Design Culture in Liverpool, 1880-1914: The Origins of the Liverpool School of Architecture

By Christopher Crouch | Go to book overview

Preface

Britain, culturally introverted as it was in the early 1900s, was nevertheless still part of the wider processes of cosmopolitanism associated with early European Modernism. Liverpool, because of its cultural and geographical circumstances, found itself closer to American ideas of modernity: in relation to architecture, particularly American ideas about building technology and how it could relate to design. These ideas became institutionalised within the city's cultural structures and further, as they became increasingly influential nationally, and then internationally, were to play an important role in the spread of design practices that we now characterise as culturally progressive.

That there was a clear relationship between some ideas seen as belonging to the Arts and Crafts, and to those of the Beaux Arts as conceived in Liverpool, is indisputable. These ideas relate to the Arts and Crafts conception of the ideological purposes of design; what its methodology should be, and what it expresses, or should express, socially. The difference between the Arts and Crafts and the Beaux Arts is merely one of physical expression. The look of objects has traditionally been seen as the most significant means of their analysis, because it emphasises differences immediately. If however one looks for correspondences and continuities between objects and their design methodologies the evolution and development of ideas from one style into another becomes clearer. During the period 1880–1914, the Arts and Crafts conception of a vernacular, commonplace design – representing a material-based design philosophy co-operatively instigated – developed nationally into a baroque, art nouveau, individualistic design that bore stylistic similarities to the Arts and Crafts but which negated its agenda of the collective. At the same time as this transition took place, so did a rejection of the stylistic coding of the Arts and Crafts which had come to be seen as incapable of expressing what it had before: a cooperative, universal design ideology. This book explores developments in Liverpool, where the adoption of new industrial technologies and educational practices from the United States of America occurred alongside the adaptation of past ideas about the handcrafts. The new form in which

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