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Regionality: agency and authorship in architecture. The story of the National Computing Centre - White Heat, False Logic.

Brook, R (2016) Regionality: agency and authorship in architecture. The story of the National Computing Centre - White Heat, False Logic. In: SAHGB Annual Symposium 2017 Beyond ‘By’: Towards an inclusive architectural history, 03 June 2017 - 03 June 2017, London School of Economics. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

This paper seeks to address the notion of authorship in publically procured projects of the post-war period. Regionality is a term used to try and capture the interplay between nationally instituted government policy and its interpretation through local actors and networks in the procurement and production of buildings and space. I will describe the extended narrative of the development of the National Computing Centre, ‘designed’ by a prominent Mancunian architectural practice of the period, Cruickshank & Seward. The study is based on extensive archival research and the triangulation of records held by MMU Special Collections (Cruickshank & Seward Archive), Manchester Archives+ and the National Archives. Projects in the public sector lend themselves to this mode of analysis due to the quality of ledgers, minutes and files maintained and held by the civil services. The aim of the presentation is to reveal the numerous exoteric forces acting upon the production of architecture and how policy, its definition and implementation affected siting, massing and materiality. The agency of the various policies, networks, organisations and individuals involved in the development of the scheme will be discussed in relation to their impact on the formal and material outcomes of the built object. I aim to reveal the manner in which each of these parameters affected notions of authorship and its attribution.This project was sponsored by central government in the ‘White Heat’ era of Harold Wilson’s government but may also be described as a ‘white elephant’ in literal and metaphorical sense. Finally, I will describe how a model of regionality can be more widely applied and why it is particularly useful in a reading of the quotidian or, in this case, mainstream modernism of the nationalised era.

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