Conference paper abstract – Janina Gosseye

Multimodal/Multifunctional Megastructures Reimagining Flows and Nodes in Post-war British New Towns

img302_editeIrvine New Town Plan (Irvine: Irvine Development Corporation, January 1971), 244.

New Towns were sites of experiment. Conceived as tools for ‘reconstruction and resource extraction, for population resettlement and territorial dominion’, post-war New Towns, historian Rosemary Wakeman posits, all ‘shared a utopian rhetoric and conception’, and all sought to be at the forefront of urban and architectural development – to present ‘a marvellous glimpse of tomorrow’.1After the British Parliament passed the New Towns Act in 1946, more than thirty New Towns were built across England, Scotland and Wales.In line with their utopian pedigree, these British New Towns pursued fundamentally new approaches to architecture and urban design.

Their innovative attitude was facilitated by the formation of New Town Development Corporations. These independent, administrator-led governmental bodies relied on collaborations between planners, (landscape) architects, sociologists, engineers, etc. to oversee the building and management of British New Towns. Moreover, as their ‘non-municipal’ status freed Development Corporations from local political pressures and from the municipal ethos of all-encompassing council provision, they were able to quite easily embark on partnerships with the private sector. As a result, developers, private investors, industrialists, etc. also contributed significantly to reimagining what constituted a (new) ‘town’.

NTW_155_1_010_editedModel of Runcorn New Town. Cheshire Records Office, Chester, UK, folder NTW 155/1.

This paper focuses on one of the most prominent and experimental novel spaces that emerged in second- wave (or ‘Mark II’) British New Towns: their multimodal and multifunctional ‘heart’ or ‘central area’. These megastructures, which were designed to grow, reimagined the concept of the town centre. They brought together flows of people, infrastructure (e.g. public and private transport networks), services and goods, and functioned as social, cultural and commercial nodes that gathered the New Town community in a bid to foster interaction between New Town residents from different walks of life.

img300_editedModel of early proposal for Irvine New Town Plan (Irvine: Irvine Development Corporation, January 1971), 231.

The paper will analyse three such multimodal/multifunctional megastructures in second-wave British New Towns; those of Cumbernauld, Runcorn and Irvine. It will first offer an insight into the make-up of the collaborative teams that underpinned their experimental designs, and subsequently demonstrate how these (interdisciplinary) teams, which consisted of both public and private actors, conceived of these expandable megastructures as multimodal and multifunctional organisms that would establish novel relationships between landscape, architecture and infrastructure on the one hand, and between people and services and goods on the other.

1 Rosemary Wakeman, Practicing Utopia: An Intellectual History of the New Town Movement (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2016), 2.

2 Anthony Alexander, Britain’s New Towns: Garden Cities to Sustainable Communities (London and New York: Routledge, 2009), 4.

Conference paper abstract – Gary Boyd

Infrastructure in the making of modern Ireland


Placing architecture within a technological and cultural flow of national and international dimensions, this paper explores the operations of infrastructure in the making of modern Ireland at a range of scales from the detail design of objects to entire landscapes and other social and physical territories.

How modernity is absorbed into national cultures usually presupposes an attachment to previous conditions and a desire to reconcile the two. In an Irish context, due to the processes of de-colonisation and political independence, this relationship is more complicated. In 1914, Ireland was largely agricultural and lacked any significant industrial complex. The construction of new infrastructures after independence in 1921 became central to the cultural imagining of the new nation. The adoption of modernist architecture was perceived as a way to escape the colonial past. As the desire to reconcile cultural and technological aims developed, these infrastructures became both the physical manifestation and concrete identity of the new nation with architecture an essential element in this construct.

Technology and infrastructure are inherently cosmopolitan. Beginning with the Shannon hydro-electric facility at Ardnacrusha (1929) involving the German firm of Siemens-Schuckert, Ireland became a point of intersection between imported international expertise and local need. By the turn of the last century, it had become one of the most globalized countries in the world, site of the European headquarters of multinationals such as Google and Microsoft. Climatically and economically expedient to the storing and harvesting of data, Ireland has subsequently become a repository of digital information farmed in large, single-storey sheds absorbed into anonymous suburbs. In 2013, it became the preferred site for Intel to design and develop its new microprocessor board, the Galileo, a building block for the internet of things.

The story of the decades in between, of shifts made manifest in architecture and infrastructure, from the policies of economic protectionism to the embracing of the EEC, is one of the influx of technologies and cultural references into a small country on the edges of Europe: Ireland as both a launch-pad and testing ground for a series of aspects of designed modernity.

