Towers For The Welfare State


An Architectural History of British Multi-Storey Housing 1945-1970

By Stefan Muthesius and Miles Glendinning, publ. Edinburgh 2017

Housing on a large scale and of a suitable quality cannot be provided by private enterprise - thus the widely held conviction of the Post WWII decades. To build houses and flats was a primary task of the new British Welfare State, next to health and education. Quality in housebuilding meant that flats in particular had to be of the most modern standards, as light and airy as possible, accessible by lift and serviced by central heating. The great spirits of innovation of those decades, among planners, architects and builders is hard to imagine today. To build a large part of council housing as towers, 10, 20, up to 32 storeys high was the principal manifestation of the new enthusiasm, which also disregarded the fact that such tower dwellings could cost twice as much as ordinary houses.

Most basically, a tower would be built either to lessen inner urban congestion or to reduce suburban sprawl. The book begins with introducing the basic elements of Modernist flat-planning, measurements and costing. It then introduces the spectrum of innovators, state and municipal, especially the latter, and their teams of experts, the architects, engineers and builders. It proceeds with a short narrative of the progress of height, from 6 to 32 storeys. This is followed by detailed discussions of the diverse rationales for building high, with all the associated innovations in planning, construction and environmental design, be they formal-aesthetic, practical and constructional or symbolic. Finally, a large part of the book is given over to the story of towers in any given place, the story of each particular municipality and its desire to innovate and to impress.


280 x 210mm

274 pages

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