Building the Post-war World examines the way in which World War II and the ten years of reconstruction that followed saw the establishment of modern architecture in Britain. It charts the opportunities created by post-war rebuilding showing how the spirit of innovation and experimentation necessary to winning the war found applications in reconstruction. Above all it shows how hopes for a new and better world became linked to the fortunes of new architecture. Focusing on the first post-war decade, this book contrasts and brings together two forms of architectural history in a single study. The first part focuses on the architectural elite and the debates and key buildings of the new architecture that featured in the leading journals of the time. The second part examines the engagement of modern architecture with reconstruction and the way in which this then leads to new forms of modern practice. The division of the book in this way acknowledges the autonomy of the architectural debate and its preoccupation with formal rather than social or technical issues.
It makes it possible to trace the evolution of the core ideas of the avant-garde and to follow the exchanges and disagreements between the two groups engaged in these debates. Equally, by telling the story of reconstruction as it was shaped by economic, social and political considerations, it is possible to understand what was built and how modern architecture came to win widespread acceptance. The achievements of reconstruction were less than had been hoped. Shortages - of manpower, materials and money - frustrated the realisation of wartime hopes for a New Britain. But reconstruction brought about change: it introduced new ways of building, it changed the profession, it created unparalleled opportunities, it established modern architecture. By 1955, modern schools, modern flats and public buildings were being built up and down the country.
Nicholas Bullock is a fellow of King's College Cambridge. He teaches at Cambridge and the Architectural Association, and has lectured at many other universities in the UK, USA and Europe. He is now researching the post-war development of the Paris suburbs.