Conference paper abstract – Neta Feniger & Roy Kozlovsky

The influence of Sir Colin Buchanan on the planning of Tel Aviv

1968 road network

Two British planners had an important influence on the city of Tel Aviv. The first, the Scottish, Sir Patrick Geddes conceived the first town plan for the city in 1925. The second, Sir Collin Buchanan, was a traffic consultant for the city’s new master plan in 1968. While the urban problems were completely different at these two periods, the two planners had a similar spatial concept. Geddes’s urban block and Buchanan environmental zone both create urban units with road hierarchy, separating through traffic and local traffic in order to improve quality of life for local residents. Both were also especially sensitive to environmental issues. Yet, while in 1925 Tel Aviv barely had any cars, in the 1960s, although far behind the automobility of the UK or the USA, Tel Aviv’s planning was exceedingly motivated by traffic infrastructure.

Tel Aviv’s eagerness to be a frontrunner of urban modernization motivated its pursuit of foreign planners. The 1968 Master Plan for Tel Aviv was composed by an Israeli architect, but as traffic was one of the main issues Buchannan was invited to consult. The plan followed Buchanan’s ideas to reshape the city according to environmental zones, closed to motorized through traffic in order to balance traffic efficiency with the creation of habitable urban environment. Each quarter was surrounded by freeways; new zones replicated the well-known image of open spaces woven with high-rises, traffic entering underground parking and pedestrian only areas set between buildings. Buchanan influence on Israeli road system did not begin with consulting the Tel Aviv plan. In 1966 he was invited by the Israeli Transport and Communications Ministry to train traffic planners and practically founded the discipline in Israel.

master plan 1968

This paper will explore Buchanan’s method and suggestions for Tel Aviv, as well as his significance to Israeli transport planning. While Buchanan influence on international urban plans is well researched, his endeavour in Israel was not. What were Buchanan ideas for Tel Aviv’s urbanscape and city infrastructure? How did it compare with transportation schemes developed by American experts working in Tel Aviv at the same time? How did he influence Israeli debates over public and individualized modes of mobility?

Conference paper abstract – Awni Patni

Landscapes of dams in (independent) India

Bhakra Dam_

India, a nation that was formed as it gained its independence around the time when the industrial revolution took place in the region. This independent new nation that aspired to identify itself as a progressive ‘modern’ nation relied on Architecture to draw these symbols for the new nation. A landscape of infrastructure was generated for a country that witnessed the Industrial revolution along with a Colonial rule and governance. It is particularly interesting how the country accepted, developed and identified itself with infrastructure.

During the 19thcentury British rule, there were various infrastructure typologies that came to India. The Colonial rule in India laid the railway tracks and brought in the trains with steam engines, the roads for cars to move on, and the telegraphs. The railways were intended principally to transport the extracted resources like coal, iron ore, cotton, etc, to the ports for the British to ship to England for its use in their factories. For the Colonial governance, the infrastructure was a tool that facilitated ruling effectively.

1988-Postage Stamp_60paise

In 1947, India gained independence. As the clocks turned over the midnight hour of 14thand 15thAugust, Jawaharlal Nehru, who became the first Prime Minister of independent India delivered a speech:

 “At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.”


This speech was delivered in English to the Indian Constituent Assembly when most of the Indian masses were not fluent in English. The new nation that aspired to be ‘modern’ used Architecture to symbolise this aspired modernity by building new institutions and infrastructure. Jawaharlal Nehru invited architects like Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn to build the new Chandigarh’s Capitol Complex and the new educational institutes like the IIM Ahmedabad. He even initiated to build dams on rivers.

These dams were large in size and scale, one such example is the Bhakra dam. The scale of the dam is monumental, it is 200 Meters high, the length and width about 500 Meters by 9 Meters. And holds up to 9 billion cubic metres of water. It is a concrete gravity dam on the Sutlej River in Bilaspur, Himachal Pradesh in northern India.

Jawaharlal Nehru, during a ceremony commemorating the Bhakra dam project, in his speech called the dams ‘the temples of modern India’. It is an interesting analogy to compare the dams to a temple. Where, Jawaharlal Nehru describes the infrastructure as glorified and sanctified, while a few decades ago the Colonial government built and used infrastructure as tools that facilitated or enabled them to do something faster or more effectively. These large dams also signified scientific development in India to the rest world. In an aspiration for progress, it was believed that these scientific developments would build the new nation out of its misery. The aesthetic language of the Bhakra dam is a brutalist concrete dam symbolising a new ‘modern’ nation.

