In the early part of the century, covering the years before and immediately after the First World War, it was possible in studying contemporary architecture to consider together buildings designed for different purposes, the reason being that they were often designed in a similar manner and clothed in the same style, and their function was accordingly not reflected in their external appearance. At that time the starting-point of the design was more often than not the elevation--a handsome symmetrical façade in the Renaissance or Classical style, irrespective of whether the building was a town hall, bank or insurance office, school or college, hospital, town or country mansion, library, museum, theatre, departmental store, or even a factory. Or, if the elevation was not the actual starting-point, plans were made with such handsome symmetrical elevations in view. The changes that were taking place in design and construction were apparent only in a few pioneer works.
By contrast, in the period from 1924 to 1933, covered by Part III of this work comprised in the present volume, external transformations were becoming apparent --changes determined by the design being more strictly guided by the purpose of the building and by full advantage being taken of new methods of construction. This presented for the present volume a problem of treatment. If the method followed in volume I were adopted, of selecting architectural characteristics for appraisement by grouping buildings of different purposes together under some broad aesthetic or structural classification, it would have made very difficult the detailed study of the architecture of the period that its importance merits. The character of the most original and experimental architecture of the period under review demands presentation according to types of buildings, because the starting-point of design became more often the purpose that the building was to serve. This must be clearly defined because it is the principle in such work that design and architectural character should spring in large measure from such purpose. In recording the architecture of this time it thus becomes necessary to classify buildings according to their social and economic purposes. These really control the method of the architectural historian, for in art history the quality, character, and magnitude of the work of an epoch often suggest the most logical means of recording it.
A selection has been made of types of building which provide the most outstanding and significant examples of architectural design. Of the types not included, such as the buildings that may be grouped under the architecture of transport--railway stations, airports, and bus stations--health and community centres, hotels, and inns, the following period from 1933 to 1940 has more interesting and significant examples to offer and these will thus be considered in the third volume.
To avoid misunderstanding, it is desirable to repeat the meaning given to the term architecture in this work. This was defined in the preface to the first volume as . . .