An investigation into artists’ collaborations with modernist new town masterplanners in the UK between 1955 and 1975, and a curatorial project initiating collaborative practices between artists and masterplanners today.
Royal College of Art, London
Supervisor: Professor Victoria Walsh
In recent years a surge in global migration, housing crises, surplus capital, and increasingly conservative dispositions have accompanied a renewed use of new town masterplanning as an appropriate framework to manage urban growth. The masterplanning of new towns has, since the last new town designation in 1973, been rejected in favour of more participatory, organic urban growth plans (Bullivant 2012). But in 2011 a masterplan for Cranbrook, Devon was finalised following Gordon Brown’s 2007 proposal for 10 new ecotowns. On the 2nd January 2017 Theresa May announced plans for 17 new garden towns.With the return of new towns, understanding the impact that artists and arts organisations made on new town masterplans in the post-war period and their resulting urban forms is particularly relevant. Following the UK New Towns Act of 1947 more than 20 new towns were masterplanned and delivered by state-funded Development Corporations. At this exceptional moment in post-war British cultural history, artists were invited by 5 Development Corporations not simply to make public sculpture, but as collaborators in the early stages of masterplanning. Whilst adding these overlooked practices to the history of socially engaged art I will analyse the impact of artistic practices between 1955 and 1975 on the urban form and infrastructure of British New Towns: Victor Pasmore in Peterlee (1955); Ian Henderson in Skelmersdale (1964); David Harding in Glenrothes (1968); APG (1970) and Inter-Action (1974) in Milton Keynes; Stanley Bonnar in East Kilbride (1975).I will research and make public this little-known interdisciplinary history of masterplanner/artist collaboration at this crucial early stage of 21st century new town masterplanning through an exhibition and events. Taking up Pinder’s proposal (2008) that artistic interventions have the potential for inspiring and developing critical approaches to cities, I want planners to again collaborate with artists on masterplans. To date, I have been invited to work with planners in Cranbrook, Milton Keynes expansion areas and Haringey as they shape their masterplans. Using the historical case studies in workshops to facilitate an exchange of knowledge, I will develop a curatorial methodology and initiate collaborative relationships between their planners and artists. My project is a call for the return of crosspollination between the disciplines in order to face twenty first century housing crises.