The Telephone Exchange Building (1945-1981)

Technology, ‘Official Architecture’ and the State.

04.01.24 - 02.03.24

This exhibition provides a visual snapshot of Lisa Kinch’s ongoing PhD research, which explores the architectural history of Post-War telephone exchange buildings and the relationships between architecture, technology and the state between 1945 and 1981. During this time, the telephone exchange building type evolved from a civic edifice to a more discrete and efficient type of building, driven by cost savings and standardisation with some allowance for regional variations. 

Technological advances are now rendering the majority of these buildings obsolete. The public switched telephone network (PSTN) is due to be switched off in 2025, and redundant telephone exchanges are sold off for change of use or complete redevelopment at an increasing rate, with remarkably little attention paid to their architectural value. Whilst they are generally unobtrusive, everyday buildings that are easily overlooked or even forgotten, they have nonetheless played a significant part in shaping our modern way of life. This exhibition offers an opportunity to stop and reflect on our social, technological and architectural telecommunications heritage. 

The PhD research aims to identify and map the professional networks involved in the commissioning, design and construction of the telephone exchange buildings to create an overview of the evolution of the building type and the governing structures that enabled their development. Linking disparate fragments of information from archives, drawings, interviews and trade journals has started to reveal individual biographies of key actors previously obscured behind state structures, some of whom are highlighted in this exhibition. 

Lisa Kinch is an architect, part-time tutor at Manchester School of Architecture and PhD student at Lancaster University. Her research is funded by the North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership, part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council. It is undertaken in collaboration with BT Archives and Historic England, and is supervised by Professor Richard Brook at Lancaster University, Professor Luca Csepely-Knorr at the University of Liverpool, Anne Archer at BT Archives and Wayne Cocroft at Historic England.  

This exhibition..

04.01.24 - 02.03.24

at the modernist
58 Port Street, Manchester M1 2EQ
open 11am to 5pm, Tuesday to Saturday

Header - Anson Telephone Exchange, Hull
1. Turret House, Salford
2. Swindon Telephone Exchange
3. Shepherd's Bush Telephone Exchange
Lisa will present an associated talk 'Lost & Found' in february 2024 - click here for details.