A visit to the Gibberd and MERL Archives

The Architect, Frederick Gibberd, and Landscape Architects, Colvin & Moggridge, were prolific contributors to the post-WWII redevelopment programme, being involved in schemes of all scales, from residential and New Towns to hospitals, airports and reservoirs. Last week, we were delighted to introduce M.Arch students from the Manchester School of Architecture (MSA) to archival research through visits to the Gibberd Archives in Harlow and the Archives of the Landscape Institute, held at the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL), Reading in order to explore materials relating to the work of these practices on power stations. The visits were part of our post-graduate unit, Research Methods, that aims to equip students with various methodologies for their dissertations. Our unit, Architecture, Landscape, Infrastructure is linked to our research projects, and directly links our academic research with our teaching.

The visits were immensely successful and we were privileged on a number of accounts:

Our first stop was to the Gibberd Garden in Harlow, Essex, where the collections of Frederick Gibberd are held. Gibberd, perhaps most famous for the contemporaneously controversial Metropolitan Cathedral in Liverpool, was a prolific Architect and landscape designer pioneering design in major projects including New Towns, such as Harlow, which later became is home town. With a specific interest in Didcot Power Station, where Gibberd was responsible for both the architecture and landscape at the site, we were briefly immersed in Gibberd’s world through the surroundings of his remarkable house and gardens,[i]and supported by dedicated volunteers, many of whom were friends of Gibberd and his family. We were treated to Gibberd’s diaries; folders of notes, letters, newspaper clippings and journal articles, relating to his architectural interests and how his work was perceived by the mainstream and architectural press. The drawings for Didcot power station are now held by the RIBA Archives at the V&A, London, but we were treated to documents and drawings of his work for Hinkley Point B.

Unfortunately, without much time to dwell on the delights of Gibberd’s work on Harlow New Town, other than a brief tour by Moira, a personal friend of the late Pat Gibberd, on our return to the station, we headed to Reading eager to feat our eyes on the 100s of Brenda Colvin’s drawings of Rugeley Power Station. We can confirm that these certainly did not disappoint!

Our day at MERL began with an introduction to archives and archive materials from Guy Baxter. Hopefully armed with a new enthusiasm for fusty old drawings, Nicola Pickering of Museum Studies at the University of Reading spoke to the students about designing and curating exhibitions using archive materials in preparation for translating their findings at the archives into case studies of four post-war power stations and eventually an exhibit to be held in Manchester in February 2019.

Our post-war infrastructure celebrity of the day was Hal Moggridge, practice partner of Colvin & Moggridge and, of course, close friend of the late Brenda Colvin. Hal had agreed to be interviewed by our students, who were keen to mine his vast knowledge of landscape and architectural designs of the period. Lengthy discussions about his work were had, and we were all truly privileged to discuss drawings of Eggborough Power Station made by Hal’s own hand and now held in the Landscape Institute Archives at MERL[ii].

Forming part of the Research Methods focus week at the MSA, our aim was to introduce students to archival resources and research and interview methods. Documenting and recording Rugeley drawings was a lengthy task, which the students’ relentlessly tackled with enthusiasm and unified teamwork; a characteristic of MSA students. The next step in their research will be to use their skills as designers to analyse the materials they have collected and compile case studies of Rugeley, Didcot, West Burton and Trawsfynydd power stations.

As researchers, we are undoubtedly delighted by potential and opportunities that have resulted from our recent visits, and from our position as teachers it has been a great opportunity to introduce the next generation of landscape and architecture researchers – to whom the future of infrastructure belongs – to both research methods and the subject matter.

We are really excited about the opportunities for further work with the archivists that emerged from our recent visit. Watch this space for news of forthcoming exhibitions!

The visit was made possible through combined financial support of the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art Education Grant and the Manchester School of Architecture.

_DSC7969Unknown-52018-10-24 09.51.362018-10-24 10.20.10We greatly appreciate the support of the volunteer team at the Gibberd Garden and Guy Baxter and Jennifer Glanville at MERL for their interest and support with our research. We are also indebted to Hal Moggridge for his time and fascinating descriptions of the work of Colvin and Moggridge. A special mention goes also to Prof. Tom Jefferies for his support of the project and to our dedicated students, who we hope gained a valuable experience from the project.


[i]The Gibberd Garden is run by volunteers and is open to the public throughout the summer. We wholly recommend a visit!

[ii]The archives at MERL are accessible to the public, but as with most archives require registration for access.

Museum Radio Tower

A quick visit to the National Archives whilst researching Scammonden dam and the M62 motorway gave the opportunity to have a look at an intriguing file HLG 79/1628. Inside were these two photographs of models made during the design phase of the Museum Radio (BT) Tower.



