Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain 2018 annual symposium

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

Description of Activity

The ‘Efficiency’ style: Gender, labour-saving and the ‘ideal’ home

An ‘Efficiency’ style in architecture and design emerged in Britain after the First World War. It incorporated standardised building techniques and harnessed some elements of Modernism, such as rounded corners and an absence of mouldings and decoration. Influences included both the Deutsche Werkbund and the ‘fitness for purpose’ maxim of the British Arts and Crafts Movement. It was taken up by the Design and Industries Association as a logical labour-saving solution in the 1920s in their consumer education programme of exhibitions, talks and publications. It was also on display in the Daily Mail Ideal Home exhibitions, reaching its pinnacle with 1930’s ‘The House That Jill Built’, an ideal home arising from a competition open only to ‘ordinary’ women with an interest in domestic architecture and design.

The paper explores responses to the Efficiency style by contemporary consumers, domestic advice writers, architects and designers who saw it as ‘modern’. They conceived and received the Efficiency style as a response to the need for a labour-saving home in the wider context of the ‘servant problem’ and the development of the notion of the professional housewife. However, for some contemporary critics, it was this gendering of the Efficiency style that gave it negative connotations and led to its dismissal. Some recent architectural historians have seen the Efficiency style as a form of ‘modernity without Modernism’ or a ‘proto-Modernist’ stage. This paper argues for a multi-layered reading of Modernism that sees the Efficiency style as one of a number of multiple Modernisms rather than a stage on a linear narrative.
Period8 Jun 20189 Jun 2018
Event typeConference
LocationLondon, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational