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Roger Booth, Lancashire County Architect, 1962-83

Brook, R (2016) Roger Booth, Lancashire County Architect, 1962-83. In: Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain 2016 Annual Symposium The Official Architect; missing chapters in the history of the profession.

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Abstract

This paper seeks to explore the latter days of the official architect by an examination of the work of Lancashire County Architects Department under the direction of Roger Booth. Booth was the one of the longest serving county architects in Britain and during his tenure sweeping changes to governmental structures impacted upon the production of municipal architecture. The post-war programme of nationalisation and consolidation put an array of building types into the hands of county and borough councils and much of the design work fell to county and city architects. In Lancashire this typically included schools, hospitals, university buildings, libraries, police, fire and ambulance stations, motorway bridges, sports centres, magistrates’ courts and housing. Under Booth the department grew to become the largest outside of the London County Council and was well-organised and funded. It housed Research and Development and Furniture Design divisions and was the lead group in the ONWARD schools construction consortium. This strong and innovative climate only existed for a short period and I am interested in how it came about and how and when it was concluded. My assertion is that the death of official architecture occurred in 1974 following significant governmental restructuring and the oil crisis of 1973. As well as the changes to political and economic structures, other exoteric forces acted upon the production of municipal architecture including burgeoning legislation in the planning and building sector and the move towards regional planning. It is within these contexts of nationalisation, legislation and governmental restructuring that I will set the work of the department. Using building case studies, interviews and new archival research I will look at the relationship between official architecture and central government. I will use an agency-based approach to better understand procurement and production and its associations with political and economic contexts in post-war Britain.

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