People on the coach laughed at me as I said, ‘we’re approaching my favourite retaining wall’. Most looked with a new found appreciation as I remarked on it’s folded concrete and had never taken the opportunity to see for themselves. Infrastructure can be invisible. For instance, what is more visible here? The M1 motorway, the facing wall or the birds mouth of the pedestrian footbridge? This is Droppingwell near to Meadowhall, in-between Sheffield and Rotherham – but of course you knew that from the RUFC clumsily scored in the exhaust borne dirt that saturates the barrier on the hard shoulder. There’s a beauty in utility, though much of this is far from utilitarian. It’s technical qualities and construction are well described here

Together the ramp, bridge and retaining wall form a compact group, whose experience may easily be described as picturesque.




Landscape and Power

Changing technologies result in new forms of infrastructure and, as designers, we need to accommodate these new typologies within our existing landscapes. The works of the landscape architect Brenda Colvin (1897-1981) always amaze me. Her understanding of the scale and proportion of space, materials and planting resulted in wonderful landscapes, whether private gardens or large-scale infrastructural projects. After reading her book ‘Land and Landscape’  and spending long hours researching her plans in the archives of the Landscape Institute, it was a great experience to visit one of her key infrastructural projects, Eggborough Power Station. The matured planting gives exceptionally interesting views, sometimes exposing, sometimes hiding the buildings themselves. Colvin’s carefully created ‘vues’ sometimes deceive our spatial understanding of the real height and dimension of the cooling towers that she had used as ‘eye-catchers’.  The intricate links between planting, pylons and transmission lines add another dimension to the space: bringing energy transmission down to a personal scale.  Colvin expected that [o]ur power stations, oil refineries, factories and water-works must take their place, in time, with the pyramids, castles and temples of the past. Perhaps they may succeed, visually at least, if something more than sheer materialism enters into their making. Some care for their effect on their surroundings – at least some simple recognition of man’s place in nature and of his responsibility to the land and to the future – is needed” .[1] Her achievements in Eggborough speak for themselves.

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[1]Colvin, B. (1970) Land and Landscape (London: John Murray, 1970) p.344.

Call for papers

The Landscape and Architecture of British Post-War Infrastructure

A one-day conference at the Manchester School of Architecture – 15th February 2019

Supported by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art

Keynote Speaker: Elain Harwood (Historic England)

 Call for papers

Infrastructure is popularly conceived as a form of material production assigned to technological advancement. However, it is not exclusively a techno-centric endeavour, it is constituted by built artefacts designed through collaboration by those with more than simply an interest in its engineering. Infrastructure has the capacity to reveal much about the society in which it was produced – the political economy of infrastructure; the socio-cultural effects of infrastructure; the formal and visual impact of infrastructure and attitudes to its celebration or containment.

In the post-war period large-scale projects were manifest according to prevailing cultures, economy and policy drivers and the physically engineered landscapes that were produced signposted the rapid socio-economic and technological development following the cessation of conflict. The effect of such unprecedented and widespread infrastructural projects on both rural and urban landscapes was comparable to the impact of the industrial revolution in the UK. The enormity of the impact on the landscape was captured by leading British landscape theorist, Sylvia Crowe, who stated: ‘Our generation blames the industrialists of the nineteenth century bitterly for having destroyed so much of the landscape and left us a legacy of acres of ugly and derelict land, but this is nothing compared with the havoc we shall leave our descendants unless we take avoiding action now and find a mean of reconciling our need for power with our need for a landscape fit to live in’.[1] The scope of the work not only impacted on the physical landscape, but also the collaborative roles of architecture, landscape architecture, engineering and planning professionals. Co-operation and co-production were key in the British context and this mode of working informed new ideas and methods which in turn produced exceptional landscape compositions.

This multi-disciplinary conference, supported by the Paul Mellon Centre and hosted at the Manchester School of Architecture, will explore the relationships between landscape and architectural design in the production of infrastructure. We are interested in form, type, material, topography, composition and the relationships of these topics with the socio-cultural, political and economic settings of the post-war period. We invite papers that explore these themes through alternative disciplinary lenses and methods in history, geography, environmental science, urbanism, planning, architecture and landscape.

Please send an abstract of 300-500 words to by 5thOctober 2018.

The selected participants will be informed of the acceptance of their paper on, or before, 26thOctober 2018. We anticipate the development of an edited volume following the conference.

[1]Crowe, S. (1958) The Landscape of Power (London: The Architectural Press) p.10.

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