Date of Award

2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Architecture

First Advisor

David Leatherbarrow

Abstract

While it is generally true that between 1932 and 1948 the work of Berthold Lubetkin and the Tecton architectural partnership was chained to the fate of progressive socialism in England, it can also be argued that this explanation overlooks those minor works of theirs which contradict the unbending theoretical framework of this movement, i.e., the framework of a progressive and providential etiology characterized by the notion of an overcoming and the concept of a recurring origin, ground, or foundation. In contrast to this explanation, this dissertation argues that the minor works of Lubetkin and Tecton exhibit a particular form of integrity and continuity distinguished by the weakening of these very same theoretical frameworks. The interpretation of a “weak theory” in these works is the subject of this dissertation, which argues that weakening creates a clearing for architectural invention.

This dissertation asks three questions. First, how can the notion of a weak theory be visualized in the representation of architecture and the city? Second, how does the architect conceive his or her agency in the context of a weakened theoretical framework? And third, how might the characteristics of these works be the structure of interpretation rather than its result? This dissertation pursues these questions in three respective parts. Part One introduces these notions by way of a pair of drawings by Lubetkin. Part Two attends to the conception of the architect as a member of a group practice. Part Three proposes a topical approach to the domestic work of Lubetkin and Tecton, through the consideration of Lubetkin’s Whipsnade House and its associated Manifesto, which exemplify seven architectural topics: 1. distribution, 2. orientation, 3. proportion, 4. elevation, 5. structure, 6. enclosure, and 7. contrariety. These topics coordinate and connect Lubetkin’s unique position in the history of architectural theory to perennial questions in the discipline of architecture. Finally, Part Four concludes with a case study that argues that contraposition—or contrapposto—is the inheritance of this approach in the postwar period.

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