Faster, Faster, Faster: Corporate Travel in Post-War Design and Architecture

Friday 9th Sept, 16.30-18.00, Room CG11

Chair: Zoe Hendon, Middlesex University

This session takes as its theme the relationship of design and increasing speed. It aims to present an ensemble consideration of how modernity and corporate design have come together to express notions of progress, efficiency, and an overarching mood of speed.

The Literature of Modernity in The British Overseas Airways Corporation Aircraft Interior
Dr Paddy O’Shea, Lecturer in Contextual Studies, School of Art & Design History, Kingston University London
E: T: @drpadsoshea

The five-year period immediately following the end of the Second World War was a complicated and divisive one in the history of the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), the former national airline of Britain (1939 – 1974). The Corporation encountered major problems concerning the availability of civil aircraft that were fit for purpose which, in turn, had a major impact on the type of passenger experience the airline could offer.

Despite this, BOAC’s own in-flight literature of the time provides a fascinating insight into how the airline positioned itself at the forefront of modernity even though the immediate post-war reality of its aircraft was markedly different. It was the moment when the ability of flight to dramatically reduce time and distance between locations was becoming a reality (on a global scale) and it was this moment of that BOAC wished to be seen at the forefront of.

Using a series of BOAC’s inflight magazines published between 1946 and 1948, Wings Over the World and Speedbird, this paper will help to show that BOAC understood that its role went beyond the simple operation of aircraft and the transportation of passengers. It positioned itself as an arbiter of modern taste, informing British fashion, the strength of British industry, new and future modes of transport and the role that air transport in particular would play in the second half of the twentieth century.

42134488_holcombeA Hieroglyphic Object of Modernity: The Timeline Mural at Basildon Bus Terminus and New Town
Dr Lyanne Holcombe, Lecturer in Contextual Studies, Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton
E: W: Institutional Profile

New Towns were conceived as utopian visions of modernity that evoked the hope and spirit of a postwarnation. Inhabiting homes, schools, shopping precincts and places of work and worship, these atomized communities represented a moment of British reconstruction that lasted until the 1960s. In many ways appearing as capsules of time, emphasized by the patina of brutalist concrete, aged towerblocks and graffiti removal. The notion of place, movement and travel affected the visions of these townscapes offered by various responses from inhabitants and developers.

In 1949, the Basildon Development Corporation was formed as a result of The New Towns Act of 1946 and subsequently The Town and Country Planning Act (1947). Alongside Harlow, Essex New Towns moved communities from the heart of the East End of London to places that promised a utopia for all.  Basildon Bus Terminus served as a locus for modern interchangeable processes that drew people in and out of the town.

The timeline mural started out as a contemporary composition by William Gordon that was situated above shops, overlooking an open plan depot, seen from the road and railway.  Being 60 yards long, this hand-painted geometric composition was a cinematic contribution to the new bus station in 1958. A symbol of Britain rebuilt and reconstructed, this paper evaluates how a localized vision of community was forged through corporate design from one perspective and contemporary public art from the other.

The inter-changeable process accommodated by the Eastern National bus route, compressed the speed of time into a structure of timetabling and the management of daily movement. A proliferation of guidebooks, tenants’ handbooks, bus timetables and official mapsindicate that contemporary design practices were employed to illustrate the importance of modernization. Post-industrial regeneration employed architecture to set these new agendas, where design could flourish in the everyday and present a model of a Britain ready for the future.

42134488_david_lawrenceTube Time: How the Subterranean City Got Faster by Design
Dr David Lawrence, Associate Professor, School of Art & Design History, Kingston University; and Research Fellow and Curator, London Transport Museum

Through the twentieth century, and into the twenty-first, the trains beneath our feet have moved us ever faster across the metropolis. They are the obvious machines we encounter along the way, but they represent only a part of the totally designed environment of the Underground. Whilst stylistic details of this environment have shifted conceptually and materially through the decades, in every element from the cardboard pocket map to the digital space modelling systems now used to plan services.

This paper examines the evolution of the transport network as a sophisticated organism, at once mechanical monster and ‘soft machine’, to consider how its design, and its industrial, graphic, spatial and information designers, have flourished as a result of our urge to move ever faster.

Further Reading

Lawrence, David, Taylor, Sheila [Editor] and Green, Oliver (2015) The moving metropolis: a history of London’s transport since 1800. 2nd ed. London : Laurence King Publishing. 448p. ISBN 9781780676715

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