An English sensibility
: the architecture of Oliver Hill

  • Jessica Holland

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This study explores the career of British architect Oliver Hill (1887-1968), focusing mainly on the twenty year period from 1919 to 1939. The interwar era marks the most productive phase of Hill’s oeuvre, embracing the unprecedented changes in architecture and society. As a figure marginalised by recent Modernist historiography, Hill is commonly viewed as an eclectic architect of lightweight concerns. Hill’s Modern buildings are seen as poor relations to the work of the fêted Modern Architectural Research group, a view this study seeks to redress. This new research into Hill’s oeuvre will reveal the significant role he played in the development of British interwar architecture.
Hill’s complex position is assessed in terms of national tradition and modernity. A study of Hill’s formative years draws out the constant cultural threads that shaped the core of his architectural outlook. Key forms of precedent and influence, studied and assimilated by Hill, are investigated and set within a wider context to evaluate the avant-gardism of his approach. Analysis of Hill’s response to architectural journalism and cultural theory of the period seeks to identify his place within contemporary movements. In light of these strands of influence, selected Hill buildings and texts are compared and contrasted to establish his position within the interwar British milieu.
This thesis contributes to current discourse, which seeks to challenge the view that modernity and tradition represent binary opposites. Using Hill’s career as a touchstone, it chronicles the shifting definition of modernism in 1930s Britain against the theoretical perspective of writers, such as Pevsner and J.M. Richards.

Date of AwardJan 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorElizabeth Tuson (Supervisor) & Richard Bunt (Supervisor)

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