Ness Raison considers the changing philosophies behind ideal homes.
‘In those days Scotland was much more of a nation than it is now. Everything has been centralized down to London since the war.‘ Charles McKean. Secretary and Treasurer ofthe Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland. feels that is why the Scottish architects of the Thirties dreamed up fantastic designs. They modelled buildings on ocean liners. and created curved stairwells for all — from householders to cows at milking time. They received international cultural trends with enthusiasm. inﬂuenced particularly by other countries struggling with a national identity and a cold climate. such as Norway. Denmark and Finland. These countries still have a strong identity and ‘are amazed at what is happening here. where it is all tartan carpets and Macmusak‘. All this is covered in Charles McKean’s fascinating book. The Scottish Thirties. to be published on 30 April. Wittily written and containing over 400 illustrations. it is an examination ofthe architects who strove to be modern and make Scotland a leader in world architecture.
McKean reveals that. in different ways, the Thirties were remarkably similarto the Eighties, with the worst housing. economy and health in Europe. Then. however. attempts were made to redress the situation: ‘There was a determination that free school milk. compulsory health education and cold air were somehow going to cleanse the nation.‘ So architects produced schools with open-air corridors. balconies and flat roofs for playing games. and designed neon-lit ice rinks and ‘atmospheric‘ cinemas. The design for Ravelston Court at Ravelston Dykes shows limousines in the drive with girls on the lawn in cloche hats clutching tennis rackets. The wave of idealism seemed to spread even to hopes for better weather.
A class breakthrough came with Hillington in Refrewshire. a social industrial estate with swimming pools. tennis courts. banks and car parks. where workers were no longer to be second class citizens. People came from all over Europe to see it. Now a Rolls Royce factory operates there and the aims have been forgotten.
But the greatest feature of
They modelled buildings on ocean liners architecture in the Thirties was housing. Sixty percent ofthe work dealt with houses. and council housing really started when tenements in Renfrew. Aberdeen and East Glasgow were designed on a Viennese model — all with air raid shelters in the basement. The great invention was the bungalow. ‘a nice little home‘. but noisier and colder than those the tenement residents
1935: 'The House That Jean Built'.
had left. One man claimed he had to get dressed to go to bed. Yet bungalows were built in hundreds of thousands: McKean recalls a joke of the time: ‘When you passed by in the morning they were laying the foundations. and when you passed by that night they were evicting the first tenants for rent arrears.‘ They ranged in price from £400 to £1000. and could be mortgaged on a third of one's income.
The Ideal Home Exhibitions ofthe Thirties hit the speculative housing market. with annual competitions to design the house of the future. They ran ‘The Competition of the All-Scottish House‘ in 1931. The winner in 1933 designed the ultra-modern home. the home that is like a car. where the kitchen is the horse-power and filled with the latest labour-saving devices. The winner's name was Betty. a name with little commercial ring. so they were marketed as the ‘iIouse that Jean
By contrast. this year‘s Ideal IIome Exhibition (running at Ingliston 11—20 April). has a very different policy. The brochure tells us: ‘It's our philosophy that a happy public is a spending public. And fifteen years in the business tells us that we're right.‘ The exhibition is open from 1 lam until 9pm during the week. and 7pm at the weekend to provide longer shopping hours. It is designed not only for the home buyer looking for goods and ideas. but also for a family day out at Easter. with thousands spent on feature entertainments — a Fairy Tale Theme Park. a fashion show and a pet farm. for example. The only competitions are Easter Bonnet design and Easter Egg painting. and the chance to win a trip on Concorde to Salzburg. returning on the Orient Express. The houses ofthe future are DIY. ready-built holiday homes.
Entry costs £1 .80 (adult) and 80p (child). The exhibition is organised by Scottish industrial and Trade Exhibitions Ltd and sponsored by the live/ting News
The emphasis ofthe II‘IE has moved well away from housing aspirations for the future. to consumerist interest for home owners now. McKean blames its change on the fact ofcentralization. As he wrny observes. this loss of identity and idealism started in the hirties with the arrival ofthe big stores: Marks and Spencer in 1936. (784A in 1931. Woolworth in 192‘). ‘They're all coming over Hadrian‘s Wall. They‘re the new Romans you know. Scotland is the last territory to
be colonized.‘ McKean hopes his book will provoke a resurgence of Scottish identity and individuality. The ('().S‘I.xl bus will he at lngliston for the week ofthe [deal I I ome Exhibition.
The Scottish Thirties. by ( ‘harles
M (‘K can (Scottish A (‘ademie Press
I [8.50) (Published 30 Apr 1987).
Issue No 38 3—16April1987
Cover Mark McManus. 4 Mark McManus
'I'aggurt‘s ‘tough‘ cop talks to Nigel Billen
Stephanie Billen meets the shrew and the gangster from the R.S.C.‘s Kiss Me Kate
Alastair Mabbott meets the Isle of Wight‘s wonders.
9 Courtney Pine
The rising sax star talks to Kenny
Mathieson. Listings Full guide to events this fortnight, Art 41 Media 17 Dance 24 MUSlC 29 Film 1] ()pen 48 Kids 18 Sport 46
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