stand-by for air raids.
Electricity and national emergencies
In 1935, the ARP Department’s first major public act was to issue a
memorandum to local
urban space aligned around the techniques of zoning and dispersal
that would rebalance cities and regions. There were important continuities in thinking about air raids and the ‘moral effect’, but these
familiar notions were incorporated into increasingly detailed analysis of urban geographies of war. Vulnerability to air raids remained a
key measure for analysing cities and their architecture after 1945, as
lessons from the last war were combined with projections for the next
one to further fix the bomber’s-eye view over cities.
The Second World War
levels of destruction could be understood historically. There was a
‘display of layers’ and a sense of cities and nations ‘parading their
wounds as proof of a long past endured’.3 As well as revealing the
longer histories of destruction in material artefacts, the bombing
created new objects for memorialisation, new symbols of suffering.
But this rubble should not be subsumed into a false wholeness, the
Architectures of survival
desire for which, Macaulay wrote, is ‘merely a phase of our fearful
and fragmented age’.4
The shattering of buildings and the
establishment of the Air Raid
Precautions Department within the Home Office in 1935, it unites
military, planning and architectural visions of urban areas to elucidate how aerial warfare and the urban environment were drawn
together within broader cultures of anxiety. It discusses the development of military theories of strategic bombing and then draws links
to characterisations of urban environments and their inhabitants,
which were central to architectural and planning debates. Aviation
and cities were key markers of modernity which simultaneously
The Lancashire Independent College in Whalley Range, Manchester (1839-43), was
built to train Congregational ministers. As the first of a number of
Nonconformist educational institutions in the area, it illustrates Manchester‘s
importance as a centre of higher education generally and Nonconformist education
in particular. The building was designed by John Gould Irwin in Gothic style,
mediated through references to All Souls College in Oxford by Nicholas
Hawksmoor, whose architecture also inspired Irwins Theatre Royal in Manchester
(1845). The College was later extended by Alfred Waterhouse, reflecting the
growing success of the institution, which forged links with Owens College and
went on to contribute, with other ministerial training colleges, to the
Universitys Faculty of Theology established in 1904. The building illustrates an
interesting strand in early nineteenth-century architectural style by a
little-known architect, and has an important place in the history of higher
education in north-west England.
The wall texts of a Percy family manuscript and the Poulys Daunce of St Paul’s Cathedral
The wall texts of a Percy family manuscript
and the Poulys Daunce of St Paul’s
As discussed in the previous chapter, reading extracodexical texts
materially requires attending to particular details such as space
and place, and embodied experiences shaped by these materialities, such as movement. These three aspects of material reading
converge in a striking way when considering the role of architecture in fashioning reading practices. Architecture may not seem
an obvious direction in which to look when assessing the culture
RIGO: Some part of the building, mee thinketh, is after the Italian maner. CONO: Some part of it, being ruinous, I built after my fancie, and such as I found sounde, I thought yenough for me to keepe the repararations.
Barnaby Googe, 1577 1
Sixteenth-century Ireland does not fit standard English historical periodization. England had by that time abandoned medieval traditions for nation-state building, a new religious creed, and an essentially new nobility. New architectural forms, as
labelled ‘Spenserian’ after the poet of Elizabethan chivalry, Edmund Spenser. The question posed here is whether the continued tradition of defended residences in Ireland was related to this English ‘chivalric revival’ in aristocratic architecture. Moreover, the houses built by the elite in Ireland during the Plantation Period no doubt projected power and status, but a firmer understanding of this elite depends upon whether they saw themselves as a colonial or an imperial ruling class. 3