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Friday25 July 2014

That 70s show

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Was the 70s really a grim decade - BD readers give their view

Of all the decades the 1970s has had a lousy press, a perception historian Dominic Sandbrook wants to change in his new four-part series, simply called The 70s (BBC2).

He argues that in fact it was the 1970s that brought real change not the 1960s or the decade of consumerism that followed.

Sandbrooks’ first episode concentrated on property ownership, because for the first time mortgages were available from high street banks. This fueled new towns such as Peterborough, but it was also the decade in which the government started to abandon Parker Morris standards.

But what about the architecture? 1970 was the year that BD launched, but this was not on the back of an architectural renaissance. The average building was generally low-rise, generally in brown or dark red brick and generally — but not always — dull.

Writing in BD’s anniversary issue in 2010 Hugh Pearman says the oil crisis of the early 1970s “dealt a blow to the modernist project and by the mid decade we reached the low point of architecture in the second half of the 20th century”.

Sandbrook argues that it was the 1970s that saw the rise of  individual self-expression  but did architecture have its David Bowie equivalent or was it— as BD’s then editor Peter Murray claimed — “a grim decade with little architecture of note”?

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Readers' comments (4)

  • So Hugh Pearman thinks the oil crisis of the early 1970s “dealt a blow to the modernist project" ?

    This suggests that Pearman doesn't understand the nature of the modernist project, which is alive and kicking. Maybe he just needs to think harder.

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  • Here are a couple of clues:

    James Stirling's Florey Building, Oxford (completed 1971)
    Neave Brown's Alexandra Road Estate (completed 1978)

    I could go on. Others may have other suggestions.

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  • Didn't norm do some of his best work during 70's leading up to HSBC completed mid 80's, how about Sainsbury, Renault, Willis Faber, when the office had. Birkin Haward Michael Hopkins and Ken Shuttleworth in it along with lots of others

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  • Well, obviously BDP's Halifax Building Society HQ, which should be listed.

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