TOWER BLOCK International
Documenting and disseminating information about the postwar mass housing drive across the world.
What is TOWER BLOCK International?
TOWER BLOCK International is a multi-faceted historical initiative aimed at documenting and disseminating information about the global post-World War II mass housing drive.
The forerunner to this project, initially launched by Miles Glendinning and Stefan Muthesius in the late 1980s, was a fieldwork and research programme into mass housing in the UK, published in definitive form in the 1994 book, Tower Block: Postwar Modern Housing in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (Yale U. P.). To download a FREE copy of this foundation text, click here.
This book and associated archive materials have now been transformed and enhanced into a massive, searchable online public resource, providing free-access images and historical data on all postwar multi-storey public housing in the UK. This database, set up with Heritage Lottery Fund grant assistance, is based at the Scottish Centre for Conservation Studies, University of Edinburgh, and is hosted on the associated TOWER BLOCK UK website: to access this website click here.
The same authors have recently completed a new overview of postwar high-rise public housing in Britain, Towers for the Welfare State – an Architectural History of British Multi-Storey Housing 1945-70. Published by the Scottish Centre for Conservation Studies at the University of Edinburgh, this book presents the first concise account of one of Britain’s most dramatic building campaigns of the modern age. A separate section sets out in detail the story of multi-storey council housing in all major cities and many towns in England and Scotland, including 534 illustrations, many in colour. An order form, with more detailed information, is available via the following link:
What do we do?
Although it was initially focused on the UK, the Tower Block project is potentially of wide-ranging international scope: hence the setting up of the TOWER BLOCK International website. TOWER BLOCK International is concerned with ‘public’ or ‘social’ mass housing programmes, built or directed by the state, across the world. Architecturally, it focuses especially on large-scale Modernist complexes including high blocks. Its aim is to collect and disseminate information about this great heritage of C20 social struggle at a global level.
Our links with DOCOMOMO
TOWER BLOCK International works especially closely with DOCOMOMO-International (DOcumentation and COnservation of the MOdern MOvement), the foremost international research and conservation group for the monuments and sites and neighbourhoods of the Modern Movement. We share with DOCOMOMO a concern with international research and information dissemination about modernist mass housing, and have collaborated closely with the DOCOMOMO International Specialist Committee on Urbanism and Landscape (ISC U + L) in a series of recent housing-focused activities including seminars, conferences and publications: for a link to the DOCOMOMO ISC U + L website, and to records and e-proceedings of these activities, click here.
A specific TOWER BLOCK International initiative planned for the future – again in collaboration with DOCOMOMO – envisages the establishment of a range of searchable public housing databases and image banks for other territories globally, on the same general model as TOWER BLOCK UK: the first of these databases to be established will probably cover the Hong Kong SAR, China.